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8198"Trombone Blues" versus "Crazy Bout My Lollipop"... plagiarism?

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  • Andrew
    Sep 25 9:48 PM
      Hi folks,

      I am working on a bunch of projects right now, among them a Jerome Remick sheetography (in my spare time) and a presentation on "The Art of Playing Ragtime Piano" which I will be giving in a couple weeks. Here's hoping it goes well.

      Anyway, I have the excellent piano roll LP "Messin' Around Featuring James Blythe", Volume 1, playing on iTunes while I'm working.

      (Neither Volume 1 nor Volume 2 have yet been commercially reissued on CD, although Delmark tried to do a release of the mainly Blythe cuts on CD a few years ago, but in my opinion this is not a real rerelease since they are running the rolls through a computer soundfont rather than using a real piano, and I think they picked tempos that are generally too slow when making the CD).

      I got a mint copy of this record off eBay about a year ago, and have dubbed it onto CD and then iTunes for easier listening.

      While the track "Trombone Blues" was playing (pianist on this tune unattributed, by the way, although it sounds to me like it could be Everett Robbins), I noticed that it reminded me quite a lot of a Porter Grainger track I heard recently. Actually, it turns out it's Ada Brown singing the tune with Grainger on piano, but no matter, here's the track:


      (terrific piano on this, by the way).

      In case the track is ever removed in the future (which I hope it isn't), I should add that it is Ada Brown singing "Crazy 'Bout My Lollipop", recorded in New York City, May 2, 1929, and originally issued on OKeh 8694.

      The tune "Crazy About My Lollipop" was apparently written by someone named "Williams", although it's not entirely clear whether it is Clarence or Spencer. The listing for the composer in in the Okeh recording listing here:


      and a search on google books, which usually turns up snippet hits on the Library of Congress copyright of catalog entries, yields nada except for mentions of Brown recording the tune. Maybe it was never copyrighted.

      This is yet another thing which makes me wish I could buy a set of LoC copyright books, at least from around 1850 to about 1930, to use at home for reference, since the Google version just ain't cutting it!

      Anyway, interestingly enough, the composers of "Trombone Blues" are Spencer Williams and Ted Nixon (the trombonist who featured it with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra at the time), and the tune was copyrighted (and subequently published) January 14, 1925, according to page 153 of the book "Ellington: The Early Years" by Mark Tucker:


      Here's a couple links to Ellington's recording of it with the Washingtonians:



      My question is: does anybody know who is credited with "Crazy Bout My Lollipop"? Was the song ever published? I hear a clear case of someone taking from someone else, and it's not clear if it's Clarence taking from Spencer or Spencer merely taking from himself.

      Sorry to be long-winded, but the tune is (well, both tunes are) rather catchy, and if I'm going to be playing it/them, I might as well know the people responsible!

      thanks a lot,
      Andrew Barrett

      P.S. I will put an audio file of the Capitol piano roll of "Trombone Blues" in the files section if anyone is interested. The pianist is so far unidentified, since as you can tell from the following listing:


      ...there are gaps in our knowledge of Capitol word rolls, especially rolls from 1925 onward, due (apparently) to lackadaisical behavior on the part of the advertising department (which let the "Presto" magazine print one 1925 month's "new releases" list over and over for several months before someone corrected the oversight!). This, coupled with the lack of surviving catalogs and roll bulletins, and the scarcity of the rolls, means that we don't always know who is playing on those Capitol coin piano rolls what were adapted from the 88-note originals.

      My best guess for pianist, listening to the style and knowing about many of the Columbia and Capitol roll artists, is that it is probably Everett Robbins, which would make this one of the last rolls he made for the company, a few months after his last known rolls for them were released in November, 1924.
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