The Revelers and The Comedian Harmonists
From the Wikipedia profile:
The Revelers were an American quintet (four close harmony singers and a pianist) popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The Revelers’ recordings of “Dinah”, “Old Man River”, “Valencia”, “Baby Face”, “Blue Room”, “The Birth of the Blues”, “When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba”, and many more, became popular in the United States and then Europe in the late 1920s. In August 1929, they appeared in Holland with Richard Tauber at the Kursaal, Scheveningen and the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
All of the members had recorded individually or in various combinations, and formed a group in 1925. The original Revelers were tenors Franklyn Baur and Lewis James, baritone Elliot Shaw, bass Wilfred Glenn, and pianist Ed Smalle. Smalle was replaced by Frank Black in 1926. The group (with Black at the piano) appeared in a short movie musical, The Revelers (1927), filmed in the sound-on-disc Vitaphone process. This one-reel short film, recently restored by “The Vitaphone Project,” shows the group performing “Mine”, “Dinah”, and “No Foolin'”. A second short, filmed the same day with another three songs, awaits restoration. [read more]
The above bio is negligent in failing to mention that the same group of vocalists had previously recorded, in a more traditional quartet style than that of The Revelers, as The Shannon Quartet, a name adopted c. 1922 by the group that had evolved from The Shannon Four, which had begun recording for Victor in 1917. By 1918, only Elliot Shaw (baritone) and Wilfred Glenn (bass) remained of the originally four members. They began, in 1925, to record songs in a more modern, jazzy style as The Revelers, but the quartet also continued to record sides for Victor as The Shannon Quartet until 1928.
Around the time they began recording as The Revelers in 1925, the quartet, consisting of James, Baur (tenors), Shaw (baritone), and Glenn (bass), were expanded to a quintet by the addition of vocalist, pianist, and arranger Ed Smalle (who sometimes recorded with the Shannon Quartet as well) as an official member. Source #4, below, identifies Smalle as a baritone, though he recorded numerous sides for Victor as a tenor, often as a vocal duet partner with Billy Murray (source #5). In claiming that Smalle joined the group in 1924, source #4 complicates the matter of connecting his arrival to the birth of Revelers.
According to the Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound (See source #3), in their Shannon mode, the quartet recorded under at least seven other names for various labels. The Revelers also moonlighted under pseudonyms, becoming The Merrymakers when recording for the Brunswick label, and transforming into The Singing Sophomores for their Columbia sides, according to source #4, and the Wikipedia profile.
- 1. The Revelers — Wikipedia profile
- 2. The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (at UCSB.edu) treats The Shannon Quartet, and The Revelers as the same group, but sorts the recordings into two separate chronological (for the most part) lists.
- 3. Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound: A-L, Vol. 1 by Frank W. Hoffmann, Howard Ferstler (2005), p. 986
- 4. Notes by Richard Leppert attached to the translation by Thomas Y. Levin of the essay “Culture, Technology, and Listening” as republished in the book Essays On Music: Theodor W. Adorno (2002), p. 276
- 5. Ed Smalle Victor discography (instrumentalist: piano), (vocalist: tenor)
Selected recordings by The Revelers:
Bam Bam Bammy Shore (m. Ray Henderson, w. Mort Dixon) — recorded 5 November 1925
Lewis James — tenor
Franklyn Baur — tenor
Elliot Shaw — baritone
Wildfred Glenn — bass
Ed Smalle — piano
Breezin’ Along (With the Breeze) (Haven Gillespie, Seymour Simons, and Richard A. Whiting) — recorded 16 August 1926
Blue River (m. Joseph Meyer, w. Alfred Bryan) — recorded 12 September 1927
The Comedian Harmonists, from the Wikipedia profile:
In 1927, unemployed actor Harry Frommermann was inspired by The Revelers, a jazz-influenced popular vocal group from the United States, to create a German group of the same format. According to Douglas Friedman’s 2010 book “The Comedian Harrmonists” in August 1929 both groups appeared on the same bill at the Scala in Berlin and became good friends. Frommermann held auditions in his flat on Stubenrauchstraße 47 in Berlin-Friedenau, and, once the group was assembled, it quickly began rehearsals. After some initial failures, the Harmonists soon found success, becoming popular throughout Europe, visiting the United States, and appearing in 21 films.
The Comedian Harmonists, profile and discography:
- European Jazz and Close Harmony Vocal Groups — by Jim Lowe
- Comedian Harmonists – web home (presently in German only)
- Singers.com (brief compilation discography, with reviews)
The Comedian Harmonists, selected recordings:
Wenn der Wind weht über das Meer (music: Werner Richard Heymann, text: Robert Gilbert) — soundtrack of the 1931 film Bomben auf Monte Carlo, recorded in 1931. The first chorus is in a plaintive close harmony with brief solo parts. For the second chorus, as the camera pans across a ship and its crew, sequential parts are performed, in a variety of styles ranging from simple acoustic blues to bel canto, by crew members.
Over the Blue — English version of Wenn der Wind weht über das Meer, with lyric by Leigh (probably Rowland Leigh, who co-wrote other songs with Heymann), recorded in 1931
Komm’ im Traum —1934 — German lyric version of “Close Your Eyes” (Bernice Petkere) — The label of the disk displayed in the video credits the lyric to the Comedian Harmonists.
- See also Songbook’s page on “Close Your Eyes“