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victor records

Victor Military Band "Beets and Turnips" on Victor 35415, recorded October 13, 1914

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The Victor Military Band plays "Beets and Turnips" on Victor 35415, recorded on October 13, 1914. Around this time Victor Military Bands records featured upbeat dance numbers played by musicians led by Edward T. King. From 1911 to 1919, Victor Military Band releases helped the Victor Talking Machine Company satisfy high demand for dance records. This Victor "house" band--not a true military band--consisted of about a dozen musicians who also recorded as members of the Victor Band and Victor Concert Orchestra. The band was especially popular during the years the turkey trot, the tango, and the fox trot were introduced to Americans. Many labels state "For dancing." Victor 17550, featuring "Thanks for the Lobster--Trot or One-Step," even adds, "60 bars per minute." It also met a demand for patriotic music during World War I, recording such numbers as Sousa's 1918 march "The Volunteers" (dedicated to American shipbuilders) as well as the march "Liberty Forever!" composed by operatic tenor Enrico Caruso. These two titles were issued on Victor 18471. About "The Volunteers," the July 1918 supplement states, "Right at the start you hear the sirens blowing to call the men to work. Later comes the sound of the mallet pounding on blocks of wood, anvils, and lastly--just before the close--an extraordinary effect from the cymbals, suggesting an electric riveting machine." About "Liberty Forever!": "The instrumentation is a brilliant one, and clothes the melody in a colorful dress in which the xylophone, drums and trumpets play a conspicuous part." The Victor Military Band recorded some ragtime and blues numbers of interest to music historians today. It appears to have been first to record W.C. Handy's classic "St. Louis Blues"--it included part of the song when it recorded, as a "medley fox trot," Handy's "Joe Turner Blues," issued in December 1916 as Victor 18174. Similar upbeat selections include Stewart's "Stomp Dance" (17508), Handy's "Memphis Blues" (17619), Chris Smith's "Ballin' The Jack" (35405), and Eubie Blake's "Bugle Call Rag" (35533). The band recorded some selections for the educational market, with numbers such as "Old Zip Coon" (better known as "Turkey In The Straw") and "Arkansaw Traveler" marketed to elementary schools. The march "Liberty Forever!" on Victor 18471, issued in July 1918, is notable since it was composed by tenor Enrico Caruso along with Vincenzo Bellezza. By 1919 Joseph C. Smith's and other society orchestras employing string instruments had become popular. The music of so-called "military bands" (recording bands such as this one and Sousa's were in fact bands made up of professional musicians who were civilians) was no longer fashionable for dance purposes. A growing number of jazz ensembles also made military bands less fashionable. One of the band's last recordings, issued in the spring of 1919, was "Madelon" (Victor 18534), which features an uncredited vocal by French bass and operatic star Marcel Journet. The name Victor Military Band was revived in the 1940s for records conducted by Leonard Joy, including "Anchors Aweigh" and "Semper Paratus" (RCA Victor 27812). The band was nominally under the direction of Victor's musical director Walter B. Rogers until he left the company in 1916 and was then under the nominal direction of the Polish-born Josef A. Pasternack, who replaced Rogers. But popular tunes were often delegated to assistant musical directors, and for some sessions Eddie King was director of the Victor Military Band. A fine drummer, King had considerable experience as Zon-o-phone's musical director. He worked regularly in Victor's New York studio after Victor stopped the operation of its Zon-o-phone subsidiary in mid-1912.