Six Minutes With Satch: You Can Depend On Me / The Lonesome Road

After yesterday's atomic coupling of "Chinatown" and "I Got Rhythm," OKeh's next offering featured something more on the romantic side, "You Can Depend On Me." Earl Hines put his name on it because that's what was done back in those days but the song was really penned by two young songwriters out of Chicago, Charlie Carpenter and Louis Dunlap (Carpenter was in his late teens; I'm not sure about Dunlap but I assume he was around the same age).

In The World of Earl Hines, Carpenter talks about taking off school to attend Louis's session on November 3 with hopes that Louis would record his new composition. When it didn't happen, Carpenter left disappointed. Two days later, Armstrong finally got around to recording it and sent a telegram to immediately let Carpenter know. The songwriter felt bad for ever being disappointed and received a helpful lecture from his older mentor about patience.

"You Can Depend On Me" went on to become a standard and the jazz world has long celebrated versions by the likes of Count Basie (with Lester Young) and Fletcher Henderson (with Roy Eldridge). But Louis's version has long gotten the eyeroll treatment from the jazz snobs because there's too much attention paid to the band and though his vocal is heartfelt, all Louis really contributes with the trumpet is a series of siren-like glisses at the end. Cue the laments for the "commercial" fall of Louis Armstrong....

Of course, that's nonsense. Zilner Randolph remained very proud of the arrangement and claimed it helped "sell" the record. Louis's singing cannot be topped; he really connected with this one (the same goes for his live 1951 version from Pasadena). And those surging glisses are pretty dramatic as the band turns on the heat underneath them. It might not have been the stuff that "jazz" dreams are made of but in the Great Depression, a lot of folks wanted to hear songs of love (hey Bing Crosby) and pretty melodies (what's up, Guy Lombardo) and they were rewarded on "You Can Depend On Me," one of Louis's best-selling platters of the period.

But the flip side.....well, what can one say about "The Lonesome Road"? Nothing romantic here! Armstrong had been puncturing religious customs since he was a kid in New Orleans, winning laughs in church with his recreations of Bert Williams routines. In the 1920s, he made Chicago audience howl with his "mock sermons" at the Vendome Theater. And here, on record, we get a classic burlesque of a church service that is laugh out loud funny, but also features a very soulful trumpet interlude. Louis packed the studio with friends and shouts them out but perhaps it's most touching to hear him call out those same "two little songwriters, Louis Dunlap and Charles Carpenter," just a day after recording their "You Can Depend On Me" and most likely after Louis's father-like speech to Carpenter.

Louis sounds as happy as can be surrounded by his Chicago friends and his "happiest band"--two more sides from the November dates will follow tomorrow!

Louis Armstrong (tp, voc), Zilner Randolph (tp), Preston Jackson (tb), Lester Boone, George James (as), Albert Washington (ts), Charlie Alexander (p), Mike McKendrick (g), John Lindsay (b), Tubby Hall (d).
OKeh recording session - Chicago, IL November 5, 1931

Louis Armstrong (tp, voc), Zilner Randolph (tp, talk), Preston Jackson (tb), Lester Boone (as), George James (as), Albert Washington (ts), Charlie Alexander (p), Mike McKendrick (g, talk), John Lindsay (b), Tubby Hall (d), Joe “Little Joe” Lindsay
(woodblocks, talk).
OKeh recording session - Chicago, IL November 6, 1931

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