Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ephemeral Archeology - Who is Tommy Harris?

It's a mason's hall on a Sunday afternoon. Digging through boxes of yesterday's paper trail to find interesting tid-bits within my tiny budget.

Post cards. Boxes of them organized like library card catalogs. Some will cost $10 & up (some way up!) but some are grouped by a shared low price. I sit at the table & dig thru the 25¢ boxes. I find a few. Real Photo post cards are my favorites, especially ones with musical or entertainment content.

"This guy looks interesting..."

"I wonder who he is..."

"Oh. Sincerely signed by a fella named 'Tommy Harris' of NBC. Never heard of him"

It's easy to spend a quarter on speculative interest. Maybe he's someone I should know, maybe not. Dramatic Star or Church Organ Soloist? Time for the magic Google machine.

Tommy Harris, a 14-year-old vocalist who took the West by a storm, was one of KFRC's top attractions in the 1930s. He and Joaquin Garay were regulars on "Feminine Fancies." He opened the landmark San Francisco restaurant, "Tommy's Joynt" ("The Most Gorgeous Joynt in S.F." at Geary and Van Ness), in 1947, and was a longtime San Francisco Parks Commissioner.

So he's a radio singer & club owner from the 30's & 40's! How cool!

A little more and I find that he was a cast member on KFRC's "The Happy Go Lucky Hour"! This is exciting to me for several reasons. I have been collecting "Happy Go Lucky Hour" items because another cast member is one of my few specific pseudo-obsessions, Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock!
Haywire Mac!
The 'Big Rock Candy Mountain' Man himself!

Harry is an idol to all musical hobos so naturally I took to him early. I've got 5 or 6 pieces of his original 1920's sheet music & now two 8x10 photos of him with "The Happy Go Lucky Gang". I say "now two" because on the same day I found the Tommy Harris picture card I found another "Happy Go Lucky Gang" 8x10 on the other side of the room from a different vendor!

So now I'm fresh on the hunt for more "Happy Go Lucky Gang" items. I'd love to find some transcription discs to be able to hear the show...I can dream cant I.

Google can give you the end of a lot of stories. Here's Tommy's obituary from 1990.

July 20, 1990
Harris, a San Francisco restaurateur, city parks commissioner and former radio personality once known as the ''Little King of Song,'' died after a brief bout with leukemia. He was 78. Harris, who died Wednesday, was the founder and longtime owner of Tommy's Joynt, a landmark saloon known for gaudy murals covering its facade. Harris first became known in San Francisco as a radio entertainer in the mid-1930s, when he was known as the ''Little King of Song'' on the NBC network.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Al Morgan - Bass idol

At the end of this is a familiar clip of Cab Calloway & His Orchestra with the amazing Al Morgan on bass. Al had is hands in Jazz, early R&B, & even Rock & Roll! His playing is just superb! He came from a prolific New Orleans family where his 3 brothers each had the music bug. For reference check out Sam Morgan's Jazz Band with the all the Morgan borthers but Al!
click to go hear Sam Morgan's Jazz Band at

So Al was coming from a good place....Here's a tune he co-wrote & recorded in 1929 while still in N.O. before he moved up to New Tork
click to go hear Damp Weather by Jones & Collins Astoria Hot 8 from

Al Morgan would eventually record and play with a range of leaders that should put shivers in your back bone! Fate Marable, Fats Waller, Les Hite, Otto Hardwick, Zutty Singleton, Louis Jordan, Sabby Lewis, Chu Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas, Jack Teagarden, Jay McShann, Red Allen, Louis Armstrong and T-Bone Walker.

"Bartók pizzicati" 1927 & a nice slapping clip

Slap Bass players....Orchestral String Quartet by Bartók written in 1927. The entire movement is played pizzicato (with yer fingers) and yes there is a lot of what some would call 'Slap' playing, known to the long hair classical crowd at "Bartók pizzicati"...

just a little perspective for the slap happy bass players I know & love.

The Cats & the Fiddle with Chuck Barksdale on bass fiddle. This is from the 1938 Lena Horne vehicle "The Duke Is Tops". A great little movie that you can pick up cheap. The band swings thru a version of "Killin' Jive" that varies a bit from the 1939 version on Bluebird. The varied bit is the 'wow' section where the band picks up the tempo and everyone takes a pose either on the bass or by it. Slap happy mania that still persists to this day! Chuck Barksdale not the same Barksdale that sang with The Dells, this low-end pounder died in 1941, probably only in his 30's.

Here's a real handy Bio & Discography on The Cats & The Fiddle