This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
No introductory notes for 1925 as it was 20 years before I was born so I don't remember anything from that year.
FRANK CRUMIT was the first person to play the ukulele in a musical on Broadway.
Frank was originally going to be a doctor but switched to electrical engineering. That career didn't last long as he discovered music along the way. He thought of going into opera but that didn't work out. Somewhere he discovered the uke.
Here is probably the best known song about the instrument, Ukulele Lady.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, the great BESSIE SMITH.
Oh my goodness, this is superb: Careless Love Blues, a song that's been performed by countless people but none better than this.
There have been many really good versions of the Rodgers and Hart song Manhattan. This isn't one of them. It's by BEN SELVIN & THE KNICKERBOCKERS.
I can't think of anything positive to say about Ben's version except that it came from 1925.
ETHEL WATERS was the first person, but far from the last, to record the song Dinah.
Apparently Ethel had a horrible childhood (she said she didn't have one really), and was married at 13 to an abusive husband. She got out of that and joined a vaudeville troupe.
After a bit she was performing with Bessie Smith who insisted that Ethel must not sing blues (we wouldn't want to upstage her), so she sang mostly pop songs and the like.
Eventually she found herself in New York and was a leading light in the Harlem Renaissance at the time. There's a lot more to her story, but we'll have to wait for another day.
THE HAPPINESS BOYS was a radio program in the early twenties that featured Billy Jones & Ernest Hare.
They also recorded under that name which is why they are present today. Billy and Ernie were both trained opera singers and they would occasionally sing opera in a burlesque manner on their program. Their group name is from the fact that they were sponsored by the chain of Happiness Candy stores.
The song they sing today is still quite well known, it's Don't Bring Lulu.
MARIAN ANDERSON recorded Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen in this week's year.
However, for once I'm going against my policy of only using songs that were recorded, or released, in the particular year. I have that version but it's really scratchy.
This was another Marian made some time later and she is such an important musician, and person if it comes to that, that I feel you should hear how the song really should sound.
JOHN MCCORMACK died the day I was born and obviously his singing talent passed on to me.
People who know me are now rolling around the floor laughing about that (including me, I hasten to add). John was an Irish tenor who later became an Australian tenor. He was a noted opera singer, but many of his recordings were of popular music, including this one, When You and I Were Seventeen.
VERNON DALHART was born Marion Try Slaughter. No wonder he changed his name.
Vernon received voice training at the Dallas Conservatory of Music and later he saw an advertisement for singers to record so he decided to check it out. He was auditioned by Thomas Edison himself and got a gig recording light classical pieces and dance band music.
The Prisoner's Song doesn't really fit into either category, so I guess he recorded other stuff as well.
We have two hugely important musicians this year, three maybe. The next one is PAUL ROBESON.
Paul was one of the most significant people of the 20th century and you don't need me to tell you about him. The only thing I'll say is that he was the first person to sing at the Sydney Opera House. That was when it was still a building site – he sang to the workers.
Today he sings the old spiritual, Steal Away.
MARION HARRIS was billed throughout her career as a jazz and blues singer.
Perhaps things have changed over the years but she doesn't sound to me like either of those. She seems to be more a straight pop singer. Nothing wrong with that, it's just that when we've had Bessie and Ethel, she rather pales.
Anyway, she does a decent job of I'll See You In My Dreams.