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Dance Bands From Canada 1922-1930
Producer's Notes

CAPS first CD is out! Producing a CD reissue from 78s was a new venture for me but several CAPS members have considerable experience with such projects and provided their expertise at various stages. Without their support, experience, skill, enthusiasm, knowledge and phenomenal collections the CD would not have seen the light of day and certainly not met its target launch date.

The germ of the idea came from a casual comment in 1996 when CAPS member David Lennick expressed an interest in producing a "Canadian- content" CD for the Society. By profession David is a record producer with numerous credits for reissues of many types of music from 78 rpm discs. David's knowledge of early Canadian recording artists is substantial and, as it turned out, his vast collection was the source of several of the 78s used on the CAPS CD. David also made the disc transfers for the project to digital audio tape which he then passed on to the next key player.

Graham Newton is a former recording engineer for RCA Victor's Canadian studios in Toronto. Fortunately for CAPS he now freelances from his home where he has a remarkable studio of electronic sound processing equipment and an impressive list of record reissue projects on which he has performed the audio restoration magic that can vastly improve the sound of early recordings. Graham uses CEDAR processing, the premier method of restoring sound recordings using digital signal processing and microcomputer technology. The digital audio tape transfers are filtered through the CEDAR boxes, aptly named Decrackler, Declicker and Dehisser,in real time and clean audio emerges out the other end! Still, with some of the less than perfect source material available for this project it was necessary to remove major gouges in the record surface by manually editing the track using computer software. This is precise and painstaking work.

Jack Litchfield's 1982 publication, The Canadian Jazz Discography, and his 1986 LP issued on the British Harlequin label, Jazz And Hot Dance In Canada, were really my starting points for identifying relevant and interesting records for the project. His comprehensive discography gave me recording dates, matrix numbers and personnel for some of the sides. I spent a morning at the University of Toronto's Music Library listening to the early tracks on the LP. Excellent choices all and ripe for CD reissue but, in the end,I elected to duplicate only the Lombardo Orchestra's superb Cotton Pickers' Ball. Jack included the Apex version of the Melody Kings Music (Makes The World Go 'Round) on his LP whereas for the CAPS CD I used the Berliner recording of the same title. I am indebted to Jack for his continuous interest and support of the CAPS project and for his meticulous proof-reading of the booklet notes.

Gene Miller possesses an extraordinary collection of original recordings of hot dance and jazz bands from the 1920s, all carefully organized and stored in his basement music archives. He also has a vast collection of music sheets, original photographs and other ephemera depicting the bands that I was interested in including on the CD. More than half of the 24 transfers were made from 78s in Gene's collection and the majority of photographs and music sheet covers are also his. I spent memorable evenings in his music room sampling scores of 78s to finally isolate the 24 that appear on the CD. Without Gene's extensive knowledge of Canadian dance band musicians and without his generosity in making his collection available to CAPS the final result would be far less comprehensive and visually far poorer.

Throughout the project Colin Bray has been my guide and mentor steering me through the tortuous path of record production. Colin is co-owner of Jazz Oracle, one of the premier hot jazz reissue CD labels, and co-producer of its 19 (to date) CDs which set a high standard for projects of this type. Colin is also an historian of 1920s Canadian hot dance music and authored the extensive booklet notes for the CAPS CD. With his many collector contacts he was able to track down some of the most interesting sides for the project, recordings of Dave Caplan's Toronto-Band From Canada and New Princes' Toronto Band made in Germany and England respectively and therefore quite rare in this country. Colin encouraged my input in the final notes and the give and take of ideas and the continual clarification of the facts substantially enriched the text.

My first challenge was defining a "Canadian dance band". "Canadian Dance Bands from the 1920s" was an obvious title for the CD, but in the end I decided on "Dance Bands From Canada". This was purposefully chosen so that the story might reflect not only bands whose major personnel were Canadian-born (Romanelli, Munro, Plunkett, Lombardo, Culley, New Princes' and related groups ) but also bands with a significant Canadian connection (Joyce and Waring). I also included two sides by a band (Leonard), probably American, that had several long residencies at a prominent Montreal hotel and recorded numerous sides at the Berliner recording studios. All of these bands present important aspects of the "Canadian" story.

Initially my intention was to concentrate on the 216000 series of recordings issued on Berliner's HMYV label in Montreal. Moogk's Roll Back The Years conveniently lists all of these records and local collectors have many of the titles. Several evenings of listening, however, dispelled any notion of compiling a significant or even moderately interesting CD's worth of titles using only this series. Most of this music is of the "straight" dance variety, entertaining perhaps in small doses but difficult to sustain interest for long periods, especially to fill out the 70 minutes that I was planning for the CD. It became apparent to me that the focus should be on dance recordings by Canadian personnel playing both here and abroad. Some of the most exciting tracks on the CD were recorded in the United States, Britain and Germany.

From the outset I viewed the CAPS project as an historical reissue that would not concentrate on the "hottest" sides but rather document the entire decade. This would perforce span the complete spectrum and include some straight dance music from the early years and some hotter tracks from the mid to late 20s. Thus the CD presents the earliest side (1922) by the most prominent Toronto band, Romanelli's Orchestra, and several by its counterpart in Montreal, the Melody Kings Dance Orchestra. In 1922 and 1923 these were considered by Canadians to be the finest "jazz" bands. The Lombardo tracks are gems and include the orchestra's first recording in 1924 made at the Gennett studio in Richmond, Indiana, Cotton Pickers' Ball. This is considered by some to be the finest Canadian hot dance record of the 1920s. I have used the rare Canadian-issued Starr-Gennett copy of this title from the collection of the National Library of Canada. You are in for a treat if you associate Guy Lombardo exclusively with "the sweetest music this side of heaven". The three Lombardo sides are some of the best on the CD.

The Canadian connection with Britain is perhaps the most interesting and involved facet of the story of Canadian dance bands in the 1920s. Although the personnel of the three bands that you will hear (New Princes' Toronto Band, Dave Caplan's Toronto-Band From Canada and Alfredo And His Band) is almost exclusively Canadian not a single one of their records was made or issued in Canada and they were likely unknown to record buyers at the time. Consequently the records are extremely rare and even in Germany, where Dave Caplan recorded 56 sides for Deutsche Grammophon/Polydor in 1926, some of the titles are not known to exist.

The Canadian connection of Toronto's Culley brothers with Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians, a widely admired American dance band, is also fascinating and mostly forgotten. Fred Culley was concert master of Waring's group for 36 years and, in a 1971 interview, his brother and fellow musician Edwin Culley remarked that "there were five Torontonians in Waring's band". I couldn't resist including the popular Waring dance tune Hello Montreal! on the CD because it musically illustrates the allure of Canadian culture, or at least of Quebec's relaxed liquor laws, for dance band musicians during the "Jazz Age"!

David and Graham have worked wonders with the less than perfect copies of several of the earliest sides on the CD. One title, Everything Happens For The Best, was available in four local collections but none was in excellent condition from the first note to the last. In the end, Graham seamlessly blended the first half of one of the discs with the last half of another resulting in an excellent transfer. Three of the tracks were transferred from copies available to us only in cassette format provided by collectors in England and Germany. These are some of the rarest sides on the CD.

Once the titles were identified and the records located it was then possible to begin to research and to write the booklet notes. Initially I had budgeted for a modest 4- or 6-panel gatefold insert but the more involved the project became the more apparent it was that the story deserved a comprehensive telling. As an ephemera collector I also wanted to include as many photographs of the bands as possible and I was overwhelmed by the wealth of rare, unpublished material that came to light. A snapshot of the New Princes' Toronto Band taken by one of its band members at a recording session in the Columbia Studios in England in 1924 and preserved by its trumpeter, Alfie Noakes, is a jewel. A trade card from the same collection, in pristine condition, announcing "Canada's Gala Night" at the New Princes' Restaurant in Piccadilly in 1924 - how many of these are likely to have survived? I wanted to show the interior of a typical 1920s Canadian dance hall and tracked down a photograph dated June 10, 1929 at the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library depicting the newly-opened Old Mill Dance Hall where the Romanelli Brothers and many other Toronto bands held forth. (I visited the Old Mill recently and, although the wood beams are considerably darker and the dance floor is new, the room is otherwise identical to the 1929 photograph.) So, I suggested to Colin that he write as much as he needed to tell the story and, with the addition of a complete discography and photographs of some of the record labels, the booklet bloomed to 28 pages.

The Canada Copyright Act states that a master recording becomes public domain after 50 years. There is, however, an independent agency, CMRRA (Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency) that oversees the issuance of mechanical copyright licenses for reissues such as the CAPS CD. Mechanical copyright refers to the "author" of a musical work, meaning both the composer and the lyricist, and is administered by the copyright owner, usually the music publisher. Copyright extends until 50 years after the death of the last surviving author. The CMRRA issues licenses on the basis of 7.4 cents per song per copy manufactured where the playing time is five minutes or less. A license is extremely specific and is limited to a particular composition as manufactured by a user on a particular product with a particular catalogue number. The CAPS CD includes obscure titles as well as some well known songs by famous authors and more than half fulfilled the conditions of mechanical copyright.

After photographing the music sheet covers and the record labels using a digital camera and massaging the images using Photo Shop, I used the computer software program QuarkXPress to lay out the booklet design. From the beginning the Canadian composition Music (Makes The World Go Round), which I was including on the CD, had struck me as an excellent sub-title for the project and by a remarkable stroke of good fortune Gene Miller had a mint copy of the music sheet in his collection. It guided the overall design of the booklet cover. The addition of a Berliner record sleeve with the HMV 78 of Music highlighted the major Canadian record company in the 1920s. For the back cover a Columbia Records leaflet from 1924 advertising the New Princes' Toronto Band made a nice juxtaposition with the photograph of the Montreal- based Melody Kings on the front cover.

For the tray card and the graphic on the face of the CD I also struck it lucky. The Magic Highway (music sheet cover illustrated) was the signature song of Fred Culley at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto in 1930. Although I wasn't including the song on the CD - (was it ever recorded?)- the image of the two dancers set against a backdrop of the globe was a natural.

Finally, Punch Media in Toronto coordinated the printing of the booklet and the manufacture and packaging of the CD. The tracks, list of contributor and the complete booklet notes together with many of the photographs are accessible on the CAPS web site at www.CAPSnews.org.

Since there were only two recording studios in Canada in the 1920s, Berliner and Compo, and both of these were located in Montreal, we will never know what the many other Canadian bands that fed the dance band craze in other parts of the country sounded like. We get tantalizing hints from contemporary newspaper ads and notices and occasionally an unrecorded band is depicted on the cover of a music sheet. Such is the case with Irvin Plumm and his Jasper Park Lodge Orchestra in 1926, one of my favorite band photos. Set deep in the Canadian Rockies it is unlikely that this band made the trek east. But even had they ventured cross country to Montreal how would they have managed to fit their band into the recording studio?