Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


So for Presidents’ Day yesterday I decided to spend an Abe -- in his honor -- on a used CD of radio transcriptions of Chick Webb and His Orchestra from 1939. Webb -- who died at the age of 30 a few months after these broadcasts went out -- was the king swing drummer, the rockingest & noisiest & most exciting of them all. Nice recordings, nothing to take the place of their best studio recordings, but a few to stand up with them. A drum feature with more solos than usual on “Wild Irish Rose”; an early Ella scat feature on “’Tain’t What You Do”; nice Ella vocals on a few numbers (Ella got her big break with the Webb orchestra); and a swinging “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Funniest typo I’ve seen in a long time. Composer credit for for “Stars and Stripes”: “J. P. Souse.”

Webb’s life story is amazing -- heroic -- the stuff of legend. Hunchbacked, small in stature, almost a dwarf with a large face and broad shoulders, Webb fought off congenital tuberculosis of the spine in order to become one of the most competitive drummers and bandleaders of the big band era. He moved to New York to make it as a drummer at the age of 16, lying about his age, and started as a bandleader a year later. His poor health killed him young; his last words, on his death bed, surrounded by friends and family, were, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.” And his records -- if you like swing, they’re right up there.
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