Rare gramophone records “The Vogue Picture Record”. Part VIII

Vogue Records was a short-lived United States-based record label of the 1940s, noted for the artwork embedded in the records themselves. Founded in 1946 as part of Sav-Way Industries of Detroit, Michigan, the discs were initially a hit, because of the colorful artwork novelty, and the improved sound compared to the shellac records dominant at the time. Vogue picture records were of a very high quality, with little surface noise. The first 10-inch Vogue picture record (catalog number R707) was released to the public in May 1946. Production ceased less than a year later in April 1947, with Sav-Way entering into receivership in August 1947. During this time, approximately seventy-four different 10-inch Vogue picture records were released. Each illustration has an “R” number (or catalog number) printed on it, ranging from R707 to R786. There were gaps in the sequence; not all of the eighty possible catalog numbers were used. There was also a “P” number (or matrix number) printed on the illustration (next to the copyright symbol). The printed matrix number should match the matrix number inscribed in the lead-out area of the record. Normally both sides of a record have the same catalog number, but this was not always the case. Several records were released which had different combinations, such as R725/R726. The combinations were likely due to the hard financial times on which Sav-Way had fallen; they were hard-pressed to come up with new artists near the end of their one-year production life, so they resorted to re-using previously released material. The colorful artwork on the records made Vogue Records a collector's item.

There are ten such records in the museum Collection Sound Library. Today we present the eighth record that bears the number R707On one side of this record is a composition “Sugar Blues”, music by Clarence Williams, author Lucy Fletcher, performs Clyde McCoy and his Orchestra. On the other side – composition “Basin Street Blues”, music by Spencer Williams, performs Clyde McCoy and his Orchestra.

“Sugar Blues" is a song written in 1919 by Clarence Williams with the lyrics by Lucy Fletcher. It was recorded for the first time by Leona Williams and her Dixie Band in August 1922.

The song became popular in 1936 as the trumpeter Clyde McCoy's theme song, featuring the sound of the growling wah-wah mute. The "wah-wah" effect was discovered by Clyde McCoy back in the golden age of American jazz, i.e. in the 20s: instead of just playing his parts with or without a mute, he started experimenting with this seemingly optional device. It turned out that moving the mute along the axis of the trumpet resulted in an effect that resembled a growl - just "wah-wah". The effect became popular within pop-jazz and sub-styles alike, to the point where special mutes for this effect were mass-produced.

Clyde Lee McCoy (December 29, 1903 - June 11, 1990) was an American jazz trumpeter whose popularity spanned seven decades. His most famous composition was “Sugar Blues”.
McCoy was born in Ashland, Kentucky. His family left its home state when he was nine and moved to Portsmouth, OH, and it was while living there that he first took up the trumpet, as well as the trombone. It was on the latter instrument that he played with the Loyal Temperance Legion Band, at age nine. Before his teens he had switched to the trumpet and was playing at school and church events, and at 14 he found work playing on the riverboats, which still plied the rural Midwest, Southern, and border states in those days. By 1920, at the age of 16, he assembled his first band for a two-week engagement at a popular Knoxville resort. Miraculously, though they had never performed together before their first gig, they proved quite popular, and their contract was extended to two months. McCoy made Chicago his base until the middle of the decade, appearing regularly at the Drake and also doing vaudeville engagements. They switched from Columbia to the Decca label in 1935 and continued to sell large quantities of records (including a new version of "Sugar Blues" that reportedly moved a million copies) for the remainder of the decade. He was also one of those responsible for co-founding “Downbeat” magazine.

During World War II McCoy and his band all enlisted in the United States Navy, where they were allowed to continue performing together, entertaining sailors and other troops, as well as patients at naval hospitals, for the duration of the war.
On January 20, 1945, McCoy married one of the Bennett sisters, Maxine Means, whom he had been courting since the girls joined his band in 1936. He put together a big band that did well for a time, and even cut some important records, including a superb rendition of "Basin Street Blues," expanding considerably on the version he had cut for Columbia in the early '30s; but gradually their audience declined with the shifting in public taste, and in 1955, the year that rock&roll took over the charts, he disbanded the group. He finally retired to Memphis in the late '70s, and started teaching music, with occasional performances with Dixieland groups around Memphis until his health began to fail in the 1980s due to dementia. His wife Maxine adamantly rejected medical advice to admit her beloved Clyde to an extended care facility. She cared for him in their house in Memphis, Tennessee, where he died on June 11, 1990, at the age of 86.

This year we mark the 125th anniversary of the New Orleans birth of "Sugar blues" songwriter Clarence Williams, who in the 1920s became one of the most successful businessmen in the nascent African-American sector of the music industry. A pianist, promoter, composer, arranger, vocalist, producer and music publisher, he worked with Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong.

He made jazz history as the creator of the “BLUE FIVE” ensemble, as the author of the first jazz hits and as a successful publisher and entrepreneur. By 1922, “Okeh” had launched a series of records specifically aimed at black audiences. For a long time, until the late 1940s, such series, released on "white" labels, were officially called "race records". It was Clarence Williams, as "Okeh” Race Records Director, who pioneered the release of these records.

Williams had a knack for discovering and appreciating talent. The musician accompanied many blues singers, including Bessie Smith. After moving to New York, he continued publishing, writing songs, recording solo piano records and occasionally assembling bands for recordings. In the 1950s, he owned an antique store (according to others, a liquor store) in Harlem. Died on a New York street after being hit by a car in 1965.

The song "Basin Street Blues" was written by Clarence Williams' namesake, jazz and popular music composer Spencer Williams (October 14, 1889 - July 14, 1965). "Basin Street Blues" was his most popular tune. It has been performed over the years by Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Ray Charles, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and Liza Minnelli.

Ref.: https://fromthevaults-boppinbob.blogspot.com/2020/12/clyde-mccoy-born-29-december-1903.html