Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ed Kirkeby in the Roaring Twenties

Ed Kirkeby's first meeting with Fats Waller - 75 years ago ( English) Ed Kirkeby's eerste ontmoeting met Fats Waller - 75 jaar geleden ( Nederlands) Ed Kirkeby in the Roaring Twenties ( English) Ed Kirkeby in de jaren twintig ( Nederlands)

Crooner and manager in a maze of pseudonyms
Hans Koert

Ed Kirkeby is known by most people as the manager of Thomas Fats Waller. He even wrote a book about Fats Waller's life, entitled: Ain't Misbehavin'- The Story of Fats Waller by Ed Kirkeby ( 1966). But few people remember that he was also a bandleader and crooner during the Roaring Twenties. I love to share with you some of the music he made.
That Certain Party - Goofus Five ( dec 1925)

This Goofus Five featured (prob.) Roy Johnston, trumpet - Bobby Davis, alto saxophone - Adrian Rollini, bass sax - Irving Brodsky, piano - Tommy Fellini, banjo - Herb Weil, drums - Billy Jones the leading vocal - Ed Kirkeby is to be heard in the responses - doing the remarks.

Ed Kirkeby ( 1891-1978)
In the 1920s he became the first recording manager for Columbia Records, who recorded bands like the California Ramblers, a popular dance band that was born out of the obscure Merry Melody Men. Wallace T. "Ed" Kirkeby ( 1891 - 1978), as his full name was, recorded early 1920, as a band leader, now obscure bands like the Superior Jazz Band.
University Six ( from: )
Collectors of 1920s dance bands know the Little Ramblers, which was a quintet selection from the California Ramblers, founded to play popular dance music. The California Ramblers was very popular during this period and made hundreds of records - not only for Columbia, but also for Edison, where they were labeled as the Golden Gate Orchestra. The Little Ramblers appear on a dozen different labels with a dozen different names: You have to be an expert ( or have a decent discography on the shelves) to learn all the pseudonyms: The Five Birmingham Babies ( for Pathé); The Goofus Five (Okeh); the Vagabonds (Gennett); University Six ( Harmony); The Varsity Eight ( Cameo) or Ted Wallace and his Orchestra - and Ted Wallace was one of the pseudonyms for crooner vocalist ....... Ed Kirkeby.
Love to share with you a tune recorded by the Hot Air Men (another one !!) sung by Ed Kirkeby entitled Chinnin' and Chattin' With May ( Columbia) ( April 1930)

The Goofus Five ( from: )

In the early 1930s Ed directed numerous recording sessions for the ARC, the American Record Company, a company which released cheap records like Banner, Domino, Conqueror, Jewel, Romeo etc. and during these sessions pseudonyms were used, a normal practice in the 1920s, but also real band leader's names were used, although they hadn't been in the studios at all. Musicians, who were unemployed, were hired to play during the recording sessions and so they could earn some money to make a living. In fact Durium did the same with his Hit of the Week Orchestra. Bandleaders, we guess, sometimes even "sold" their identity to ARC. It might be possible that sometimes these bandleaders may have arranged some of the music, but fact is that ARC found it acceptable to rename the bands on the labels? Even musicians sold their identity sometimes. Strange dubious obscure practices in which Ed Kirkeby, possible, played his part which should be seen as result of the Depression.

Ed Kirkeby with James C.Johnson and Una Mae Carlisle ( December 1943) ( photo courtesy: Chris Albertson)(

It seems that in the mid 1930s Ed stopped to perform and sing active, except some incidental performances with the "re-born" California Ramblers. At the 1943 WNWE Second American Swing Festival Ed Kirkeby did not sing; he was there to talk (and read a little script) about Fats. His best vocals, however, were made during the 1920s.

Ed Kirkeby ( December 1943) ( photo courtesy: Chris Albertson)( )

The 1943 photos on this blog show Ed during one of his public appearances after the death of Fats Waller, December 1943. Chris Albertson remembers him from that period: I met Ed Kirkeby fifty years ago, when he often held court on the sidewalk in front of the Brill Building. He was quite the character and he had retained the look of an earlier time, including a waxed mustache and spats.

Enjoy: After You've Gone buy the Golden Gate Orchestra as released at a June 1927 Perfect record. The personnel is: Chelsea Quealey, trumpet - Bobby Davis, reeds - Max Farley, reeds - Adrian Rollini, bass sax and goofus - Jack Russin, piano - Tommy Fellini, banjo - Herb Weil, drums. Ed Kirkeby is the director and whistler ( or is it Adrian Rollini with the Goofus?). A great tune with Adrian Rollini on bass sax. .............

Ed Kirkeby and Louis Armstrong ( December 1943) ( photo courtesy: Chris Albertson)( )

Ed Kirkeby ( 1891 - 1978 ) became active in music since 1916 up to the year before he passed away as manager from bands like the California Ramblers (early 1920s) - from the ARC-Brunswick Studio bands ( early 1930s) - The Pickens Sisters ( in the 1930s) - Thomas Fats Waller ( 1938 - 1943) up to Pat Flowers ( in the 1970s). He worked for Columbia, Victor ( later RCA-Victor) and NBC, but for me he is still the voice behind dozens of well known dance band tunes from the 1920s

Finally a fragment from the tune Mine Oh Mine as recorded by the California Ramblers on a Columbia record, December 1927. Ed Kirkeby is one of the members of the vocal trio: Sammy Fain, Ed Kirkeby and Artie Dunn.

Hans Koert
Although Ed KIrkeby is remembered as the manager of Fats Waller, he also was a gifted vocalist or crooner if you like. During the 1920s his voice is to be heard on numerous dance band recordings of bands with imaginative names, like the University Six, the Goofus Five or the Varsity Eight - in fact all the same group of people: Swindle or marketing? Fact is that Ed Kirkeby was one of them using several pseudonyms as a crooner. The Keep Swinging blog loves to help you to find the right way in the maze of band names. Don't miss it - ask for its newsletter.

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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks, Hans, for remembering Ed Kirkeby in this great entry! The inserted music-videos are all great examples of a period in jazz and entertainment that has been shamelessly neglected for too long time, anyway, great to have it exposed here.


9:38 PM  
Blogger Chris Albertson said...

Thank you for crediting the WNEW photos to me. I worked there in the early Sixities and retrieved these among a bunch of publicity photos that were being trashed.


8:14 AM  

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