12 January 2016

Post 358: 'BUDDY'S HABIT(S)'

'Buddy's Habits' (aka 'Buddy's Habit') was written in 1923, by Arnett Nelson and Charley Straight. Thanks to the generosity of the videomaker codenamed RagtimeDorianHenry, you can see the sheet music and hear the piece played on the piano by clicking here. And you can hear the original recording by Charley Straight's own Orchestra by clicking here.

The joint composer, Arnett 'King Mutt' Nelson, was a clarinet and saxophone player. He was born in Gulfport on 8th March, 1890 and died on 14th March, 1959. His first job was with the band of John Collins, Lee Collins' father, around 1907. Arnett moved to Chicago in 1914 and is not known to have returned. He was a member of Jimmy Wade's band in Chicago and New York, 1922-27, and was in pickup bands with Punch Miller in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He later worked with Chicago blues bands.

The other joint-composer, Charley Straight, was born in Chicago, Illinois in January 1891. He apparently had Bix Beiderbecke in his band for four months in 1925, but fired him! Charley Straight started his musical career in the early 1910s as a solo piano player and by circa 1917 led his first band. Charley's important contribution to the piano roll industry should also be noted. His early career was on the vaudeville circuit; during that period, from 1912 to 1914, while they worked in England, he issued with his partner Gene Greene several double-faced records. Shortly thereafter he became Musical Director of the Imperial Piano Roll Company (later to become QRS, the most prolific piano roll manufacturer in the world), where he made numerous rolls, collaborating with Roy Bargy on quite a few. According to The Music Trade Review, he left Imperial shortly before January 1922 and his piano roll activities appear to have ceased around 1926. Although his was basically a hotel dance band, Straight appreciated jazz and some of his recordings for Paramount are considered to be among the best jazz records made by a white band in the early 1920's. Straight didn't record after August 1928 but remained active as a bandleader until his death on September 2, 1940 when he was hit by a speeding car in Chicago.

The recording of 'Buddy's Habits' by Charley Straight's Orchestra was made in June 1923 and then - as 'Buddy's Habit' - it was recorded by King Oliver's Jazz Band (25 Oct 1923). Other early recordings were by The Midway Dance Orchestra (5 Dec 1923), The Bucktown Five [with Muggsy Spanier] (25 Feb 1925), Red Nichols & His Five Pennies (20 Dec 1926).

The 'Buddy' of the title was not Buddy Bolden. It was a tuba-player, Louis 'Buddy' Gross, whose habit was retiring to the rest room at the end of each set because of the vast quantity of beer he had consumed. Another 'habit' was that he got so drunk that he fell offstage backwards, with his tuba. It seems he was a member of Charley Straight's Orchestra.

When clarinetist Arnett Nelson (the other co-composer) played in Jimmy Wade's Orchestra at the Moulin Rouge Café (Wabash Ave, Chicago), the tuba/bass sax player was also Louis 'Buddy' Gross. He recorded with Wade's Moulin Rouge Orchestra in Dec 1923 and Feb 1924.

This leaves me guessing that Arnett Nelson and Louis 'Buddy' Gross played in both Jimmy Wade's Orchestra AND Charley Straight's Orchestra in 1923. This is surely probable. Clarification on this point would be welcome, if anyone knows.

There is also a party-piece for banjo players (you can find it on YouTube) called 'Take Your Pick', with the composer credited as Pete Mandell, the banjoist with the Savoy Orpheans in London, England. This was copyrighted in 1925. 'Take Your Pick' was recorded by the Savoy Havana Band, with Pete Mandell on banjo. 'Take Your Pick' - apparently considered something of a tour-de-force in the banjo-playing fraternity - seems to be a plagiarised 'Buddy's Habits'. If there was plagiarism, the dates suggest it was from west to east.

'Buddy's Habits', which has three themes, is interesting, 'catchy' and not too challenging to play, so it is hardly surprising it quickly went the rounds and is still very popular among the bands of today.