The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 72

The Melodisc label

This transcript of the radio show is an approximation of what I said in the show. The real spoken parts may differ slightly.

And today I'll bring you stuff from two of the most exciting years of West coast Rhythm & Blues with the story of a pretty obscure label - Melodisc, that operated from the famous Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Not the most influential or important of labels, rather a typical example of the many indies that flourished on the boom of postwar jazz and Rhytm & Blues of the mid-forties.

All masters were lost in a raging fire that ended this little company and so I'm happy that the Acrobat label put together a two-CD compilation of this label, all from 78s. You will get some surface noise today, but here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - that's pretty normal.

So let's start with the first issue of Melodisc, number 1001 and that is Marion Abernathy with Abernathy's Voo-It Voo-It and this is obviously another take than the 1944 recorded version that was released on Specialty. Pardon the poor quality - the 78 they took it form wasn't really in mint condition.

01 - Marion Abernathy with Georges Dukes & Duchess - Abernathy's Voo-It Voo-It
02 - Marion Abernathy with Georges Dukes & Duchess - Abernathy's Boogie

More Marion Abernathy - nicknamed the Blues Woman - with Abernathy's Boogie and that was Melodisc 1003 from 1945. The Melodisc label was started by Daniel F. O'Brian on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard and it recorded some fine Rhythm & Blues and some - well let's say lesser sides, that I won't play today. I had to make a choice anyhow from the 31 records that were produced, numbered 1001 to 1017 and then 101 thru 114.

Now there are at least two more labels that bore the name of Melodisc. In the early twenties Emerson released 7 inch discs under this name - and in the late forties a Melodisc record company was founded in Britain, initially issuing Rhythm & Blues, later Caribbean and African music. That label lasted well into the seventies - while the Melodisc of Hollywood had to end operations in November 1946.

Next alto sax man King Perry and his Pied Pipers with an instrumental the Mellow Reeni Riff and it's slightly out of tune, especially the saxophone. Somewhat like I play the sax - let's say it that way - it itches the ear a bit. Well the same counts for the Baby Baby Blues that comes after that.

03 - King Perry & The Pied Pipers - Mellow Reeni Riff
04 - King Perry & The Pied Pipers - Baby baby blues


05 - George Crawford & The Four Blazes - That's all she wrote, 'cause the pencil broke
06 - George Crawford & The Four Blazes - Let's boogie

The Four Blazes led by pianist George Crawford with two sides that they did for Melodisc - Let's boogie and before that That's all she wrote, 'cause the pencil broke, about a letter that didn't say more than Daddy I need some money. Now this group is another act than the Chicago-based Four Blazes and it should also not to be confused with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers that featured the great Charles Brown. Vocals on this were Connie Jordan, on guitar Ulysses Livington and base man was LeGrand Mason. They had recorded for the West coast based Excelsior label prior to moving to Melodisc where they cut eight sides in total, four of them included on the CD on the Hollywood-based Melodisc label that's today's feature on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman.

Next Slim Gaillard and his quartet with Boogin' At Berg's on Melodisc 1012. You will get more on this remarkable man after the music.

07 - Slim Gaillard Quartet - Boogin' at Berg's
08 - Slim Gaillard Quartette - Dunkin's bagel

Dunkin's Bagel on Melodisc 1013 was that - you heard Slim Gaillard Quartette. Gaillard was born on Cuba and after a long detour over the world that brought him as far as Greece he landed in New York in the mid-thirties where he set up a vaudeville act with Slam Steward als Slim and Slam. The act brought them to the movies and that's how he ended up in California.

For Melodisc he did one session with his typical scat and nonsense syllable style - and later for the Clef label he did his immortal Opera in Vout that inspired him to write his Vout-O-Reenee Dictionary - a book full of nonsense syllables and their nonsense meaning. The opera in Vout was pretty much in the same style as this song, the Dunkin's Bagel.

Next - Marion Abernathy backed up by Buddy Banks' Orchestra with Ink splink and we find that on Melodisc number 1016. Ulysses 'Buddy' Banks was one of those many Texas musicians that moved to California in the thirties and he formed his own band in '45, where he played on a daily basis in what the liner notes of the CD call a chicken shack on Central Avenue at 33rd Street.

Marion Abernathy was a discovery of Johnny Otis and she'd recorded for Art Rupe's Juke Box label before these recordings were made. Later she'd record a few sides for King and one odd single in 1961 before she disappeared off the radar.

Listen to her Ink Splink.

09 - Marion Abernathy & The Buddy Banks Orchestra - Ink splink
10 - Flennoy Trio - Hey lawdy mama

The pretty much forgotten Lorenzo 'Mr Central Avenue' Flennoy who in the thirties had led a considerable big band that played the club Alabam on Central Avenue but by '46 he fronted a trio that gigged in much smaller venues playing songs on request mixed with sketches. In this setting you'll get Hey Lawdy mama from 1946 on Melodisc 101 - for unclear reason they'd started counting from scratch again.

Next - Dan Grissom together with Lorenzo Flennoy's trio. Now Dan Grissom had done the vocals for Jimmy Lunceford's band and though he had a loud voice you'll easily hear from this song that you couldn't call him a blues shouter. In fact he wasn't the best of singers and that gave him the nickname Dan Gruesome. Despite that he had a long career with several great names, and he also owned a music night club on Central Avenue in Watts.

Here is the Poor Butterfly.

11 - Dan Grissom & The Flennoy Trio - Poor butterfly
12 - King Perry Quintet - King Perry Blues

Next King Perry whom we've heard before today with the King Perry Blues, mainly an instrumental with one verse of scat singing and one traditional blues verse.

Next - maybe the greatest star of the Melodisc label - Jack McVea and his all-stars. Saxophonist McVea had been in Lionel Hampton's band in the early forties and in 1944 he formed his own band the All-stars. Now on this recording session only five musicians of the band were present. The recordings had been done in '45 but released nearly a year later, when in the meanwhile McVea recorded with his whole band for Apollo and later for the Black & White label including his legendary version of Open the Door Richard that became a smash hit.

Listen to Jack McVea with Scrub Sweep and Mop that was number 109 of Melodisc.

13 - Jack McVea All Stars - Scrub sweep and mop
14 - Jack McVea All Stars - Fightin' mama blues

More Jack McVea from his session with Melodisc, released as 110, you heard the Fightin' Mama Blues.

The liner notes of the CD that I took this from, describe the atmosphere on Los Angeles' Central avenue, just after the war a busy and well lit with many music joints spread over dozens of blocks. The war was over and so the demand of war materials stopped. The shipyards laid off their well-paid workers who had to find another employment. In the meanwhile race music, soon to be called Rhythm & Blues, was hot and happening in this area of Los Angeles so many who could play or sing a note, found work in one of the many clubs and venues along Central Avenue.

The indies flourished on the west coast - Melodisc was one of them. Unfortunately the company burnt to the ground in November of 1946, destroying everything including the masters. Melodisc owner Dan O'Brien was poorly insured, according to the Billboard news article that was published in their issue of Nevember, 23, but the owner was optimistic about a rebuild. It never happened - Melodisc was gone and soon to be forgotten.

I continue with trumpeter Karl George with a band that included musicians like Bill Doggett on the piano, Hohn Simmons on bass and Buddy Tate on saxophone - now with a combo like that you can't go wrong. Actually, could have reached a lot more than the four obscure takes that were done at Melodisc. That is - they remained obscure due to the fire that destroyed the masters - and the company. Without that, Melodisc stood a fair chance to have played an important role in postwar the Rhythm & Blues. For sure you could definitely state that by the fall of 1946, Melodisc had gotten off with some of the cream of musicians from the Los Angeles scene.

Like Melodisc, Karl George may have been mainly forgotten - in his time he was a great trumpeter but his ill health forced him to retire from music early. No-one heard a note from him after 1946.

Listen to Grand Slam - a great instrumental.

15 - Karl George Octet - Grand slam
16 - Karl George Octet - Baby it's up to you
17 - Joe Thomas - For boobs only

You heard first another instrumental of that great octet of Karl George with Baby it's up to you and after that For Boobs Only of Joe Thomas. Thomas was tenor saxophonist with Jimmie Lunceford's band from 1932 until Lunceford died in 1947. On this record, that was released as Melodisc 113 he is billed as Joe Thomas and his orchestra but the notes don't tell who were in his band.

Well this ended my compilation on the Melodisc label and I hope you enjoyed this little history of a forgotten record label and its music. Well you can of course let me know and send me an e-mail at And if you want to read back today's story or review the play list, you can visit my web site. Do a google search for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman and my site will show up first. As for now, byebye and have a great and rocking day. I hope to see you next time, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!