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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Accent On Dixieland - Pee Wee Erwin


Pagan Love Song

Accent On Dixieland
Pee Wee Erwin
Urania Record Corporation UJ 1202


Pee Wee Erwin - Trumpet
Andy Russo - Trombone
Sal Pace - Clarinet
Tony Spargo - Drums, Kazoo and Solo Whistling
Charlie Traeger - Bass
Billy Maxted - Piano

From the back cover: Monday night is 'off' night a Nick's, the jazz and steak emporium in Greenwich Village, and Pee Wee Erwin was sitting on the floor of his apartment listening to the test pressings of this record. When his left ear, (which was no more than 3 inches from the cone of a Hi-Fi speaker) had completely absorbed every sound and audible frequency he was ready to talk – first about the music that he'd heard, then about himself.

"I was born in Falls City, Nebraska, six miles off the Missouri River on May 30, 1913. When my father was discharged from the Army after World War I, he gave me a trumpet and I started to play jazz immediately – at four. My father was a trumpet player, and he played jazz. I can hardly remember when I haven't played the trumpet.

"I had my first professional engagement as a soloist with the radio station of the Kansas City Star on a program called "The Night Hawks" on Station WDAF in 1921. Because I was so young – playing jazz – I was thought a bit of a freak. I played with the Coon-Sanders Band, which was well known in Chicago, in 1922-23. From there a vaudeville act was built around me – I looked five when I was nine. I appeared on the Orpheum circuit."

"Ultimately I went to the West Coast and came East in 1931 with a band led by Joe Haymes, who was then the orchestrator for Ted Weems. This was the nucleus of Tommy Dorsey's Band. I then went with Isham Jones for two years, and then with Freddie Martin. I joined the Benny Goodman Band in 1935 who were playing on the "Let's Dance" program. During this time, Ray Noble arrived here from England, and Glenn Miller organized a band for him which eventually played at the Rainbow Room in New York City. Claude Thornhill, Will Bradley, Charlie Spivak and Glenn Miller were in the brass section and I played with both Benny Goodman and Ray Noble at the same time.

"In 1936 I went to California with Benny Goodman and made a movie called the Big Broadcast of 1937 for Paramount. On our way back East we stopped at the Congress Hotel in Chicago, and I stayed there with Benny until August and then joined Ray Noble in New York. At the beginning of 1937, after the Noble Band dissolved, I joined Tommy Dorsey. Every time Bunny Berrigan left them, both Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey would ask me to work for them; they considered me the closest thing to Berrigan. Bunny had mad "Marie" with Tommy Dorsey, and I made the sequels – "Who", "Yearning," etc. I must have made 50 sides with Tommy Dorsey Clambake Secen which was then Johnny Mintz, Bud Freeman, Carmen Mastren, Dave Tough, Gene Traxler and Howard Smith, (now the conductor of the Gary Moore show) and of course, Tommy. I stayed with Tommy until the Raymond Scott Quintet was organized and remained with Scott for a year."

"In 1940 I formed my own band – which was disbanded because of the war. Then I came back to New York and worked on radio on a freelance basis. At the end of the war I formed another band – a modern band. We had eighteen pieces and six vocalists. Red Rodney played trumpet, Tiny Kahn was on drums, Tony Aless on piano, Frank Sokolow, tenor sax; vocals by Dave Lambert, and orchestrations by George Handy and Mannie Albam. But I couldn't give this band away! Can you imagine that? I then decided to leave the modern field and went to Nick's in the Village. I have been at Nicks' off and on for six years, alternating with Napoleon Bonaparte. Outside of music I paint and am a hobbyist." (Pee Wee has made every piece of furniture in his apartment on 57th Street and Sixth Avenue.) "I have been painting now for about five years with as much vacillation in my painting as there is in my life. For example, I paint seascapes at Central Park. My tastes in jazz? Well, if I were on a desert island and could take only one record along, I would have any one of Louis Armstrong's better records with me – particularly Elder Eatmore's "Sermon On Gratitude."

The horn Pee Wee uses is a 65-year old French Besson and it has 13 patches. He uses it for a variety of musical chores including Dixieland jingles for egg noodle commercials.

According to Tony Spargo (originally Spabaro, who was the drummer with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in New Orleans), he is the only kazoo player in jazz. Red McKenzie has long been credited with the distinction. Tony contends, however, that McKenzie was unorthodox in this choice of instruments and did not use the genuine kazoo. Tony also whistles on the "Pagan Love Song."

Sal Pace: Has been five years at Nick's. A few years ago he had an Italian restaurant in White Plains and gave it up to play with Phil Napoleon.

Billy Maxted: Does all arranging for the band – in the "head arrangement" style. He played with Bob Crosby and Red Nicholas. Was a Navy Fighter Pilot during the war.

Charles Traeger: In his third year at the Columbia School of Engineering. He had played with Wild Bill Davidson.

Andy Russo: Back in the 20's had his own band at the Balconnade Ballroom, New York City, now the St. Nicholas Arena. He once hired Bix Beiderbecke and as a result the band was fired. Andy also played with Jimmy Dorey and with the Ruth Eating radio show along with Red Nichlos.  – Sidney Gross

From Billboard - January 28, 1956: This is the kind of Dixieland that brings the college trade year in, year out to Greenwich Village looking for Nick's and Eddie Condon's. Erwin and his cohorts evince little effort to hold a rigidly "authentic" style. Theirs is primarily designed to give the kids a stomping good time. Bill Maxted (who also did the arrangements) is on piano. Tony Spargo on drums and kazoo, Sal Pace on clarinet or Andy Russo on trombone. For latter day Dixielanders, an enjoyable session.

Washington And Lee Swing
Battle Hymn
Dixieland Shuffle
Pagan Love Song
I'm Confessing
Memphis Blues

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