Glo Tone

© Robert L. Campbell

May 9, 2013

Melvin Moore,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The Glo Tone label is one of those boutique independents that perplex collectors and historians. More than 60 years after it went out of business, mysteries remain.

We don't know who founded Glo Tone. We don't know the company's exact address (the labels merely put it as "Chicago 37, Illinois"). All we have to go on are the matrix numbers and the credits on the labels.

Fortunately, there is a little information to be had from them.

Glo Tone probably opened during the second half of 1948, which was a most inauspicious time for a record company. The second Petrillo recording ban had begun on January 1, 1948, and, although it was increasingly flouted as the year wore on, it was not officially lifted until December 13 of the same year. And the Musicians Union was a powerful presence in Chicago. Any instrumental recording before December 13 had to be done very quietly.

In style and approach, Glo Tone behaved like a spin-off of a larger independent (well, nearly every other independent was larger) called Sunbeam. We're not implying an ownership connection; Marl Young, the founder of Sunbeam, had quit doing new recording in March 1947, issued his last new release in May, licensed a bunch of his sides to Vitacoustic in September, released bassist Bob Carter from his contract on November 16, then departed Chicago in November 1947, to spend the last 61 years of his life in Los Angeles.

Melvin Moore,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

But Glo Tone shared Sunbeam's interest in recording singers backed by a large jazz band playing "modern" arrangements. It shared Sunbeam's interest in the trumpet work of Melvin Moore, who had been a featured soloist in the Marl Young-led studio bands on the older label. (It's quite possible that Glo Tone used other musicians who had recorded for Sunbeam, such as Nick Cooper on trumpet and Frank Derrick on alto sax; unfortunately, documentation is lacking.) Finally, Glo Tone recorded a song that Marl Young had written for performance on Sunbeam. In fact, the tune would be recorded just once more, in 1950 for Imperial, on a T-Bone Walker sesssion directed by Marl Young himself.

What's more, it appears that Marl Young had some unfinished business in Chicago during this period. On August 4, 1949, the Board of Musicians Union Local 208 considered and "allowed" Young's claim against Little Miss Cornshucks for $60, "representing services rendered" (Board meeting minutes, p. 1).

Glo1. Melvin Moore and Orchestra | Vocal by Joe Williams / Melvin Moore and Orchestra with the Original Calypso Boys*

Melvin Moore (tp, ldr); unidentified (tp); 2 unidentified (tb); 2 unidentified (as); 2 unidentified (ts); unidentified (bars); unidentified (p); unidentified (b); unidentified (d, Latin perc); Joe Williams (voc except on *); Original Calypso Boys (voc on *).

United Broadcasting Studios, Chicago, between July 1948 and January 1949

UB9161A2GT Too Lazy to Work, Too Nervous to Steal (Daylie-Young)
Glo Tone 101A
UB9162A2GT Slender, Tall, and on the Ball*
Glo Tone 100A
UB9163A2GT Blues That You Can't Lose
Glo Tone 100B
UB9164A2GT Those Little Moments with You
Glo Tone 101B

"Too Lazy to Work, Too Nervous to Steal," an ironic ode to the ill-dressed man who definitely can't afford a Cadillac, was written by Marl Young and disk jockey "Daddy-O" Daylie. It was first recorded by the Bob Carter Trio, at a session at Universal Recording around March 12, 1947, and released on Sunbeam 107 (well, on one of the Sunbeams numbered 107) in May of that year. Bob Carter would subsequently record as a leader for Universal (November or December 1947). Interestingly, a Chicago Defender ad for the Bob Carter Trio at the Blue Dahlia (January 8, 1949), referred to the group as "Recorder of 'Too Lazy to Work'."

Melvin Moore,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Along with "Blues That You Can't Lose" and "Those Little Moments with You," "Too Lazy" features the singing of Joe Williams, who had already spent years on the Chicago scene but was not yet a headliner. Williams had made one single for the short-lived Cincinnati label back in 1944, but his career had scarcely progressed since then. In June 1949, he became the vocalist for the Jay Burkhart band, a very large, unrecorded bop-oriented aggregation whose occasional live gigs garnered praise from the Down Beat writers. Williams would not make another record until June 1950, when Columbia first put him on a Red Saunders session. He would continue with Saunders on Columbia's OKeh subsidiary through the beginning of 1953, then make additional sessions with Saunders for Blue Lake later that year.

About the Original Calypso Boys, we know nothing. They are a vocal group that makes a good account of itself on "Slender," an uptempo number with some Latin rhythm, not a calypso. The tale of an encounter with a glamorous confidence woman makes it a forerunner to such numbers as "Kitty from New York City," which the Gems would record for Drexel.

The instrumentation on the Glo Tones was identified by ear. The tenor saxophonist solos on "Slender." "Blues You Can't Lose" features a brief solo by a different tenorist and a longer trumpet solo by the leader. "Too Lazy to Work" has four trumpet breaks and a longer solo by same tenorist who was featured on "Slender." "Those Little Moments" includes a spot for the pianist in theme statement and an interlude for one of the alto saxophonists.

Officially, United Broadcasting's UB9000 series consisted of items recorded in 1949. In fact, some sides with numbers as high as the 9500s were recorded in the second half of 1948 (as happened with sessions for Aristocrat); the studio deliberately assigned numbers in nonconsecutive blocks, in case anyone from the Union came around snooping. And tracks with UB9000 series matrices were usually held for release until after January 1, 1949. For instance, UB9101 through 9104, by a Jazz Ltd. group featuring Sidney Bechet, were probably cut in late August 1948, while UB9181 through 9184, by two other Jazz Ltd. groups featuring Muggsy Spanier and Doc Evans, were done in February 1949. Without further clues to the session date, all we can say is that UB9161 through 9164 were made sometime in between.

We have no definite evidence of Marl Young involvement in the Glo Tone effort, but Young apparently had a little business to do in Chicago in 1949. On August 4, he showed up in the Board Meeting minutes of Musicians Union Local 208, when it considered his claim for $60 against Little Miss Cornshucks. And in an interview with Dan Kochakian many years later, Young misremembered making "Too Lazy to Work" for Sunbeam, "with horns." The Bob Carter version on Sunbeam 107 had no horns—but the Melvin Moore rendition on Glo Tone 101 did.

What kind of distribution Glo Tone had, we can only guess at. Clearly neither 78 enjoyed much in the way of sales. Tom Lord's Jazz Discography mentions Glo Tone 100, dates it to 1949, and misrenders the company name as "Glory Tone." McGrath's R&B Indies picks up the same listing: just "Glory Tone" 100.

Melvin Moore would remain in Chicago for several more years, leading a combo at the Flame Lounge (this was the second Flame, located in the basement of the Morocco hotel) and backing blues singer Jo Jo Adams on a 1952 date for Chance. In 1954, he recorded four jazz sides for Vee-Jay, in a combo led by bassist Dave Shipp; these give a good representation of Moore's trumpet tone and bebop chops. He subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where he was reunited on occasion with Marl Young. During Young's term as music director for the TV show Here's Lucy (1970-1974), Moore played in the band.

"Our" Melvin Moore is not to be confused, by the way, with an R&B singer named Melvin Moore who was active in the 1950s.

Melvin Moore,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Joe Williams, who had met Count Basie and sung with his octet during a 1950 engagement at the Brass Rail, became Basie's band singer at the end of 1954. Lasting national fame ensued.

Now, has anyone seen an advertisement for Glo Tone?

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