Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pianist Preferences, and other things

I was just listening to many of my early records from my collection this evening, and I realise how much I can really tune out the main parts on the records, and really only listen to the piano closely. It makes me think about how these singers and instrumentalists thought about the pianists behind them. 
Dan W. Quinn had quite a close love and respect for Frank P. Banta, in fact he preferred Banta as his accompanist on most records that he was on, but that was not always possible. There were other pianists Quinn had to deal with. 
How he loved his piano man Frank(musically! Don't take that the wrong way!)
He did, of course, have to work with big burly Hylands just as much as he did with Banta. He couldn't just drag Banta in to every recording session he had! He had to accommodate, and deal with it. He must have also enjoyed Hylands' playing, as it was hard not to, and he must have been a real sight to see when he played anyhow. Hylands just happened to be at a lot of Victor recording sessions, and Columbia's as well. This first example is a great early Victor with Quinn being able to deal with Hylands here.(the music starts at 1:35)
The record in the link above is a very interesting Victor, as it's one of those rare ones from 1900 a year before they were actually called "Victors". Is that that the speed of the record is all over the place though, as it's a great early one. The only reason I am sure that it's Hylands behind him is because of the solo at the end. The solo at the end is very laid back in rhythm, very danceable(if needed), Ragged in some aspects, and full of octaves! The whole record is like that anyhow, and the deep octaves are very audible throughout. Hylands worked for Berliner occasionally when this record was recorded, so it would make sense that he would be on this record. Though, most of Quinn's Victor's after 1900 were with Banta's accompaniment, because he wanted Banta, and it was clear to all the staff there that this was a need of his. Most of the Victors with piano accompaniment by Quinn after 1900 have Banta on piano, and it is not surprising why, here are a few of them:
Quinn singing "Bill Bailey" with Banta( transferred too fast though...)

Quinn with one of his famous "Vaudeville Specialties", also with Banta

We know Len Spencer. Yes indeed we do. 

This next section will be about his pianist preferences. It might be a little obvious what pianist he wanted behind him, yes indeed--
Freddy Hylands. 
He really had the sort of affinity with Hylands that Quinn had with Banta. He must have loved Hylands' style too much, even if Hylands could steal the attention of the audience almost more than Spencer could, but then again, Spencer had that hair, those eyebrows, and those freaky eyes(there was always fat Hylands with his shocky red hair though!). Hylands even wrote three of his 1899 compositions dedicated to and with Spencer, and that's saying a lot, because Hylands only wrote about 20 things in all(possibly more though...). You can hear one of these tunes by Spencer and Hylands here. I cannot find the cover of the music for that one in the link, but I know of this one(which Spencer also recorded with Hylands):
Yep. That's Hylands music alright. (I wonder who did the cover art...)

Hylands and Spencer on records sounded like they were always having fun with each other, even at those times where Hylands seemed to be rather tipsy, and that must have made for a better time anyhow. Hylands being unruly was not a problem for Spencer, as he was the only "regular" at Columbia that could stand Hylands drunk and sober. Spencer understood Hylands, and all of his antics, even if he could get pretty rough after many takes and drinks, it was worth the time as long as good takes were made. In 1899 of course, Spencer and Hylands would get out of the studio early to go off to the publishing firm, where Burt Green would already be waiting for them. 

The next artist I would like to speak of leads into another subject. 
Silas Leachman:

Leachman would take Hylands over Banta for sure, as he had known Hylands  in Chicago back in the mid-1890's. He already knew of Hylands' wonderful playing, and got along with him reasonably well anyhow. Leachman's Victors are, in my opinion, among the most interesting records of the piano accompaniment era(1889-1905). Each Victor of his had its own surprises and eccentricities that make each one charming, and fascinating to study. The many takes of most of his recordings also make for curious study. He really didn't make that many, but the amount of extra takes make up for that fact. The one tune of Leachman's that I would like to focus on are his three takes of "Whoa Dar Mule". Here is the link to all three takes.
All three takes are very different, and strange in their own ways. Leachman sings the song different each take, with slightly altered lyrics, and also different tones of voice. The piano is very different on the third take from the first two, VERY different. Does anyone notice that weird dog-like sound on the third take? What is that? I have listened to take 3 many times, and I still cannot figure out what that could be(it sounds like a piano-related problem though, whatever it happens to be). I have many theories as to who the pianist could be on these three, the first two might be a more sober Hylands, and the third one might be a much more drunk Hylands. 
But then again, the first two could be Banta, and the third could be Hylands. 
All I have to say, is that there is no way that Banta is on the third one, from what can be heard on it, they are not the jolty stylings of Banta. They are much too loose and eccentric to be Banta, also because Hylands was present at most of Leachman's early December sessions at Victor. Just for a comparison, here is another record that Leachman made on the same day as takes 1 and 2:
It's not a rough Rag-Time piece, but it's still similar to the two takes of "Whoa Dar Mule". 
And another:
It's a little more Ragged and jumpy, but I'm still lost on the pianist identification. I'm now starting to lean more toward Hylands, but then I could listen to these records again in a few days and think Banta once again. This is exactly why Leachman's Victors are so interesting! This is why record collectors get into nasty bidding battles over Leachman records. 
Another thing I have noticed about one Leachman recording date is the December 7 date. When looking at many of Leachman's records, it would seem that he re-recorded many of his best songs on December 7, 1901. Seeing that got me a little suspicious, there must have been a reason for that, and I am not sure at all of what that might be. I just know that Hylands was at both December 6 and 7 sessions, and that might have something to do with it... Hmm...
On one of the record listings, it says "Made in Hall". What does that mean? I haven't the least idea. It must have something to do with an unusual recording room, or something else maybe. The December 7 recording date is really a captivating one in the mix of already perplexing recording sessions. I can only find one recording from the Dec. 7 date online, a few of them were issued, but a few weren't issued as well, so I will continue to dig through friends' collections for takes recorded on December 7, 1901 by Leachman. You don't have to memorize the record numbers with Leachman records, because they are usually able to be seen etched on in the middle of the records under the label, you just have to have a flashlight or something to see it clearly. From owning a single Leachman record, I know of this very well. 

If anyone can identify that weird sound on take 3 of Leachman's "Whoa Dar Mule", please tell me!

I hope you enjoyed this! 

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