Happy Birthday DeFord Bailey!


DeFord Bailey 
C&W vocals/guitar
b. Smith County, TN, USA.
d. July 2, 1982.

A pioneer member 'Grand Ole Opry'.
DeFord Bailey, a virtuoso harmonica player who won fame on the early Grand Ole Opry, has a more significant place in history as the first African American to win fame in the field of country music as well as blues. He is recognized today as one of the South's most gifted traditional musicians, as well as one of the Opry's key figures in the 1920s and 1930s. His harmonica playing had an immense impact on the performing styles of both white and black players.
Bailey was born in the community of Bellwood in Smith County on December 14, 1899. He grew up in the rural hill country there, surrounded by what he called "black hillbilly music." His grandfather was a local champion fiddler, and other members of the family played the guitar, banjo, harmonica, and other traditional instruments. His own interest in the harmonica dated from the time he was stricken with polio at age three; the disease stunted his growth and left him too frail to do much of the farm work. He spent his days mastering the instrument, imitating trains and natural sounds and developing a battery of complex trills, harmonics, lip puffs, and blended notes for his harmonica.
Moving to Nashville in 1918, Bailey worked as a domestic for wealthy white families on the city's West End, and in his spare time he haunted local theaters in order to hear the age's great blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. By 1925 he was working as an elevator operator at the National Life and Accident building when Dr. Humphrey Bate, himself a harmonica player and charter member of the Grand Ole Opry, got him an audition for the show. 
Bailey soon became an Opry regular; by 1928 he was appearing on the show more often than any other performer.
He became best known for his novelty pieces such as "The Fox Chase" and "Pan American Blues" in which he did imitations on his harp. In 1927 he journeyed to New York to record eight tunes for the Brunswick Company, and the following year he participated in the very first recording session--conducted by RCA Victor--to be held in Nashville. In spite of his radio popularity, though, these records were not commercially successful--most of the Victor recordings were never released--and he did not try to record again for decades.
During the 1930s Bailey toured widely with Opry groups throughout the South. Often he was refused accommodations at hotels on the tours and had to seek lodging with local black families. Audiences on these tours were often surprised to see that Bailey was black--the Opry had not emphasized this on the radio shows--and publicity soon began to patronizingly refer to him as the Opry "mascot." The Opry fired him in 1941 for a variety of complex reasons including a feud between two music licensing organizations, changing musical tastes, and the increasing professionalization of the Opry. Hurt and angry, Bailey retired from performing and opened a shoeshine stand in downtown Nashville.
In the 1960s a group of young folk music enthusiasts including Dick Hulan, Archie Allen, and James Talley rediscovered Bailey; he began to appear at local coffeehouses and festivals, and in 1965 he gave a concert at Vanderbilt University. But he turned down national offers to record, to appear at the Newport Folk Festival, and even to take a role in major Hollywood films like, W. W. and the Dixie Dancekings, which was largely filmed in Nashville. In 1974 he began to work with a young housing authority agent named David Morton, who convinced Bailey to return to a series of special guest appearances on the Opry and to dictate his biography for later generations. DeFord Bailey died on July 2, 1982, and is buried in Nashville's Greenwood Cemetery. His son, DeFord Bailey Jr., has kept some of his father's harmonica music alive.
~Charles K. Wolfe, Middle Tennessee State University

Morey Amsterdam 

b. Chicago, IL, USA
d. Oct. 27, 1996, Beverly Hills, CA, USA. (Heart Attack).
In the mid-40s, he adapted a Calypso tune and added his own lyric.
The tune became a huge hit for the Andrews Sisters - "Rum and Coca Cola".

Morey Amsterdam - Wikipedia
Morey Amsterdam: Information from
Morey Amsterdam
Morey Amsterdam (1908 - 1996) - Find A Grave Memorial

Theodore 'Ted' Guy Buckner 

soprano-/Alto Sax
b. St. Louis, MO, USA.
d. April 12, 1976.
He is the brother of pianist Milt Buckner
A good, if derivative, alto and soprano saxophonist and brother of keyboardist and arranger Milt Buckner, Ted Buckner was a steady session player and soloist. He wasn't the most imaginative nor daring player, but his lines, tone and phrasing were proficient, as was his time and general technique. Buckner played with local bands in St. Louis and briefly with McKinney's Cotton Pickers. He was in Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra from 1937 to 1943, enjoying his greatest recognition. Buckner worked in combos in the Detroit area, touring Europe in the mid-'70s. He played on many Motown sessions, while also leading his own groups and co-heading a big band with Jimmy Wilkins. Buckner periodically worked with McKinney's Cotton Pickers until his death. There are a couple of his sessions available on Aircheck CDs, as well as some dates he played with Kid Ory on Vogue.
~ Ron Wynn and Michael G. Nastos
Ted Buckner - Wikipedia

Charles "Chuck" Gentry 
Baritone Sax
b. Belgrade, Nevada, USA
Although he started out as a clarinetist, it was on much lower-pitched horns that Chuck Gentry made his bread and butter. Gentry is one of the rare jazz gentry whose name shows up in credits complete with a military ranking--he was a seargent in the unit that made up Glenn Miller's Air Force Band from 1943 through 1944. At that time Gentry had been a professional musician for about a decade, beginning when he was hired for bandleader Ken Baker's Los Angeles outfit. Prior to that he had played clarinet in the school band in Sterling, Colorado and had kept up his musical interests throughout an initial career stab at becoming a teacher.
By the late '30s blackboards were the last this on his mind as he began checking out both baritone and bass sax parts in the reed section of the Vido Musso ensemble. From here he went to even bigger bands, Harry James for two years beginning in 1940, Benny Goodman for about a fourth that amount of time beginning in the summer of 1941 and then Jimmy Dorsey until Uncle Sam demanded a change of procedure. After the war he was busy with Artie Shaw, Jan Savitt and then another short stint with Goodman. From about 1947 Gentry began to work more and more in the studios, eventually becoming almost a part of the scenery in certain Los Angeles recording factories. Much of the pop material he appeared on is high quality, including Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra sides. He should not be confused with the guitarist of the same name.
~ Eugene Chadbourne

Frederick Douglass Hall 

African American composer
b. Atlanta, GA, USA.
d. December 28, 1982
Frederick Hall received a B.A. from Morehouse College, a Teachers Diploma and M.M. from Chicago Musical College, an M.A. and Ed. D. from Columbia University. He did additional study at Julliard School of Music, Royal College of Music (London), English School of Chuch Music, and several others. He was presented an honorary Doctorate from Rust College in Mississippi. Hall was the chairmand of the music departments at Jackson College (MS), Dillard University (LA), Alabama State Teachers College, and Clark College (Atlanta). He did research in Afro - American music and West African music. His compositions and arrangements include: "Deliverance," an oratorio; "Afro - American Religious Work Songs: A Cycle;" and six volumes of arrangements for mixed, male, and female voices.

~ Perkins Holly, Ellistine
Frederick Douglass

Budd Johnson 

All Reeds/piano/vocal arranger/composer

b. Dallas, TX, USA. d. Oct. 20, 1984. né: Albert J. Johnson.
Taught music by Booker T. Washington's daughter. In 1924, he was touring as a drummer, and took up the sax about 2 years later. In 1927, was working w/George E. Lee Combo in Chicago, IL. Then had own combo with Teddy Wilson until they joined Louis Armstrong in 1933. From Sept.1939 - Dec.'42, worked on and off with Earl Hines Orch. His role in "Bop" is rather unique. In the 1940's, there were just 5 "Big Bands" (all Black) involved with the then new "Rebop" sound.

During the 1942-'44 period, Earl Hines and Boyd Raeburn took up the sound. Then during 1944-'45, both the Woody Herman and Billy Eckstine bands, and sometime in late '45, Dizzy Gillespie. A common thread linked all these 5 bands - Budd Johnson. He had played sax, or written for all of them (possibly with the exception of Boyd Raeburn). He had previously (1944) organized the very first 'bop' recording date (for Gillespie). While he is little known today, he was one of the seminal figures in promoting 'Rebop'. In the '50s, he played with Cab Calloway and J. C. Heard.
In 1952, he was with Snub Mosely's band touring England on a USO sponsored unit. During 1956-7, he wrote and played for the Benny Goodman band, then working in New York's swank Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and even toured Asia with Benny's band.

"Spike" Jones 
b. Long Beach, CA, USA
d. May 1, 1965, Beverly Hills, CA, USA. (Emphysema).
né: Lindley Armstrong Jones. Leader 'The City Slickers' band.
Lester Melrose 

A&R (Bluebird label)
b. Olney, IL, USA

Lester Melrose (December 14, 1891 - April 12, 1968) was one of the first producers of blues records.
He was born Lester Franklin Melrose in Sumner, Illinois, the second of six children of Frank and Mollie Melrose who owned a small farm. He relocated to Chicago around 1914, and tried out unsuccessfully as a catcher for the Chicago White Sox baseball team before starting work as a grocery salesman.
In 1918 (though some sources state 1922), he joined forces with his elder brother Walter, and Marty Bloom (born Martin Blumenthal, 1893-1974), to form The Melrose Brothers Music Company, a publishing house and music store on the South Side of Chicago. In May 1923, he met Jelly Roll Morton at the store, and Morton became the company's chief writer and arranger. By the end of 1923, Walter Melrose moved the music publishing business downtown, while Lester continued for a while to operate the music store with a new partner.
In 1925 Lester Melrose sold his share of the store and became a freelance A & R man, combining the roles of talent scout and record producer. He started to promote many blues artists who became popular, recording them mainly in Chicago. His first big success was "It's Tight Like That" with Tampa Red and soon-to-be gospel music legend Thomas A. Dorsey, then still known as Georgia Tom.
He worked for several record companies simultaneously in the 1930s, including RCA Victor and its subsidiary Bluebird records, Columbia records, and Okeh Records. Among the artists he recorded and brought to the world's attention were Joe "King" Oliver, Big Bill Broonzy, the first Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Minnie, Roosevelt Sykes, Lonnie Johnson, Big Joe Williams, Bukka White, Washboard Sam, Champion Jack Dupree, Jazz Gillum, Big Boy Crudup, Victoria Spivey and Leroy Carr.
In many ways Melrose can be considered a founder of the Chicago blues, although he greatly favored acoustic over electric performances. Most of his recordings were made with a small group of session players and had a similar sound overall. Muddy Waters, who was rejected when he auditioned for Melrose, called it "sweet jazz". The music was a mixture of black blues and vaudeville styles and material with newer swing rhythms. Melrose's chief contribution was to establish a sound with full band arrangements, ensemble playing and a rhythm section, which appealed to the increasingly urbanised black record-buying audience and prefigured the electric blues and R&B of the late 1940s and the small group sound that became dominant in rock and roll.

The Melrose sound dominated Chicago blues before World War II, but the arrival of large numbers of Southern African Americans in Chicago during and after the war brought Melrose's dominance to an end as a harder, deeper blues sound proved more popular with the new audience. However, Melrose himself continued to work into the 1950s. He then retired to Lake, Florida and died there in April 1968.

Although he could not play or sing a note of music, he owned the copyright to over three thousand tunes, mostly blues. As was the widespread custom at the time (and not just in blues music), Melrose often assigned composer credit and performance rights of the artists' songs to himself, paying the artists only for the record session. Nonetheless, he unquestionably had great energy and excellent taste in seeking out performers and produced some foundation blues recordings. His name appears on "Reefer Head Blues", recorded by Jazz Gillum and Aerosmith, and "Me and My Chauffeur", recorded by Memphis Minnie and Jefferson Airplane. His name also appears on three Big Boy Crudup songs recorded by Elvis Presley.
Melrose is a member of the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
~Family members

His older brother Walter Melrose (1889 - 1973) was a music publisher who received songwriter credit for several songs identified with the Original Dixieland Jass Band, including the standards "High Society" and "Tin Roof Blues", both of which were hits as late as the 1950s. Further information on Melrose's work as a music publisher is available here.

A third brother, Franklyn Melrose (1907 - 1941), was a jazz pianist who also appeared under the name of Kansas City Frank. He died after a fracas in a club.

Lester Melrose

William Owsley, guitar 

b. Galesburg, IL, USA.

Cecil Payne 

Baritone Sax/flute
b. New York (Brooklyn), NY, USA.

Cecil Payne - Wikipedia

Viola Gertrude Wells, Vocals 

b. Newark, NJ, USA.
d. Dec. 22, 1984, Belleville, NJ, USA.
aka: 'Miss Rhapsody'. Wells' career began with her first gig at the Minis Theater in Newark, NJ. In the 1920s, she worked in some traveling shows, and in the 1930s, she was a member of "Banjo Bernie's Band", subsequently touring with singer Ida Cox. In the late 1930s, Wells moved to Kansas City, where she ran a nightclub and led her own band.

In the 1940s, she moved back to Newark and was soon working in various New York city venues, including appearances at 'Kelly's Stables' on New York's famed 52nd Street, and at Harlem's Apollo Theatre (occasionally as 'Viola Underhill'). Out of the public's eye for most of the 1950s and early 1960s, her career revived in the mid-1960s. In the 1970s, she toured with trombonist/singer Clyde Bernhardt's band. "Miss Rhapsody" passed away at age 82.

Notable Events Occurring
On This Date Include:

Dinah Washington 

died in Detroit, MI

Age: 39.
Dinah Washington: A Queen in Turmoil : NPR
Dinah Washington - Wikipedia

Howard Ragsdale 

C&W fiddler, died.

Age: 62. (b. Feb. 9, 1904).
Played with "The Fruit Jar Drinkers", a band heard on the Grand Ole Op'ry show, and also backed "Uncle Dave" Macon while he played his banjo and sang.

Jesse Rodgers
C&W singer
died. Age: 62.
(cousin of Jimmie Rodgers).

Jesse Rodgers: Information from

Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


Art Hickman's New York London Five - Sudan


Original Capitol Orchestra - Blue Hoosier Blues
Esther Bigeou - West Indies Blues


Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra - I'm Goin' South
Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra - Steppin' Out

    Five Harmaniacs

    Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra - Midnight Mama

    Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra

    • Muscle Shoals Blues

      Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra - Tell Me Tonight


      Jean Goldkette and his Orchestra - Here Comes the Show Boat
      Coon Sanders Nighthawks Orchestra
      • Hallucinations

      Coon Sanders Nighthawks Orchestra - Is She My Girl Friend? - Vocal refrain by J.L. Sanders
      Coon Sanders Nighthawks Orchestra - Stay Out Of The South! (If You Want To Miss A Heaven On Earth)
      • The Wail

      Lonnie Johnson

      • Bearcat Blues

      Lonnie Johnson - It's Hot - Let It Alone


      Esther Bigeou
      ~Transcribed from Piron's New Orleans Orchestra,
      ~vocals by Esther Bigeou, recorded December 14, 1923.

      Got my grip and trunk all packed,
      The ship, I'm gwine to take her,
      So, good-bye, dear old New York town,
      I'm gwine to Jamaica.
      When I get on the other side,
      I'll hang around the water,
      I'll make my livin', sure as you're born,
      Diving after quarters.

      I'm gwine home, won't be long,
      Gwine home, sure as you're born,
      I'm gwine home, won't be long,
      'Cause I got no time to lose!

      I'm gwine home, I can't wait!
      I'm gwine home, oh, Lord, I'm late!
      I'm gwine home, I can't wait!
      'Cause I got the West Indies Blues,
      I got the West Indies Blues!
      I got the West Indies Blues!

      Gotta give up this worthless job,
      Running the elevator,
      I told my bossman I'd be back,
      Some time soon or later,
      When I come back to this great land,
      You better watch me, Harvey,
      'Cause I'm gonna be a great big man
      Like my friend Marcus Garvey!

      I'm gwine home, won't be long,
      Gwine home, sure as you're born,
      Gwine home, won't be long!
      'Cause I got no time to lose!

      I'm gwine home, I can't wait,
      I'm gwine home, oh, man, I'm late!
      I'm gwine home; I can't wait,
      'Cause I got the West Indies Blues.
      I got the West Indies Blues!
      I got the West Indies Blues!
      I got the West Indies Blues!


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