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8/18/12

Elmer Snowden: Saturday Night Fish Fry



Here is another track from the Elmer Snowden Sextet session of February 2, 1962, the second of two lively affairs with this stellar and—some reviewers thought—unorthodox group. It was assembled solely for these two occasions and, until I read it in a couple of reviews, having Roy Eldridge and Bud Freeman together and up front never struck me as "bizarre." Elmer didn't have a problem with it, either.

Roy Eldridge
"Saturday Night Fish Fry" was made popular by Louis Jordan's Tympany Five in 1949, but I think you will agree that it was a perfect party song for Roy, who dominates this rendition. Roy's musical association with Elmer goes back to the early Thirties, when he became a member of Elmer's band at Small's Paradise. He made his celluloid debut as one of the many redcaps in the Vitaphone short, "Smash Your Baggage," a wonderful little piece of history filmed on a set that convincingly replicates Grand Central Station. Elmer's bands were always early stomping grounds for future stars, starting with his bringing to New York Duke Ellington for his 1923 group, The Washingtonians. Duke eventually took over and the Washingtonians morphed into his first orchestra—we all know the rest of that story. Besides Eldridge, the band seen in this 1933 film included long-time Ellingtonian Otto Hardwick, Big Sid Catlett, Al Sears, and Dicky Wells, and some terrific dancing by, among others, Rubberlegs Williams. Four years later, Williams would sing "My Buddy," the song informally known as "The Lesbian National Anthem" at Bessie Smith's funeral, and later still, he would record with Dizzy Gillespie. The lady who in one of the film's segments is heard emphatically pleading that someone "Stop the Moon, Stop the Sun" is believed to be Mabel Scott. You will find this little cinematic gem at the bottom of this post.
Elmer Snowden's Nest Club band. He is seated on left.

Here is "Saturday Night Fish Fry," in which Roy imagines Jo Jones jivin' Bud Freeman's wife and briefly gets lost in the lyrics, but skillfully overcomes. Solos are by Elmer, Bud and Roy, and an impromptu chorus, that includes the voices of Dan Morgenstern and the older John Hammond, assures us that "it was rockin'."

Incidental information: The signatures that appear on the header are not autographs, but rather endorsements lifted from the backs the cheques with which I paid the musicians for the session.





Here is "Smash Your Baggage"...


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