Author Archives for Miles

Three tracks so evocative of their time.

Novelty or comic records of bygone years can be sadly lacking in humour to our modern ears but these are three of my favourites. Phyllis Robins sings ‘ In my little bottom drawer,’ from 1934. It features a wonderful list of items she has collected, such as a bassinet, lino, flannelette pyjamas and a bath to keep the coal in. Tom Wright, a North East of Scotland Bothy Ballad singer, does a magnificent rendition of the tongue twisting ‘ McGinty’s Meal and Ale. A song that celebrates food, drink and feasting. Its in the broadest Scots. We finish with My Yodelling Lancashire Lass from Harry Torrani. Lovely wee love song all about his mill worker girlfriend. It mentions ‘wakes week,’ the annual week many work places and trades took off in the North West of England in the first half of the 20th century.

All three songs are full of wonderful period detail and are great social history documents. They are also great tunes, fun and from unjustly neglected artists. Perfect for Forgotten Songs.

published on November 23, 2020, by

Western Swing at Edinburgh’s seaside.

The word was that a whole bunch of 78s had turned up in a charity shop in Portobello. That’s the Portobello on the outskirts of Edinburgh and not the famous London market. No doubt 78s turn up there all the time. This was in the early days of Forgotten Songs from the Broom Cupboard and back then I was only playing records from the collection we had gathered over the years. My addiction to the shellac discs hadn’t really kicked in.
So I sauntered along and there they were on the bottom shelf, below the LPs and 45s. Well over a 100 of them, I mean well over a 100. The thing is they were all in new, thick card sleeves, the artist and song written in ink pen long hand on the cover. Looking like they had been catalogued and were from a collection. This was a charity where everything was 99 pence. Not quite believing my luck I checked that fact with the assistant and got stuck in. I think on that visit I got about 30 records. An interesting mix. Of course there were some Bing Crosby, Guy Mitchell, Vera Lynn and Jimmy Shand. There is always Jimmy Shand, this is Scotland and the accordion was big news here. There were others I’d never heard of: Jan Savitt, Carson Robinson, Husk O’ Hara. They sound different and fun and at 99p they were worth a shot. There was also Bob Skyles and his Skyrockets, who were probably some sort of dance band, there were two of them, I took both. Actually I think it was the label that interested me the most. Not a standard HMV, Columbia or Parlophone but a Bluebird label.

So that is how way over here, in Scotland I discovered the magnificence of Western Swing. I didn’t know Bob Skyles and his Skyrockets were that particular genre of music then. What I did know was was these four tracks were different. This wasn’t dance band music, it was a crazy blend of country, novelty, blue grass, goodness knows what and these fellas were having fun. I wished I’d been in the studio with them or at a dance bopping away to this infectious sound.

published on November 9, 2020, by

Bob Skyles and the Skyrockets.

A short video about those fine purveyors of Western Swing music that I recorded last year, when our studio really was a broom cupboard. Bob and the boys, in reality the Kendrick brothers, remain firm favourites with me. Their exuberant, fun recordings make me smile every time I listen. Still can’t believe how two of these Bluebird recordings from 1938 turned up in a charity shop in Edinburgh. Oh lucky day!

Another good piece of fortune has been that this video has brought me in contact with the daughter and niece of the band, Bob, Cliff and Sandford Kendrick. So massive thanks to Peg and her mum in the USA for reaching out across ‘the pond’ to Scotland. Your dad and uncles are still entertaining us.

published on November 6, 2020, by

FS 47: Roy Smeck to George Beverley Shea and Alma Cogan.

A right mix of records this time round. 1910 to 1956. Sixteen tons- Tennessee Ernie Ford, A little bit Independent-Dave King, Thirteen Women- Bill Haley, Irish Mambo- Alma Cogan, I can’t tell a Waltz from a Tango- Ray Burns, In the Garden- George Beverley Shea, Jonah and the Whale- Louis Armstrong, Cuban Love Song- London Piano Accordion Band, Zingarella Innamorata- Livi Emilio, Home- Roy Smeck and his Vita Trio, My Girl from Slumber Town- Arizona Jack, The Cord- Alexander Prince, Blues in my Condition- Cootie Williams, Concerto for Clarinet- Artie Shaw and Cant Sans Paroles- JH Squire Celeste Octet. 

published on November 6, 2020, by

Roberto Inglez and Harry Torrani

Music and songs from an unusual source. Roberto Inglez , a band leader who specialised in Latin American music was born Robert(Bertie) Inglis in Elgin, Scotland. Interesting for me, here in Edinburgh, Bertie’s grandparents lived in Portobello. That is about a miles from where I sit writing this and he is known to have based himself there while touring.

Harry Torrani, reckoned to be one of best yodellers of his day, was billed as The yodelling cowboy from Chesterfield. That’s in Derbyshire, England. He certainly looked the part and, to be fair, was a damn fine yodeller.

published on November 3, 2020, by

FS46: Love songs: Connie Boswell to Hutch and Hildegarde

Its lurve all the way in episode 46. Frankie Laine start us off with a tale of passion amongst the oil fields, Blowing wild. Its a song full of sweep and crescendo, that certainly suits old ‘leather lungs.’ His good pal Kay Starr follows him. Both are acknowledged as having vocal styles that influenced later rock and roll singer. Connie or Connee Boswell with- This time its love, from 1933. An influence on Ella Fitzgerald, she was reckoned to be one of the finest Jazz vocalists of her time.  A first time play on Forgotten songs, Peggy Lee, with her biggest hit Mr Wonderful. Also Alma Cogan, Lonnie Donegan and Eartha Kitt. Two from her, Eartha being playful and wistful. I’ve put Hildegarde and Hutch together. I’m sure they would have approved. Noel Coward would have done. Check out his live version of Lets do it on YouTube. Hot Lips Page sings of his love, or fear maybe, of a very dominant women in My Fightin Gal. Roberto Murolo sings a Corsican love song, Tu Duorme Amorre. Geeta Dutt, a prolific Indian playback singer, with a track from the 1950 Gujarati film Gadano Bel. Sadly she died in her early 40s but still managed to record around 2000 songs in her career. Jimmie Rodgers also sadly died young at 35. Two from him, Frankie and Johnny, the best version, and Jimmie being very risque with Everyone does it in Hawaii. Yes of course a love song special has to finish with this one- Frankie Froba and the boys with Jimmy Atkins vocals, all together now: Love song in 32 bars. Stay safe out there.

published on October 30, 2020, by

Podcast 45: From Layton and Johnstone to Marvin and Smalle

Sugar Chile Robinson with Numbers Boogie and Bouncing Ball Boogie. We’re a big fan of Robinson here, that most grounded of child stars. Separating his two tracks is Harry Parry and his Radio Rhythm Club Sextet, vocals by Doreen Villiers. Why has Harry been forgotten? Beats me. Also up: Twelfth street rag- Count Basie, The Moose- Charlie Barnet, The Drummer’s band- Gene Krupa, The Caravan- Duke Ellington, I’m crazy about my baby- Fats Waller, Wouldn’t it be nice- Josephine Bradley and Bless you- Archie Lewis. Lovely 1920s track from Jefferies and his Rialto Orchestra. They played the famed Marine Gardens in Edinburgh in 1926. The Midnight Minstrels do a great version of If I had a talking picture of you. Two black artists who were hugely popular in Britain in the 1920s and 30s were US born Layton and Johnstone. I’ve come across so many of their records in my travels. Yet their contribution to entertainment here seems largely forgotten. We have two from them. A new pairing to Forgotten Songs are Johnny Marvin and Ed Smalle. They give us a lovely, low key rendition of Blue Skies.  We make a dreamy exit with Lorrae Desmond and Far way and In a lonesome town with Les Paul and Mary Ford. Keep well and stay safe.  

published on October 21, 2020, by

Podcast 44: From Mel Torme to Archie Lewis and Bebe Daniels

We start with two versions  of the same song. Ted Heath and his music gives us an instrumental version of Mountain Greenery and then Mel Torme sings the definitive version of the song. Not forgotten Mel but is not celebrated enough. He was bizarrely known as The Velvet Frog.  Fantastic lyrics from Lorenz Hart- ‘How-how-how-how-how we love sequestering..’ What’s not to love there? Classics from Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, The Andrew Sisters and our old friend Leslie Hutchinson, Hutch. We have both sides of a Charlie Barnet record- Pumpton Turnpike and Swinging on Nothing. Charlie was one of the first band leaders to integrated his band. Massive fan of Basie and Ellington. Oscar Rabin plays a great version of Cherokee. He was a Latvian born English band leader. Sentimental Journey from Paul Fenoulhet, vocals Doreen Lundy Slightly mad track from Bill Snyder, Drifting Sands, vocals by Ralph Stirling. Our oldest track is Driftwood from Leo F Reisman from 1924. Bebe Daniels sings Imagination. She was an all round entertainer but is best remembered in Britain as being in the long running radio series Life with the Lyons, with husband Ben Lyon. Archie Lewis is a new discovery for me. Known as the Crosby of the Caribbean. He was one of the first black singers to front a big band in Britain, Geraldo’s band. A pioneer and very popular in the 1940s and yet forgotten now it would seem. We get romantic with our last two. Roy Fox with vocals by Denny Dennis On the beach at Bali Bali and Carroll Gibbons, vocals by Leslie Douglas gives us I don’t want to set the world on fire. Lovely version of a classic song. Stay safe out there.  

Thanks to Jessica Parkman for many of the records in this episode.

published on October 14, 2020, by

Podcast 43: Josh White to Tino Rossi via Eve Boswell & Peggy Dell

The whole episode is from a charity/ thrift shop haul. Some familiar artists amongst them- Georgia Gibbs, Mugsy Spanier, Eve Boswell, Billy Banks and Teresa Brewer. Otherwise some great discoveries. Shirley Abicair sings the title song from the 1956 film, ‘Smiley.’ She was Australian, played the zither and came to Britain in 1952. Still with us at the age of 92. Harry James is hardly forgotten but this is a pared back sound from the trumpeter and band leader, Feet dragging blues. Josh White, folk singer and political activist sings I’m gonna move to the outskirts of town. Another of the recordings in did in London in 1950. Tino Rossi, despite his Italian sounding name was a hugely successful French singer of the 1940s and 50s and sold 30 million records world wide. Roberto Murolo, champion high diver, sings La Mogliera. He specialised in Neopolitan songs. Love this one. The Four bright sparks sing about dreaming in 1930. Orchestras and bands next. John Kirkby with Fifi’s Rhapsody from 1941. He was a double bass player and champion of the chamber jazz style. Early 1950s R&B big band sound from Earl Bostick, Lou Preager Orchestra, from the Hammersmith Palais. with The night the floor fell in. Vocals by Paul Rich. My record of the day is the Roy Fox band from The Kit Kat Restaurant, London in 1933. The Denver born bandleader directs Sid Buckman singing My Wild Oats and the vocals of Peggy Dell on We’re all riding riding on a rainbow. Peggy Dell was born in Ireland as Margaret Tisdall. Its an unusual voice for a British big band of the time. Happy listening. Stay safe.

published on October 7, 2020, by

Podcast 42: From Mugsy and Fats to Kitty, Kay and Jean Farrar

Tennessee Ernie with Smokey Mountain Boogie start us off. Thrillingly it’s a shout out to the daughter and niece of the Kendrick Brothers- Bob Skyles and his Skyrockets- when I play their track, I’m gonna die with a broken heart. Jean Goldkette Orchestra with My pretty girl stomp and Harry Roy with You and I. Vocals on that are by Jean Farrar. Over the top piano from Carmen Cavallaro, Enlloro. Female vocalists next up. Kitty Kallen, who made a very successful transition from big band singer to a solo career. Kay Starr, who successfully sang Pop, Country and Jazz. Both women had long careers and lives, dying at 94. Les Paul with Mary Ford on multi track vocals and Eartha Kitt singing in Turkish. Jazzy blues from Bob Crosby and his Bob Cats (Tin Roof Blues) Mugsy Spanier (Hestitating Blues) Fats Waller (Shortin’ Bread) and Jelly Roll Morton (Oh didn’t he ramble). We end with Lonnie Donegan, I’m just a rolling stone. Another great travelling song. Hal McIntyre, who sadly died young, brings episode 42 to a close with the trippy South Bayou Shuffle.

published on September 30, 2020, by