Rondo

© Robert L. Campbell and Robert Pruter

Revised: November 12, 2018


Lil Mason,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Revision note:We are adding bios of Gene Colin, who was featured on Rondo 207, 217, and 218; Maurice Lishon, a drummer who appeared on three Rondo recording sessions; and Buddy Shaw, whose clarinet and alto saxophone can be heard on 217 and 218. We have substantially enhanced our bio of pianist Ron(nie) Orland. We have added Rondo 308, a long-missing Ronnie Orland single, and Rondo 262, another release obtained from California bandleader Chuck Cabot. We have added information about the original Vargo releases of several Rondos by Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers. We have added information about the super-rare Rondo 116, by the violin-piano duo of Lucy Bruch and F. W. Konyi. We have added information about Rondo 176 by Don Pablo (which was previously known to us) and Rondo 279 by Tommy Carlyn (previously unknown). We have added information about the session by pianist Ronnie Orland, which we'd thought originated with Rondo but was originally done for Egmont Sonderling's Master label. We have added information about Rondo 568 by Rudy Plocar and 590 by Fr. Przybylski, plus a little more about the short-lived Radiant label. Dan Kochakian has located the first Rondo ad in Cash Box (September 9, 1946), which includes Rondo 1550 as a new release. We have added information about Rondo 182, Olive Mason's rarest release, and about Rondo 302 by Captain Stubby. We have added information about Rondo 113, which it turns out was divided between Elmer Ihrke and Marsh McCurdy, Rondo 447 by The Wagners, Rondo 212 by Ken Griffin, and Rondo 151, 157, and 177 by Don Pablo y su Orquestra. We have added information about one of Rondo's foreigh partners, the Belgian Victory label, which released several Rondo singles and even some 10-inch LPs. We have added information about some short-lived labels from Milwaukee and farther up the shores of Lake Michigan: Chord (1947-1948), whose Pete Ochs sides ended up with Rondo; Disc Jockey, which dealt some polka sides to Rondo in 1949; and Radiant, the 1950 successor to Disc Jockey that sold at least two tracks to Rondo in 1951. We have added Rondo 621 by Don Schlies, and 175 by George Olsen, which was reviewed in Cash Box on November 27, 1948.

Rondo was an independent label that opened in June 1946. It would be based in Chicago until November 1954, when it was acquired by veteran music business operator Eli Oberstein, folded into his Record Corporation of America, and moved to Union City, New Jersey.

The latter-day Rondo (which spun out two subsidiaries, Evon and Rondo-lette) will not be our concern here.

From matrix numbers on its first records and the earliest publicity for its records, we estimate that Rondo opened its doors in June 1946. In its formative stage the company wasn't doing nearly enough business to draw ink from anyone. The company was founded by Julius F. Bard and Nick Lany. Its address was 414 South Franklin Street, known to most as the home of J. F. Bard Distributors. Although its records were mentioned in Indianapolis newspaper ads as early as July 5, 1946, the first inkling of the record company in the trades appeared in Cash Box on September 2, 1946: "J. F. Bard tells us that he will be exclusive distributor for a new record label, Rondo Records..." (p. 57). Bard, who didn't tell the paper that Rondo was his company, or that it was nearly three months old, was trying to make a virtue out of not getting any other distributors. The company sprang for a display ad in Cash Box on September 9 (p. 14). Perhaps assuming low jukebox interest, it didn't mention its polka releases. There wouldn't be another such ad for 18 months. Meanwhile Billboardwas showing no interest at all. When the competing paper's next annual issue for jukebox operators came around on February 1, 1947, Rondo was too puny to rate a listing. The company moved to 329 South Wood in the Loop, probably at the beginning of 1947. But the trade papers were paying no attention then. The company was on South Wood when publicity resumed in 1948 and remained there through the end of March 1950.

Throughout its history, Rondo's strategy, whether it was on the tightest of budgets or had money to burn, was to throw off lots of releases, in the hopes that a few would catch the revenue. Those that failed were quickly withdrawn from distribution. In consequence, many Rondos are extremely rare and we are sure that some remain undocumented.


J. F Bard ad, Billboard, January 12, 1946
Billboard, January 12, 1946, p. 18

Julius F. Bard had been around the music business for a while. We don't know where he was from originally. (In 1941, there was a J. F. Bard in New York City, a Hungarian expatriate—but we're not convinced he was the same person). In the spring of 1944, Cash Box identified J. F. Bard, 414 South Franklin Street, as a Chicago distributor for Tonedart needles. These were available in bulk, $40 for one hundred, to those who serviced 78-rpm jukeboxes (April 4, 1944, section 2, p. 13). An ad in Billboard, September 30, 1944 (p. 67), identified him as a buyer and reseller of used records, including Popular, Hillbilly, Race, and Polksas. The 1944 Billboard Music Yearbook, p. 190, listed J. F. Bard, at the same address, as the Chicago distributor for a clutch of smaller labels (Asch/Stinson, Continental, Gala, Musicraft, Premier, and Bibletone).

In July 1945, Bard, who had been spending some time in Los Angeles, got together with a fellow Chicago-based distributor, Franz Green, to start Pan-American. As the name intimated, Pan-American was an independent label that initially recorded Latin bands, such as those of Noel DeSelva and Rafael Mendez (Billboard, July 28, 1945, p. 19). After a while, Pan-American would branch out into jazz and Country. But Bard quickly lost interest in the production end of Pan-American, spending most of his time in Chicago and leaving Green to represent the company at record-industry get-togethers in Los Angeles. In January 1946, J. F. Bard and Company was distributing DeLuxe and Guild, as well as Pan-American and others that Bard had recently encountered on the West Coast, such as Melodisc and Philo. From July through November 1946, Bard was mentioned in Aladdin ads (Philo had changed its name) because he was still handling the company's disks in Chicago. However, in January 1947 he lost the line to Milt Salstone's rapidly growing M-S Distributors (Cash Box, January 23, 1947, p. 24). Bard still had the Modern Music account then (Cash Box, January 23, 1947, p. 23), but in May M-S was carrying Modern, too (Cash Box, May 19, 1947, p. 21). We figure that by the middle of 1947 Bard was throttling back on his distribution business back to concentrate on Rondo. Yet we still find J. F. Bard listed as the Chicago distributor for the Gala label in June 1948 (Billboard, NAMM supplement, June 29, 1948, p. 31)

In May 1946, Bard and Green sold a majority interest in Pan-American to the Birwell company, which was originally out of Detroit. (In case anyone's wondering why Bernie Besman called his Detroit distribution outfit Pan-American, its cofounder was Hans Green, brother of Franz; the distributor opened in April 1946, when Hans and Franz were both with the record company. Hans Green was later bought out by John Kaplan.) We figure it was this sale that put enough capital into Bard's hands to start Rondo. In November 1946, Julius Bard and Franz Green's remaining interest was bought out, and Pan-American Records continued under Birwell's exclusive management. That was just as well from Bard's point of view. The company had less than 6 months to live: after releasing 67 singles, Pan-American would file for bankruptcy in April 1947, owing $40,000.

According to the article announcing the launch of Pan-American, "Bard and Green say they will eventually go into American pop stuff and will use another record label name when they release these sides" (Billboard, July 28, 1945, p. 19). Green did not deliver on these plans, but it took Bard less than a year to make a move. Bard had been buying and selling used "race" records, and distributing labels with a jazz presence: Asch, Continental, DeLuxe, Aladdin, and Modern. Pan-American had recorded some jazz acts. But Rondo, we may safely say, did not build its business plan around the music being made on the South or West Sides of Chicago. Nor was it oriented toward the downtown jazz clubs. It didn't even aspire to capture what was being played in hotel ballrooms in the Loop. The company's interest in any of these proved fitful. Its intended clientele was the Central and Eastern European immigrant communities, in and around Chicago and extending through Milwaukee up into Wisconsin, along with those record buyers in the towns and rural areas of the Midwest who shared their preferences.

Other Chicago-based companies that sought the support of white record buyers put crooners and other popular singers in front of Swing or Mickey Mouse bands. Two post-World War II independents with such a pop emphasis were Vitacoustic, which flared up high in 1947 and sputtered out at the beginning of 1948, and Sonora, which started in 1942 but didn't really enter the pop market till the end of 1945, attained its peak for recording activity in 1946, then ran out of gas in May 1947. In 1948 Rondo would acquire two masters that had been recorded for Vitacoustic, and a couple of months later it would pick up a bunch from Sonora. Both Vitacoustic and Sonora recorded a few artists with jazz credibility, and toward the end of their runs made a more focused effort to record "race" music, as it was still often being called.

By contrast, Rondo's ventures into jazz and rhythm and blues were so quick and casual, they almost look accidental. The company made a quick jab at the "race" market during its first year in business: two singles by one artist. Its later ventures, some more substantial, came about because the company, over a two-year period, was pulling in enormous sums from its organ records. It invested the proceeds to pump up its artist roster and fill out its release series while it was temporarily unable to make records with its top-selling artist. So in 1948-1949 it reissued some "race" sides left over after Sonora collapsed, and added an R&B session of its own. Finally, seeking some keyboard and rhythm acts, it signed a Chicago-based jazz pianist and a small combo in 1949. Casting around desperately after losing its star attraction, it tried recording Dixieland in 1950.

But now we are getting well ahead of ourselves. For Rondo wouldn't be ramping up to its revenue plateau until the spring of 1948.


Noller-Straub Duo,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The Rondo 100 Series

Rondo started out with two release series, which would be its mainstays as long as it operated in Chicago. One of these was a 100 series for keyboard records. Other kinds of music would eventually be added—after something like 38 piano and organ releases in a row.


The Misses Noller and Straub in 1934
The Noller-Straub Duo in 1934

The first act to be called on split the difference: it was a piano-organ duo. Ruth Noller and Ada Straub had arrived on the scene as the "piano twins." Ada Straub was probably the older of the two; she had previously worked in a piano duet with Irene Jones. Ruth Noller, born in 1898, probaby in Terre Haute, Indiana, played the organ in movie theaters before joining Straub. At first, Noller played piano in the duo. In 1934 and 1935 they were featured in broadcasts over WFBM out of Indianapolis; in those days their sponsor was Wilking Music House, a piano store. They got some write-ups in the Presto-Times, a trade magazine for Middle American piano retailers (see, for instance, "The Piano Twins Concert," June-July 1935, p. 4). In 1935, they appeared at a piano dealers' convention playing Wurlitzer pianos. By 1946, they were affiliated with Pearson's in Indianapolis, a big piano store that also sold records; it got them a 15-minute radio program that was broadcast from a studio inside the store. The organ Ruth Noller now used was a Hammond, as Rondo made sure to note on the label. Because they were affiliated with Pearson's, it ran the earliest advertisements for Rondo records we have been able to find anywhere: one in the Indianapolis Star for July 5, 1946, which announced that their first record (Rondo 101) was coming; one on August 2, 1946, which played up Noller and Straub's Rondo 100 and 101. The ad that ran on September 13, 1946 mentioned four Rondo keyboard records, including the first 104 ("just arrived"). The first 104 had just been announced in the Cash Box ad of September 9. Then there was finally one with the Rondo logo, on January 10, 1947, which mentioned most of what Rondo had already put out by that date.


Noller-Straub Duo,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Noller and Straub's initial release on Rondo 100, coupled "Nola" with the Zez Confrey novelty rag "Kitten on the Keys." The matrix numbers, 1063 for "Nola" and 1064 for "Kitten," appear to come from the same small studio that such indies as Hy-Tone, Gold Seal, and Sunbeam were using in the summer and fall of 1946. From the reminiscences of pianist Max Miller, we've identified it as Myron Bachman's studio, located in his house on Carmen Avenue. The numbers (and what we know about release dates) indicate that all of the duo's Rondo sides were made at one long session in late June 1946 (right after the first Rudy Richardson session for Miracle). Rondo 101 was announced as ready for advance orders on July 5, 1946. Although Noller and Straub played many a ladies' club function, and could by no stretch be described as a jazz act, they liked to incorporate rags into their programs as virtuoso vehicles. Throughout its years in Chicago, Rondo would keep looking for pianists who could play rags.

Their release on Rondo 102 coupled a pop tune, "Coffee Time," with a parody of Classical music, "In an 18th Century Drawing Room" by Raymond Scott. They were also responsible for a single that came out in July 1950, a reissue that coupled sides from two other early Rondos; it consisted of two perennials in both the pop and jazz repertoires, "Copenhagen" and "Tea for Two." The Billboard article announcing the 1950 release, which came out on Rondo's ephemeral 49 cent budget subsidiary, Rolin, says that Noller and Straub's sides were "from foreign masters" (July 8, 1950, p. 15). Foreign—as in from Indiana?

Noller and Straub were also responsible for Rondo 101 in the early going—arrangements of two classical themes—and for half of the first release on Rondo 104: the A side features another Confrey rag done by an organ-piano duet (just not by Noller and Straub) and a B side consisting of their "Copenhagen." In a short while, the first 104 was rereleased as Rondo 112. We still don't know whether "Tea for Two" got a release in 1946, but it must have come from the same session.

The duo broke up in the early 1950s, when Ada Straub retired from performing to become a full-time piano teacher. Ruth Noller Shusler retired in 1960. She died in Indianapolis on July 28, 1987, at the age of 89; her obituary did not mention that she had made any records.

The A side on the short-lived coupling on Rondo 104, along with both sides of Rondo 103, were credited to Marsh McCurdy at the Hammond organ and Bob Peary on piano, recording at Bachman Studio in August 1946. McCurdy was a veteran by this time; his only other records that we know of were made in the late 1920s and featured him on theater pipe organs. McCurdy also cut Rondo 113 (one side), 114, and 115 in a duet with Pauline Lamond at the piano. Judging from the one label we've now seen a picture of (this is Rondo 113-B) the McCurdy-Lamond session took place at Bachman in September 1946.

A couple of months after the first Noller-Straub sides, another Chicago startup called Gold Seal was putting out a bunch of releases on Kenny Jagger, who worked many a hotel and many a convention as a "cocktail single." Since Jagger's shtick was playing piano and organ simultaneously, one wonders whether Gold Seal hired him to compete with Rondo. He and Misses Noller and Straub both recorded "In an 18th Century Drawing Room." Oh, and Jagger, too, was from Indianapolis.

Next up was a flashy pianist named Jimmy Blade. Blade would be responsible for Rondos 104 (second release), 105, 110, and 111. His Rondo 104 stepped on the Marsh McCurdy/Noller and Straub coupling, which the company renumbered as Rondo 112.

From 1929 to 1941, Jimmy Blade had been the chief arranger for Wayne King, whose sweet band was famous for its waltzes. He also led bands of his own in Chicago. In 1942, Blade was leading a large combo or small orchestra that played society events along with such venues as the Balinese Room at the Drake Hotel. In 1946, he was picked up by radio station WMAQ, which initially used him on a hit parade show but soon gave him his own 15-minute slot on weeknights. WMAQ was an NBC affiliate, and soon Blade's show could be heard on other network stations. When Rondo recorded him, the show was called simply "Jimmy Blade's Music," and the company used the same title on its labels.


Jimmy Blade,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Jimmy Blade,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rondo soon compiled Blade's 4 singles onto an album, Rondo 1001, grandly billed as including a rhythm section. The "section" was a string bass. Blade had a full sound and a fleet technique on the piano, so he didn't need a whole lot of accompaniment. But the duet recordings must not have been what his following was expecting, and they may also not have been what Blade most wanted to do.

Blade signed a one-year contract with Rondo, leaving as soon as it expired. In September 1947, he took up with a tiny new label called Sullivan, started by a Loop music publisher who wanted his own songs recorded (Life was a slightly later venture of this kind, which lasted longer because it didn't keep fixating on its owner's compositions). On his Sullivan sides, Blade led a combo that backed vocalists. There were three Jimmy Blade releases before the Sullivan enterprise faded away in the early months of 1948, the last of them intended for St. Patrick's Day. Meanwhile, Rondo kept right on promoting his 1946 recordings, presumably on the strength of his radio show. All four of them were advertised by a Dixon, Illinois record store in November 1947, and copies of the album are extant in which the 78s carry silver-on-red labels in the 1947 style.


Jimmy Blade,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

His radio work would continue until WMAQ cancelled Jimmy Blade's Music in February 1950, whereupon the pianist went back to leading society bands. In 1950, Rondo gathered his 8 sides into a 10-inch LP, figuring he still enjoyed local name recognition and this might generate more sales. But Blade had never relied on recordings for income. After playing country club dances and other such functions in 1950 and the early part of 1951, the Jimmy Blade Orchestra would be in residence at the Camellia House at the Drake Hotel in the Loop for 16 straight years, all the way through 1967. In 1964, when singer Vikki Carr made her first cabaret appearance in Chicago, it was at the Camellia House. "She doesn't even carry her own pianist with her, but lets the able Jimmy Blade, house maestro, direct the accompaniment" (Will Leonard, "A New Star—Vikki Carr," Chicago Tribune, February 16, 1964, sec. 5, p. 14). Jimmy Blade died in Chicago in August 1974.


Jimmy Blade,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The third keyboardist Rondo picked up in 1946 was a solo Hammond organist named Elmer Ihrke, who was most often heard doing hymns and Christmas carols. Elmer A. Ihrke was from Milwaukee and was born there in 1902. According to the notes to The Golden Album of Hymns (Rondo R-1006), which unusually have information to impart about a performer, his grandfather had been a choral director at churches in Milwaukee. In 1921, Ihrke, then a student at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, took up the organ and soon got work in movie theaters. He was an early adopter of the Hammond organ in 1935 and did many demonstrations of the instrument at churches. He worked at WEMP radio as an organist, music director, and audio engineer. When he began recording for Rondo he had been serving for years as the regular organist at Lake Park Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. He also made occasional appearances at trade shows and other such venues.

The notes to Rondo 1006, amazingly, mention the year that Ihrke started recording. Elmer Ihrke's first session took place at Bachman Studio in August 1946, and his second just preceded ill-fated pianist Robert Crum's for Gold Seal, around September 7. (We say ill-fated because Crum was robbed after he made his session and the story ran on the Associated Press, which is how we know the approximate date.) Ihrke's first release, on Rondo 106, paired "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "Dancing Tambourine," two light classics in vogue with keyboardists at the time. This was also offered in a 3-pocket album, R-1002, along with 100 and 102 by Noller and Straub. Around this same time, Ihrke recorded versions of "Serenade," "Deep Purple," "Three O'Clock in the Morning," and "Wedding of the Painted Dolls" (these were reissued on his second 10-inch LP, RLP-36; we have found the 78-rpm originals of of "Painted Dolls" and "Deep Purple," but not of "Serenade" or "Three O'Clock," which we are pretty sure are still out there.) What the company found it preferred was Ihrke's medleys of Christmas carols, on which Skip Berg played the chimes. Three of these appeared on Rondo 107 through 109, which were also sold as a 3-pocket album (Rondo 1000 was the company's very first, released in November 1946. It carried one of two generic covers without the artist's name: "Rondo Presents | Christmas Carols | Organ with Chimes." The company would subsequently boast of its "nationwide success"). One of the covers has a large bell on it, the other a church with a prominent steeple.

Rondo's interest in Ihrke would fade in and out; Rondo 120, for Christmas 1946, coupled "Jingle Bells" with "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers"; Rondo 120, for Christmas 1947, with a special red and green label, coupled "Jingle Bells" with "Silent Night"; an even later version of Rondo 120 coupled "Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Silent Night." Rondo tried putting Ihrke in a trio; we've seen an ad for Rondo 121, but no copy of the record yet, which suggests less than stellar sales. However, a copy of Rondo 122 has recently surfaced: it gives the trio's lineup as E. Ihrke, organ, W. Behl, Novachord, and J. Yelich, guitar. The trio sides were recorded in November 1946, but, with a title like "Easter Parade" on 121, we figure they were held for release till the spring. The company also tried using Ihrke to back a choir, the Rondoliers—but Rondo 127 didn't sell either. Four more early Ihrkes would be reissued as Rondo 140 and 141. Rondo 1000 can be had on vinyl as well as on shellac; it was trotted out each holiday season through 1949—when it ran into some internal competition.

By the end of 1946, we have now learned from the incredlble run of early advertisements in the Indianapolis Star, Rondo had released 17 items in its keyboard series: 100 through 115, plus the first version of Rondo 120. These were accompanied by 550 through 554 by Rudy Plocar, and 1550 and 1551 by Lil Mason.

As the first year ended, J. F. Bard was feeling cramped at 414 S. Franklin. He placed a want ad in the Chicago Tribune for December 22, 1946 (p. 8). Bard was looking for "wholesale office and warehouse space—About 4,000 sq. ft., preferably main floor, near loop or North Side." This suggests that Bard needed space for the record company (whose demands were still modest), his distributor, and maybe some other lines of business while he was at it. We figure he moved to 329 S. Wood as soon as he learned the space was available. J. F. Bard and Rondo would be located on South Wood until the end of March 1950.

Rondo 116, not mentioned in the Pearson's ads, was a light-classical release for violin and piano (we have learned the titles on one side only). It was strictly an A and B release, with uninformative matrix numbers, and could have been purchased by the company. If Lucy Bruch, the violinist on 116, was the same Lucy Bruch who got occasional newspaper coverage from 1914 through 1925, she was more of a veteran than Marsh McCurdy; her most recent previous appearance on records had been in the days of Little Nipper horns. If F. W. Konyi, the pianist, was Frank Konyi, the pianist and bandleader born around 1908 and a long-time resident of Los Angeles, further questions arise as to when and where the record was made. And Rondo 117 through 119 are still terra incognita. Meanwhile, an advertisement from Kuras Furniture in Ludington, Michigan (right across Lake Michigan from Manitowoc, Wisconsin via ferry, and a reliable source for Rondo products; Ludington Daily News, July 23, 1947, p. 10) lists along with three items from Rudy Plocar's first two sessions two items with "Organ, Piano & Chimes." One was a coupling of an "Ave Maria" and a "Te Deum," the other of "Rock of Ages" and "Onward Christian Soldiers.'' These could have been the work of Elmer Ihrke, but we remain to be instructed.

A Hammond organist named Cosmo Teri, known around Chicago as a teacher of the instrument, was responsible for Rondo 124, which offered a couple of Christmas tunes. Respecting Ihrkean precedent, the company wanted chimes on the record. This had the odd result of two pop tunes, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Winter Wonderland," which were played on the organ, getting a chimed Christmas carol prelude and, in the case of "Coming to Town," a matching postlude. Rondo 124 was advertised by good old Kuras Furniture in Ludington, Michigan on November 21, 1947; Elmer Ihrke's album from the preceding year was also mentioned. The label almost certainly recorded more selections by Teri; the other missing items (we've gradually narrowed these down to 123, 125, and 126) are probably more Ihrkean experiments.

Output in the 100 series was actually down in 1947; if 116 was from the beginning and 126 was released before the end of the year, there were 10 new singles (Rondo 120 was a reissue). The 100 series, like the company as a whole, would take on new life when Ken Griffin's first instrumental record came out.

Post-Griffin, the first 28 releases came to be seen as prehistoric. Rondo printed up several versions of an elaborate 78 rpm sleeve in 1950, and one more in 1951, each with a detailed roundup of company product on the back. Even though some of the early 100s would later see release on 45s (Jimmy Blade's all did), and the company eventually gave LPs to Noller and Straub, Ihrke, and Blade, even putting a track by Teri on one of them, none of the sleeves mentioned any of these singles.


Rudy Plocar,
The first Rondo polka record, with a 1947 label. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The Rondo 550 Series

Also there right from Day 1 was a 550 series for polkas and waltzes.

In fact, Rondo 550 was the product of the company's first session and was the label's very first release. This was the work of an act that must have carried Rondo for its first year and a half, Rudy Plocar's band out of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. On Rondo 550, which identifies the outfit as Plocar's "All Veterans" Orchestra, matrix numbers UB 2142 on one side and UB 2145 on the other show that it was cut at United Broadcasting Studios in June 1946. (The entire session ran from UB 2142 to UB 2151; 10 sides in one session weren't unusual for polka bands recording material from their nightly repertorire.)


Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell. A 1946 recording with a 1947-style label on a vinyl pressing, probably from 1949.

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rudolph J. Plocar was born in Chicago on December 6, 1916. HIs parents were probably first-generation immigrants, because he sang in Czech on some of his records. We don't know when his family moved to Manitowoc, a small town on the shore of Lake Michigan 80 miles north of Milwaukee. We do know that Plocar spent most of his adult life there.

Plocar was a multi-instrumentalist. He played the clarinet, on which he supposedly won a competition while in high school, but was also featured on several saxophones, as well as on the trumpet. When advertising his services as a music teacher, he offered saxophone lessons. All came in handy in polka bands, which catered to the Polish, Czech, Slovenian, Croatian, German, and Swedish immigrant communities in Wisconsin. They came in particularly handy in Manitowoc, which was a polka band center.

It's been said that Plocar spent some time in the saxophone section of the sweet band led by Freddy Martin; this seems plausible, but corroboration is still needed. At the beginning of 1936, Plocar joined the band of Roman "Romy" Gosz (1910-1966), which by then had achieved prominence in the polkasphere; he advertised his membership in the band when he offered his saxophone lessons in February of that year, and the Gosz band played at his wedding to Stella Holeman in June 1936. Gosz, a native of Manitowoc who started on the piano at 7, was already playing in a band led by his father, Paul Gosz, in 1921. Soon after starting his own band, Romy Gosz switched instruments when his regular trumpet player quit and he had trouble finding a replacement. On April 20, 1931, Gosz, already playing first trumpet, cut his first records in Grafton, Wisconsin. His group returned for a second session in Grafton on July 17, 1931. They were released on Paramount's dime-store label, Broadway; because Romy Gosz had not yet turned 21, they appeared under his father's name. (For these dates, see Alex van der Tuuk's account of the Paramount L- matrix series at http://www.mainspringpress.com/nyrl-L.html). Paramount went inactive in 1932, but in 1933 Gosz was in Chicago recording for Columbia, which billed his band as "Roman Gosz and his Bohemian Orch" and included a vocal in Czech. In 1935 and 1936 Gosz was under contract to Vocalion, which recorded a raft of Czech-language titles; in 1938 and 1939 he was with Decca. After a long hiatus from recording, in October 1945 Gosz became one of the very first artists to sign with what was then a fledgling label in Chicago ("Mercury Starts with a Polka," Billboard, November 10, 1945, p. 19).


Ad for Rudy Plocar with Romy Gosz, 1939
From the Manitowoc Herald Times, February 25, 1939, p. 7

Rudy Plocar's recording debut was on Romy Gosz's second session for Vocalion, which took place on February 19, 1936, laying down 10 sides. Plocar played clarinet, tenor saxophone, and trumpet, and he and Linky Kohlbeck were further entrusted with five Czech-language vocals. Comparing the band with the unit that Gosz had used on his 1935 session for Vocalion, it's clear that Plocar contributed more than an extra horn. With Plocar in the band, Gosz routinely varied the instrumentation on a polka or waltz strain; where previously the band just repeated the strain with the same instrumentation, now a rendition with two trumpets and a clarinet might be followed by one with one trumpet and three saxes. Much richer saxophone and clarinet scoring was now in use, and the band even recorded a tango called "White Acacias"—albeit with words in Czech.

On Gosz's first Decca session, cut in New York on August 3, 1938, Plocar played third trumpet and third clarinet, while the leader played first trumpet, Dave Kruswick was on second trumpet, Norman Skornicka (sometimes spelled Skornichka) handled first clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, Don Kruswick was on second clarinet and tenor sax, Fritz Puls on E-flat recording tuba, and Dick Fricke at the drums. A February 1939 advertisement in the Manitowoc newspaper helpfully runs down the entire current Gosz personnel, most likely to draw attention to their hometown ties. It further notes how Rudy Plocar was deputized, along with the band's accordionist, Gordy Kohlbeck, to serenade patrons at their tables. When the band recorded for Decca again, in Chicago on May 15, 1939, it had nearly the same personnel: Andy Heier had taken over on the drums, Dave Kruswick was back in on second trumpet, and Plocar and Skornicka were asked to play a lot of tenor and baritone sax, respectively.

Leaving Gosz later that same year, Plocar joined Lawrence Duchow (1914-1972), an accordion-playing bandleader out of Potter, Wisconsin. For many years, Duchow's Red Raven Orchestra, named after an inn where the band held a long residency, was based in Appleton. Formally launched in 1933, the Red Ravens quickly become one of the top bands in the genre, landing recording contracts first with Decca, then with RCA Victor, where Duchow would remain on the roster for 13 or 14 years. And for 20 years, Gosz and Duchow vied for top billing in the eastern half of Wisconsin. Plocar is known to be on the 18 sides that Duchow cut for Decca in 1939. It remains to be determined whether he was still in the band for any of Duchow's Victors.


Ad for Rudy Plocar, April 1941
Rudy Plocar goes out on his own. Manitowoc Herald Times, April 18, 1941, p. 18.

In the spring of 1941, Plocar took leave from the Red Ravens and started his own band. He stayed with it until October 1942, when he and several other members of his National Guard unit enlisted in the army, for what turned out to be a three-year commitment. Plocar served in Europe, playing in the band of the 2nd Armored Division. Returning to Manitowoc in December 1945, he recruited several other veterans home from the war; in February 1946 he placed a newspaper advertisement soliciting engagements. Within a few months, the band was doing a half-hour show on the local radio station, taking gigs in Sheboygan (a bigger town about 30 miles south of Manitowoc; territories were so narrowly defined that it considered newsworthy when his band first played there), and recording for Rondo.


Ad for new Plocar band, February 1946
From the Manitowoc Herald Times, February 14, 1946, p. 6

Rudy Plocar,
The original 1946 label. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

During five recording sessions in 1946 and 1947 the Plocar band slung out the singles (mostly instrumentals, though three featured a "Bohemian Vocal," three more had words in German, and one had words in English). In fact, the All Veterans Orchestra was responsible for the first 10 releases in the 550 series. In March 1947, Mullen's record store ran an ad in the Sheboygan paper, promoting new arrivals (the Manitowoc newspaper never advertised a record by a local musician; why bother, when readers could hear any of the bands in or around town at least once a week). Romy Gosz' latest releases got the top billing, but the finer print ran through the first five Plocar releases (Rondo 550 through 554), along with items by Lawrence Duchow (who was recording for a major label, RCA Victor) and Marvin Brouchoud (a Manitowoc-based bandleader who would never land a major-label deal; he had made four sides, his first, for Kittinger Beer at the Chicago Recording Studios in October or November 1945, and these were the items advertised). On May 3, 1947, Billboard (pp. 123, 130), in an unaccustomed show of disrespect, mentioned Mr. and Mrs. Plocar as guests at an event for Milwaukee jukebox operators—and failed to note his record company. Rondo hadn't bought any advertisements. On July 23, 1947, Kuras Furniture in Ludington, Michigan offered two releases from Plocar's second session for Rondo, 558 and 559.


Rudy Plocar,
The original 1946 label. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Mullen's Record Store ad, Sheboygan Press, March 19, 1947
Rondos for sale in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Sheboygan Press, March 19, 1947, p. 4.

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Among American polka bands, Rudy Plocar's played in a Czech style. The band supplemented its polkas and waltzes with such German dances as the ländler and the finger tanz, but not the schottische. Plocar's ensemble played a lot of traditional material (traditional meant from the previous century; the polka was invented in Bohemia in the late 1820s). Plocar's ensemble often used two reeds and two trumpets, usually entrusted the bass line to a tuba, and was comfortable with the appelation "Old Time," which was used in some of Rondo's later publicity on him, but it also didn't mind being called a polka band. Unlike the Polish-style bands, the Czech bands rarely featured solo work.


Rudy Plocar,
Recorded in November 1946, released in 1947. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Polka bands weren't limited to the regulation 4 tunes in 3 hours. Extra takes were rarely needed, and 14 sides in a day was a pace far from unheard of. Rudy Plocar made the session in June 1946 to launch the label, returning for a second outing at United Broadcasting in November 1946. It's possible that all five releases from his first session (Rondo 550 through 554) were out by the time of his second; in any event, the second ad we have seen for his records (Pearson's piano and record store, Indianapolis Star, January 10, 1947, p. 27) mentions them all in order. Rondo had already developed an interest in releasing vocal and instrumental versions of the same tunes: where Plocar had previously sung "Julida" in Czech, now he did it without the vocals; contrariwise, "Svestovka Alej" (aka "The Prune Song") got vocals where the previous version had been an instrumental. Plocar was back again in August 1947, then cut his fourth session in October 1947, and his fifth and final in November 1947. Rapidly building catalogue, his band was averaging 8 sides per session.

In the studio, Plocar's 1946 lineup consisted of two trumpets (the vibrato was so wide, you might think there were three), two clarinets (doubling alto saxophone), piano, tuba, and drums. The leader was the utility player; he switched from second trumpet to clarinet to tenor saxophone, depending on the passage and the arrangement. The drummer did most of his work on the snare—polka drummers thought nothing of press rolls on waltzes—and the piano parts must have been boring to play because their sole function was to reinforce bass line and rhythm. Billboard reviewers would comment, later on, on the oompahish quality of one of Plocar's singles.

A photo of what appears to be Plocar's 1946 band (with "Rondo Records" emblazoned across the fronts of the music stands) shows Wilfred Doleysh on first trumpet, Rudy Plocar on second trumpet, clarinet, and tenor sax, Norm Skornicka (or Skornichka) on clarinet and alto sax, Jim Doleysh on clarinet and alto sax, Howard Fisher at the piano, Russell Rank alternating between string bass and sousaphone, and Jim Schneider at the drums. We haven't heard the string bass on any of the Rondo sides; otherwise, this is the precise lineup for the 1946 recordings.


Rudy Plocar,
Recorded at Plocar's August 1947 session. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rudy Plocar,
An October 1947 recording. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Rudy Plocar,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

In 1946, Plocar kept to 4 wind players, second trumpet switching to clarinet and tenor sax, instead of the 5 winds, third trumpet switching to clarinet or sax, that Romy Gosz had been able to carry since the late 1930s. However, his August, October, and November 1947 outings include passages of lusher scoring for three, occasionally four, saxes, and the band has clearly expanded to 5 winds. His October 1947 session made the further addition of an accordion, in homage to his one-time employer Lawrence Duchow, and the November session kept it.

Plocar experimented, just this one time, with two pop tunes, sung in English by Alan De Witt: "A Sailboat in the Moonlight" and "I Still Want You." (De Witt later cut four sides in 1949 for a new indie called Barthel, as per Cash Box, September 10, 1949, p. 42; Cash Box for January 7, 1950, p. 10, said he had been singing with Frankie Masters' orchestra.) In some of his saxophone scoring, Plocar was now reaching for a Swing band sound, though he would never move so far in this direction as Duchow, whose later lineups amounted to a big band without trombones.

Plocar was much more rustic in presentation than Duchow, even more rustic on many occasions than Gosz, with wider flutter from the trumpets and more skirl from the clarinets. Gosz's band occasionally programmed a solo feature for the leader's trumpet. There are no solo features on record for Rudy Plocar. And one of the tunes in his book was "Die Dorfmusic," "The Village Band."

Plocar was getting so much attention now that Mercury stole him. Right after his November session, he was hastily signed by the already much larger company, which wanted to bulk up its "folk" roster (on January 17, 1948, p. 37, Billboard mentioned him as one of Mercury's "last-minute additions before the Petrillo ban"). Around the same time the Slovenian-style band of Louie Bashell, who was also making a name for himself on the Wisconsin circuit, was also hastily signed, as was a Swiss-style polka outfit. Plocar may have been chosen with an eye to replacing Romy Gosz.

Rushing Plocar's band into the studio to beat the recording ban set for January 1, 1948, Mercury recorded him twice in December 1947, very likely with the same lineup that he had recently used for Rondo (it still included that accordion). Having recorded 14 sides, Mercury put them out on 7 singles in 1948 and 1949 (polka bands don't leave stuff in the vaults). Mercury must have wanted a more traditional presentation; with a single exception (a pop tune titled "Nine O'Clock in My Own Home Town") Plocar's sides for the bigger company dispensed with the fancy saxophone scoring and the vocalizing in English. His other Mercury sides were polkas, waltzes, or ländler, many identified as traditional, with ensemble vocals in Czech on three of them. For Mercury, Plocar remade several numbers (such as "Poor Cinderella Polka" and "Hillside Waltz") that he had first recorded in 1936—as a member of the Romy Gosz band.

With characteristic ambiguity about market positioning, Mercury put the first 3 Plocars in its 6000 Country series and the last 4 in its 2000 pop series (it had used three different series for its Goszes). But Mercury became serially disaffected with its polka bands. After recording Gosz in October 1945, October 1946, and November 1946, it let his contract expire a year later. After the recording ban was officially lifted in December 1948, Mercury didn't bring Plocar back into the studio, not even to cash in on the late-1948 fad for "More Beer!" (see Appendix D for more about this; instead, Rondo grafted the words onto his November 1947 recording of "Wisconsin Polka"). Mercury let Plocar's contract expire, then put out his final single in March 1949. (In the summer of 1948, Mercury picked up Sammy Madden's band from a Milwaukee label called Chord that had gone out of business, but we are not sure how much new recording Mercury needed to do; Madden brought his Chord masters with him. Louis Bashell was still being recorded in the first half of 1949, but after signing Lawrence Welk that same year, Mercury quit paying attention to any other polka purveyors.)

Fortunately, Rondo welcomed the prodigal Plocar back. In October 1949, Rondo released a 10-inch LP of polkas that he had cut during the company's earliest days. It also brought Rudy Plocar into the studio for a sixth session. Meanwhile, his previous releases, some of which had fallen out of the catalogue, were restored to circulation. In 1949, most of Plocar's 78s were re-pressed; by the end of 1950, pretty much everything he had ever done for Rondo could also be had on 45 rpm. For instance, in April 1950 his coupling of "Helena Polka" and "Clarinet Polka" on Rondo 553, by then nearly 4 years old, was being promoted as a new 45 (Ludington Daily News, April 14, 1950, p. 8).


Bellini Accordion Orchestra,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Accordionette Ensemble,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

As it started its second year of operation, Rondo signed a bunch of polka bands. Some have been lost from view; they slipped right off the list when their releases didn't sell. The first session involving another band took place in June 1947, as can be discerned from the UB numbers in the 21300s. Rondo 560 features something called the Bellini Accordion Orchestra on the A side; the B side is credited to the Accorionette[sic]Ensemble, but they appear to be the same group: 3 or 4 accordions and a string bass, playing waltzes. On Rondo 561, the Accordionette Ensemble has turned into a lithe and sprightly combo that, in addition to the usual clarinet doubling on circus alto sax, accordion, guitar, and string bass, features a vibraphone (often played xylophonically, with the motor off). The vibes gave the band a distinctive touch. Bob Sanley / Stanislaw Mroczek's big Eastern style band (which recorded for Sonora) featured solo xylophone and marimba, as did a few other bands like Jerry Mazanec's Chicago Polish ensemble, but these were infrequently encountered in the polkaverse. Maybe three members of the group doubled on accordion? These Accordionettes were not a high-profile ensemble, to put it mildly, but we wonder whether the Accordionette Combo that got a couple of mentions in the Benton Harbor, Michigan newspaper toward the end of 1947 was the same bunch. (Unfortunately for researchers working today, Bellini was a popular brand of accordion. And any ensemble with multiple female accordion players could end up being called "Accordionettes.") Whoever they were, their records stayed in the catalogue long enough for some copies to be pressed on plastic in 1948 or 1949.


Accorionette [sic] Ensemble,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Accordionette Ensemble,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

We had long wondered who got signed next, and was then responsible for Rondo 562, 563, and 564. In November 2015 a copy of 563 finally surfaced—and it was by a Slovak gypsy ensemble. The Jožka Cigaňsko Orš. performed a csárdás (tagged as a Slovensk™ čaacute;rd;aacute;š) on both sides. Though we presume it worked in Illinois or Wisconsin, this was definitely not a polka band: not with three violins, a cimbalom, and a string bass. It seems likely that Rondo put out another single on the group. Rondo 564, on the other hand, was by Pete's Musette Orch. (French-style accordion?). And it appears to have been cut at the same session, or at least on the same day.


Swiss Family Fraunfelder,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Swiss Family Fraunfelder,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

After bringing Rudy Plocar back for his third session in August 1947, the company gave a quartet of yodelers a try. The Swiss Family Fraunfelder had been resident in the United States for over a decade. The band consisted of R. Fraunfelder Sr. (1895-1988), who played the string bass, and three of his six children. His son, whose name was variously spelled Reinhardt (in Schriftdeutsch) or Reynard (in native dialect; 1920-2007) played the clarinet; Betty (1922-2008) played the accordion; and Ruth (born 1924) played the piano and occasionally a wooden flute. All four sang, in keening Swiss German. All four yodeled. They contributed to the soundtrack of the Walt Disney feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in which the dwarfs end up doing some yodeling (see the reminiscences of Jim Macdonald, who worked in Disney's special effects department, at http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Funnyworld/Macdonald/Macdonald.htm). The family band landed some other film work afterward and remained in Southern California for a time, performing in public schools and colleges and even getting a resolution of thanks out of the California state legislature.

But by 1941, they had relocated to the area around Monroe and New Glarus in southern Wisconsin, known for big dairy farms and a high concentration of Swiss immigrants. In 1947, the Fraunfelders were doing steady business at fairs and company picnics in Wisconsin, Illinois, and occasionally other Midwestern states; they also did periodic radio work. Though they had to cancel some appearances in February 1947, after R. Fraunfelder Sr. was injured in a car accident and then suffered a heart attack, he and the band bounced back quickly. A few months later, when they were at the peak of their popularity, Rondo picked them up for one recording session. Rondo 569 is not in any of the matrix series that Rondo was using; with a BA suffix scratched in the trailoff shellac, the sides appear to be a demo the family made at Bachman Studio in Chicago. Rondo must have decided to release it after signing them. On Rondo 571, the "Yodel Laendler" is really a feature for the Fraunfelders' instruments; only on the last two choruses do they get into the yodeling. "The Cuckoo" features a lot of singing and yodeling in waltz time, interspersed with stop-time cuckoo imitations answered by peeps out of the wooden flute. A poster for their Rondo releases can be seen at http://www.swissfamilyfraunfelder.com/CartoonPoster.html. The steady regional demand for the family's live appearances must not have translated into record sales, because by 1950 they were no longer mentioned on the company's sleeves.


Swiss Family Fraunfelder,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Swiss Family Fraunfelder,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

In 1949, the family accepted the sponsorship of a big brewery in Milwaukee, in whose honor they went as the Schlitz Family Fraunfelder. However, toward the end of 1950, Ruth Fraunfelder married, left the group, and settled first in Monroe and then in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin (see the Monroe Evening Times, August 22, 1951, p. 1); the remaining members left both Wisconsin and Schlitz behind. They moved first to San Mateo, California, where in 1950 they made a single for the Alpine label. Moving again the next year, to the Hood River area in Oregon, they recorded in the 1950s for a small company called Yodel Melody. For a detailed history of the Fraunfelder family, with a host of photos, see Larry Ganders' site, http://www.swissfamilyfraunfelder.com/


Activity accelerated in the fall of 1947; everybody, little indies emphatically included, was scrambling as the second Petrillo recording ban impended (it was the dearth of such activity that signaled the end of the line for Sonora).

And an oblique mention of the label belatedly took place in Billboard, on December 6, 1947 (p. 25). Red Raven Enterprises of Appleton, Wisconsin ran an ad announcing the release of two of its tunes ("Swiss Boy" and "My Swiss Girl") on RCA Victor singles by Lawrence Duchow's band. In small print, the ad gave an oblique acknowledgment to Duchow's former employee; it noted that Rondo had also waxed both numbers, coupling them on 572 in its polka series. Of course, this was a Rudy Plocar record. Although Rondo had already put an instrumental version of "My Swiss Girl" out on Rondo 565, it had Plocar remake the song, now with vocals in German and English and a prominent accordion line, as a coupling for a new recording of "Swiss Boy" on 572. The company had 20 polka releases in its catalogue by then. Rondo 573 would also be by Rudy Plocar (featuring his last "Bohemian Vocal" on "At the Spring"; he'd sung it a decade earlier with Romy Gosz on Vocalion 15936, under its Czech title, "U Studanky Sedela"). We have no sales figures on Plocar's Rondos, but the company must have fairly pleased with the way they were doing; it would end up releasing 23 singles on him. Plocar was pulling in so much that in 1948 he was able to buy a tavern in his old neighborhood on the edge of Manitowoc, the Shoto Gardens.


Gene Heier,
Rondo 584 with the 1947-1948 label. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Gene Heier,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Just before Mercury snatched Plocar away, Rondo added Gene Heier's Orchestra to the mix, bringing him in for two sessions less than a week apart in November 1947. We suspect that at least four singles materialized (from at least four tunes per session), but so far we know of Rondo 582, 583, and 584. Heier, who played clarinet and tenor sax, could well have been recommended by Plocar; he, too, lived in Manitowoc, was a Romy Gosz alumnus (in this case, from Gosz's 1946 ensemble), and his band played on the same circuit.

Eugene J. Heier was born on March 5, 1923, in Kellnersville, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He graduated from Lincoln High School in Manitowoc in 1940. Enlisting in the military in 1943, he played the baritone horn in Army bands. He joined Gosz for a while after being discharged. He formed the Gene Heier Orchestra on August 6, 1947, so Rondo didn't hang around waiting to sign him (for biographical information, we are indebted to http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=95207340).

Heier's records also had a little staying power: Rondo 583 and 584 were still listed on the company's sleeves in 1950. In 1949, Rondo stole Bernie Roberts' polka band away from Pfau, a new small label from Milwaukee; Pfau returned the favor by getting Heier. On February 18, 1950, Billboard announced (pp. 41, 43) that Gene Heier had signed with the smaller company (he'd actually recorded for Pfau in September 1949). But in the second half of 1950, Heier would be back with Rondo for one more try. Heier used a slightly larger ensemble than Plocar (9 pieces, in later years) and programmed pop and Swing numbers along with the polkas and the waltzes that Rondo wanted from him.


Gene Heier,
Rondo 583 with a 1948-1949 label. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Gene Heier,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Gene Heier,
Gene Heier returned to Rondo in 1950. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Gene Heier,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Having staked its claim to polka bands from Wisconsin, Rondo added J. Perush and His Joliet Tavern Band to the roster. Joe Perush operated a tavern in Joliet, Illinois, where his band was in permanent residency; they sang in Slovenian (when they sang at all; Rondo 575 is instrumental on both sides). The band had two accordions, guitar, and bass (the same lineup that Lee Monti used on Aristocrat and later on Sharp). Perush probably recorded 8 sides for the company, around October 30, 1947, and may have had four releases on the label (Rondo 574 through 577). We currently have confirmation on Rondo 574 and 575.


F. Przybylski,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

In the last quarter of 1947 the company even added a group that sang in Polish. Rondo put out at least four singles by Alicja Kusek and Casey Stefaniak, backed by the band of one F. Przybylski. Fryderyk (Frederick?) Przybylski had been active in Chicago for a few years when Rondo picked him up. In October or November 1940, a Polish polka band called the Juke Box Serenaders recorded in Chicago for Columbia; Columbia 12203-F includes "Hill-Billy Polka," which would acquire lyrics in Polish on Rondo, and "On the Green Meadow Polka," credited to "Fr. Przybylski." The Juke Box Serenaders returned to Columbia's Chicago studios in late April or early May 1941, producing 12215-F, "Steel Mill Polka" b/w "Juke Box Polka" (the lattter also credited to Fr. Przybylski). After the wartime recording ban lifted, a band called the Windy City Five recorded in December 1944, producing Columbia 12247-F, "My Polish Gal" b/w "Clam Chowder Polka," with Przybylski credited as the arranger on both sides. And a larger Juke Box Serenaders unit recorded "Love Sick Oberek" and "Lolly Pop Polka" (Columbia 12307-F) in July 1946 (right before Columbia recorded Bill Crosby and his band) with arranger credits to one Phil Wing; however, Przybylski was still cited as the composer on the oberek. As with nearly all of Rondo's polka band sides, the Przybylskis were cut at United Broadcasting, on two dates about a week apart in November 1947. The first session led to a release on Rondo 578, but we still lack information on 579 through 581, where at least one more Przybylski may be lurking. The second led to releases on Rondo 590, 591, and 593, with a gap still present at 592.

The lineup was interesting enough to Bard and Lany that they called the band back for a third and final session in 1949, producing one single that we know of. Around that same time, Alicja Kusek would be called on to put Polish lyrics to Ken Griffin's biggest number, "You Can't Be True, Dear."


F. Przybylski,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

After Rondo cut a deal with a French label (announced in Billboard on September 4, 1948), Rondo 578 was reissued across the Atlantic, on Pacific 1766. Another Przybylski that we haven't seen yet on Rondo presumably had made an appearance, because when the sides came out in France on Pacific 1791, the cryptic codes UB22028 and UB22031 were still attached. The matrix numbers put them in the same recording session as Rondo 590 and 593—but we haven't seen those particular sides on Pacific. Whether Pacific released anything off the 1949 session remains to be determined.


F. Przybylski,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

More Polish offerings would follow from Steve Adamczyk and His Polish Hungry Five and Józiu (Joe) Durlak and His Orchestra. The company was now getting involved, not with Polish polka, but with modern Chicago-style Polish polka, which could be performed by a groups as small as a quartet: clarinet, accordion, bass, and drums. Adamczyk played clarinet and saxophones; Durlak played clarinet. Adamczyk recorded in late December 1947, right before the Petrillo ban was due to hit; he was responsible for Rondo 594 and 595. Durlak's session was squeezed in on the last day of the year, leading to Rondo 596 and 597. But the company was not in a huge hurry to release their sides, holding them till December 1948. (In the meantime, Ken Griffin had arrived.)

Durlak had already recorded for Columbia, singing his biggest hit, "Czyja ta Dziewczyna" (Whose Girl Are You?) with the Karuzeli (Carousel) Orchestra. Rondo wanted Gene Heier to cover the waltz, which he did on Rondo 582 (and redid with a vocal, or got an overdub, for Rondo 190). Did the company ask the composer for a new version? Adamczyk, to our knowledge, had not seen the inside of a studio before.

Steve E. Adamczyk was born in Chicago in 1918; his mother and father, Stephen and Lottie Adamczyk, ran a grocery store at 36th Street and Marshfield Avenue. He began piano instruction with the Felician Sisters of Saints Peter and Paul, moving on to study clarinet and saxophone. In his teens, he formed a band that played parties and weddings. When he graduated from Quigley Preparatory High School, he intended to become a priest, but changed his mind and enrolled in Sherwood Music School. He started the Hungry Four in the early 1940s, and had expanded the combo by the time he signed with Rondo.

Before Rondo started getting his singles out, Adamczyk's Hungry Five were already recording for Capitol (Billboard, February 25, 1950, p. 116)—an Adamczyk Capitol and an Adamczyk Rondo were reviewed in the same issue of Billboard in December 1948. The Five had soon compiled so many sides for the bigger company that in 1957 Capitol released a 12-inch LP on them. Capitol probably did the LP because Adamczyk's somewhat later band, the Hungry Six, had taken on a high profile in the polkasphere. The Hungry Six recorded for Dana, a label operated by Walter Dana (né Danilowski) that specialized in polka bands, remaining with it until at least 1960 and cranking out a long series of LPs. (These Hungry Six were undercounted: they actually numbered two clarinets—Steve Adamczyk and Walter Ganiec—plus trumpet, accordion, piano, bass, and drums.)

Besides fast, Chicago-style polkas, Adamczyk's group with known for its obereks. Adamczyk was a mentor to younger polka musicians in Chicago, including Eddie Blazonczyk. In 1975, he was inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame. He disbanded his group in 1986, which gave him more time to serve as choir director at Saints Peter and Peter and Paul; he was also the church's organist for 40 years. Steve Adamczyk died in Chicago on May 15, 2001 (see Sean D. Hamill, "Steve E. Adamczyk, 83: Chicago polka legend and bandleader," Chicago Tribune, May 19, 2001, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2001-05-19/news/0105190130_1_music-skills-mr-adamczyk-popular and his International Polka Assocation entry at http://www.ipapolkas.com/blog/otw-portfolio/steve-adamczyk-living-category-inducted-1975/).

Joseph P. Durlak was born in Chicago on May 1, 1919, growing up in the Cragin neighborhood. He got his start playing a C clarinet and singing in the quartet led by Eddie Zima. He was even more of a neighborhood performer than Adamczyk, holding a day job for many years at Zenith Radio. The one advertisement for a Durlak appearance that we've found in the Southtown Economist (a reliable source for gigs by everyone from Lawrence Welk to Ann Gilbert to Sax Mallard), from February 6, 1952, changes his first name to "John." Durlak also recorded after his brief involvement with Rondo, for Polkatunes and Balkan. He died on February 24, 1995 (see http://www.polartcenter.com/Joe_Durlak_Sings_p/9702948.htm).

In 1947, Rondo recorded the four major varieties of polka—German, Czech, Slovenian, and Polish—but it didn't try to hold onto its Chicago-based performers. The Chicago polka bands went to major labels (such as Capitol), to polka specialists with a national scope (notably, Dana), or to smaller local specalists like Lil Wally Jagiello's Jay Jay label. Rondo never developed an interest in Eastern polka, which went for more of a big band sound; this had been the province of larger independents like Sonora and Continental, and smaller outfits like Harmonia. Rondo's artists were recruited out in polkaland proper—they were overwhelmingly from Wisconsin.


Although Rondo maintained a significant piece of its polka band catalogue until the company was sold, and put out 2 LPs on Rudy Plocar, Bard and Lany seem to have made a decision, as 1950 rolled around, to scale back their polka activity. Where just a few months earlier, Rondo had been poaching bands from Chord and Pfau, now Pfau, Tell, Radiant, and new Wisconsin specialist labels such as Polkaland (which was open for business in February 1952, and may have started the previous year) and Potter (starting in 1954) would be taking artists away from Rondo.


Lil Maosn,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The First 1550s

Not long after the company was launched, Rondo made a first tentative move into the "race" market, as R and B was then called. Two singles, one scarce today and the other even scarcer, are known to have come out of it.

We used to think, following Fancourt and McGrath and other blues experts, that these items were done in 1949, when the remaining items in the series, Rondo 1553 through 1558, were released. But the evidence of the studio band, of the variety of label used, and of the matrix numbers all point to an earlier time. We now have further confirmation from the company's first trade-pape ad (Cash Box, September 9, 1946, p. 14) and an ad for Rondo records in the Indianapolis Star of November 8, 1946, placed by the ever-faithful Pearson's music store.

R1. Lil Mason with Wm. Shavers' Orch.

Lil Mason (voc); A. Davies (ts); Bill Shavers (p); Booker T. Collins (b); F. Robinson (d).

Bachman Studio, Chicago, August 1946

R-1113 How Fast Can You Boogie? (Mason)
Rondo 1550-B
R-1114 The Buggy Ride (Mason)
Rondo 1551-A
R-1115 The Buggy Ride (Mason)
Rondo 1551-B
R-1116 Upstairs (Mason)
Rondo 1550-A

Lil Mason was a veteran club performer when Rondo picked her up. She was born Lillian Mason, in Union, South Carolina on February 7, 1918. Mason was raised in Gary, Indiana, and in Chicago, and began performing in the Chicago clubs during World War II. She cut her first recording session for OKeh on December 18, 1944, with accompaniment by Little Brother Montgomery at the piano and Ransom Knowling on the bass. As happened to quite a few made as tastes were changing and the Melrose operation was going into decline, nothing from it was released.

Beginning in November 1945, Mason became a regular at the 308 Club (3900 South Parkway), appearing with famed blues pianist Big Maceo Merriweather and Tommy Dixon’s Band. Her tag was “Blues Mistress.” By May of 1946, she was the feature act, now billed as “Chicago’s Sweetheart of the Blues.” In the fall of 1946, around the time of her Rondo session, Mason was appearing in a revue at The 21 Club (21 N. Western Ave on the city’s west side), where she was represented as “Lil Mason of Stage and Screen.” One wonders what kind of screen appearance she'd made. In November, she was back at the 308 Club.

We had dated Lil Mason's session in September 1946, but now that we have placed Robert Crum's session at Bachman for Gold Seal" (matrix numbers 1131 through 1136) around September 7, we know it had to have been done a little earlier. Lil Mason's session also preceded the second for Jimmy Blade (matrix numbers 1117 through 1120). The first Rondo ad from Cash Box (Setpember 9; brought to our attention by Dan Kochakian) pitches Rondo 1550 as a "Sensational New Pace Release!" [sic].

"The Buggy Ride" is a talking boogie of the sort that Mayo Williams liked, and would record on several occasions in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The lyrics were, umm, not suitable for radio play. "Upstairs," featuring a bit of imagery common in postwar blues, was her signature number; she had already tried it for OKeh. After her Rondos came out, she would be regularly billed as Lil "Upstairs" Mason.

William Shavers, the pianist who led the band on this date, appears to have spent just a couple of years on the Chicago scene. He is not on any of the Local 208 contract lists from 1944. William Shavers first shows up in Local 208 Board Meeting minutes on April 19, 1945, when his "indefinite" contract with the Garrick Stage Bar was accepted and filed. Now referred to as "Bill" Shavers, he filed an indefinite contract with Tin Pan Alley on September 6 of the same year. As Bill Shavers, he shows up again in the Local 208 Board Meeting minutes on May 16, 1946, posting an indefinite contract for relief nights at the Downbeat Club. There were no mentions of him in 1947, 1948, or 1949.


Lil Mason in 1959
Lil Mason in the Chicago Defender, March 7, 1959

Throughout the 1950s Lil Mason performed regularly in the West Side and near North Side clubs. In February 1950, she appeared at Ralph's Club (2259 Madison). April 1951 saw her at the Hollywood Rendezvous (3849 Indiana). At Joe’s Rendezvous Lounge (2757 W. Madison) later in July she co-headlined (with Jimmie Binkley) as “Lil (Upstairs) Mason.”

February of 1952 saw Lil Mason ensconced on the near North Side at Club Evergreen (1332 N. Clybourn), which would be her home throughout much of the 1950s, always with that tag, "Upstairs." Through much of 1953, however, she appeared at the Savanah (sic) Club (350 E. 51st). In August of 1955, she made an appearance at Charlie’s Lounge (1811 W. Roosevelt), accompanied by the “All Stars” band of Jimmy Wise (bass), Miss Bertie Davis (alto sax), Fred Hudson (piano), and Duran Barksdale (drums). Her appearances grew infrequent in the 1960s, but she made one at the C&C Club Lounge (6513 Cottage Grove) in late 1964.

In 1982, Mason made her last recording (apparently there had been none in between), a 45-rpm single for the Streetcar Craft label. She sang “The Cabrini Green Song,” as a tribute to a housing project on the near North Side, not far from Club Evergreen. Mason died in obscurity on 21 February 1988 (other sources give 19 February as the date). She was 70, but the obituary wrongly reported her age as 60.

The matrix numbers are in the same series as those on Noller and Straub's Rondos, on the one Marsh McCurdy we presently have a matrix number for, on several of Elmer Ihrke's earliest recordings, and on all of Jimmy Blade's. 1113 through 1116 can be pretty firmly dated to August 1946. From other evidence (see our Gold Seal page), we have concluded that all of these were done at Myron Bachman's Studio. Rondo 1550 was released in September 1946 and the release date for 1551 was no later than the beginning of November 1946.


One of the mysteries still surrounding the company is whether there was a Rondo 1552, and, if there was, who was on it. Until 1951 or so, Rondo generally avoided leaving gaps in its release series.


Had the Lil Mason sides come out from a company with the right sales and distribution personnel, they still might have gone nowhere. With what in September 1946 was a rudimentary distribution network and a sales force with no experience catering to African-American record buyers, Rondo didn't have a snowball's chance. Besides the mention of Rondo 1550 in the September 9 Cash Box ad, we have found two advertisements for 1550 and 1551 (November 8, 1946 and January 10, 1947), from a piano, music, and record store in Indianapolis that was promoting Rondo for its keyboard records (especially those by its in-house performers, Ruth Noller and Ada Straub). Such ads couldn't move Lil Mason platters.

Some copies of Rondo 1550 were pressed on vinyl and sold in 1949-model Rondo sleeves, indicating that when Rondo revived the 1550 series, it tried again. But the new pressings still carried the 1946-style labels. Apparently Rondo hadn't used up the first print run on those... Rondo 1551, which was never re-pressed and is only on shellac, is an extremely rare release. As of 2016, we can finally report on it with the help of Tom Lukowicz. Although "The Buggy Ride" is in two parts, they were not labeled as such on the record. All four of these sides are worthy of reissue attention.


The Company that Couldn't Get a Write-Up in Billboard...

Rondo also tried stories for children in a single-digit series. A rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, told by Mildred Sinclair, was recorded in September 1947 (with UB 21654 on one side) and released as Rondo RC-2. Rondo RC-1, from the same session, featured "The Gingerbread Boy" and "The Little Red Hen" (UB-21652 and 21653). These, we may surmise, were not competitive with Uncle Don on Sonora (later snapped up by Varsity) or with a slew of other offerings on both the majors and on children's specialty labels. We figure there were three singles in the RCs, because CLP-1 had only 6 tracks on it.

Through the end of its second year, there was nothing in Rondo's output of polkas, waltzes, piano and Hammond organ solos, and spoken word items to make it much bigger than Pfau, the Milwaukee-based polka specialist. Except maybe that Rondo packaged some of its earliest 78s into albums, and Pfau never got to that point. Rondo and Pfau were getting the same level of attention from the trades: zero. There'd been two items in Cash Box in 1946; 1947 came and went without a solitary story about Rondo in the trade papers.


Becomes the House that Griffin Built

And so it would remain—until Ken Griffin came long.

During the next 6 years in Chicago, it was Griffin who kept Rondo's lights on and its bills paid. He even cast his shadow over the company's afterlife in Union City; the Record Corporation of America kept his EPs in print and recycled his tracks on Rondo-lette LPs. Sixty years later, Rondos keep right on showing up at estate sales and in second-hand stores across the USA and Canada. So many of these bear Griffin's name that veteran collectors don't realize that Rondo recorded anybody else.

Kenneth W. Griffin was born in Columbia, Missouri on December 28, 1909, and grew up in Colorado. Originally a violinist, he taught himself to play the pipe organ in a movie theater; he got plenty of experience accompanying silent movies during the last couple of years before talkies came in. In 1935, he became an early adopter of the Hammond organ.

From the middle of 1942 through the beginning of 1944 he served in the US Army. On his return to civilian life, Griffin landed a gig playing the organ in a restaurant in Naperville, Illinois, moving on to a beer garden and a restaurant in Aurora, then to regular appearances on local radio station WMRO. By 1947, Griffin was working regularly in clubs and restaurants in Chicago. Rondo wasn't the first company to want to record him; as we will see, it was the second or the third. But when Griffin got going with Rondo, in the last quarter of 1947, he scored a monstrous hit for the company, and would reign as its top artist from then on.

Griffin's singles were all in the 100 series, which kept on going through the company's Chicago period, reaching Rondo 309. One suspects that Bard and Lany came to see the 100s as starting in April 1948. That was when the company issued Ken Griffin's first instrumental single: "You Can't Be True, Dear" and "Cuckoo Waltz" on Rondo 128.

Which merely serves to underline how he transformed the company's prospects. Griffin recorded 8 solo organ titles for the Chicago Recording Studio on August 20, 1947 (we know these specifics because CRS and Rondo would become entangled in a lawsuit of Dickensian duration over the publishing rights to "You Can't Be True, Dear," a 1935 pop tune by two German songwriters that had become "alien property" during World War II). His first rendition of "You Can't Be True, Dear" was released, on one of the small labels operated by CRS, as Broadcast 406 in October 1947. (The Broadcast label of the late 1940s and early 1950s has no connection with the 1970s operation that specialized in bootleg or sonically altered doowop reissues.)

However, Griffin was not under long-term contract to Broadcast, and didn't expect to see any money beyond the $165 he'd been paid for the 8-tune session (plus whatever he got for the follow-ups; Broadcast claimed to have 21 masters on him, making good on its assertion by eventually releasing every last one). So he brought a 6-cut demo to Rondo, which signed him to do another 8-tune session, covering some of the same pieces he'd already done at Chicago Recording Service. Legend has put the session on December 31, 1947, but we aren't buying that. Griffin's first six instrumental releases on Rondo carry matrix numbers from Universal Recording, and the U900s (see our Vitacoustic page) date to September 1947. In other words, Griffin most likely cut for Rondo before his first Broadcast 78 had even been released. And, as we will see below, he'd cut his demo in a studio session before his outing for Broadcast.


Ken Griffin and Jerry Wayne,
A late 1949 pressing of the Ken Griffin blockbuster (vocal edition). From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Griffin launched his Rondo career with a strange pair of singles: Rondo 128, his original instrumental recording, and Rondo 228, a souped-up version of "You Can't Be True, Dear," featuring crooner Jerry Wayne, who had been handed some lyrics hastily jotted in English so he could dub them over the instrumental. We used to think that 228 was actually released first, but a J. F. Bard company ad in Cash Box (February 28. 1948), already refers to Rondo 128 as a hit. It mentions Rondo 129 as an upcoming release, and doesn't refer to Rondo 228. Griffin signed a two-year contract around the time that Rondo 128 was released.

In any event, the vocal and instrumental renditions sold smartly, and both sides of 128 shot way up the pop charts. Ken Griffin collector Bryon Young has said of Rondo 128, "This record was probably heard by every American alive during the 1950s, since it was a staple in the carnival/fair/amusement park 'merry-go-round' repertoire, as well as roller skating and ice skating rinks."


Ken Griffin and Jerry Wayne,
On flex vinyl, several pressing runs later (the first runs, in 1948, were on shellac). From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

So Rondo 128 and 228 stepped, hard, on Broadcast 460. Adding to the insult, Julius Bard and Dave Dreyer, who had fitted those lyrics in English to "You Can't Be True," started a music publisher called Biltmore, copyrighted the tune with the new words, then sent Broadcast a telegram demanding payment of all the publisher royalties on "You Can't Be True." When Broadcast refused to pony up, Rondo filed suit.


Ken Griffin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Ken Griffin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rondo promptly released two more records from Griffin's first session, as 129 and 130. Now what? The second Petrillo ban was on, and Griffin was a member of the Musicians Union. Rondo bought a little time with Elmer Ihrke playing medleys of hymns, on Rondo 131, 132, 133—also packaged as a 3-pocket album. In one of the company's first ventures away from shellac, R-1006, The Golden Album of Hymns, was pressed on plastic. The sides, of course, had also been recorded during the previous year.


Rondo ad, June 19, 1948
From Billboard, June 19, 1948, p. 66

In June 1948, Rondo took out an ad in Billboard to promote two of its next three Ken Griffin releases: 135 and 137. We assume that 134 came out a little earlier. An advertisement that same month from Kuras Furniture store in Ludington, Michigan (on the eastern shore of the lake, at the other end of what was then a busy car and rail ferry running from Manitowoc) suggests seven Rondos—four Ken Griffin releases and three Rudy Plocars—as Father's Day presents.


Ken Griffin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Ken Griffin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rondo 134 and 135, had a, well, interesting origin. Some copies of "Every Little Movement" (UB21347-M-R) carry the date July 21, 1948, in the trail-off shellac, but it has an R suffix, for "remastered," and the remastering obviously took place when 134 and 135 were being prepared for release. The original matrix numbers from United Broadcasting, which range from UB21347 to UB21352, point to recording date in June 1947, before either the Broadcast or the Rondo "You Can't Be True, Dear." By way of corroboration, the sound of the instrument is different.

There is a tiny bit of studio ambience on "Polka Pops" and its session mates, suggesting the organ was being recorded through a microphone. By the time he took up with Rondo, Griffin insisted on hooking his instrument up intravenously to the control board, a practice he would continue during his years with Columbia. The enhanced lack of definition is already noticeable on the Rondo "You Can't Be True, Dear."

Rondo 134 and 135, then, must be the demos that Griffin initially brought to Bard and Lany. The matrix numbers on them carry an M suffix, which probably stands for Master, the house brand established by Egmont Sonderling of United Broadcasting. He would use it in 1949 and 1950 to sell sides from companies that had recorded with him and failed to pay their bills.


Ken Griffin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Ken Griffin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

With one more Griffin release, on Rondo 137, the stash from Universal Recording was exhausted.


New Recordings, Urgently Needed

Rondo was now in a bit of a spot. The company had a huge hit. Griffin's records were flying out the door and he could reel off tune after tune in the studio. But the second Petrillo recording ban was being enforced with some vigor in Chicago. Rondo had used up the 12 sides at its disposal. To make matters worse, its competitor Broadcast, now itching for revenge, had more Griffin masters on hand than Rondo did.

And Rondo couldn't expect much help from its polka offerings. The company still had a few of his masters in the vault, but the top draw in the 550 series, Rudy Plocar, had been lured away by Mercury.

Rondo temporized by dubbing vocals on top of more instrumentals that it had previously issued (singers didn't have to join the Union). Between Rondo 137 and Rondo 183, there were all of seven Ken Griffin sides: six vocal retreads and one solitary instrumental. The instrumental, Griffin's original tune "Bumble Bee on a Bender," was apparently the last usable side from his demo session; it appeared on Rondo 146. (Rondo picked up an old sweet-band side by Lang Thompson, originally from Eli Oberstein's original Varsity label, to serve as a coupling for "Bumble Bee." See below for more about the track that started out with Eli Oberstein and in the end, after sale upon resale, would be his property once again.)

The company also re-pressed Rondo 124 by Cosmo Teri, put it together with reissues (on Rondo 140 and 141) of four sides that Elmer Ihrke had recorded in September and October 1946, and bundled them up as a 3-pocketed album titled Merry Christmas Melodies (Rondo R-1004).

But Rondo had to start calling on other musicians to fill up its 100 series. So, all of a sudden, there were a whole bunch of Rondo 100s not featuring the organ.

Julius Bard took off to Europe at the end of June, looking for partners to distribute Ken Griffin records. Returning Stateside at the end of August, Bard announced that he had signed a deal with Pacific, a French company headquartered in Paris, and that a deal with an unnamed Italian company was in the works. From Pacific, Rondo had licensed 15 masters by Armand Bernard, who led a chamber orchestra (Billboard, September 4, 1948, p. 17). We are not sure whether Rondo put out some of the Bernard sides in 1948, or waited until 1951, when it assembled 8 of them into a 10-inch LP. 1948 releases seem more likely; we just need to find some actual records. We also don't know what Pacific did with Ken Griffin; the only Pacific releases of Rondo material that we've been able to locate were the polka sides by Przybylski.

In August 1948, Rondo tried a modest reclamation project, as its once-celebrated competitor Vitacoustic, already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, slid toward liquidation. On August 21, 1948, Billboard reported that Vitacoustic was trying to placate its creditors by selling off blocks of unissued masters. The only items to change hands, however, were two sides by crooner Jack Carroll, submerged in a hulking, string-laden studio band led by one Bill McCrae.

Vitacoustic had cut these at Universal Recording in September 1947, but just two sides from the 8-tune session had seen release. "Sleepy Town" was written by Maurice Murray, Vitacoustic's recording director at the time, and Fred Rose, of Acuff-Rose, the Country music publisher. Murray and Rose bought the master, along with "Time to Dream" for a B side. Although this Billboard story didn't mention where they planned to take the record, in a little while Murray and Rose persuaded Bard and Lany to release it, on Rondo 160. On September 4, 1948 (p. 17), Billboard announced that Rondo had taken over the "peddling" on the Carroll sides.

Rondo 160 apparently came out in October 1948; there was some kind of production trouble with "Sleepy Town," which was remastered by Egmont Sonderling's Master Records and carries the date "10-19" in the trailoff vinyl. The Hollywood strings and, umm, soporific vocals on the Carroll record failed to excite Rondo's base, and the record soon fell out of the catalogue. Rondo passed on further offerings from Vitacoustic, which was ordered liquidated on October 23, 1948, followed by an unsuccessful attempt, on April 28, 1949, to auction off most of its remaining masters,

Don Pablo's Orchestra, a Latin band out of Detroit, was responsible for 12 singles, all slotted in between Rondo 145 and 178. Don Pablo's usual lineup was 10 pieces: 2 trumpets, 1 trombone, 4 saxes, piano, bass, and Latin percussion. Alongside the obvious titles like "Maria Elena" and "La Rosita," Don Pablo catered to more regional tastes with titles like "Red Wing" and "Mercury Waltz." Bets were further hedged by featuring both a Latin singer and a pop singer (Bunny Paul, who would go to record for RCA Victor and other labels in the 1950s).

Don Pablo was born Pablo Mireles, in Mexico City, probably in 1906. When he was 16, a minister agreed to sponsor his education at a music college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After he graduated, Don Pablo began leading what, in its earlier days, was often billed as The Biggest Little Band in the Land. He played piano and organ, wrote a lot of the music (including the band's theme song, "The Mercury Waltz"), and took Guy Lombardo and Wayne King as models. The band mostly worked in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. During World War II, Don Pablo served in an Army band and in a Military Police unit. When the war ended, he reassembled his band and worked clubs, hotels, and ballrooms in Detroit and in Ohio. The band played for a total of 11 years at the Palm Beach Gardens in Detroit. In 1969, Don Pablo and his family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He couldn't break into the music scene there, so he ran the security office at a condominium complex until he retired in 1980. Aged 82, Don Pablo died on October 25, 1988, in Fort Lauderdale. (See "Don Pablo (band leader)," Detroit Free Press, December 4, 1977, p. 154; Ray Lynch, "Don Pablo, Conductor of Biggest Little Band," Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, October 27, 1988; http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1988-10-27/news/8803030012_1_band-music-wife).

The Don Pablo sides were mostly cut in Detroit. Around January 1947, not getting offers from other labels, he started a company called Latin-American, which had 10 releases out by March. Soon its distribution was in the hands of Dicchia Industries, in Owosso, Michigan. Soon after that Dicchia had its own label, Vargo. At the beginning of 1948 Vargo put out a slew of Don Pablos, some previously on Latin-American, some not. Then Vargo cut a deal with Rondo (Billboard. September 4, 1948, p. 17). Don Pablo's Rondos all carry the original Latin-American or Vargo matrix numbers. The transaction obviously took place because by the second half of 1948 Rondo had much better distribution than Vargo. The Don Pablo sides were leased to Rondo, not sold outright. By August 1949, which might have been when a Rondo option on any of his new recordings expired, Don Pablo had a new release out on Latin-American outside the Rondo deal. Latin-American 35 was a rendition of "Crazy Words," a number his band had played in 1926 (Billboard, August 13, 1949, p. 37). This post-Rondo Latin-American series would continue into 1950.

Also included in the Vargo deal were batches of sides made by Country and Western bands based in Michigan. These, so far as we know, were original Vargo recordings. Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers, a Detroit-area band, had several singles out on Vargo before Rondo picked up the group. The Kentucky Corn Crackers, who worked under several different leaders, had been regularly featured on Detroit-area radio since the early 1930s. Rondo didn't hesitate to mix and match with the material it acquired: the couplings on the Charlie Jones Rondos are often different from the couplings on the Vargos. Jones made his reissue debut with Rondo 152, a nice Western Swing offering (reviewed in Billboard on January 1, 1949). There was another Western Swing record on Rondo 165. Although there were probably more Charlie Jones Rondos, only his series of square dance records (Rondo 168, 169, and 170) would later rate a listing on Rondo sleeves.

Elton Adams and His Blue Ridge Mountaineers were responsible for at least Rondo 162, which was reviewed in Billboard on January 1, 1949. We haven't located an original Vargo for these two sides, though we are pretty sure there was one. The band was active in the Detroit area, and Vargo 29026 by Elton Adams has turned up, with matrix numbers (1804 and 1806) adjacent to those on Rondo 162. There might have been a Rondo to go with Vargo 29026.

Oklahoma and her Westerners worked in the Detroit area, then secured a residency at the Saginaw Bar, 916 West Saginaw Street in Lansing, Michigan (where newspaper notices put them all the way from March 1949 through the end of April 1951). Rondo 149 by Oklahoma & The Westerners was recorded for Vargo, supposedly in 1948 (could be—was the American Federation of Musicians paying any attention to goings-on in Owosso?). We haven't seen the Vargo original but it's out there somewhere. Craig Maki and Keith Cady's Detroit Country Music: Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Hillbillies (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013) includes this quote from Arizona Weston, who joined the band in 1948: "Oklahoma was the gal singer. She played bass. She was married to Tony Gray.... Tony Gray played accordion. He had an accent. I can't place what it was... Italian? Tony Gray wasn't his real name" (p. 59). According to Maki and Cady, Weston missed the Vargo session for some reason, but Lynn "Rosebud" Gailey played "take-off" guitar (he mostly played steel guitar around Lansing) and Larry Heath was responsible for rhythm guitar on the session.

On leaving the Saginaw Bar, Oklahoma, Tony, and the band wandered for a little while (we can spot them in Howell, Michigan, not far from Owosso, in the summer of 1951). By the end of the year, Oklahoma and crew were working in Green Bay and De Pere, Wisconsin, two places where their Rondo (and lots of other Rondos) were in circulation. After 1951 we lose sight of the group. Online search is not facilitated by the fact that Oklahoma named herself after a state, and that a different Tony Gray played accordion in the dance bands led by Jerry Gray.

Finally, there was a vocal group called the Four Dukes. Reportedly 11 sides by the Dukes were in the transaction, and we know of four that appeared on Rondo. The Dukes were a Irish-flavored barbershop quartet; Rondo touted their rendition of "Paddy Murphy's Wake." The Dukes had more singles out on Vargo, and we suspect that some of these also made their way to Rondo.

It's a reasonable guess that any Rondos between 145 and 178, and presently unaccounted for, were products of the Latin-American/Vargo deals, but we still have work to do there. Rondo showed an interest in just about anything Vargo could offer—except its polka bands.


It was the season for bottom-feeding. Vitacoustic had gone broke, Sonora had shed its record division, and another mid-sized New York-based company, Majestic, had filed for bankruptcy. In October 1948, Rondo made a deal as offers were being entertained for other Majestic properties. Ten masters by the George Olsen Orchestra, a Mickey Mouse band, had supposedly been recorded for Olsen but not transferred to his old label, Majestic, before it went broke. Olsen dealt some of these to Rondo, specifically a number featuring singer Betty Norman, "I'm Headin' for a Shotgun Weddin'." This quickly showed up on Rondo 164. Another Olsen single was released as Rondo 175. So far as we know, Rondo did not bid on Olsen's 22 sides that had seen release on Majestic, or on 2 in the company's possession that had not been released.


Rondo ad, March 5, 1949
At last, new Ken Griffin recordings. Billboard, March 5, 1949; courtesy of Dan Kochakian.

As soon as it was safe, Rondo booked studio time to record more Ken Griffin. Judging from an article in Billboard, on Chicago labels' reactions after the official lifting of the recording ban on December 13, 1948, Rondo was walking on eggshells around the Union. "J. F. Bard, of Rondo, and Dick Bradley, of Tower, both reported that they have no sessions arranged yet, but will make a thoro study of study of current tunes and their artist rosters before proceeding into a recording studio" (December 25, 1948, p. 18). Well, for Rondo no thoro study (if we adopt Colonel McCormick's spelling) was necessary. Recording Ken Griffin was Job 1, Job 2, Job 3, and several more jobs down the list.

So he made a United Broadcasting session, in the ambiguous 9000 series. However, we're inclined to think that UB9286 through 9289, from the one session that paired Griffin with an accordion-guitar-bass trio called the Cosmopolitans, really were done in February 1949, because that month Billboard announced that Rondo had signed Griffin to another year—and that he was cutting with the Cosmpolitans. The Griffin-Cosmopolitan outing produced Rondo 188 and 189. Accordion virtuoso Leon Sash was a member of the Cosmopolitans for 6 years, and Eddie Vana, who sang or played violin with him on occasion, was responsible for a vocal on "The Shades Are Down on Cobble Street," so this session may be Sash's recording debut.

Our suspicion falls on the session that produced Rondo 186 and 187, whose matrix nunbers offer no clues, as one that was done before the official end of the second Petrillo ban.

There were loud sighs of relief in Rondoland as 9 new Ken Griffin singles poured out, one each month from March through December 1949: Rondo 188, 189, 186, 187, 192, 196, 197, 183, and 198. (The items are listed in this order on the 1950 sleeves, probably on account of hitches and a little misdirection in the release schedule.) And, yes, one of them was "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" (Rondo 197, with—what else?—"Skaters' Waltz" for a flip).

Several of the new ones would, in their turn, acquire Doppelgängers with vocals; the release number on the English-language vocal version was normally the instrumental release number plus 100. Hence, Rondos 287, 292, 283, and 298 (for more on these, see Appendix C).

Rondo picked up some other pop artists. Lloyd Webb was a DJ with vocal ambitions; Rondo recorded him (probably as soon as the coast was clear with the Union) and had a record out in January 1949, with Tibor Fejer, a Hollywood pianist, and the Payson Sisters, who had been dubbed onto Rudy Plocar's version of "More Beer" (Cash Box, January 8, 1949, p. 11). We don't jnow of anything with Tibor Fejer past Rondo 179, but Webb showed up on another release, as the vocalist on a Gene Heier record (Rondo 190).


Going Vinyl


Ken Griffin, RLP-25A
The first Rondo LPs had 78-sized labels. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

In the summer of 1949, Griffin had become such a draw that the company was able to put out its first LP on him, a 10-incher. Released when microgroove was a brand-new concept, Rondo RLP25 is plainly transitional in nature; it was initially sold in an extra-heavy paper sleeve with a foldover flap, and the labels were the same diameter as on the 78s, leaving an awful lot of trail-off vinyl.


Ken Griffin, RLP-25B
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

RLP25 was soon joined by RLP26, consisting of Elmer Ihrke playing Christmas carols, and RLP27, consisting of 8 more Griffin tracks. These still carried the petite labels, but were packaged in cardboard jackets from the git-go. By the end of the year, Rondo had five LPs out. But Elmer Ihrke couldn't have been too pleased to discover a sudden lack of promotion behind RLP26, because the company had had Ken Griffin record his own batch of Christmas songs, which were put in a 3-pocket album (Rondo R-1010) and on a corresponding LP (RLP-1010) in time for Christmas 1949. Compounding the insult was the use of chimes or celeste to reinforce most of the pieces. Even though Ihrke records remained in the catalogue, and the company eventually released other LPs on him, RLP26 was allowed to go out of print; nearly all of Rondo's other LPs remained on the market until the company was sold. Another holiday offering for 1949 was Ken Griffin's pairing (on Rondo 206) of "Star of the East" with a drearily sung number called "Our Christmas Waltz." This didn't do so well; Rondo 206 was soon dropped from the company's promotional material, copies are uncommon today—and neither side was ever picked or any of Rondo's many Ken Griffin collections.

Around the same time, the company started putting its new singles as well as some old ones—all of Ken Griffin's back catalog and part of Elmer Ihrke's—out on 45 rpm. The early 45s carry new matrix numbers from RCA Victor, a logical choice given its role in promoting the format and its offer of mastering and pressing at introductory rates. In 1950, Rudy Plocar's back catalogue was reissued on 45s.

After a while (there is some question as to the date that Rondo went with these, but they carry the original Chicago address), the 45-rpm singles were joined by a series of 17 45-rpm EPs, each with 4 selections by Ken Griffin (an 18th EP featured Elmer Ihrke). No one else got this EP treatment. Meanwhile, Griffin eventually had 6 10-inch LPs out on Rondo, and Ihrke had 2 1/2.

A look at the covers to the Griffin LPs (the first six can be seen at http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/kenhtml/LPs10.htm) shows how Rondo kind of economized on art work. RLP-34 used the same cover design as RLP-25, in red and brown instead of yellow and green; the same composite photo of Griffin and his instrument was also employed, in black and white, in the liner to his 78-rpm album of Christmas songs. The RLP-25 design was reused, in its turn, for most of the EP sleeves (the one exception, EPR-10, appears to have taken its cover design off the front of the same 3-pocket 78 album of Christmas music). RLP-34 and RLP-38 repeated the design of RLP-27, 34 in a deeper shade of blue and 38 in red. For Griffin's valedictory offerings, RLP-43 and 44, the company actually sprang for new cover art printed in 4 colors.

After the company was sold, the Rondo LPs were retired, and Griffin reissues on 12-inch Rondo-lette LPs took their place. But the EP line was still being offered in 1955, after Rondo had changed hands. Some 78s were also still being pressed for the new company.


In 1949, Rondo also embarked on some further Country recording. The first band to be signed wasDusty Rivers and the Rangers. By the end the year, Rivers and the Rangers had two singles out on Rondo; Rondo 250 was reviewed in Billboard on November 5, 1949 (p. 98). Rondo 250 and 251 carried UB numbers for a recording session back in May 1949. Dusty Rivers was obviously a stage name; an item in Billboard (May 13, 1950, p. 124) would identify him as a disc jockey whose band had recently moved to KWBU in Corpus Christi, Texas, after a stint at WSIP in Paintsville, Kentucky (a much shorter drive from Chicago). "Personnel includes Oscar Ball, mandolin; Speedy Ross, take-off [i.e., lead guitar] and vocals; Herby Dooley, steel; Jess Estepp, bass; and the leader's rhythm. They have cut 12 sides for Melco, a new Houston label." Melco, actually based down the coast in Corpus Christi, would release at least two singles by the band. "Wheelwright Boogie" from Rondo 250 is a strong proto-rockabilly number with string-popping bass by Estepp and impressive guitar work by Ross and Dooley.

A followup by Rivers and the Rangers wouldn't have been a bad idea, but maybe this was precluded by their move to Texas. Although 250 was out of order in the 100 series (Rondo would not find its way to 249 till 1951), it looks as though the company briefly had in mind a 250 Country series. This grew to include a single by Jesse Rogers (Rondo 252, reissued from Sonora), and a couple of other 1949 releases (such as 255 by Dick Brown). It does not seem to have gone further than that.


Rondo ad, October 1, 1949
Rondo opens an office in New York. Billboard, October 1, 1949, p. 42.

The October 29, 1949 issue of Billboard announced (p. 15) that Rondo, which was now running its own distributor in New York City, was planning a series of German and Swiss records acquired from "a foreign source." An album of Hawaiian music had been picked up from "Chrome Seal, local label catering to industrial music users." This was a reference to RLP-30, by the Harmony Hawaiian Quartet; the 8 sides were also released on singles as Rondo 208 through 211, with 45s quickly joining the 78s.


Bernie Roberts,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The same issue of Billboard, partly repeating an item from October 15, announced that Rondo had signed Bernie Roberts' "Wisconsin polka crew," which had previously recorded for Pfau Records in Milwaukee, and had scored some sales in Wisconsin and Minnesota. This was a moderately big deal, because with the exception of the farewell session for Alicja Kusek and Fr. Przybylski, we don't know of any new polka band recording since the second Petrillo ban was lifted. Supposedly two singles by Roberts would be out "in a week." These were Rondo 607 and 608.

Bernie Robertsplayed the accordion and led a German-style band. He was born Bernard Robert Feilbach, in Milwaukee on August 16, 1921. He picked up the accordion at 15 and was soon playing at parties. In 1940, he joined a quartet called Shorty and the Rhythm Ramblers, then, as it lost personnel to the draft, played for other bands in the area. The first Bernie Roberts Orchestra was formed in 1943; it soon included two of his brothers and two of his sisters. His sister Blondie played first trumpet and often got her own billing in advertising for the band's apperances. Roberts' 1949 recordings for Pfau were his first.

Roberts probably stayed with Rondo for a year. We'll assume that he re-recorded some of the titles he'd already done for Pfau, but it wouldn't hurt to verify (during his career, Roberts would redo his signature numbers for other labels). On "Jolly Musicians Polka" and "Juneau Park Schottische," the Jolly musicians oompah robustly, with three trumpets and a prominently recorded tuba. The lead instrument, which gets some solo responsibilities, is Roberts' accordion, and piano, banjo, and drums round out the rhythm section. After his contract with Rondo expired, Roberts was back at Pfau in 1950, with at least one single resulting. Then he signed with Decca, which released a new version of "Jolly Musicians' Polka" with a brief vocal in English (Billboard, June 16, 1951, p. 45). But Decca probably didn't keep him for more than a year either. Rondo would put out at least two further releases on him, Rondo 625 and 643; 643 probably brought an end to the 550 series.


Bernie Roberts,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Ad in Billboard for Rondo 601, January 22, 1949
From Billboard, January 22, 1949, p. 21.

Near the end of 1948, Rondo acquired at least 6 sides by Pete Ochs, who led a somewhat larger German-style band and, for many years, ran a music store in Milwaukee. The matrix numbers on Rondo 599 are not of Rondonian origin. In fact, the A side of Rondo 599 appears to be a straight reissue of the A side of Chord 126, with a different coupling (we don't know whether the B side had been released on Chord or not). Chord was a Milwaukee-based independent that opened in the spring of 1947, hit its peak of activity in the fall of 1947, cut back sharply at the end of January 1948, and went out of business in the summer. Chord established a 100 polka series featuring three bands—Sammy Madden and John Check led the other two—and he got at least two singles out on the label. Chord was strictly an A and B label, so there isn't much to go on as far as dating the sessions is concerned. The trade papers indicated that Madden, who wanted to sign with Mercury, got his masters back from Chord, and obviously Ochs did as well.

We don't know whether Rondo acquired anything else from Chord: Madden's masters went to Mercury, and the fate of Check's is unknown to us; the same goes for accordion player Tommy Gumin, who had a release in a Chord 200 series. Chord also recorded two jazz groups for its 600 series, Eddie Getz's quintet and the Sheboblou Trio, but it was John Steiner who would do the salvage operation on their masters, with his short-lived Downbeat label.

When Rondo picked Ochs up, the music business was in a mini-frenzy over the polka-beat drinking song "More Beer!" Rondo had already souped up a version of "More Beer!" on Rondo 600, by dubbing the vocals of Jolly Franzl and the Payson Sisters onto an edited master of Rudy Plocar's "Wisconsin Polka," rushing the record out in November 1948. (It was advertised in Cash Box on December 11, 1948). But Rondo wasn't adverse to offering another if, in the language then employed by Billboard and Cash Box, it might draw coin. Either Rondo 601 was newly recorded by Pete Ochs, or one of his Chord masters was souped up for the occasion—it wouldn't hurt to see and hear a copy. We don't know whether Ochs did any new recording for Rondo. From later that year into 1951, Ochs did a string of 78s for the Tell label, a really small company based first in Milwaukee and later in Madison, Wisconsin; in June 1950 he became a jukebox sales representative for Tell, which also did some distribution. (For a time it was the Milwaukee distributor for Decca and Coral). In 1952, Ochs would make his last studio recording, a single for Pfau (though not much bigger than Tell, Pfau would stay in business until 1957).

Rondo also tried a polka band led by Jimmy Nejedlo. We had thought they were Slovenian, but with two trumpets and two saxes in the band, along with an unusually active pianist, Nejedlo was a lot closer to the Plocar model than to, say, Frankie Yankovic. In fact, his band was from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Rondo 609 and 610 carry matrix numbers in a foreign series. In this case, Rondo was licensing from a small label from Sheboygan, Wisconsin called Disc Jockey. We don't know when Rondo 610 came out, but Disc Jockey C-753/C-754 was on the new release list in Billboard for October 29, 1949 (p. 36). Disc Jockey C-753/C-754 was released simultaneously with Nejedlo's C-751/C-752 ("Barn Swallow Polka" b/w "A Night in May Waltz"), which came out on Rondo 609. (We will encounter Disc Jockey again, because toward the end of 1950 it was acquired by or transformed into another small label called Radiant, whose offices were in Chicago.)

Rondo took its new foreign-language ventures quite seriously: on Rondo 328, "You Can't Be True, Dear" was reverse-engineered with overdubbed vocals in the original German, while Rondo 428 had a vocal overdubbed in Polish. By 1952, Rondo would even be offering German dance instruction records.


The company picked up Martha Lou Harp, a young pop singer whose nightclub debut had taken place at Caf&easute; Society in New York City (show on August 17, reviewed by Bill Simon, Billboard, September 8, 1949, p. 38). Simon praised her "rich set of pipes," but thought she needed something besides run-of-the-mill pop material to shine. Rondo didn't take Simon's advice, but to be fair to Bard and Lany, they had actually acquired two sides on the singer from a tiny operation called Autograph (no connection with the Marsh Laboratories' house label from the 1920s). Autograph 813 was released in October 1949 (Billboard listed it among new releases on October 29, p. 44, and reviewed it a week later, November 5, 1949, p. 37). Cash Box reviewed it (as Autograph "814," on November 19, 1949, p. 6). Rondo 215, a straight reissue, was out in December.

If Rondo made a session of its own with Harp, we have not seen a release from it. In 1951, Martha Lou Harp went to Decca, where her producers gave her better material. She was still active at the end of the decade, with a single out on what was then the new Warner Brothers label (Cash Box, April 25, 1959, p. 14)


Ken Griffin,
A Canadian Rondo. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Somewhere around this time, Rondo singles started being pressed and distributed in Canada. Most of the Canadian Rondos that have come to light are the inevitable Ken Griffins, but Rondo 164 by Betty Norman and 250 by Dusty Rivers were released in Canada (though the Canadian operation changed Rivers' name to "Dustry"). For all we know, a great many more were in circulation at one time. We are not sure who Rondo's Canadian partner was. (Quality, a label that licensed much of its product from small labels in the USA such as Atlantic, is the best bet, because it is known to have put out 4 LPs by Ken Griffin.) The Canadian Rondos carried a clumsily transferred version of the original gold on maroon label design from 1946-1947, with a bite taken out of the logo above the center hole. The Canadian records did sport a striking color scheme, copper on midnight blue, but the labels have darkened with age, the copper-colored area scratches easily, and they don't usually photograph well.


Ken Griffin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

In the Fall of 1949, Rondo changed the lettering and background to its logo, going from 5 wavy lines, which suggested a musical staff, to 6 wavy lines. The change was occasioned by the company's move to 45s, on which the old logo wouldn't fit gracefully; in tooling up, the lettering was also changed for the 45s, but not the 78s. When it opened in June 1946, Rondo had used a dark red label with gold print. Starting around the middle of 1947, Rondo labels had been a medium to dark red with silver or gray print. In the middle of 1948, the company changed to a lighter, rather metallic red with silver print. The 6-line logo kept the basic scheme but went to a somewhat darker shade of red and reduced the silvered area, to just the word "Rondo" and the 6 lines. In addition, there are two known instances, from late 1949, of silver on black (see below). For its LPs, Rondo went with a 6-line silver on apple green label.

In July 1949, as it committed to LPs and 45s, Rondo definitively dumped shellac for exclusive pressing on "filled vinylite," as the Billboard item described it (July 2, 1949, p. 25). Rondo had had to deal with noisy shellac, especially during its first two years, so Bard and Lany presumably were pleased to be rid of it. In fact, they were already doing some pressing on plastic in 1948. A few of Rondo's releases from 1949 through 1952 were done up on red or purple vinyl, some transparent and some opaque. The opaque red and purple vinyl are particularly striking, though the plastic was soft and easily scuffed, and such Rondos have often deteriorated over the years.


Recording Venues

From its rudimentary days in the summer of 1946 through the fall of 1949 Rondo had a strong preference for United Broadcasting Studio as a recording venue. There are UB 2000s from 1946, a ton of UB 21000s and 22000s from 1947, a fair number of UB9000s and 9-1000s from 1949, even some UB50-000s from 1950 and a couple of UB 51-000s as the studio was in decline. Rondo also did overdubbing at United Broadcasting on top of masters cut elsewhere, in a UB8000 series. During 1946, Rondo employed a studio that was long a mystery to us, despite its employment by several small Chicago labels. But from the evidence provided by pianist Max Miller, who booked it for private sessions and made his Gold Seal sides there, we've concluded that the venue with the 1000 matrix number series was the Bachman studio on Carmen Avenue. Rondo used it for the Misses Noller and Straub, for Marsh McCurdy, for Jimmy Blade, for Elmer Ihrke (his first and second sessions, maybe for more), and for Lil Mason.

In 1947 Ken Griffin's first session for the label took place at Universal Recording, and a couple of Elmer Ihrke's were done there as well. But Rondo didn't develop a lasting relationship with Universal.


Ken Griffin,
Rondo's reliance on United Broacasting runs down. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Ken Griffin,
And a relationship with RCA Victor begins. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

In the summer of 1949, the company moved most of its Ken Griffin sessions over to the RCA Victor Studios, indeed, transferred a lot of its actitivity there for the next six months. It was already relying heavily on RCA to master and press some items previously recorded elsewhere. RCA had introduced the 45 rpm single at the beginning of April 1949, with the rollout completed by October of that year; in the early going, smaller companies relied on RCA to manufacture their 45s—and benefited from the promotion RCA initially gave to any that it pressed. Rondo was one of the first independent labels to adopt the 45 (the announcement came in Cash Box on January 14, 1950, p. 7). The first Rondo 45s carried matrix numbers in the D9-CX series, which show that the move had been under way for a while, and the 45 rpm mastering had been done toward the end of 1949. Rondo 78s recorded in 1949 often carry matrix numbers in the D9-CB series from RCA; a few items previously recorded at United Broadcasting also carry D9-CB numbers because they were mastered and pressed by RCA.

Where the company was working during after that is hard to know Some E0-CB series matrix numbers for RCA Victor in 1950 have been spotted on 78s, and lots of E0-CX's can be seen on the 45s that came out that year. But many of the newly issued Rondos from 1950 through 1954 were purely A and B, leaving the matrix numbers off both labels and vinyl.


Maxham's Folk Ork,
A Modern Recording Studio product from 1952. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Still, we've seen some indications that as the label was winding down, it entrusted a little work to Edwin M. Webb's Modern Recording Studio. A German dance record from Maxham's Folk Orchestra (a fancy name, for an ensemble of violin, piano, and string bass) shows MR 49791 and MR 49792 in the trail-off area. Work order 4979 at MRS dates the session to May 1952 (for the dates, see our JOB page; Joe Brown of JOB relied heavily on Modern Recording between 1949 and the fall of 1952). The last Captain Stubby release, Rondo 302, was mastered at MRS (though MRS work order numbers are not shown on the record).


Maxham's Folk Ork,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Giant Ken Griffin ad, January 21, 1950
From Billboard, January 21, 1950, p. 33

Slow Fade

Rondo splurged on a full-page ad in the January 21, 1950 issue of Billboard, boasting that the company had sold 6 million Ken Griffin records. The advert promoted his new releases on Rondo 213 and 214. "My Blue Heaven," on the B side of 213, horned in on Kenny Jagger's act: on this one occasion, Griffin played piano with one hand and organ with the other. Griffin had recently put out 191 and 199, and would soon follow with Rondo 221 and 222. Rondo 421 was another overdubbed vocal record, now skipping 200 places in the numbering. Up to this point, Griffin had brought the company 22 instrumental singles, and 10 more with vocals laid on.

Maybe Bard and Lany shouldn't have been drawing so much attention to those sales figures right before their go-to artist's contract expired. Before they knew it, he was entertaining offers from Mercury and Columbia.

Columbia had deeper pockets, and it must have made the best offer. Ken Griffin signed on the dotted line and went right to work on "Easter Parade" (matrix number CCO 5147, done in the major label's Chicago studio in March 1950). He would spend the rest of his career with Columbia, recording prolifically in its Chicago and, occasionally, in its New York studios. Prolifically—recording him 2 or 3 times a year for 5 straight years, Columbia would put 65 singles out on him, plus a slew of 10-inch LPs. Griffin must also have landed a new sponsorship deal, because some of his Columbia releases identify his instrument as a Wurlitzer. For a time, he even had his own TV show in Chicago, 67 Melody Lane. The precursor to Melody Lane was a few TV shorts from 1951 produced by Nick Lany (apparently there was no ill feeling between the two). However, Lany "complained of the inequities between the guarantees and percentages offered by various major publishers over the use of music" ("TV Pic Tune Rate Mess Hurts Trade," Billboard, June 2, 1951, p. 12).

Unfortunately, Ken Griffin's health didn't hold up. In 1955, he suffered a heart attack while touring, and was hospitalized for a time in Spokane, Washington. On March 11, 1956, he had a second heart attack, and died a few hours later in Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was only 46 years old.


On April 1, 1950, Rondo moved into new offices at 220 West Locust Street. The building also housed the J. F. Bard Company, which of course was Rondo's distributor for the Chicago territory—since 1948, Bard had carried no other labels. But Bard was carrying on other business on West Locust. For instance, on July 30, 1950, the Chicago Tribune (pt. 5, p. 19) ran a classified ad for Kaye-Halbert TV sets, "now in stock," for which J. F. Bard Co. was the manufacturer's representative. From this point forward, Bard seems to have left the record company largely to Lany.

After Ken Griffin decamped to Columbia, Rondo could sustain itself for a little while by mining his extensive back catalogue. But during 1950 and 1951 the company was casting around for pretty much any other artist whose records might sell.

Nick Lany went off to Europe, looking for business partners for Rondo. He made deals with Selmer in France, Disco-Trade in Belgium, and Heimbrodt in Switzerland (Billboard, May 20, 1950, p. 14), though one wonders how many Rondos were actually pressed and distributed in these countries. The only confirmation we have of European Rondos resulting from these transactions, besides a British Brunswick release of Rondo 128 (we need to verify when this took place), is a series of 78s and even some 10-inch LPs on the Belgian Victory label. We know at present of Victory issues of Ken Griffin (of course), Olive Mason, and Jimmy Blade, and will be adding these to our discography. The likely dates on these Belgian releases are 1950 and 1951.

The same item in Billboard announced that Rondo had signed "Danny Alvin, the vet Dixieland drummer and his band" (see below for more about Alvin's one session for the label). Other additions included "the Song-Smiths, Harmony Trio, and Charley Agnew's small dance band." Agnew, whose first name was more often spelled Charlie, had been leading sweet bands in Chicago since 1924, and had made records in the past for RCA Victor and Columbia. We have found two Rondo releases by the Songsmiths accompanied by Agnew's ork.

Rondo made a bid for another sweet band, picking up a single (Rondo 226) by Tommy Carlyn, whose orchestra had been playing in Chicago's ballrooms and swank hotels for many years. The matrix numbers aren't in any of Rondo's main series, indicating that Carlyn had the sides recorded himself. The idea was to cash in on the massive hit Eileen Barton was having on National, with "If I Knew You Were Coming I'd've Baked a Cake." Carlyn remained active for a while. He was booked into the Casa Loma ballroom in Saint Louis for a run starting October 6 (Cash Box, September 9, 1950, p. 7). In January 1951, Billboard noted that Carlyn was playing in Pittsburgh and recovering from a raid in which 5 of his sidemen had jumped to Larry Feith's aggregation (January 27, 1951, p. 16). A second Carlyn release, on Rondo 279, is numbered 279 and 279-A only; we don't know the date on it, though it a Rondo label in the style used from 1950 through 1952.

Another sweet band pick-up, which appeared on Rondo 275 (this could be a 1951 or 1952 release), featured pop vocalists with a band led by Lee Kelton. The matrix series is foreign, and Kelton was from Pittsburgh, where he played hotel ballrooms and did radio station work. We can say that the initial issue of "Waiting" (on another label) took place in June 1950, because Ed Dickler, a Pittsburgh DJ, put it on his list of 10 records most requested by listeners (Cash Box, June 24, 1950, p. 13). Dickler did it again three weeks later, now joined by Art Pallan of WWSW (Cash Box, July 15, 1950, pp. 14-15). Wait a minute... wasn't the lead vocalist on "Waiting" named Art Pallan? Those were the days, as far as DJs were concerned.

And the label announced that it had signed two new organists: Arsene Siegel and Tommy Fairclow. The company got right down to it, recording both of them at United Broadcasting in April 1950. How many releases Arsene Siegel got we don't know, but 4 of his sides were included in a 10-inch LP (Rondo RLP 42) during the company's waning days. We're inferring that two of these titles, "Clair de Lune" and "Narcissus," were released on a single we have not yet traced—it might have been Rondo 229. Siegel was half French and half German. Born in Lyon, France, he was originally trained as a pianist. He immigrated to the United States, studying music in Chicago and playing the organ in silent movie theaters, and became a citizen in 1926. He played the organ in several of the big theaters in Chicago, also spending some years in Detroit. When Rondo signed him, he was in residence at the Chicago Theater. Though he played pop tunes nightly and allegedly had more than 1000 in his active repertoire, Siegel was an entirely different kind of organist from Ken Griffin: he favored the mighty Wurlitzer, with its wide array of sounds, and in the 1940s he published several classical compositions for organ, piano, or alto saxophone.

In 1955, Siegel, who by then was working for radio station WBKB, recorded a 12-inch LP for a local hi-fi label, Replica Records out of Des Plaines, Illinois. The label's proprietor, Bill Huck, had built a studio in his garage, then acquired two decommissioned Wurlitzer theater organs, taken them apart, and recombined them into one monster instrument. The spacious recording Siegel got on Replica 513 bore little resemblance to the direct-to-the-board sound that Ken Griffin favored. Another Bill Huck recording, Replica 201 (also from 1955), included three of Siegel's compositions. "Pasquinade," a 6-minute piece from 1946 for alto saxophone and piano, was performed by Michael Mangus and Rudy Wagner. Wagner also played the Scriabinesque "Mirage," a 1944 composition for solo piano. Finally, the piano duo of Vincent Micari and Vera Gillette performed the 10-minute four-movement Windy City Suite from 1946. A little later, Siegel made at least one single for the eccentric Fortune operation out of Detroit.

Rondos by Tommy Fairclow are a little easier to find. Rondo first recorded him in April 1950, producing his first release on Rondo 231. His second, on Rondo 232, was reviewed in Billboard on August 19 of that year (p. 35). Of "Beautiful Ohio," the reviewer's blunt assessment was "Fairclow apparently represents Rondo's bid to build another Ken Griffin. Guy has the same feel for time and melody but hasn't the crisp phrasing of Griffin." "State Fair Polka" ("neatly punched out") got a somewhat more favorable treatment: "Could pick up coin in the Midwestern polka-schottische belt." Fairclow was back at United Broadcasting in August 1950, and for a third time in October. He probably didn't record after 1950, but the company stuck with him: Rondo 247 caught a review in Billboard on February 28, 1953 (p. 95). The take-away was more positive this time, but Fairclow couldn't shake his reputation as a replacement: "an organ solo reminiscent of the work which Ken Griffin used to do for this same label. The market for this kind of wax is always there." Fairclow eventually shared a 10-inch LP (RLP 42) with Arsene Siegel; all four of his tracks were from his first session.

Rondo actually reached its peak for output in July 1950, when it briefly branched off a 49 cent budget line called Rolin. Rolin debuted with three releases, one by the Max Gordon Trio, one by the Misses Noller and Straub, and one by the François Charpin Trio (Billboard, July 8, 1950, p. 15). While the others had been out on Rondo before, the Charpin single, consisting of two tunes from the movie The Third Man, had initially appeared in France on Selmer 521—Rondo was hoping to compete with big-selling renditions already out on London and other labels. Rolin would need its own distributor network; when launched, it had just J. F. Bard, for the territory around Chicago. We doubt that it ever acquired further distibutors, and so far as we know it would never add a fourth release. When inflation began to bite, and the majors upped the price on their singles from 79 to 85 cents in December 1950, Rondo made the same move—and cut Rolin. (See Billboard, December 23, 1950, p. 34.)

The same story covered Rondo's plans to release 10-inch LPs from masters obtained from Pacific, a label headquartered in Paris, "which the firm exchanged for distibution of Rondo masters abroad." (This wasn't new news, as Rondo and Pacific had been working together for more than 2 years. It was more likely code for Selmer not delivering as expected.) "First two feature Gabor Radics, gypsy orkster, currently in Buenos Aires [...] and also masters by Armand Bernard's semi-classical ork." A 10-inch LP by Radics was duly released as RLP-39; Bernard's, mostly consisting of Strauss waltzes, followed on RLP-40. In fact, Rondo had had its mitts on a bunch of Bernard sides since 1948. There may have been coordinated Rondo singles by these artists, but we have yet to spot them. Billboard further noted that Rondo had made Esquire its British distributor. How much British distribution took place is another matter (Ken Griffin's Rondo 128 was reissued on British Brunswick, at a date that needs confirming; Rondo released one single that had been recorded in England). This was the last story to mention expansion projects.

The same issue of Billboard presented, as a quick item in its Detroit news, an announcement that Marguerite Colbert, a third organist newly signed to Rondo, had signed a personal management deal. The item (December 23, 1950, p. 17) referred to her new release on Rondo 241. She got at least one more, on Rondo 243; she did not end up getting an LP.

In the summer of 1950, the company made another foray into Country and Western when it cut four tunes on Bob Long. These were released on Rondo 637 and 638 in July and August, but we don't know of any follow-up activity.

A sign of how things were starting to go was Rondo's decision to record a Chicago-based singer named Anne Covette. Covette was probably brought to the company by LeRoy High, the composer of the songs she sang. High paid for an ad in Billboard (December 9, 1950, p. 27) announcing her release (no number on it yet, but with "Cowboy's Santa Claus" as one of the sides, we know it was timed for Christmas). Rondo never advertised it in the trades; the trades never reviewed it.

On January 6, 1951, a story on the merger of two New York-based record distributors casually mentioned that the combined entity, Douglas-Bruce, would be handling Rondo (Billboard, January 13, 1951, p. 14). The "addition" of Bruce as a New York distributor had gotten its own casual mention in the story for May 20, 1950. The real point of the May 1950 announcement was that Rondo was closing its own New York office. The last of the Ken Griffins to get reviewed in Billboard, possibly with a delay, was Rondo 223 ("Put Your Arms around Me Honey" b/w "Margie")—see Billboard for March 24, 1951 (p. 36). Rondo also put out 224, 225, and 227 on Griffin; release dates on these are still unknown.

In May 1951, Rondo recorded at least one side by Bill Walker and his combo. (We say one side, because the flip, featuring a vocal group called the Melody Five, has a matrix number that is not part of the United Broadcasting series. It may be from another source entirely, or could be the product of dubbing vocals somewhere else over an instrumental track made at UB. Meanwhile, a second Rondo single, both sides by the Melody Five with Bill Walker, has completely uninformative matrix numbers.) At the time, Walker, who was born in River Forest, Illinois, in 1917, was a staff musician for WGN, playing piano; he'd previously been with WIND, gotten one of his songs ("Half a Heart") recorded by Ken Griffin for Rondo, and scored his own ultra-obscure session with Aristocrat. In 1951 he was also leading a band that played the off nights in the Pump Room at the Ambassador Hotel, plus a few country club dances. Walker was never dependent on commercial recordings for income. On leaving WGN, he went into producing music for commercials, becoming an extremely successful composer of jingles. Some of his music for commercials and promotional films was so highly regarded that it was released on LPs.

A May 1951 release (Billboard reviewed it on May 19, p. 38), Rondo 261 featured Chuck Cabot and his Orchestra. Chuck Cabot was born Carlos Guillermo Cascales in Querétaro, Mexico, on May 16, 1915. His family moved to the United States in 1919 and he grew up in Southern California, where he played on the USC football team alongside Jackie Robinson. He started his band in 1937, and kept it going on into the 1950s. The band was a big draw at its peak, but never relied much on commercial recordings. The others we have heard of were done in 1944-1945 for the Los Angeles-based Atomic label. We know just from the titles that the Atomics were heavy on the schmaltz (we do admit to some curiosity about Atomic 1001A, "Psychopathic Sally from the San Fernando Valley").

Rondo 261 was the work of a pop big band; the sole point of interest is that Johnny Richards (Juan Manuel Cascales, Chuck's older brother) was the arranger. Neither the tunes nor the vocalists have much to say for themselves.

The matrix numbers are from a CC series presumably controlled by Cabot himself in Southern California. A lot of latter-day Rondos were acquired from outside producers.

Rondo 261 was accompanied by Rondo 262, both sides by "warbler" Emma Lou Welch accompanied by the Chuck Cabot Orchestra (it was reviewed in Billboard, May 19, 1951, p. 37). We haven't seen a copy but we expect there were more CC numbers on it. It's possible there were further Chuck Cabot items.

Around 1960, Chuck Cabot became a booking agent. His clients included The Coasters and the Rolling Stones (on their first West Coast tour). He died in Santa Monica, California on December 27, 2007. (See http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/latimes/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=100377200#fbLoggedOut)


Another bandleader who got at least one outing on Rondo was Caesar Giovanni, who was responsible for Rondo 265. We don't know enough about Rondo 265, not even what was on the B side. The only other tidbit we've found on Giovanni is that he played piano and recorded an LP for another Chicago indie, Bally, in 1957.


Still another piano soloist to be given a tryout was Percy Haid, who cut Rondo 266 (recorded and released at some point in 1951), pairing his tune "Moon over Lake Michigan" with "Slaughter on 10th Avenue." Haid, who survived a German concentration camp during World War II, would score his biggest public success as a songwriter. He was responsible to the music to "I Remember When," which was a hit for Eddie Fisher in 1952 (Cash Box, July 12, 1952, pp. 7, 13). He continued to play Chicago venues for a number of years after his Rondo session. On June 24, 1956, the Chicago Tribune (Will Leonard, "On the Town," pt. 7 p. 10) announced that Haid was playing piano at the Cameo.

And just a little later, the company picked up two sides by Jack Teter, a veteran musician who had enjoyed a surprise hit in 1949-1950. We really do mean veteran: Teter was the only Rondo artist to have recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin, for Paramount/Broadway—the now fabled operation had closed in 1932. And we really do mean surprise. Based in Milwaukee since 1929, where he had led dance bands and done radio work, Teter had signed with James Martin's new Sharp label in April 1949, and scored a massive hit with his first release in 17 years, "Johnson Rag" (Sharp S2, which had to become part of a deal between Sharp and London to achieve real distribution). After two years making jazzy or Western Swing renditions of 1920s songs with his trio—these are interesting in our time but rang fewer cash registers in theirs—Teter became available in April 1951 when his contract with Sharp expired. He apparently picked up with a minuscule label called Radiant, with a Chicago address but Wisconsin-based management. Rondo acquired both sides of 290 from Radiant, a fact duly noted on the labels.


Disc Jockey, Radiant, Polka King, and Polkaland

We have not encountered a release of the Teter on Radiant, but this is hardly shocking: the company is one of the least documented Chicago indies from the period. In operation from late 1950 to some point in 1952, Radiant had offices at 20 West Jackson Street, in the Loop. But its recruitment area, and most of its anticipated audience, were north of the state line; it was a Wisconsin record company that had moved south. Problem was, moving south didn't bring it better distribution than Milwaukee or Sheboygan-based companies got.

To be exact, Radiant appears to have been Disc Jockey (originally headquartered in Sheboygan) after a move to Chicago—whether a change of ownership was also involved we don't know. We do know that one picked right up where the other had left off. Then when Radiant tossed in its own towel, much of what remained ended up with Polkaland—which was headquartered back in Sheboygan.

As noted above, Rondo bought or leased four sides by polka band leader Jimmy Nejedlo in 1949. These had recently appeared on Disc Jockey. Also in 1949 (the 78s were pressed by RCA Victor and carry the D9 numbers to prove it), Disc Jockey released C651/C652, by another polka band (led, in this case, by John Federwisch). There were at least two more Disc Jockey 750s after the Nejedlos. C755/756 and 757/758 were polka/waltz couplings by a possibly even more obscure band, R. Schwartz and his Dutch Boys (announced in Billboard, July 29, 1950, p. 33).

A Disc Jockey 1000 series included two 78s by a vocal group called The Four Deuces, with various lead singers credited. Disc Jockey D-J 1001/1002 and 1003/1004 were both released in October 1949 (see the announcements in Billboard, October 15, 1949, p. 34; 1003/1004 was reviewed on October 22, p. 74). D-J 1001/1002 gives the company's location as Sheboygan, Wisconsin (later Disc Jockey labels replace the "Sheboygan" with an "Unbreakable"). Not having elicited a review of 1001/1002, Disc Jockey made another try: 1001/1002 bobbed back up as a "new" release in the summer of 1950 (Billboard, July 29, 1950, p. 33). Another Disc Jockey act was the Hiawatha Ramblers, who as their name suggested had originated near the shores of Lake Superior. (Then working as a Country oufit, the Ramblers also went through a polka phase.) Disc Jockey 1011/1012 by the Ramblers was listed in Billboard on August 12, 1950. The very same group, probaby from the very same session, was responsible for Radiant 1013/1014, covered in the trade paper on January 13, 1951 (listing on p. 30; review on p. 84). Where Disc Jockey phased out, Radiant phased in. Both labels numbered their sides separately. And when we add some photos, it won't be hard to see the resemblance in label designs.

Otherwise, the Radiant 1000s included 1015 (so listed; it was probably 1015/1016), 1020 (probably 1019/1020), and 1023/1024. Radiant 1015, a Christmas-themed single by one Billy Harvey and one Shirley Foster, was in the announcements in Billboard on November 3, 1951 (p. 49); it was joined (p. 50) by 1020, on Lew Ayers and the Novel-Ayers, apparently another polka band. Both went absolutely nowhere. Such hopes as Radiant had of breaking into the pop market were pinned on one Mildred Don and her quartet of backup singers, the Men of Note. Radiant 1023/1024 was released in July 1951 (see Billboard for July 14, p. 69), and reviewed on July 21 (p. 31). The company was subsequently driven to purchase two ads in Billboard (September 1, 1951, p. 35; October 27, p. 48), both desperately seeking distributors for the Don record.

A Radiant 1100 series, recorded in one big batch in 1951, seems to have been reserved for Rudy Plocar's old mentor, Romy Gosz. Gosz was some years out now from the Mercury roster; in the meantime he'd been picked up and dropped by Universal. But while they carry a credit to Radiant, these Goszes were actually released on the leader's own label. It was called Polka King, and it operated out of … Sheboygan. At least one Polka King carried nonconsecutive Radiant side numbers (1108 and 1114), suggesting a divergence from the original release plan. The institutional affiliation for Polka King (Sheboygan Radio & Record Center) was, in its turn, an entity with the same proprietor (David Bensman) as the first Polkaland offerings.

Bensman was the son of Jewish immigrants from Lepel (then part of Russia, now in Belarus) who arrived in Sheboygan in 1911; his family lived for quite a few years in Two Rivers (just outside of Manitowoc), where he undoubtedly became well acquainted with polka bands, and he returned to Sheboygan in the late 1940s. Bensman let it be publicly known, via a letter to Billboard, that Polkaland was in business in February 1952. The early Polkalands that don't carry E2 matrix numbers from 1952 have E1 numbers, indicating that they were mastered and pressed by RCA Victor in 1951, so the company could have started a little earlier. And, lo and behold, Polkaland later issued a bunch of Romy Gosz 45s in an 1100 series, with some of the same titles as on the Polka Kings (the matrix numbers, though not identical to those on the Polka King 78s, are also from the low E1's). Even before it got to the 1100s, Polkaland put out one side on Gosz in its 200 series (1952) and one in its 500s (1954 or 1955) with matrix numbers in the same batch as the Polka Kings.

In a 600 series, Schultz's Elm City Dutchmen, a band out of Sheboygan, cut two singles for Radiant (which apparently constitute their only known recordings; the Hiawatha Ramblers would have met the same fate had they not put two later singles out on their own label.). Radiant 655/656 appeared in December 1951. A companion single, with "On Your Toes Polka" and "Huntsman's Waltz," appeared around the same time. Side numbers on that one to be recovered: they might have been 657/658. In any event, Radiant 655/656 looks like a continuation of Disc Jockey C651/C652, with maybe a Disc Jockey C653/C654 in between.

It's possible that Rondo bought the Jack Teter masters outright as part of a bigger package, or arranged a swap. Polka band material could also have been thrown in that we haven't yet seen on Rondo. In fact, Radiant's roster, as the company was winding down, included Gene Heier's band, and Heier masters could have traveled in either direction. A 1952 Heier session, however, led immediately to Radiant 1203/1204, then, with a likely delay till the spring of 1953, to Polkaland 96. Both singles carry the same matrix numbers. We wonder whether the same thing happened to Radiant 1201/1202, a pairing by Heier from a different 1952 session (and the only Radiant we have pictorial evidence was issued on a 45).

Radiant also had a 1400 series, though it may have included just one single, 1401/1402 by Leroy Vondruska's polka band out of (where else?) Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The matrix numbers were in the E1 series. Another two Vondruska sides (also with E1s) would appear on Polkaland 211.

In February 1952, there was a little talk in print about how Radiant was still in business. The Sheboygan Press announced (February 6, 1952, p. 22) that Joey Raye and the Osmond Sisters, currently working a hotel lounge in town, were recording "Let Us Waltz as We Say Good-Bye" for Radiant. It was the kind of item that showed up when a company was desperate to exhibit signs of life. David Bensman's call for radio stations that ran polka shows to contact Sheboygan Radio & Record for free Polkaland disks just happened to run in Billboard for February 9 (p. 40).


Further Slow Fade

After his outing for Radiant, Jack Teter did just two further recording sessions, in 1952 and 1953. They were for a microscopic Milwaukee-based company called Demo, which lasted until 1959 but never sold anything outside the metropolitan area. In an effort to widen their circulation, two of Teter's sides from 1952 would be reissued on Chance and two more (one from 1952 and one from 1953) on Brunswick. Teter was not called on for any of Demo's later efforts.


Some of Rondo's expansion projects had performed poorly. The Rolin subsidiary was stillborn (we have yet to see a Rolin 78 or 45 on the used market). And, despite the artistic value, it's doubtful that the company had made a nickel off its 1550 series. One also wonders how much it pulled in from its Gabor Radics LP. Lots of Radics was out there for American labels to license; on April 26, 1952, Billboard announced (p. 26) that Savoy would be putting out 3 different 10-inch LPs by the Radics band. But Rondo hadn't taken on the commitments that rolled over and crushed Vitacoustic and Sonora. The company just kept receding.

Rudy Plocar was back. A grateful company reissued all of his old sides and gave him two 10-inch LPs, but put out just 4 new recordings from him. Plocar's 1949 band still carried 5 winds, but the accordion heard on his November 1947 sessions was gone, and he had a new drummer given to employing cymbal crashes. "Chicago Polka" had an ensemble vocal in English. So far as we know, Rondo 611 and 612 from the 1949 session were his last singles for the label, and just one of the four sides was selected for his second LP. The highest number we've spotted in the 550 series was 643, for another Bernie Roberts single. While polka releases continued on Rondo, they grew more and more obscure, and other material got mixed into the 550 series. Overall, the pace of new releases decelerated.

After 1950, Billboard quit running stories about Rondo (the company was downgraded to occasional mentions in record reviews, song charts, and stories about distributors.) Judging from a Rondo 78 sleeve that we have located, printed toward the end of 1951, the company was now putting its commercial focus on 10-inch LPs (see the list in Appendix D). A few of these featured material more recently acquired, such as sides by Gabor Radics's Orchestra, or by the Harmony Hawaiian Quartet. But most were retrospective. By the end of 1951, Elmer Ihrke had been featured on three LPs (one shared with the Misses Noller and Straub), Rudy Plocar had released a second compilation, and Olive Mason (see below) had gotten in on the act. The company had no fewer than 20 LPs in circulation.

Two of the LPs, recorded toward the end of 1949 and released early in 1950, came out on an instructional subsidiary called Accompadisc (for whose products Rondo charged higher prices). These were "music minus one" compilations of piano accompaniments for songs. Accompadisc ALP-1 consisted of light classical selections such as "Indian Love Song"; the pianist, H. B. Moss, had previously guested on celeste at a couple of Ken Griffin outings. ALP-2 was a much more serious affair: four lieder by Schubert and six by Brahms, with Alexander Kipnis producing. Rondo extended the concept to dance accompaniment records, though so far as we know these were never compiled on LPs. Begining in late 1951, Rondo repackaged some old material (Ken Griffin playing waltzes) with some new items (Maxham's Folk Orchestra demonstrating German dances) into a series of Rondo Folk Dance (RFD) singles. If all of these were released as planned, there were 13 RFDs.

After leaving Rondo, Elmer Ihrke would concentrate on teaching and on publishing music for the Hammond organ. A quick search at a used book site (http://www.alibris.com/search/books/author/Elmer%20Ihrke) will turn up a bunch of music collections for various models of Hammond organ, published between 1954 and 1961, with Elmer A. Ihrke credited as the arranger. Some of his arrangements were being republished in organ music anthologies well into the 1970s. Elmer Ihrke died in 1979.

When Rudy Plocar made his last sides for Rondo, the Wisconsin polka band scene had hit its commercial peak. Decline quickly set in. Plocar made 12 sides for the Sheboygan-based Polkaland label in 1952. A later date has been incorrectly attributed to most of these, because Polkaland went through a big wave of releases in 1954-1955, when it refocused on 45s, then a third wave around 1960, and many of the Plocars were held for the later series. Plocar's old rival Marvin Brouchoud, who probably hadn't recored since 1945 (when he had two out on Kittinger and then another 78 on the Chicago Recording Studios' own Broadcast label) was also an early-wave Polkaland artist. Meanwhile, David Bensman started an AM radio station in Sheboygan. (After Bensman's death in 1963, Polkaland kept right on going, changing its home address to Wausau, releasing singles through at least 1980, getting into LPs and eventually CDs; it is still in business today.) Four sides were made by a smaller Plocar unit of three horns (one trumpet, two trumpets doubling on clarinets), along with tuba and drums, which relied on a solo accordionist to fill out the sound. The other 8 used the lineup that Plocar was more accustomed to: two trumpets, one trumpet doubling clarinet and saxes, two clarinets doubling saxes, piano, tuba, and drums. These were his last studio recordings, though some airchecks survive from the period.

Through 1953, though he was making noises about leaving two years earlier, Plocar's former employer Lawrence Duchow was still ensconced at RCA Victor; since the end of the war, his group had gradually grown in size, transitioned into a virtual Swing band with blended trumpet and sax sections, and added a crooner and a girl singer to do numbers in English (including the occasional novelty item). In 1954, however, Duchow was recording for the much smaller Potter label, headquartered in his home town, but he seems to have tolerated this reduction in circumstances for just one year. As rock and roll was gathering force and several of his competitors were getting out of the business, he disbanded. The last newspaper advertisements for the Duchow band ran in February 1955. Within a few months, various musicians were being identified in their own ads as former Red Ravens. Duchow eventually sold his band book and the rights to the Red Raven name. In September 1958, reconstituted Red Ravens were appearing under the leadership of one Les Palmer; the advertisement declared that Lawrence Duchow was on an "extended vacation." In 1960, the neo-Ravens were being led by Jay Wells. Moving to California, Lawrence Duchow started a successful supermarket coupon brokerage before his death in 1972.

Plocar's other erstwhile employer, Romy Gosz, went straight from Radiant to Polkaland. As Romy had started out playing in his father's band, by the mid-1950s there were Goszlings led by Tommy Gosz (who also recorded for Polkaland). Romy Gosz died in Manitowoc in 1966.

Rondo returned to a couple of its other polka bands; Gene Heier and Bernie Roberts got further releases in the 550 series, though without reliable indications of studio and date we are not sure of some things: how many could have come from their earlier tenure with Rondo; how many could have been acquired from other companies; how many were actually new. We do have a firm release date on Roberts' Rondo 625, because the company felt good enough about it to buy it a couple of column inches in Billboard (February 10, 1951, p. 38). Probably, then, the Gene Heiers on Rondo 619 and 620 were released in 1950. In February 1951 Rondo was competing with Roberts product from Pfau, which had done at least one session on him in 1950, and was promoting his "Flying Saucer Polka" as vigorously as Pfau promoted anything. More serious competition came from Decca, which had Roberts under contract in 1951-1952 and put two singles out on him. Heier, meanwhile, was with Radiant at the beginning of 1952, and with Polkaland soon after that—did he return to Rondo for a spell in 1953?

There were a few trials with other polka bands. Rondo picked up the aggregation led by Don Schlies. A 1950 session at Universal Recording (not frequently used by Rondo, which may not have paid for the session—Bill Putnam's Universal label had recorded a couple of polka bands) generated two singles on Rondo 621 and 622. Schlies was considered interesting enough to get a second session, around May of 1951 at what was left of United Broadcasting. We know that Rondo 629 resulted.

There was even a foray into Swedish polka, with the accordion duo of Bill and Jane. They got a release on Rondo 614, which leaves 613 and 615 through 618 as spots for other possible releases in the series.

Although a group like Homer's Melody Makers would previously have been reserved for the 550 series, they ended up in the 100s instead. Billed as an "old-timey" dance band, the Melody Makers worked part-time in Palatine, Arlington Heights, and the adjoining suburbs northwest of Chicago. One of their regular members had a day job delivering milk. Ads for their appearances can be found in the Chicago Herald (out of Arlington Heights) from 1941 through 1955. Rondo 240 looks like a 1950 release of sides recorded in 1949 (one wonders whether they'd been done for another label, or Homer paid for the session on spec).

Other material started getting folded into the 550s: Rondo 628, recorded by RCA Victor and mastered by Modern Recording Service shortly after President Truman relieved General MacArthur of his command in April 1951, featured drummer Booker T. Washington reciting a patriotic song by cornet player and jazz record store owner Seymour Schwartz. Schwartz had operated his own record label in the last quarter of 1950, but it was on hiatus at this time. Washington did the number as a monologue over backing from a Dixieland band, which was billed only as the "Pacific Sextette." The release was presumably timed for General Macarthur Day in Chicago, which Cash Box (May 12, 1951, p. 9) proclaimed "was a certainly a huge success for the juke box operators. Ops claim they had their biggest take in years." Schwartz didn't stay with Rondo; instead, he revived his label for one last single in the summer of 1951. Schwartz eventually started a more durable record company, Heartbeat, in 1956.

The other side of 628 was "America, I Love You," an instrumental on a patriotic theme by the harmonica-playing Mulcay family; this was performing double duty, having also appearing on Rondo 624 with a flip by the Mulcays. Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay had been a Sonora act, but we have not found any reissues of their Sonora sides on Rondo. The Mulcays subsequently recorded for Decca's Coral subsidiary, and for some small labels of their own.

Gene Heier, who by this time was playing country club dances, would also record for Radiant in 1952 (did any of his Radiant sides travel back to Rondo?), and by some point in 1953 he was with the inevitable Polkaland. We don't know whether his last releases on Rondo were newly recorded or not. Gene Heier and Romy Gosz later made a joint appearance on an "all star" polka LP, done in Milwaukee for King Records for February 1963. The LP was produced ultra-cheaply and featured cut-down versions of the different performers' signature tunes, but it gave Gosz and Heier an opportunity to work with polka stars in other styles such as Louis Bashell and Frankie Yankovic, along with several stalwarts of the Milwaukee scene. Gene Heier kept his polka band going for the rest of his life; he also had time to start and direct bands at two Catholic schools. He served as president and treasurer of Musicians Union Local 195 in Manitowoc, before moving to Kewaunee and transferring his membership to Local 205 out of Green Bay. In 1987, he cut an LP to celebrate 40 years of leading a polka band. Gene Heier died on March 22, 2002, in Kewaunee, Wisconsin; he was 79 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=95207340).

From 1954 through 1963, Bernie Roberts would record singles for another bitty label called Pageant, out of Juneau, Wisconsin. At least two sides (re)appeared on Dot after it was taken over by ABC-Paramount. In 1961, Pageant put out an LP. Further into the 1960s Roberts made a couple more LPs for outfits like Recard that sold them on late-night cable TV. In 1972, he disbanded. Bernie Roberts spent the next 27 years at race tracks in California, Colorado, and the Midwest, as a harness horse trainer, owner, and driver. He settled in Garden Grove, California, and died in Anaheim on October 5, 2004 (see the Bernie Roberts obituary at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.music.polkas/056fTiullpg).

Pete Ochs continued to lead his band, run his music store, and train youth bands, but made no commercial recordings after 1952. When Ochs died in 1984, he was commemorated with a locally produced LP reissue of his Chord, Rondo, Tell, and Pfau sides—pointedly not including his rendition of "More Beer!" Alice Kusek remained on the scene, contributing several lead vocals in Polish and one in English to a 1964 LP by a Polish-style band from the Chicago area called the Hi-Notes.

While Rudy Plocar's bands kept working the familiar venues and he kept running the Shoto Gardens, in 1954 he lost some of his real estate in the Shoto area, when it was sold at auction to satisfy a court judgment against him. In December 1959, he was in an another auto accident, in which he suffered disabling injuries. In June 1960, the local polka bands gathered together at the Shoto Gardens to wish him farewell; he had sold his remaining stake in the enterprise. From 1961 to 1964, the Manitowoc newspaper apparently didn't give him a single mention. Plocar returned to a lesser degree of activity in the second half of the 1960s, but as the bars and taverns around Manitowoc booked more rock and pop bands, it was generally for other leaders. In August 1970, his second wife Joni died; she was only 41. In 1971, Plocar made his last advertised appearance, as a featured player with another band. Two eras were ending: the Wayne Johnson band had formerly been led by the Doleysh Brothers, who, even more formerly, had played in Rudy Plocar's band. Rudy Plocar died on May 17, 1972, at the Veterans Administration hospital in Hines, Illinois, west of Chicago. He was buried in Manitowoc.


Last ad for Rudy Plocar, January 1971
Rudy Plocar's last advertised gig in Manitowoc. Manitowoc Herald Times, January 15, 1971, p. 22.

Around June of 1952, Rondo made what Bard and Lany hoped would be a significant pickup. They signed a Country band known as Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers. Back in 1938, Tom C. "Stubby" Fouts (born in rural Indiana on November 24, 1918) dropped out of Central Indiana University and started a band. The Six Hoosiers landed a radio gig with WDAN in Danville, Illinois, which must not really have wanted to host Hoosiers; in 1940 the station held a contest to rename them. "Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers" brought some lucky contestant $100. The Danville gig lasted 18 months, whereupon the Buccaneers moved to a much larger station, WLW, out of Cincinnati, which for many years was a major venue for Country and Westeran artists. In 1944, the group joined the US Navy Entertainment Division. Returning from their overseas tours, the Buccaneers took up again with WLW. In 1949, they moved their base of operations to Chicago, where they appeared regularly on WLS, a station with a powerful signal then known as The Voice of the Prairie Farmer. The Buccaneers recorded for Majestic in 1946 and 1947. When Majestic folded in 1949, they signed with Decca. Rondo was able to acquire their services after the Decca contract lapsed.

The Buccaneers were celebrated for their broad comedy routines, which incorporated a tuned hat rack and a guitar made out of a toilet seat, amply supplemented with squeezehorns and such. Along with some standards and some mainstream Country numbers, they recorded novelty tunes like "Laff It Off" and "Terrible Terry the Termite." During the Majestic years, the novelties were featured; for Decca, the Buccaneers' records turned sappier, and the band began cutting religious numbers, some solemn and some humorous. The 5 of them were said to be able to play 15 different axes. Captain Stubby was known for singing in multiple registers, from a high falsetto to a basso profondo; he was also in charge of the novelty instruments. The group's other members during their affiliation with Rondo were Dwight E. "Tiny" Stokes (born November 11, 1920 in Springfield, Missouri; string bass, lead tenor vocal), John "Sonny" Fleming (guitar and banjo), Tony Walberg (accordion, piano), and Jerry Richards (clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, ocarina). During their tenure at WLS, the Buccaneers recorded a jingle for Roto-Rooter; millions of radio listeners and TV watchers would eventually hear Fouts intoning "Away go troubles down the drain," in the same cavernous basso he'd employed on such numbers as "Noah Was the Man" ("Oh, my good Lord, didn't it rain").


Captain Stubby,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Captain Stubby and crew were responsible for five Rondo releases, numbered 299 through 303. Rondo 299 through 302 are A and B items, probably all made at the same session in 1952. Interestingly, Rondo 302 was mastered at Modern Recording Studio, which is most likely where the 8 sides were done. Rondo 299 and 300 came out in July 1952. Rondo wanted the Buccaneers to record sentimental songs, extending the policy when the group was with Decca. Rondo 299 (which also got a Canadian release—now with a silver on dark blue label) paired "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" with (what else?) still another version of "You Can't Be True Dear." Tiny Stokes was entrusted with the sap. On Rondo 300, "Yearning" gets a little perkier than its flip, and the Captain works in a little hat-rack, but when the tempo picks up the singers pogo right on top of the beat. In September 1952, "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" was included in Billboard's chart of Top Ten Songs. Captain Stubby's version, on Rondo 299, was duly cited next to some better-known renditions. Ken Griffin's version on Columbia was one of many competitors with better distribution. On February 28, 1953, Billboard reviewed Rondo 301, still another Stubby offering. "Each Time You Love" was more sap for Tiny Stokes, while "Knock Knock" was a novelty number written by Al Trace (aka Clem Watts). It must have been dawning on the company that Captain Stubby wasn't the big seller they'd hoping for, but they weren't ready to quit.


Captain Stubby,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

According to Bill Daniels, Rondo 303 struggled out the door in April 1953. This was also a Captain Stubby, freshly recorded at Universal. The company had actually shelled out for a second session by the band. Meanwhile, with 303, we see the first late Rondo labels, though they do not designate the sides as 1 or 2 yet (303 doesn't have any side designations at all). We could call these Decadent Period labels, with six silver stripes on a darker red background, and a cheaper look than anything Rondo had used from 1949 through 1952. "You Can Push Your Luck Too Far" is a bit different because it shows some R&B influence on the group, while "Sunshine at Midnight" is more typical of the Buccaneers' efforts from the early 1950s.

That same month, the company revealed that it still had a pulse; Rondo was included in the roster of labels handled by Diamond Record Distributing Company in Los Angeles (Billboard, April 11, 1953, p. 142). But by July 1953, their contract with Rondo evidently having run out, Stubby and the Buccaneers had moved on to Mercury. There they recorded one single of their own and backed a pop vocalist named Lola Dee on another.


Rondo signed at least one more artist, a flashy pianist named Ronnie Orland. We don't know Orland's year of birth; a good guess is shortly before 1930. In 1970, a newspaper entertainment writer in Long Beach, California, took an interest in interviewing the pianist. The resulting entertainment column (Tedd Thomey, "In Person," Independent [Long Beach, California], July 2, 1970, pp. B-7, B-8), accompanied by a photo of Orland playing "Anniversary Waltz" for two older couples, has its faults, but no one else seems to have bothered. Orland told Thomey that he was born in Arbuckle, California, to parents who had immigrated from France; his father was a concert violinist and his mother, who began teaching him when he was 6, was a concert pianist. His grandparents owned an almond orchard. But Thomey rendered the names of Ron's father and mother as "LeMon Taine" and "E. LeMon Taine." "Orland" might not have been his family name anyhow (Orland, California, isn't a long drive from Arbuckle, California). Orland claimed he had given a concert at Carnegie Hall when he was 14 and auditioned for admission to Juilliard at 15.

Orland told Thomey that he graduated from Juillard in 1950. Putting a small error bar around the year, the first gig we have found for him in a newspaper was one he probably took shortly after completing his Masters in Music. "Direct from New York," Orland was booked into Melba's Cocktail Lounge and Bar in Joplin, Missouri in September 1949 (Joplin Globe, September 13, 1949, p.11), and was there at least three weeks (Joplin Globe, October 1, 1949, p. 7; this is the only mention we have seen of Orland also playing the Solovox). Later, he would study at the Zurich Conservatory. We haven't spotted any Orland ads from 1950, which makes sense if he spent the year in Europe. Finally, he took lessons in Chicago with Rudolph Ganz. This could have been somewhat later, as Orland was in and out of Chicago during the 1950s, and Ganz supposedly told him that Roger Williams (whose first hit record under that stage name came in 1955) was worth emulating. Studying with Ganz was something Orland had in common with Dorothy Donegan—and with Morton Sultan.

When he recorded, Orland had already played hotel and cocktail lounge gigs in Chicago, some high in profile. From 1951 through 1953 his other moves that we can track were to Bloomington, Illinois, and to Indianapolis. He resurfaced on the club circuit in March 1951, with an engagement at Joe's Tap Room in Bloomington, Illinois (Pantagraph, March 29, 1951, p. 2; another ad ran on April 20). On October 17, 1952, he was about to start a gig 6 nights a week at the Terrace Lounge in Indianapolis. "Direct from an 18 months appearance at the Brass Rail and Villa Moderne in Chicago" (Indianapolis News, October 17, 1952, p. 21). Well, he had briefly gone on the road with Ken Griffin in some kind of package show, which hit the Hub Ballroom in Edelstein, Illinois, on October 18 (Pantagraph, October 15, 1952, p. 2). But Orland was back in Chicago soon enough. The Chicago Tribune for December 14 ran a photo captioned "Preview Pianist"; Orland was at the Preview Lounge, on a bill with the Harmonicats (sec. 2 pt. 7 p. 4). In May 1953, he opened Copa's in Bloomington, Illinois, which had taken over from Joe's Tap Room (see the Pantagraph, May 7, 1953, p. 2). An ad from May 25, 1953, declared that he had worked the Preview Lounge for 22 weeks before arriving at Copa's. He obviously had a following in Bloomington, because his run at Copa's wrapped up in mid-November (Pantagraph, November 16, 1953, p. 2)

Orland's publicity photos from the 1950s have been likened to Liberace's. He'd have taken no offense. He credited Oscar Levant, in the audience one night while Orland was playing at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, for validating his decision not to rely on the income he could derive from giving classical concerts. And he credited Ganz, who told him that Liberace and Roger Williams were great artists, for encouraging him to play popular tunes. Evidently, Nick Lany thought Orland could occupy the niche held once by Jimmy Blade and later by Olive Mason.

Although the trades were barely noticing the company, Rondo 304 was reviewed in Cash Box on Febuary 20, 1954 (p. 30). To our knowledge, this was the final mention of any Rondo release.

Cash Box, working with pre-release copies of the records it reviewed, sometimes got release numbers wrong. What we know as Rondo 304 was identified as Rondo 52-565. In this case, the number was meaningful. Toward the end of 1952, Egmont Sonderling's Master label, then on its last legs, released a single that had been cut at United Broadcasting studio, also on its last legs. The single was issued in a limited edition for the "Ralph Willliams Hall of Fame" (Ralph Williams Music Service was managing Orland at the time). Probably made in small quantities for promotional purposes, the single consisted of Ronnie Orland playing "You, So It's You" (UB52-563) and "Ronnie's Boogie" (UB52-564). That would make "Blind Mice Boogie" UB52-565. Rondo didn't bother with the UB numbers on its commercial releases of Ronnie Orland. The company may also have passed over "You, So It's You," a modified tango. Orland's recording session at United Broadcasting either took place in the early fall of 1952, before he left Chicago for a while, or in December, while he was at the Preview.

Orland played solo and had a load of technique. But on the strength of Rondo 307 and the partly overlapping Master release, he cannot be described as a jazz artist. For some reason, copies of Orland's first single, Rondo 304 or "Blind Mice BoogIe" b/w "Ronnie's Boogie," have turned up in Japan. A sign that Rondo was winding down: after 7 years of red labels with designated A and B sides, Rondo 304 sports a blue label with designated 1 and 2 sides (well, a designated 3 side on 307, but we take that for a misprint). Master had a blue label, though, so maybe a tie-in was being implied. Rondo 308, "Jean" b/w "Hawaiian War Chant Boogie," we heard about years ago—and finally found photos (they're at 45cat.com) in 2018. It, too, had a blue label, at least on 45.

Orland had to wait for Rondo to pick up his masters from Master. No other record company seems to have shown an interest in the pianist, which didn't hold him back from a long career on the hotel, supper club, and piano bar circuit. He was back in Bloomington in July 1954 (Copa's again, though just for two weeks; "Popular Rondo Recording Artist Returns from Eastern tour"; Pantagraph, July 25, 1954, p. 2). In 1955, he could be found in Indianapolis and La Crosse, Wisconsin; he kicked off 1956 in Freeport, Illinois. In January 1957 he was at Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit (the blurb said he "can play a quarter of a million different arrangements"); in October and November he was in Indianapolis again; around Christmastime he was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Around 1960, the pianist started going as "Ron" Orland. For some of his engagements in 1960s, Ron Orland would play solo on weeknights, then work in a duo or a trio on Friday and Saturday. After that, he reverted to playing solo almost exclusively. In January 1970, he moved to California, playing at the Spa Hotel in Palm Springs, at an unspecified location in Hollywood, then at the Lamb's Inn, a restaurant in Long Beach, where Thomey interviewed him. As the 1970s progressed Orland, who had worked the Sunshine State several times before, was spending more and more of his time in Florida.

Thomey noted that "Bumble Boogie" and "Old Piano Roll Blues" ("a novelty sparkler") were set pieces for Orland. The pianist, he reported, had "a pleasnat [sic] singing voice" and offered everything from "Harper Valley PTA" (one wonders how long that stayed in his repertoire) to the love theme from Dr. Zhivago to "Honeysucle Rose." Bits of Chopin and Debussy and various light-classical abridgments were also featured.

The last display advertisement we've found for Ron Orland is from Saint Petersburg, Florida, in January 1980, when he was working the Camelot Restaurant and Lounge at a Holiday Inn (St. Petersburg Times, January 16, 1980, p. 9B). The last entertainment notice is also from St. Pete, in May 1980 (St. Petersburg Times, May 9, 1980, p. 10D). Since some date in March, he'd been at a joint called the Villa Nova: Ron Orland at the glass piano bar, variety, easy listening Tues.-Sat. 8 p.m.-midnight." What happened to him? Orland had been playing clubs and restaurants for 30 years. In what we reckon was his early 50s, he was substantially younger than many of those who turned out to hear him.


We figure that the last Rondo in the main 100 series carried a release number in the low 300s. Rondo 305, a polka-flavored pop outing by Carmen Vincent and his Orchestra, also carried the 1 and 2 side designations. As did Rondo 309, by organist (and Selmer Clavioline player) Bob Kames, which has the highest release number we have seen for the 100s. Meanwhile, the last 550-series Rondo that we have spotted, Rondo 643 by Bernie Roberts, also designated the sides as 1 and 2.

The man who may have been the very last Rondo artist, Bob Kames, was born Robert Kujawa, in Milwaukee on April 21, 1925. He started playing the piano when he was 12. He had been working in movie theaters and had just been promoted to manager when he was drafted into the US Army. A chaplain asked him whether he could play the organ, Kujawa said he thought he could, so he became the chapel organist and the chaplain's assistant. An announcer on Armed Forces Radio, who couldn't pronounce Kujawa, gave him his stage name. Later he played for the troops and accompanied Edith Campbell, a USO dancer whom he eventually married. On returning from military service, one of his first civilian acts was to make the down payment on a Hammond organ.

In 1949, he wrote "You Are My One True Love" and, because bigger companies weren't interested, recorded it for Pfau in August of that year, paying for the first pressing run of 5,000 himself. It was picked up by London and became a hit. In 1951, he was featured regularly at the White Pub, the Milwaukee club that Jack Teter had bought. Kames also got a single out on Sharp, the label that Jack Teter was on from 1949 to 1951. and one on Mercury. The Rondo session, which we presume took place in 1954, can't have generated much revenue but Kames had plenty of work and probably didn't care. He subsequently recorded for a Chicago start-up called Bally, which also picked up Caesar Giovanni. King brought him on board for its polka all-stars LP in 1963 (see above for Gene Heier's participation), and he stayed with the label for several years. In 1966 produced his first TV special, with many follow-ups over the next 17 years. He also spent some time in the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, and operated several music stories in Milwaukee.

Kames' biggest hit arrived in 1982, when his manager heard "Dance Little Bird" at a music fair in Germany and Kames was recording it a week later. Usually known as "The Chicken Dance," it has become a standard at University of Wisconsin football games and received a gold record in Poland. Bob Kames died of prostate cancer in Milwaukee on April 9, 2008. (See Amy Rabideau Silvers, "Kames Was 'Chicken Dance' King," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, April 10, 2008, http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/29539139.html)

For 18 months, not a peep was heard in the pages of Billboard; Cash Box went silent for 9 months. On November 27, 1954 came the trambone falling and the bells toning; Billboard announced that the company had been sold. Julius F. Bard was no longer in the picture; the Billboard article (from the December 4 issue) reporting the transaction referred exclusively to Nick Lany. The deal hadn't come out of the blue; Lany told the magazine that he had notified Rondo's distributors several weeks earlier.


It was the Ken Griffin catalogue that enabled the company to limp along after he left, then found it a buyer. Record Corporation of America had gotten its start by engulfing and devouring a big chunk of Sonora; now it was absorbing the entirety of Rondo (except for the Don Pablos, which returned to their original owners; while the band was still working steadily in Detroit, some of the Don Pablos would reappear on Latin American, which in 1957 reissued a slew of them on 45 rpm). Some Rondo 78s were reissued by Oberstein operation, with labels that look like Decadent Period productions, only cruddier (stripes weakly rendered, in off-white instead of silver). The Eli Oberstein Rondo would keep Griffin's EPs on the list and recycle a bunch more of his music on new 12-inch Rondo-lette LPs. Any Rondo 10-inch LP that Oberstein thought he could make a few more dollars on was redone with a new numbers on his Royale imprint: for instance, Royale 18110 used the same master as Rondo's Gabor Radics offering, with RLP-39 crossed out in the trail-off vinyl on each side. But would anyone have bought a record company for Max Gordon's back catalogue?

In 1959, the Ken Griffin Estate sued Oberstein over 38 masters. Griffin actually recorded more than 60 sides for Rondo, so we don't know whether this was a subset of his output for the label that had a different contractual status. It could also be that Oberstein had gotten his mitts on sides that Griffin had cut for Broadcast and the fight was (partly?) over that material. Columbia ended up with the contested masters, after paying the estate an advance on them (Bernie Asbell, "Chicago," Billboard, July 13, 1959, p. 18).

The Buccaneers would remain in Chicago after Rondo was sold. Their stay at Mercury was no longer than their stay at Rondo. When the one-year contract expired, they signed with a startup called Tiffany (Cash Box, July 31, 1954, pp. 9, 17), which put one single out on them (Tiffany 1308, reviewed in Cash Box on August 14, 1954, p. 10). Eventually they got the call to record a 12-inch LP of polkas and another of square dances for Columbia. In 1959, the Buccaneers would cut a well-known rendition of the Chicago White Sox fight song. Fouts, Stokes, and Richards worked with different guitarists and accordion players through the late 1960s, and Fouts continued in radio and TV into the 1970s. Tiny Stokes died on January 12, 1999, and Tom Fouts, after making a valedictory Roto-Rooter commercial, on May 26, 2004.


We have no idea what Nick Lany did after he sold Rondo. J. F. Bard was in business, just not making, selling, or distributing records. In 1953, one of his employees was trying to sell a new part for scaffolding and temporary structures (Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1953, sec. 5 p. 32). For several more years Bard was in business at 220 West Locust. In 1955, his lawyer was in front of the zoning board, opposing a planned addition to a neighboring business that would narrow the alley behind his building (Tom Nuzum, "Ponder Plight of Big Trucks, Little Alleys," Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1955, pt. 3 p. 2 N; Nuzum wrote that Bard was at "216-60" Locust, with an intended meaning, we think, of 216-220). In June 1958, J. F. Bard Co. put the West Locust property up for sale ("modern building," 5,000 square feet, Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1958, pt. 4, p. 8), but not because they were closing. In 1961, Bard was looking for people to sell imported gifts and jewelry on commission (Indianapolis Star, October 12, 1961, p. 64); the company was in what we presume were more modest quarters, at 307 W. Monroe. We don't know much longer Julius F. Bard ran the company, or how many other lines of merchandise he got into.


Rondo's Second "Race" Record Experiment

Barely visible, amid the company's swell and subsidence, was a second entry into the rhythm and blues market. In February 1949, Rondo relaunched the 1550 series. Rondo 1557 and 1558 were newly recorded for the company in Chicago. The others were reissues. In October 1948, Rondo bought 80 masters from the defunct Sonora label (Billboard, October 23, 1948, p. 41), including the sides used on Rondo 1553 through 1556. Though no releases came out of it until early in the next year, the Sonora deal is best understood as one of the company's efforts to expand its artist roster and find releasable masters during the second Petrillo recording ban.

Sonora was one of the larger independents in the postwar era. Not a startup, but a division of Sonora Radio and Television Corporation, which in some form had been around since 1900, it opened for business in August 1942; its headquarters were initially in Chicago's Merchandise Mart, moving in September 1943 to 325 North Hoyne Street. Until November 1943, when the American Federation of Musicians began making new contracts with record companies, it was restricted to reissuing previously recorded masters. Even after starting to make its own recordings, in February 1944, it was an album-only operation until October 1945. And while the company's headquarters were in Chicago, its pressing plant complex was located in Meriden, Connecticut, and the bulk of its recording was done in New York City. Only after making the jump into the singles market would Sonora make any recordings that would be of interest to an outfit like Rondo.

On October 20, 1945, Billboard announced that "Sonora Yens Pops, Too." "Up to now confined to albums, Sonora aims to take full advantage of its radio and tele backing and make a play for single-disk selling" (p. 20). The 3000 pop series was launched in November 1945 with a Christmas record by Dick Todd and Mark Warnow, and the H 7000 Hillbilly series started out with a single by Fred Kirby, who broadcast regularly over station WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sonora's peak year for recording was 1946, when it cut more than 300 masters. In the Fall of 1946, Sonora began signing rhythm and blues artists for its new 100 series. The company continued at a slightly slower pace from January through May 1947, cutting somewhere over 100 more sides, but abruptly quit recording after that. How much profit Sonora was making in 1946 we don't know; it was competing on price, offering its 10-inch 78s at 50 or 53 cents each, when the industry standard was 79 cents.

In January 1947, Sonora announced that it would be rolling out new budget lines, to be priced at 39 cents. Such plans were met with incedulity from competitors; prevailing opinion in the industry was that Sonora's cost structure wouldn't allow it to make money on such releases. Nonetheless, in February, Sonora rolled out a budget pop series (the 2000s), along with a budget R&B series (the 500s) and a budget Country series (the H 6000s). The 500s and H 6000s were folded up after two releases each, but the company kept the 2000 series going for several months. The budget series took the existing Sonoran label design (gold print on a burgundy background) and substituted a black background.

The black-label releases probably weren't making any money for the company. And the pop series relied heavily on sweet bands, in a year (1947) when big bands of every type were being shut down. Even worse, the company was experiencing labor problems at Reko-Plastik, another pressing plant in Meriden that the company had acquired in November 1946. In May 1947, the company offered the pressing plant workers 20% raises that it obviously couldn't cover; in short order, it raised retail prices on both red and black-label singles, wound up its black-label series altogether, stopped booking recording sessions, and scheduled vacations for so many workers that its pressing plants stopped running during the summer. Sonora's last two album releases came out in mid-October; by the end of November, Billboard was quoting bandleaders who had left Sonora for other companies. In February 1948, Sonora made a last, feeble effort to test-market a single, from an album it could no longer afford to release; by May 1948, the record company was officially defunct, its pressing plants under the control of Eli Oberstein, and its masters in the hands of two former executives, Milt Benjamin and Marie Reubens.

Sonora reorganized in 1949 and limped on for a few more years, selling radio and TV sets and staying as far away as possible from the music business. The company went under for the last time in 1957.

Meanwhile, three companies ended up taking over Sonoran masters: Varsity, Savoy, and Rondo.

Of the vulture companies, Varsity was the most important, because it got Reko-Plastik along the masters. Varsity was owned by Eli Oberstein, who had worked for RCA Victor in the 1930s, left to start his own Varsity label in 1939, then shut it down in 1941 as World War II loomed, apparently dealing both masters and shellac allotments (under wartime rationing) to Sonora, among other companies. When recording resumed, he returned to RCA Victor, but still harbored ambitions to run his own company. In July 1948, he resurrected Varsity, now headquartered in Meriden, Connecticut. He bought 250 Sonoran masters and reissued them on Varsity for 39 cents a record. He also remaindered unsold Sonora albums and released Varsity versions with the same cover art and album numbers. At leat 50 sides released on Varsity 78-rpm singles were of Sonoran origin; when 10-inch LPs came in, Oberstein recycled the Sonora albums as cheap LPs on his Royale label, later on his Allegro label.

In August 1948, Herman Lubinsky, proprietor of Savoy and recent acquirer of Regent, announced that he, too, had bought a large number of Sonoran masters. Over time, labels controlled by Lubinsky would reissue material by the inevitable Bob Stanley, as well as a Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay album, and a collection by Joe Biviano. But Sonora's H 7000 Country series artists would not have interested Lubinsky. And here's a puzzle: Although Savoy was a major player in the jazz market, and a moderately significant R&B contributor, Lubinsky either wasn't offered most of Sonora's jazz and R&B masters—or he passed on them.

An August 1948 article in Billboard declared that Lubinsky had obtained (and already released) "the old Lang Thompson waxing of You Darlin', the sleeper recently revived via exhumation of the Ben Selvin record of the 1920's." Here the story gets really twisted. On July 31, Billboard had announced "Rondo and Regent to Serve "Darlin'" on Thompson Platter" (p. 19, story dated July 24). Thompson had led a sweet band from 1934 to 1947, using "You Darlin'" as his theme song, and, after being downsized, was working as a band booker in Chicago. He was puzzled to hear of the reissues, because he'd recorded the tune in 1941 for ... Varsity, which in those days was owned by ... Eli Oberstein. Herman Lubinsky wouldn't say where the side came from, but Rondo reported getting it from Sonora. And Milton Benjamin, who, along with his wife Marie Reubens, had taken control of what remained of Sonora's music operation, acknowledged recently selling 26 Lang Thompson masters. Apparently, then, Oberstein unloaded the masters to Sonora, which so far as we know never used them, Sonora went under, then Benjamin sold all 26 to Lubinsky and one to Rondo. (One has to wonder whether Oberstein managed to sell masters to Sonora only to buy them back later for less than Sonora had paid him.) On Regent, the coupling was another Lang Thompson side. On Rondo, it was the last usable Ken Griffin instrumental during the recording ban, a 1947 recording of his "Bumble Bee on a Bender."

After Varsity and Savoy completed their swoops and their side deals, there were leftovers. Rondo was able to hook the Lang Thompson side in July and pick up another 80 items in October. The masters that changed hands in October represented around 12% of the defunct label's own recording. A few substantial jazz performances were included in the deal with Rondo, and a few serious contenders in the "race" market.

Rondo reportedly also wanted some of Sonora's "folk" catalogue—the Billboard story mentions Jesse Rogers, the Moore Sisters, and Jimmy Mulcay among the acts whose masters were included in the transaction. But so far we have found two Rondo releases that derive from the Sonora H 7000 series: Rondo 501 by the Carolina Playboys and Rondo 252 by Jesse Rogers. Rondo started a 500 series for Country, but we have seen evidence of just this one release. What might have been a second Country series started at 250 and ended at 255; besides the Stu Davis, there were two singles newly recorded in Chicago by Dusty Rivers and the Rangers. Everything else by Jesse Rogers ended up on Varsity. Rondo would release two sides by Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay later on, but these were not from Sonora; it eventually fell to Regent to reissue their Sonora album.

Bob Stanley's was the only Mickey Mouse band mentioned in news about the deal. But we've never seen a Rondo reissue of Bob Stanley, who became a pillar of the Varsity 100 and 500 series, and was featured a little later on Regent 45s. Such luminaries as Saxie Dowell, who sprinkled lightly comic numbers in with the syrup, were passed over (when Sonora began to falter, Vitacoustic signed Dowell, only to fold in its turn before releasing anything on him). The same went for the radio and hotel bands led by Bob Chester, George Towne, and Mark Warnow, and the slightly jazzier Jerry Wald aggregation. Light classics by pianist Pauline Alpert drew no interest; neither did Roy Smeck's Hawaiian records.

Whereas it didn't matter whether Lani McIntire's Aloha Musicians or Noy Gorodinsky's Gypsy Ensemble or Roy Smeck's Hawaiian band or various offerings by D'Artega's Orchestra sounded good to Rondo; Eli Oberstein had already grabbed them up. (Around a year later, Rondo would acquire some Hawaiian music from another source; it had already swapped international rights to some of its polka masters for an LP by a Gypsy orchestra.) Oberstein has gotten his tentacles on Enric Madriguera's album, but Rondo already had Don Pablo; two albums by Bob Stanley's alter ego, Stanislaw Mroczek, had gone the same way, but with its access to the polka bands of northern Illinois and eastern Wisconsin, Rondo probably felt no need for them.


Coleman Hawkins ad, Sonora Records, February 1, 1947
Sonora plugs Coleman Hawkins' two releases. Billboard, February 1, 1947, p. 176.

Unquestionably the biggest jazz name in the Sonora catalogue was Coleman Hawkins, the father of the tenor saxophone. Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1904, Hawk had been a prominent contributor since 1920, when he broke in with Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds, and after a brilliant career with Fletcher Henderson's band, a sojourn in Europe, and a triumphant return to the United States in 1939, was still at the peak of his powers as jazz underwent the Swing to Bop transition. As the World War II recording ban lifted, Hawk recorded for any label that would make him a decent offer; among these were indies of varying stature such as Asch, Signature, Apollo, Regis, and Joe Davis. Even though Sonora was a medium-sized company in 1946, landing him was quite a coup.

The company recorded Hawkins and band in August or September 1946, not in December as stated in Lord's Jazz Discography. Hawk's combo included alto saxophonist Porter Kilbert, who joined the Red Saunders band in New York, then went on the road with Saunders shortly after Saunders recorded behind Big Joe Turner for National on October 11 and 12. Sonora 3027 was advertised in the October 26, 1946 issue of Billboard, and both of Hawk's Sonora releases showed up in the company's ad in the November 2, 1946 issue.

Sonora recorded Snub Mosley's jump band in November 1946 and, on a second occasion, early in 1947. It recorded a vocal-instrumental group called the Velvetones, in one session in the summer of 1946 and a second in the early part of 1947; the sides chosen for release by Rondo came from the second session.

We might expect the R and B sides by Dud Bascomb, Eddie Barefield, and Clyde Bernhardt to be interest, but Rondo didn't get around to them. Rondo was unmoved even by jazzy accordionist Joe Biviano, whose releases appeared first in the 1000s and later in the 3000s. Biviano's Rhythm Sextet featured four accordions, guitar, and bass; how could Rondo pass that up? Another 100 series act that Rondo skipped over was the Jim Jam piano trio (either a spinoff from the Loumell Morgan trio, or the whole group using a pseudonym), which Sonora may have recorded in Chicago.

In the first half of 1946, Sonora had put out sides by a big band led by quirky composer Raymond Scott (probably obtained through the services of his older brother, Mark Warnow; Scott's real name was Harry Warnow). But Scott most likely paid for the recording sessions, whose matrix numbers were not in Sonora's main series, and took back the masters when the company folded.


The New 1550s

Billboard reviewed Rondo 1553 through 1556 in its "race" section on February 26, 1949, indicating that the series got its launch early in the year. Most of the 1550s were released before the company's next slew of Ken Griffin records, first advertised in the issue March 5, 1949.

To supplement the reissues, Rondo recorded a nomadic pianist and singer named Johnny Perry, who doesn't seem to have stayed in Chicago all that long, but while he was in the neighborhood rounded up some top local talent to accompany him.


Snub Mosley ad, Sonora Records, February 1, 1947
From Billboard, February 1, 1947, p. 174

R2. Snub Mosley

Snub Mosley (tb, slide-sax, voc); Bob Carroll (tp); Scoville Brown (cl, as); Don Abney (p); Abie Baker (b); Tommy Benford (d)

New York City, November 1946

1959-1 You and the Devil
Sonora 500-A
1960-1 Snub's Boogie
Sonora 501-B, Rondo 1553
1961-2 Hinkty Man
Sonora 500-B
1962-1 Blues at High Noon
Sonora 501-A, Rondo 1553

Lawrence Leo "Snub" Mosley was a veteran jazz musician when he cut these sides. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 29, 1905, he played trombone in his high school band, then spent the years from 1926 to 1937 touring with the bands of Alphonse Trent, Jeter-Pillars, Claude Hopkins, Fats Waller, and Louis Armstrong. In 1937, he settled in New York City, where he led jump bands. As commemorated in his number "The Man with the Funny Little Horn," he invented a hybrid instrument, the slide saxophone, that attached the mouthpiece from the latter to the slide apparatus of the trombone. He made his Sonora recordings toward the end of 1946, after three sessions for Decca (1940-1942). He subsequently recorded for Penguin (1949) and for British Columbia (1959). His final sessions were done in England for Pizza Express (1978). After suffering a stroke in January 1981, Snub Mosley died at his home in Harlem on July 21, 1981.

The Sonora 500 series was meant to be the budget, black-label, counterpart to the 100 red-label series. It didn't go far, so Mosley ended up getting it all to himself (the same thing happened to the black-label Country series, the H6000s; it never got beyond two releases by an old-timey duo called Jerry and Sky). Their numbers in Sonora's main matrix series indicate that the Mosley sides were cut a month or two after the Coleman Hawkins session, and a short while after Ray Anthony's first session (1917 through 1920, dated November 1946 in Lord's Jazz Discography, but actually from October; Anthony sides were being advertised in Billboard in November). We've listed all four, even though we know of just two being reissued on Rondo. (We do still kind of wonder whether there was a Rondo 1552, but if there ever was, it could have been released in 1946.)

Snub Mosley got a second session, in early 1947. It used to be thought that Sonora did nothing with it. Indeed, two sides that finally showed up on a 1987 LP from Whiskey Women and ... were said to be unreleased. It turns out, however, that after Sonora gave up on the black-label 500 series Mosley got a release on red-label Sonora 110. This must be very rare, but a copy has turned up in the collection of Tom Hustad. Mosley also got a release on Sonora 111, which can't be any more common; there is a copy in Robert Campbell's collection.

We drew the session personnel from Lord's Jazz Discography. He merely gives 1946 as the date, and does not mention the Rondo reissue.


Velvetones, Sonora ad, February 1, 1947
Sonora promotes the Velvetones' first two singles. Billboard, February 1, 1947, p. 180.

R3. The Velvetones

Enoch Martin (p, arr, baritone lead); Madison Flanagan (maracas, tenor lead); "Pop" Willie (b, bass/baritone); Sam Rucker (g, baritone).

New York, c. February 1947

2035-1 Ask Anyone Who Knows
Sonora 2014-A
2036-1 I Want Some Bread, I Said
Sonora 2014-B
2037-1 Can You Look Me in the Eyes
Sonora 2015, Rondo 1554
2038-2 Don't Bring Me No News
Sonora 2015, Rondo 1554

The Velvetones were a vocal/instrumental group from Newark, New Jersey. They had previously recorded in January 1946 for the small New York-based company Coronet.

From its first session for Sonora, which took place around June of 1946, the group released two singles in the red-label series, Sonora 3010 and 3012. The second session led to two releases in the new black-label series, Sonora 2014 in May 1947. This was followed by Sonora 2015 in September 1947, as the label was emitting its last gasps. Marv Goldberg in his article on the group (http://www.uncamarvy.com/Velvetones/velvetones.html) supplies the history of the group's sessions, and the personnel.

The other two sides from this Velvetones session are listed for completeness. We have found no evidence that Rondo used them. We further note that Sonora 2014, despite being a late black-label release, is much easier to find than Sonora 2015—or Rondo 1554.


Coleman Hawkins,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Hawk,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

R4. Coleman Hawkins Quintette* / Coleman Hawkins Octette

Coleman Hawkins (ts); Theodore "Fats" Navarro (tp except *); J. J. Johnson (tb except *); Porter Kilbert (as except *); Hank Jones (p); Milt Jackson (vib except %); Curly Russell (b); Max Roach (d).

New York, September 1946

1857-1 I Mean You (Monk)%
Sonora 3027-B, Rondo 1555-B
1858-1 Bean and the Boys

1858-2 Bean and the Boys
Sonora 3024-B, Rondo 1556-A
1859-1 You Go to My Head (Gillespie-Coots)*
Sonora 3027-A, Rondo 1555-A
1860-1 Cocktails for Two (Johnston-Coslow)*
Sonora 3024-A, Rondo 1556-B

The entire session is shown, including a first take of "Bean and the Boys" that Lord's Jazz Discography says was used on some copies of Sonora 3024; we would like confirmation that it was released at all. (Again, Lord does not mention the reissues on Rondo.) "Bean and the Boys" on Rondo 1556-A is clearly marked as take 2, and the same is the case on the copies of Sonora 3024 that we have seen. We doubt the Rondo reissues are common, but a copy of Rondo 1555 is in the collection of Tom Hustad and the 78 has shown up on ebay.

Hawk's Sonora session was eventually bought up by Prestige, from whom we are not sure; the sides have appeared on Coleman Hawkins LPs on Prestige and Milestone.

See above for the correct session date.


Coleman Hawkins,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Coleman Hawkins,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Johnny Perry,
Courtesy of Mike Kredinac

Johnny Perry is a shadowy, nomadic figure in rhythm and blues. He played piano, later switching to organ, and led bands. He also sang; judging from his vocals on the Rondo session, his thin tenor voice was not his main musical asset. The session for Rondo was his first as a leader, and he didn't stick around town after cutting it. In 1952, his band was briefly mentioned in Billboard as it played a string of one-nighters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia (November 22, 1952, p. 46); the blurb said Perry was a Rondo artist (well, he had been), also connecting him with a label called Rich-R-Tone (that part is a head-scratcher, because Rich-R was a bluegrass specialist). During 1953 and 1954, Perry recorded in New York City for Rama, Jubilee, and Atlas. Around 1960, he made one single for Cherokee in Nashville. In 1968, he resurfaced in New York City, and in 1969-1970, now going as "Blues Boy" Perry, he was apparently quartered in Los Angeles.


R5. Johnny Perry's Orchestra

Johnny Perry (p, voc); Hobart Dotson (tp); H. Morton (as); E. Parker McDougal (ts); Ernest Ashley (eg); Wilbur Ware (b); Charles Williams (d).

United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, September or October 1949

UB9-1191R Tails and Limas
Rondo 1557-A
UB9-1192R Doggin' Me Blues (Holmes-DuPree)
Rondo 1557-B
UB9-1193R J. P. Boogie
Rondo 1558
UB9-1194R Got Good News for Ya, Baby (Holmes)
Rondo 1558

Other than Perry's piano, the draw here is one hell of a Chicago-based lineup, duly listed on the Rondo labels. There has never been a reissue of these sides, despite their historical importance: Among other things, it was E. Parker McDougal's first recording session, and he got solo space on it.


Definitely Not a Jazz Group: The Max Gordon Trio


Max Gordon Trio,
Definitely not the jazz act. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

As could be surmised from the foregoing, scarcely anything else on Rondo had a smidgen of jazz interest. The company did record instrumental combos outside the polkasphere, including a couple of pianists with rhythm. Rondo, it turns out, also acquired the services of an organ trio. But listeners in search of an interesting pre-Jimmy-Smith experience will be disappointed. The Max Gordon Trio combined organ, accordion, and guitar. They were not the first to do this; their model was a group called The Three Suns that enjoyed major commercial success in the mid and late 1940s. Still—unless someone decides to combine accordion, hurdy-gurdy, and tromba marina—it might just be the worst sounding ensemble ever conceived.


Max Gordon Trio, Sonora ad, February 1, 1947
The second Gordon Trio single on Sonora was reissued on Rondo. Billboard, February 1, 1947, p. 175.

The Trio recorded four sides for Sonora in November 1946; the company released two singles (Sonora 3032 and 3035) in January 1947. On acquiring the Gordon Sonoras, Rondo apparently skipped Sonora 3032, which had a novelty vocal on "Managua Nicaragua," and reissued Sonora 3035 as Rondo 180; with "Caravan" and "Lullaby of the Leaves" as the titles, this was as close to jazz as the Gordons got. The Max Gordon Trio recorded an entire album for Sonora around April 1947; it was released in December 1947, as the company was in its final throes. Rondo reissued six of the eight sides as Rondo 193, 194, and 195; "Valencia," which Rondo already had in a version by Ken Griffin, and "You're the Cream in My Coffee" were left out. Rondo followed up with 6 newly recorded Gordon singles in the 100 series. In December 1949, the company announced that its fourth long-player, RLP-29, was by the Gordon Trio; the LP had probably been released in October, using mostly Sonoran material. The trio recorded at least one more time for Rondo in 1950, and was selected to provide a release for the gone-before-you-knew-it budget label, Rolin.


Max Gordon Trio,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rondo's One Jazz Piano Act


Olive Mason at Cowboy's Lounge, May 22, 1946
From the Southtown Economist, May 22, 1946, p. 14

There is a significant exception: the quartet led by a pianist named Olive Mason. Much about this artist remains obscure to us. She was known as Olive Floyd, presumably her married name, until May 1946, when she began appearing as Olive Mason (which may or may not have been another married name). It appears she was from Texas. Olive Floyd had a 10-minute radio program on TSN, playing the organ, for several months in 1939. On July 7, KRBC in Abilene had her on at 8:05 AM, playing "With You," "You Look Good to Me," and "Can I Forget You." She was identfied as "TSN's swing organist" ("Songs from Film Success Featured by Organist Today," Abilene Reporter-News, July 7, 1939, p. 11).

We don't know how regularly Olive Floyd was working as a performer—we haven't turned up any newspaper notices from 1940 through 1944. But in 1945, we can place her in the Chicago area, even though she took a little time off to perform in Odessa, Texas. Olive Floyd got in two runs, totaling at least two months, playing piano and singing in Lafayette, Indiana. She was billed as having come directly from the Tin Pan Alley in Chicago. More to the point, she was billed as "The Female Fats Waller," which removes all doubts as to who she was and how she played (see below).

In February 1946, Olive Floyd, "singing pianist," was booked to open the new Argyle Lounge in Chicago, on a bill with the Three Loose Screws and the Two Terrible Swedes.

In May 1946, Billboard tersely noted that "Olive Mason is returning to Chicago after a vacation in Texas" (May 25, 1946, p. 49). As Olive Mason, she was now one of three acts performing nightly at Cowboy's Lounge, 1207 West 69th Street in Chicago. Billed in the ad as the "First Lady of Swing," she was written up in a blurb on the same page as the "First Lady of Song." She was obviously expected to sing a few standards and take requests while performing. In June, she was at the Croydon Hotel. In November 1947, her Chicago agent (Phillip Albright, Select Cocktail Entertainment, at 203 N. Wabash) took out a display ad to celebrate her tenth week at the Airline Lounge (Billboard, November 15, 1947, p. 41). She was duly identified as a "cocktail single" when Rondo signed her (Billboard, April 9, 1949, p. 46).


Olive Mason in 1946
From the Southtown Economist, May 22, 1946, p. 14

Rondo 181 is enough to prove that she was a significant addition to the company's roster. Olive Mason first recorded for Rondo around April 1, 1949; the April 9 item in Billboard said Nick Lany of Rondo had recorded her "last week." (Her Rondo 182 was reviewed in Billboard on May 14, 1949, p. 124). All of her records were included in the main 100 series.

Judging from what we can hear on her Rondo sides, Olive Mason had rock-solid technique and based her style on Fats Waller as well as Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. The company hired musicians with jazz chops for her sessions. For instance, Earl Backus's guitar solo is a significant addition to "Sunday."


Olive Mason,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Mason's first two releases, Rondo 181 and 182, followed the first new Ken Griffin releases (Rondo 186 and 187) but preceded the flood that followed after he signed a new one-year contract with Rondo in late February 1949.

It's true that Rondo put a singer named Johnny Hill, who was on call to soup up Ken Griffin sides, on her first session. Hill is squarish but doesn't discredit himself on "Sunday."

Mason's second record featured two vocals. "Who Do You Think You Are?" was roundly panned by the Billboard reviewers, who thought little of the composition; "No, No Nora," a tune they liked better, was faulted for its vocal harmony passages. (There are two quick stretches of ensemble vocal on "Sunday." Although they inflict no real harm, Rondo left the side off its Olive Mason LP.) Today Rondo 181 is the second-easiest Olive Mason single to locate; Rondo 182 so rare that we first saw a photo of it in June 2018.


R6. Olive Mason At The Piano / Sung by Johnny Hill | Olive Mason, Piano* / Sung by Johnny Hill and the Ensemble | Olive Mason, Piano%

Olive Mason (p); Earl Backus (eg); H. Siegel (b); Maurice Lishon (d); Johnny Hill (voc on *); ens. voc on %.

United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, c. April 1, 1949

UB9383 After You've Gone (Layton-Creamer)
Rondo 181-A, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37
UB9385 Sunday (Miller-Conn-Styne-Krueger)*
Rondo 181-B
UB9384 Who Do You Think You Are? (Murray)*
Rondo 182-A
UB9386 No, No Nora (Kahn-Fiorito-Erdman)%
Rondo 182-B

Olive Mason,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Rondo gave only first initials for the musicians on this session. It wasn't tough to identify "E. Backus." Some newspaper research has now revealed that "M. Lishon" was Maurice Lishon.

Maurice Lishon had done a ton of stage, band, and session work in Chicago by the time Rondo brought him in. The drummer was born on August 7, 1914. (His birthday was commemorated in Aaron Gold's "Tower Ticker," Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1979, sec. 3 p. 7.) His older brother Henri, a violinist, was a bandleader in Chicago in 1930s and 1940s. Henri may have also been involved with Lishon's Record Shop, mentioned in Billboard when the shop was sponsoring a half-hour show ("concert and classical music only") on WENR radio (December 27, 1947, p. 21). Maurice Lishon started playing professionally when he was 14, had worked in a Boyd Raeburn band and had endured having to replace one of his drums, after Jimmy Durante decided that tossing a heavy object through it would be funny. Maurie Lishon, as he was known at the time of his work for Rondo, had also been a staff musician for CBS radio, and did a lot of session work, for Mercury and other labels. In 1954 he bought a drum store, which he operated until he moved to Florida in 1974. After retiring to Royal Palm Beach, Florida, Maurice Lishon died at the age of 86, in November 2000.


Rondo wisely quit the song-plugging, giving Mason an all-instrumental followup. This took place in the summer of 1949, after the company had started going to RCA Victor on a regular basis. When Rondo got around to putting out its Olive Mason LP, it bypassed every item with any vocalizing on it, leaving just one usable track from her first session.


Olive Mason,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

R7. Olive Mason At The Piano | String Bass: H. Siegel, Guitar: E. Backus | Drums: M. Lishon

Olive Mason (p); Earl Backus (eg); H. Siegel (b); M. Lishon (d).

RCA Victor Studio, Chicago, c. August 1949

D9CB-1120-1 Mason's Boogie (Mason)
Rondo 200-A, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37
D9-CB-1121-1 I Got Rhythm
Rondo 201-A, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37
D9CB-1122-1 Yesterdays
Rondo 201-B
D9CB-1123-1 On the Sunny Side of the Street (McHugh-Fields)
Rondo 200-B, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37

Three of the four sides from the second session would later be chosen for the LP. Rondo 200 and 201 were issued on 78 with the later Rondo label design: medium red background with six stripes in silver. Rondo 200 was first advertised in Billboard on September 3, 1949 (p. 35); Rondo 201 was advertised in Billboard on November 12, 1949 (p. 40; listed as a new release on p. 37). 201 got a mediocre review (Billboard, November 26, 1949, p. 31) that described it as "badly recorded"; Rondos from this period generally sound really good, so we have to suspect a defective pressing.

"Mason's Boogie" is a powerhouse performance in the genre, with a surprise stride interlude. Billboard (October 29, 1949, p. 41) gave it a wishy-washy review, despite noting touches of Milt Buckner and Erroll Garner in a "proficient boogie piano" performance. "Sunny Side" is in the Fats Waller idiom. Earl Backus gets two guitar solos; his sessions with Olive Mason allowed him to show off his jazz chops.

"Mason's Boogie" was probably the only Olive Mason single to be released in Europe (we don't know whether there were any Canadian Masons). It appeared on the small Belgian label Victory, which picked up a slew of material from Rondo in 1950. To our knowledge, Victory singles from this period were all 78 rpm.

Meanwhile, Mason was taking some work in Wisconsin. In mid-October, billed as "Pianist Supreme," she was at the Chateau in Racine. In January 1950, she was booked into Popeye's, in Green Bay, "direct from the Marbo Lounge, Chicago" ("Did you hear the Mason Boogie?").

On January 27, 1950, the 45 rpm release of "Mason's Boogie" was advertised as a new arrival at Porter's Music Store in Lima, Ohio (Lima News, p. 13).


Olive Mason,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Early in March 1950, Olive Mason, now billed as "Queen of the Boogie Players," was holding down a gig at Sharkey's in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mid-month, she started at a familiar location, the 5 O'Clock Lounge in Lafayette, Indiana, which indicated that she had begun playing the organ again.


Olive Mason ad, March 1950
From the Racine, Wisconsin, Journal Times, March 3, 1950, p. 19

An advertisement for Kuras Furniture Appliances Music in Ludington, Michigan (Ludington Daily News, April 14, 1950, p. 8), mentions "Mason's Boogie" on 45 but puts it underneath a newer release, "Boogie on the Humoresque" b/w "Angry." This and its mate on Rondo 220 definitely came from a third session.


R8. Olive Mason At The Piano

Olive Mason (p); poss. Buddy Shaw (cl -1); unidentified (b); unidentified (d).

Chicago, February or March 1950


Boogie on the Humoresque
Rondo 219, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37

Angry
Rondo 219, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37

Liza
Rondo 220, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37

Lady Be Good
Rondo 220, Rondo RLP-37, Victory [Be] VLP 37

Mason's last two singles for Rondo are harder to find nowadays. Having finally latched onto a copy of Rondo 219, we can state that she didn't use the same band as on her first two sessions. "Boogie on the Humoresque" has just bass and drums, both so recessed that she could have performed the number as a solo. Dvorak's Humoresque was a popular light classic, in the repertoire of many jazz pianists as well; Art Tatum played it. "Angry" brings bass and drums a little closer to the mike, adding a clarinetist who sounds a lot like Buddy Shaw, from the Gene Colin session that was made two or three months before this one. We're still looking for Rondo 220, both sides of which give every sign of being Swing material.

In a few weeks, Olive Mason was back in Wisconsin, opening at the Spa in Appleton on May 1.

There was talk, during that tour of Wisconsin, of another Olive Mason session. A DJ in Green Bay claimed that he had been invited to sing on it. But we have no evidence of a fourth session taking place.


What happened to Olive Mason after her third session? The regional club ads that we have been able to find carry us to the end of May 1951. She had gigs that month in territory well served by Rondo: in Wisconsin Rapids and in Green Bay. We don't know where she went after that, whether she was still playing profesionally, whether she was calling herself Olive Mason.

Nightclub pianist and singer Kim Martell (active professionally from 1961 through the late 1970s) got several writeups from the Chicago newspapers, starting in 1968. She married Al Salamone, who had been the manager at Frank Holzfeind's Blue Note before it closed, and settled in the Chicago area. Martell stated in a 1970 interview that her hometown was Dallas, Texas; that her mother was named Olive Mason and had performed with Stan Kenton and Paul Whiteman; and that her brother, Bob Floyd, had gotten a scholarship to study drama at the Old Vic in London. Robert Floyd was involved in show biz for a few years during the 1950s; he said he was from Fort Worth, he got some coverage from North Texas newspapers back then, and it appears he was born in 1931. He graduated from high school in Fort Worth in 1949, some years after his mother had moved to Chicago. Kim Martell told the Chicago Tribune she had appeared twice with the Dallas Symphony as a child and had gotten a scholarship with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at 14—and been awarded her bachelors degree from the Juilliard School. All of which leaves us with more loose ends than leads.

In any event, Rondo thought enough of Mason's work to put 8 sides on a 10-inch LP, which appeared in 1951, probably while she was still working in the region. Victory gave it a straight reissue in Belgium, where we are fairly sure she was not working, also in 1951 so far as we know. Olive Mason's sides have never been released in any other form. All 12 are of legitimate reissue interest.


Rondo's One Sort of Jazz Guitarist

In the Fall of 1949, Bard and Lany developed an interest in a musician named Gene Colin, who played the electric guitar and sang. Colin, left to his own devices, was good at vaguely 1920s style jazz—but he was rarely left to his own devices.


Hoylman Quartet,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Gene Colin was born Eugene Lapiccola in Chicago, around 1919. He settled in Oak Park, where he was on the police force for a while, then began doing radio work, where he already established by 1939. His stage name was originally spelled Colan and sometimes came out as Colon. When Rondo picked him up, he was a regular on WLS's Barn Dance, one of the biggest country music programs nationally.


Colin's first session for the label was laid down at United Broadcasting in September 1949, with a quartet led by Richard Hoylman. (Rondo referred to Hoylman only by his first initial.) Why Hoylman was designated as the leader is not clear. Colin was much better known, both in Chicagoland and in the neighboring states. The only newspaper reference we've found for Hoylman is to his appearance during men's night for the Beverly Hills Junior Woman's Club (Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1948, pt. 3 p. 3 SW). Two sides are known to have been released from the Hoylman session, on Rondo 207, around the beginning of November 1949. (The record was first advertised as Rondo 202, apparently a typo, and attributed to "Jean" Colin). There is more emphasis on Colin's singing and less on his guitar playing than would have been ideal. These make "Johnson Rag" cornier than would have been ideal.

The incentive for recording "Johnson Rag" was a recent rendition of the venerable rag with words—by venerable guitarist and singer Jack Teter on another small Chicago label called Sharp, which opened for business on May 1, 1949 (Billboard, April 30, 1949, p. 17). Teter's record proved so lucrative that Sharp licensed it to London Records in September and by November it had cracked the Top 20 on the Billboard pop charts.

Rondo 207 was listed as a new release in the November 12 issue of Billboard (p. 37) and advertised in Cash Box on November 27, 2017 (with Colin's name spelled correctly). Billboard reviewed Rondo 207 on November 26, 1949, p. 164, accurately indicating that "Johnson Rag" was a cover of Teter's version; it referred to "Side by Side" as "another corn-fed razzmattazz etching." The "corn-fed" had to allude to Gene Colin's main gig at the Barn Dance. One could say that in recruiting another guitarist and singer with a country background, Rondo was being literal-minded copycatting Jack Teter. Still, Gene Colin's second session would show that the company's judgment wasn't too far off. The drummer, Maurie Lishon, did a big volume of session work during the period, including appearances on Olive Mason's first two sessions.

R9. Hoylman Quartet | Vocal by: Gene Colin

Richard Hoylman (p); Gene Colin (eg, voc); G. Ryan (b); Maurice Lishon (d).

United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, September 1949

UB9-1151 Johnson Rag (Hall-Kleinkauf)
Rondo 207-A
UB9-1152 Side by Side (Woods)
Rondo 207-B

The personnel (first initials only) appears on the original Rondo labels. The United Broadcasting matrix numbers are consistent with a recording date in September 1949.


Hoylman Quartet,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Richard Hoylman did no further work for Rondo, unless he provided uncredited accompaniment to someone. Colin was brought back for a second outing, near the end of 1949. The new group, with Colin identified as the leader, was more jazz-oriented, but the repertoire decidedly mixed.

Around this time, Gene Colin was appearing at the Cincinnati Firemen's Protective Assocation show at the Taft Theater (Cincinnati Enquirer, November 5, 1949, p. 11). A couple of weeks later, he was the "Genial M. C." of a WLS National Barn Dance stage show at the Avon Theater in Waukesha, Wisconsin (Waukesha Daily Freeman, November 19, 1947, p. 3).

R10. Gene Colin's Quartet | Vocal by Gene Colin

Gene Colin (eg, voc); Buddy Shaw (as -1, cl); Paul Gordon [sic] (p); Maurie Laurie [sic] (d).

Universal Recording, Chicago, November or December 1949

217-A
D9-CX-279 [45 rpm]
Too Thin Polka
Rondo 217-A
217-B
D9-CX-280 [45 rpm]
My Date Book Is Open
Rondo 217-B
218-A Shut Up Shut Up
Rondo 218-A
218-B Someday Sweetheart -1
Rondo 218-B

Again, the personnel is drawn from the labels—to Rondo 217, in this case. Full names are spelled out, not always accurately. We have confirmation that Rondo 218 was released, but have not seen a copy yet.

On the labels to Rondo 217, some games were being played. Buddy Shaw was the name the clarinetist was performing under, though he'd just adopted it 3 years earlier. Paul "Gordon" is surely Paul Jordan, a pianist and arranger then highly active on the Chicago scene (see our Gold Seal page for more about him). Maurie "Laurie" looks like a handle for Maurie Lishon, who'd already been the drummer on two Olive Mason sessions and the Richard Hoylman session. The only other credits we've found to Mr. "Laurie" are for the drummer and percussionist on two Orion LPs (which would date from the 1960s or 1970s) for jazz dancers. These were led by jazz dance guru Gus Giordano (whose studio was in Evanston, Illinois), and one also featured Lishon's colleague Bobby Christian.

Rondo had for some reason recently committed itself to an "A and B" policy, instead of using informative matrix numbers. But all four sides from this session are on two 78-rpm lacquers from Universal Recording (with the 100 E. Ohio address on the stick-on labels). The typed matrix numbers are in Rondo's A and B series, except each is off by one: "Too Thin Polka" b/w "My Date Book Is Open" are labeled R216-A and R216-B, and the remaining lacquer shows R217-A and R217-B. Someone at Universal wasn't reckoning with the Max Gordon 78 on Rondo 216, or Rondo reshuffled the numbers prior to release.

Rondo selected 217 for prompt release on 45, and the first batches of 45s all carried matrix numbers from RCA Victor, which had introduced the 45 and was mastering and pressing them for other companies. The D9 prefix on the 45 labels indicates that the mastering was done in 1949 (anything from 1950 started with E0).

"Too Thin Polka" is a silly novelty, though Buddy Shaw knows his Polish polka and works it into the clarinet part. "My Date Book Is Open" is, again, focused on the novelty vocal, rather sappily fitted to a twenties-style tune. We've listed the Colin Quartet here because of "Shut Up Shut Up" an old-fashioned moderately low-down blues better suited to the leader's vocal abilities. Some serious boogie piano from Paul "Gordon" doesn't hurt either. Then there's "Someday Sweetheart," a classic ballad with tremendous alto saxophone work by Shaw (like a swinging Frankie Trumbauer) and a nice guitar solo by Colin.

Colin might have been better served had Rondo decided to cut back on the vocals, as it had done with Olive Mason after her initial outing. But this might have taken him too far from his stage and radio shtick, which included a lot of comedy and vocal impressions.

We'd thought the above six sides were Colin's entire recorded legacy, but it turns out there was one more. It, too, was for Rondo. Colin sang a novelty number, partly of his own composition, called "Whistlin' Cowpoke," to accompaniment by Tommy Fairclow, a Ken Griffin acolyte, on the Hammond organ. It was recorded in October 1950, appeared on the A side of Rondo 446, and needs no further attention here. We don't know of Gene Colin records on any other label.


Gene Colin in 1953
Gene Colin. From the Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), January 14, 1953, p. 22.

Gene Colin stayed with WLS. He kept working such events as a show at the State Theatre in De Kalb, Illinois, where Gene Colin, "WLS Singing Star and Comedian," was one of five acts (Daily Chronicle (De Kalb, Illinois), May 6, 1950, p. 3); the Home Show at the New Armory in Marshfield, Wisconsin (Marshfield News-Herald, April 5, 1951, p. 6); the Kiwanis Club Sport and Home Show in Shawano, Wisconsin (Green Bay Press-Gazette, March 20, 1952, p. 23); and the Renfro Valley Barn Dance Gang program at Shady Acres Ranch in Mulberry, Indiana (Anderson [Indiana] Herald, August 21, 1953, p. 15). The Green Bay Press-Gazette piece informed its readers that Gene Colin "sings and impersonates Arthur Godfrey and the Ink Spots."

Gene Colin was on the radio into 1955. Then he left the music business and moved to Manistique, Michigan, where he was involved in distributing beer. In 1960, he became a regional sales director for Stroh's, a Michigan-based brewery. Gene Colin died in Detroit in 1973, at the age of 54.

Buddy Shaw was born Bud H. Shiffman, in Chicago on March 20, 2012. (For this and nearly every other detail we will be providing about Buddy Shaw, we are indebted to Alex van der Tuuk's article, "Out of Anonymity: Bud Shiffman, 80 Years on the Road," http://www.vjm.biz/new_page_16.htm). Bud Shiffman had been in the Smyth-West Orchestra, which recorded twice for Paramount's Broadway subsidiary (the first time in 1931; the second in 1932, not long before Paramount shut down). He recorded in the Frankie Masters band (for OKeh in 1939) and with Benny Goodman's band, on three sessions for Columbia in 1942. After staff work for CBS radio in Chicago (which ended when James Caesar Petrillo leaned on CBS to replace the band with one that he was leading), he led the house band at the Latin Quarter for much of 1946 and 1947, until the club went out of business (the club's press agent talked him into taking Buddy "Shaw" as a stage name). He played at the Englewood Theater, then signed with a jobber named Lew Diamond, whose band backed stage shows in different venues. Buddy Shaw was probably still with Diamond when he did his session work for Rondo. From 1951 through 1954, he worked at the Chicago Theater, then resumed working for jobbing leaders as well as with name bands. He enjoyed a twenty-year run at the Schubert Theater, from 1964 to 1984, when he retired. However, Bud Shiffman started playing his alto sax again in 1995, and participated regularly in a rehearsal band for the next ten years, finally hanging up his horn at the age of 93. Alex van der Tuuk was able to interview him on multiple occasions between July 2005 and February 2007. Bud Shiffman died in Northbrook, Illinois on June 17, 2010 (see http://www.tributes.com/condolences/view_memories/88831730#109126247). He was 98 years old.


Rondo's One Dixieland Band

In March 1950, not long after the second Gene Colin session and the last by Olive Mason, Ken Griffin's contract came up for renewal—and he signed with Columbia. While Rondo was frantically searching for a replacement, the company recorded one session by a full-bore Dixieland band. The leader was Danny Alvin, who had some standing in traditional jazz; he'd accompanied Sidney Bechet on a session for Blue Note in 1946.


Danny Alvin, in the Southtown Economist, January 10, 1951, p 10
From the Southtown Economist, January 10, 1951, p. 10

The drummer was born Daniel Alvin Viniello in 1904. He began performing professionally at the age of 14. In 1920, he was a member of Sophie Tucker's Kings of Syncopation. He moved to Chicago in 1924, to work with Wayne King. When he cut for Rondo he had been leading his own group locally for several years.

For the Alvin session, the company returned to United Broadcasting, whose output was beginning to slow by this time.


R11. Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland | Vocal Refrain by Lola Ameche

Danny Alvin (d, dir); Jack Ivett (cnt); Jimmy James (tb); Jug Berger (cl); Charlie Spero (ts); Mel Stitzel (p); Jim Lannigan (tuba); Lola Ameche (voc).

United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, May 11, 1950

UB50-513 The Bucket Song (Short-Harold) [LA voc]
Rondo 235-A
UB50-514 Lassas [sic] Trombone
Rondo 236-B
UB50-515 Red Pepper Rag
Rondo 235-B
UB50-516 Maple Leaf Rag (Joplin)
Rondo 236-A

The session information is drawn from Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, except Lord renders the singer's name as "Love" Ameche. Rondo 235 and 236 were singles (probably both 78 and 45 rpm) released in June 1950.

A brief mention in Cash Box declared that Alvin's band had cut 6 sides for Rondo. If so, the other two must be lost.

The session featured a couple of other veterans of the traditional jazz scene in Mel Stitzel (who had worked with Jelly Roll Morton on arrangements in the mid 1920s) and Jim Lannigan. Jimmy James and Jug Berger were active on the Dixieland scene at the time; they would resurface a few months later with the Jimmy James Jas Band, which cut four sides in the loft of Seymour's Record Mart, and Berger stayed active in the Chicago area for the next decade. Charlie Spero was originally a Swing musician; he was on the October 13, 1946 concert at the Civic Opera House, as a member of Paul Jordan's 10-piece ensemble, but did not appear on Jordan's 1946 recordings for Gold Seal. In 1949 and 1950 Spero was a member of the Chet Roble Trio, which broke up not long before this session.

Lola Ameche continued to work as a pop vocalist. In the summer of 1951, she sang on Mercury 5694 and 5695 (see the display ads in Cash Box, August 11, 1951, p. 12, and August 18, 1951, p. 13) with a sweet band led by Al Trace.

We don't get the commercial impetus behind the Danny Alvin session. It might have been sheer desperation. But it's true that other Chicago indies were trying out Dixieland in 1950. Premium had recorded a Miff Mole group at United Broadcasting a couple of months earlier. Seymour would open with the Jimmy James session a few months later. And, of course, Jazz Ltd. had put out 4 releases featuring different leaders during the previous year and would cut another session in 1951. But Rondo didn't aim at the same market segments as any of these competitors.

To our still fallible knowledge, this was the company's last attempt to record jazz.


Danny Alvin at the Nob Hill, in the Southtown Economist, January 31, 1951, p 10
From the Southtown Economist, January 31, 1951, p. 10

Danny Alvin remained in Chicago. A few months later, in January and February 1951, his Kings of Dixieland were holding down a gig at the Nob Hill at 5228 South Lake Park. His only other recording as a leader would be an LP done in 1958 for Stepheny, a company based in Evanston, Illinois; at the time, he was running Basin Street, a club on the North Side where his band had been playing for several years. With the exception of trombonist Floyd O'Brien, whose recording career went back to the early 1930s, the other musicians on the Stepheny date were less famous Dixieland specialists, probably much younger than the leader.

Unfortunately, Danny Alvin would get no more opportunities to perform or record. He died on December 6, 1958, at the University of Illinois Hospital; he was only 54 ("Drummer Dies," Southern Illinoisan, December 8, 1958, p. 2).


Conclusion

Overall, Rondo's efforts in the jazz and R&B markets barely perturbed the company's trajectory. They were consequences, not causes, of its temporary wealth and fame. Because the Rondo 550 and 100 series have still not been fully documented, we don't know exactly how many singles the company released during its Chicago years, but there had to be at least 200. The items we have listed in detail here add up to 16 releases, contributing less than 10% of Rondo's total output, and, we may be sure, way under 10% of the company's sales. We've gone to the trouble here because of their musical interest. We hope collectors will be able to sift more of these items out from the Ken Griffins, and that some reissue effort may one day ensue.


Credits and Sources

See Bryon Young's Web page (http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/kenhtml/Bryan%20Young%20Page.htm) for a load of interesting details about Ken Griffin's recordings, including a rundown of the lawsuit over "You Can't Be True, Dear," which dragged out until December 1956—after the organist had died, Broadcast had gone out of business, and Rondo had new owners.

The Ken Griffin Memorial page (http://www.theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/) reproduces his obituary in the Aurora, Illinois, Beacon-News.

See Mike Kredinac's Web pages for the only photo of Rondo 1557 that was publicly avaiable for many years (http://www.nugrape.net/mike2.htm) along with R&B releases on many other labels.


Appendix A. The Rondo 550 Series

Matrix Number Release Number Artist Title Recording Date Release Date
UB 2142 550-A
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Cherry Polka June 1946 Summer 1946
UB 2145 550-B Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Clairene Waltz June 1946 Summer 1946
UB-2144 551-A
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Barbara Polka June 1946 Summer 1946
UB-2143 551-B Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Homecoming Waltz June 1946 Summer 1946
UB-2147 552-A Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Prune Song (Svestkova Alej) June 1946
UB-2149 552-B Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Julida Polka [Bohemian Vocal] June 1946
UB-2150 553-A
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Helena Polka June 1946
UB-2148 553-B Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra Clarinet Polka June 1946
UB 2146 554-A Rudy Plocar's Veteran Orch. Grey Mare Polka June 1946 March 1947
UB 2151 554-B
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar's Veteran Orch. Champagne Polka June 1946 March 1947
UB-2771 555-A
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar's "All Veterans" Orchestra Unita Polka November 1946
UB-2775 555-B Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band Evening on the Lehigh (Waltz)
(Jak Szybko Mijaja Chwile)
November 1946
UB-2772 556-A
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band Monopol Polka November 1946
UB-2776 556-B Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band Clarinet Laendler No. 3 November 1946
UB-2773 557-A
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band Rainbow Polka November 1946
UB-2777 557-B Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band Swedish Waltz
(Livet i Finskogarna)
November 1946
UB-2774 558-A Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band Springtime Polka November 1946 July 1947
UB-2778 558-B Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band Twilight Waltz November 1946 July 1947

559
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar Julida


559 Rudy Plocar Svestkova Alej [Bohemian Vocal]

UB21316 560-A Bellini Accordion Orchestra Margherita Waltz June 1947 Summer 1947
UB21317 560-B Accorionette [sic] Ensemble Waltz Allegro June 1947 Summer 1947
UB-21319 561-A Accordionette Ensemble Wisconsin Waltz June 1947 Summer 1947
UB 21318 561-B Accorionette [sic] Ensemble Babbling Brook Polka June 1947 Summer 1947

562




562



UB-21376 563-A Jožka Cigaňsko Orš. Hop, Hop, Hop (Slovensk™ č€rd€š) July 1947 Summer 1947
UB-21379 563-B Jožka Cigaňsko Orš. Anička Dušička (Slovensk™ č€rd€š) July 1947 Summer 1947
UB-21374 564-A Pete's Musette Orch. Flying Fingers July 1947
UB-21375 564-B Pete's Musette Orch. Cordion Capers July 1947
UB-21482 565-A Rudy Plocar's Orchestra My Swiss Girl (Waltz) August 1947
UB-21483
EO-CX-626 [45 rpm]
565-B
565-A [45]
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Have a Drink, Polka
Trinker Polka [45 rpm]
August 1947
UB-21480 566-A
(566-B on some copies)
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra I Still Want You (Waltz) August 1947
UB-21485 566-B
(566-A on some copies*)
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra
(Rudy Plocar's Orch.*)
Rain, Rain, Polka
(Rain Rain Polka*)
August 1947
UB-21481 567-A
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Picnic in the Woods August 1947
UB-21487 567-B Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Blue Eyes (Waltz) August 1947
UB-21484 568-A
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar Rock & Rye Polka August 1947
UB-21486 568-B Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Spring Clover Polka August 1947
1001-A 569-A Swiss Family Fraunfelder Herd Song Fall 1947
1001-B 569-B Swiss Family Fraunfelder Garibaldi (Schottisch) Fall 1947
UB 21736 570-A Swiss Family Fraunfelder The Milkmaid c. October 10, 1947 c. November 1947
UB21738 570-B Swiss Family Fraunfelder Yodel Polka c. October 10, 1947 c. November 1947
UB 21737 571-A Swiss Family Fraunfelder The Cuckoo (Waltz) c. October 10, 1947 c. November 1947
UB 21738
UB 21739 on label
571-B Swiss Family Fraunfelder Yodel Laendler c. October 10, 1947 c. November 1947
UB-21849 572-A Rudy Plocar's Orchestra | German and English Vocal by Jolly Franzl Swiss Boy (Schweizer Bub) c. October 22, 1947 c. November 1947
UB-21851 572-B Rudy Plocar's Orchestra | German and English Vocal by Jolly Franzl My Swiss Girl (Mein Schweizer Maedchen) c. October 22, 1947 c. November 1947
UB-21850
EO-CX-627 [45 rpm]
573-A
565-B [45 rpm]
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Beer Barrel Polka c. October 22, 1947
UB-21852 573-B Rudy Plocar's Orchestra At the Spring [Bohemian Vocal] c. October 22, 1947
UB-21914 574-A J. Perush and his Tavern Band Na Marijance (She's Too Fat) Polka c. October 30, 1947
UB-21917 574-B J. Perush and his Tavern Band Clarica (Galop) (Clara Polka) c. October 30, 1947
UB-21918 575-A J. Perush and His Tavern Band Cleveland Waltz (Clevelandski Valcek) c. October 30, 1947
UB-21913 575-B J. Perush and His Tavern Band Short Snort Polka (Mali Nocek) c. October 30, 1947

576




576




577




577



UB-21956 578-A Śpiewa [Vocal]: Alicia Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Dwanaście Listeczk€w—Walczyk c. November 4, 1947 c. December 1947
UB-21957 578-B Śpiewa [Vocal]: Alicia Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Piękny Tw€j Wianek Mirtowy—Walc c. November 4, 1947 c. December 1947

579




579




580




580




581




581



UB-22093 582-A Gene Heier's Orchestra with electric Accordion Whose Girl Are You? (Waltz) c. November 17, 1947
UB-22051 582 Gene Heier's Orchestra with electric Accordion Hopeless Polka c. November 13, 1947
UB-22052 583-A Gene Heier's Orchestra Masons Waltz c. November 13, 1947
UB-22054 583-B Gene Heier's Orchestra Lehigh Valley Polka c. November 13, 1947
UB-22053 584-A Gene Heier's Orchestra Tululu (Waltz) c. November 13, 1947
UB-22094 584-B Gene Heier's Orchestra Heier Polka c. November 17, 1947

585




585



UB-22125 586-A Sung by Alan De Witt with Rudy Plocar's Orchestra A Sailboat in the Moonlight c. November 20, 1947
UB-22119 586-B Sung by Alan De Witt with Rudy Plocar's Orchestra I Still Want You c. November 20, 1947
UB-22124 587-A Gesang: Jolly Franzl mit Rudy Plocar's Orchester Tante Anna c. November 20, 1947
UB-22120 587-B
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Die Dorfmusik (Polka) c. November 20, 1947
UB22121 588-A
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar Wisconsin Polka (Jolly Coppersmith) c. November 20, 1947 June 1948
UB22122 588-B Rudy Plocar Silver Lake Waltz c. November 20, 1947 June 1948
UB-22126 589-A
RLP-28
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Beer Bucket Polka c. November 20, 1947 1948
UB-22123 589-B Rudy Plocar's Orchestra The Lumber Auction (Die Holzauktion) c. November 20, 1947 1948
UB-22030 590-A Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Polska Marysia | Walczyk
December 1948
UB-22029 590-B Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Iskiereczki Ognia | Krakowiak c. November 11, 1947 December 1948

591 Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Przez Litewski Lan (The Suitor) (Waltz)
December 1948

591 Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Kochalam Cie Jasiu (I Love You, Johnny)
December 1948

592




592



UB-22033 593-A Śpiewają [Vocals]: Alicja Kusek | Kazimierz (Casey) Stefaniak | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Marysiu Moja Marysiu c. November 11, 1947 1948
UB-22034 593-B Śpiewa [Vocal]: Kazimierz (Casey) Stefaniak | Ork. F. Przybylskiego Hej Zachuczały G€ry-Polka c. November 11, 1947 1948
UB-22462 594-A Steve Adamczyk, his clarinet, and his Polish Hungry Five Concertina Polka c. December 27, 1947 December1948
UB-22460 594-B Steve Adamczyk, his clarinet, and his Polish Hungry Five Jolly Drinker—Oberek (Wesoly Pijak) c. December 27, 1947 December 1948
UB-22463 595-A Steve Adamczyk, His Clarinet, And His Polish Hungry Five Hungry Five (Pięciu Glodnych) c. December 27, 1947
UB-22461 595-B Steve Adamczyk, His Clarinet, And His Polish Hungry Five Billy Goat Polka (Polka Koziola) c. December 27, 1947
UB-22510 596-A Józiu Durlak i Jego Orkiestra | Gdzie Ty Chodzisz Zono Moja? Oberek (Where Are You Going, My Wife?) | Śpiewa:: J. Durlak c. December 31, 1947
UB-22512 596-B Józiu Durlak i Jego Orkiestra Cztery Mile za Krakowem Polka (Four Miles to Cracow) c. December 31, 1947

597 Józiu Durlak Siedziala na Studzience (At the Well)
December 1948

597 Józiu Durlak Oj Ja Se Chipiec Gipki (I'm a Go-Getter)
December 1948

598




598



126-A
[Chord 126-A]
599-A Pete Ochs' Orchestra Snow Waltz 1947 c. December 1948

599-B Pete Ochs' Orchestra Linden Polka 1947 c. December 1948

600-A Featuring The Payson Sisters | Jolly Franzl | Rudy Plocar's Orch. More Beer! *vocals overdubbed c. November 1948 November 1948
UB22122 600B Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Silver Lake Waltz c. November 20, 1947 November 1948

601-A Pete Ochs' Orchestra More Beer! December 1948 January 1949

601-B Pete Ochs' Orchestra Juke Box Jingle December 1948 January 1949

602

602

603

603

604

604
UB-9446 605-A Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Fr. Przybylski i Jego Orkiestra Ach Wroccie Mlode Lata (Memories of Bygone Days) early 1949 1949

605-B Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Fr. Przybylski i Jego Orkiestra early 1949 1949

606

606
UB9-1147 607-A Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians Jolly Musicians Polka September 1949 October 1949
UB9-1150 607-B Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians Juneau Park Schottische September 1949 October 1949
UB9-1149 608-A Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians Broke but Happy - Polka September 1949 November 1949
UB9-1148 608-B Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians St. Paul Waltz September 1949 November 1949
DJC-751 609-A
(Disc Jockey C-751)
Jimmy Nejedlo and His Orchestra Barn Swallow Polka
late 1949
DJC-752 609-B
(Disc Jockey C-752)
Jimmy Nejedlo and His Orchestra A Night in May (Waltz)
late 1949
C-754 610-A
(Disk Jockey C-754)
Jimmy Nejedlo and His Orchestra American Girl Polka
late 1949
C-753 610-B
(Disk Jockey C-753)
Jimmy Nejedlo and His Orchestra Firemen's March
late 1949

611-A Rudy Plocar's Orchestra | Sung by Ensemble Chicago Polka late 1949 late 1949

611-B Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Innocence Waltz late 1949 late 1949
D9-CX-277
[45 rpm]
612-A Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Herr Schmidt-Finger Tanz late 1949 late 1949
D9-CX-278
[45 rpm]
612-B
RLP-41
Rudy Plocar's Orchestra Josephine Polka late 1949 late 1949
614-A Bill & Jane, Accordion Duo with Solovox Ny Fiskar Vals (New Fisherman's Waltz)
614-B Bill & Jane, Accordion Duo with Solovox Scacircle;ne Polka
UB50-656 619-A Gene Heier's Orchestra Pauline Polka June 1950 prob. 1950
UB50-657 619-B Gene Heier's Orchestra North Woods Waltz June 1950 prob. 1950
UB50-658 620-A Gene Heier's Orchestra Playtime Polka June 1950 prob. 1950
UB50-659 620-B Gene Heier's Orchestra Sugar Loaf Waltz June 1950 prob. 1950
U-1613 621-A Don Schlies And His Orchestra I Can Marry c. April 1950
U-1614 621-B Don Schlies And His Orchestra Hot Shot Polka c. April 1950
U-1615 622-A Don Schlies And His Orchestra Blanche Polka c. April 1950
U-1616 622-B Don Schlies And His Orchestra Love Dream Waltz c. April 1950
MRS-3687
E1-QB-13921-1
624-A
also 628-B
Featuring the Mulcay Trio (Jimmy, Mildred, and Helen) America, I Love You April 1951 1951

624-B Featuring the Mulcay Trio (Jimmy, Mildred, and Helen) Beer Beer Beer April 1951 1951

625-A Bernie Roberts and his Orchestra A Beer, A Sandwich and You poss. September 1949 Feburary 1951

625-B Bernie Roberts on the accordion and his Orchestra Clarinet Polka poss. September 1949 February 1951
MRS-3687
E1-QB-13920-1
628-A Vocal by Booker T. Washington | Played by Pacific Sextette General Mac Will Never Fade Away April 1951 1951
624B
MRS-3687
E1-QB-13921-1
624-A
also 628-B
Featuring the Mulcay Trio (Jimmy, Mildred, and Helen) America, I Love You April 1951 1951
UB51-286 629-A Don Schlies And His Orchestra Bohemian Wedding c. May 1951
UB51-287 629-B Don Schlies And His Orchestra Midwest Laendler c. May 1951

637-A Gene Heier's Orchestra Black Jack Polka


637-B Gene Heier's Orchestra When You Return Laendler


643-1 Bernie Roberts and His Orchestra Honey Bee Waltz
1953 or 1954

643-2 Bernie Roberts and His Orchestra Moonlight and Roses
1953 or 1954

Appendix B. The Rondo 100 Series

Matrix Number Release Number Artist Title Recording Date Release Date
1064 100-A
R-1002
RLP-36
Noller-Straub Duo Kitten on the Keys late June 1946 August 1946
1063 100-B
R-1002
RLP-36
Noller-Straub Duo Nola late June 1946 August 1946

101 Noller-Straub Duo Rachmaninoff's Concerto in C Minor late June 1946 July 1946

101 Noller-Straub Duo Emperor Waltz late June 1946 July 1946
1067 102-A
R-1002
RLP-36
Noller-Straub Duo In an 18th Century Drawing Room late June 1946 prob. September 1946
1068 102-B
R-1002
RLP-36
Noller-Straub Duo Coffee Time late June 1946 prob. September 1946

103 Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano Homecoming Waltz (The Original)
August 1946

103 Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano Goofus
August 1946
1097 104-A [first] Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano Stumbling July 1946 September 1946
1066 104-B [first] Noller-Straub Duo | Hammond Organ and Piano Copenhagen late June 1946 September 1946
1103 104-A [second]
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music Waiting for the Robert E. Lee August 1946 November 1946
1104 104-B [second]
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music Canadian Capers August 1946 November 1946
1106 105-A
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music Elmer's Tune August 1946 November 1946
1105 105-B
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music Doll Dance August 1946 November 1946
1107 106
R-1002
141-a
RLP-24
Elmer Ihrke Parade of the Wooden Soldiers August 1946 1946

106
R-1002
Elmer Ihrke Dancing Tambourine 1946 1946
1125 107-A
R-1000
RLP-26
Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes O Come Ye Merry Gentlemen | Adeste Fideles c. September 7, 1946 November 1946
1126 107-B
R-1000
RLP-26
Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes Silent Night c. September 7, 1946 November 1946
1127 108-A
R-1000
RLP-26
Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes It Came upon a Midnight Clear c. September 7, 1946 November 1946
1128 108-B
R-1000
RLP-26
Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes Hark The Herald Angels Sing | Away in a Manger c. September 7, 1946 November 1946
1129 109-A
R-1000
RLP-26
Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes The First Noel | Holy Night c. September 7, 1946 November 1946
UB8161 109-B
R-1000
RLP-26
RLP-24
Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes Little Town of Bethlehem prob. September 1946 November 1946
1119 110-A
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music After You've Gone August 1946 December 1946
1117 110-B
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music Andalucia [sic] August 1946 December 1946
1120 111-A
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music 12th Street Rag August 1946 December 1946
1118 111-B
R-1001
RLP-31
Jimmy Blade's Music Cuban Pete August 1946 December 1946
1097 112 Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano Stumbling July 1946 November 1946
1066 112 Noller-Straub Duo | Hammond Organ and Piano Copenhagen late June 1946 Novemer 1946
1149 113-A Elmer Ihrke - Organ | Skip Berg - Celeste Wedding of the Painted Dolls October 1946 December 1946
1140 113-B Marsh McCurdy - Organ | Pauline Lamond - Piano Glow Worm September 1946 December 1946

114 Marsh McCurdy Organ and Pauline Lamond Piano Sunrise Serenade
December 1946

114 Marsh McCurdy Organ and Pauline Lamond Piano Beguine
December 1946

115 Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Organ and Celeste Deep Purple
December 1946

115 Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Organ and Celeste La Golondrina
December 1946

116-A




116-B Lucy Bruch - Violin | F. W. Konyi - Piano Flight of the Bumble Bee (Rimsky-Korsakoff) - The Bee (F. Schubert)


117




117




118




118




119




119



1147 120-A [1946 version]
RLP-24
Organ, Chimes and Celeste Played by Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Jingle Bells October 1946 November 1946
1107 120-B [1946 version]
R-1002
141-a
RLP-24
Elmer Ihrke Parade of the Wooden Soldiers August 1946 November1946
1147 120-A [1947 version]
RLP-24
Organ, Chimes and Celeste Played by Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Jingle Bells October 1946 1947
1126 120-B [1947 version]
RLP-26
Organ and Chimes played by Elmer Ihrke Silent Night c. September 7, 1946 1947
1126 120 [last version]
R-1000
RLP-26
Elmer Ihrke Silent Night c. September 7, 1946 1947
UB8161 120 [last version]
R-1000
RLP-26
RLP-24
Elmer Ihrke Little Town of Bethlehem prob. September 1946 1947

121 Elmer Ihrke's Empire Trio Easter Parade prob. November 1946 March 1947

121 Elmer Ihrke's Empire Trio 3 O'Clock in the Morning prob. November 1946 March 1947
UB-2727 122-A Empire Trio | E. Ihrke, Organ — W. Behl, Novochord [sic] | J. Yelich, Guitar Drigo Serenade November 1946
UB-2729 122-B Empire Trio | E. Ihrke, Organ — W. Behl, Novochord | J. Yelich, Guitar Cuatro Vidas November 1946

123




123



UB-21407 124-A
R-1004
RLP-24
Cosmo Teri | Organ & Chimes Santa Claus Is Coming to Town August 1947 November 1947
UB-21408 124-B
R-1004
RLP-24
Cosmo Teri | Organ & Chimes Winter in Wonderland [sic] August 1947 November 1947

125




125




126




126



U-936 127-A The Rondoliers with Elmer Ihrke at the Organ Gold Star Mothers (Hymn) September 1947 early 1948
U-937 127-B The Rondoliers with Elmer Ihrke at the Organ The End of a Perfect Day September 1947 early 1948
U. 913 128
RLP-25
EPR-1
Ken Griffin at the Organ You Can't Be True Dear September 1947 February 1948
U. 914 128
RLP-25
RFD-1-B
EPR-1
Ken Griffin at the Organ Cuckoo Waltz September 1947 February 1948
U. 916 129-A
RLP-34
EPR-1
Ken Griffin Donkey Serenade September 1947 May 1948
U. 915 129-B
RLP-25
EPR-1
Ken Griffin Ciribiribin September 1947 May 1948
U. 917 130-A
RLP-25
EPR-2
Ken Griffin Doodle-Ee-Do (on 78)
Doodle Doo Doo
September 1947 prob. May 1948
U. 918 130-B
RLP-34
EPR-8
Ken Griffin American Patrol September 1947 prob. May 1948
U-891 131-A
R-1006
RLP-35
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes Rock of Ages - Abide with Me - Doxology August 1947 1948
U-890 131-B
R-1006
RLP-35
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes Softly and Tenderly - Just as I Am August 1947 1948
U-892 132-A
R-1006
RLP-35
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes In the Garden - The Old Rugged Cross August 1947 1948
U-889 132-B
R-1006
RLP-35
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes What a Friend We Have in Jesus - I Need Thee Every Hour August 1947 1948
U-888 133-A
R-1006
RLP-35
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes God Be with You till We Meet Again - Jesus Savior, Pilot Me August 1947 1948
U-887 133-B
R-1006
RLP-35
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes Blessed Assurance - I Love to Tell the Story August 1947 1948
UB 21351-M 134-A
RLP-25
Ken Griffin at the Organ Polka Pops June 1947 June 1948
UB 21350-M 134-B
RLP-34
EPR-8
Ken Griffin at the Organ Casey Jones June 1947 June 1948
UB 21347-M 135-A
EPR-12
Ken Griffin at the Organ Every Little Movement June 1947 June 1948
UB 21349-M 135-B
EPR-12
Ken Griffin at the Organ Valencia June 1947 June 1948

136




136



U 920 137-A
RLP-25
EPR-11
Ken Griffin at the Organ If I Had You June 1947 June 1948
U 919 137-B
RLP-25
EPR-2
Ken Griffin at the Organ Little Brown Jug June 1947 June 1948

138




138




139




139



1147 140-A
R-1004
RLP-24
Organ, Chimes, and Celeste Played by Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Jingle Bells October 1946 1948
UB8159 140-B
R-1004
RLP-24
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes White Christmas 1946 1948
1107 141-A
R-1004
RLP-24
Elmer Ihrke At the Organ Parade of the Wooden Soldiers August 1946 1948
UB8160 141-B
R-1004
RLP-24
Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes March of the Toys 1946 1948

142




142



UB8569-3-1 143-A Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Cuckoo Bird Waltz *vocal added 1948 1948
UB8568-3-2 143-B Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Every Little Movement *vocal added 1948 1948

144




144




145 Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal by Raquel The Walter Thornton Rhumba
1948

145 Don Pablo's Orchestra Serenade to a Flower
1948
US 1092 (label)
08 1092-1 (shellac)
[Varsity 8109]
146-A Lang Thompson and His Orchestra | Vocal by Lang Thompson You Darlin' 1941 July 1948
UB 21352-M 146-B (78)
RLP-25
188-B (45)
EPR-4
Ken Griffin at the Organ Bumble Bee on a Bender prob. July 1947 July 1948

147 The Wagners Johnson Rag


147 The Wagners Lazy River


148




148



111J 149-A Vocal Oklahoma | Oklahoma & The Westerners Bessie Cut Your Toe Nails

141-H 149-B Oklahoma with The Westerners Rosebud Boogie


150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp If I Had You *vocal added 1948 October 1948

150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp Brown Jug Polka *vocal added 1948 October 1948
32 151-A Don Pablo And His Orchestra | Vocal by Bunny Paul & Don Stelter Red Wing
1948
34 151-B Don Pablo And His Orchestra | Vocal by Bunny Paul Michigan Moon
1948
1789A 152-A
[Vargo 29051B]
Vocal by Geo. Sikes Trio with Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers I Want a Girl
December 1948
1788B 152-B
[Vargo 29050B]
Bob Turner and his Electric Guitar with Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Sweet Georgia Brown
December 1948
16A 153-A
RLP-32
Don Pablo's Orchestra Maria Elena
1948
16B 153-B
RLP-32
Don Pablo's Orchestra Green Eyes
1948

154


November 1948

154


November 1948
24 155-A
RLP-32
Vocal by Bunny Paul with Don Pablo's Orchestra La Rosita
1948
7b
[Latin American 7-B]
155-B
RLP-32
Don Pablo's Orchestra Estrellita
1948

156 Don Pablo's Orchestra Make Believe
1948

156 Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Bunny Paul Mickey
1948

157 Don Pablo's Orchestra Sentimental Journey
December 1948

157 Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Bunny Paul Long Time No See
December 1948

158 Don Pablo's Orchestra Josephine
March 1949

158 Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Bunny Paul I Kissed You First
March 1949

159 Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Lolita Lopez Dark Eyes
1948

159
RLP-32
[prob. Vargo 29023B]
[prob. Latin-American 17B]
Don Pablo's Orchestra La Golondrina
1948
U911-3 160-A Jack Carroll with Bill McRae's Orchestra Sleepy Town September 1947 October 1948
907 160-B Jack Carroll with Bill McRae's Orchestra Time to Dream September 1947 October 1948

161-A The Four Dukes with Jimmy DeLand Paddy Murphy's Wake
1948
15445A 161-B The Four Dukes When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
1948
1802 162 Elton Adams and His Blue Ridge Mountaineers Philipino Waltz
December 1948
1803 162-B Elton Adams and His Blue Ridge Mountaineers Silver Bells
December 1948

163 Don Pablo's Orchestra Indian Love Call
1948

163
RLP-32 [?]
Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Lolita Lopez Cielito Lindo
1948
U-1188 164-A George Olsen's Orchestra | Vocal: Betty Norman & Trio Down among the Sheltering Palms
November 1948
U-1027 164-B George Olsen's Orchestra | Vocal: Betty Norman I'm Headin' for a Shotgun Weddin'
November 1948
1789B 165-A
[Vargo 29051A]
Bob Turner and his Electric Guitar with Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Darktown Strutters Ball
1948
1786B 165-B
[Vargo 29048B]
Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Barbara Polka
1948

166




166




167




167



1787B 168-A
[Vargo 29049A]
Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Old Dan Tucker
1948
1787A 168-B
[Vargo 29049B]
Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Snow Deer
1948
1785A 169-A
[Vargo 29033A]
Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Gray Eagle
1948
1785B 169-B
[Vargo 29033B]
Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Pulling the Bow
1948
1784A 170-A Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Stony Point
1948
1784B 170-B Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers Ida Red
1948

171




171




172




172




173




173




174 The Four Dukes Row Row Row
1948

174 The Four Dukes Wagon Wheels
1948

175 George Olsen Orch. | Vocal Ray Adams, Betty Norman, Eddie Stuart With Louise on Lake Louise
November 1948

175 George Olsen Orch. | Vocal Ray Adams Secrets
November 1948
8-B
[Latin American 8-B]
D9 number partly legible
176-A Don Pablo's Orchestra Words of Love-Waltz
November 1949
DP-6A 176-B
RLP-32
Don Pablo's Orchestra Mercury Waltz
November 1949
8-A
[Latin American 8-A]
177-A
RLP-32
Vocal Raquel Cervantes | Don Pablo's Orchestra La Borrachita (I'll Never Love Again)
July 1949
3B
[Latin American 3-B]
177
RLP-32
Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal Lolita Lopez Bonita (Rumba)
July 1949
18-B 178-A Don Pablo's Orchestra Nite of Romance (Noche de Ronda)
November 1949
1B-762
[Latin American 1-B]
178-B Don Pablo's Orchestra Begin the Beguine
November 1949

179 Lloyd Webb with the Payson Sisters and Tibor Fejer at the piano Gypsy Serenade
January 1949

179 Lloyd Webb with the Payson Sisters and Tibor Fejer at the piano You Can Die from a Broken Heart
January 1949
1963-2 180-A The Gordon Trio Caravan November 1946 c. January 1949
1964-1 180-B The Gordon Trio Lullaby of the Leaves November 1946 c. January 1949
UB9383 181-A
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At the Piano After You've Gone c. April 1, 1949 April 1949
UB9385 181-B Sung by Johnny Hill | Olive Mason, Piano Sunday c. April 1, 1949 April 1949
UB9384 182-A Sung by Johnny Hill | Olive Mason, Piano Who Do You Think You Are? c. April 1, 1949 April 1949
UB9386 182-B Sung by Johnny Hill And the Ensemble | Olive Mason, Piano No, No Nora c. April 1, 1949 April 1949
UB9761
D9CB 1105-1
183-A
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Yes Sir, That's My Baby June 1949 Late 1949
D9CB 1055 183-B
RLP-33
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ Love Was the Cause of It All c. June 1949 Late 1949

184-A Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra Galway Bay January 1949 February 1949

184-B Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra My Cathedral January 1949 February 1949

185 Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra Forever and Ever 1949 1949

185 Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry 1949 1949

186
RLP-27
EPR-3
Ken Griffin at the Organ You You You Are the One Late 1948 February 1949

186
RLP-27
EPR-2
Ken Griffin at the Organ Five Foot Two Late 1948 February 1949

187
RLP-27
EPR-3
Ken Griffin at the Organ You're My Love Song Late 1948 March 1949

187
RLP-27
EPR-2
Ken Griffin at the Organ The Miller's Daughter Late 1948 March 1949
UB9287
QB-9187-1-D9
188-A (78 and 45)
RLP-34
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ with The Cosmopolitans Lady of Spain February 1949 April 1949
UB9286
QB-9190-1-D9
188-B (78) Ken Griffin at the Organ with the Cosmopolitans | Sung by: Eddie Vand [sic] The Shades Are Down on Cobble Street February 1949 April 1949
UB9288
EO-CX-642 [on 45 rpm]
189-A
RLP-34
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ with the Cosmopolitans Neapolitan Nights February 1949 April 1949
UB9289
EO-CX-643 [on 45 rpm]
189-B
RLP-34
EPR-6
Ken Griffin at the Organ with the Cosmopolitans After the Ball February 1949 April 1949

190 Lloyd Webb, Vocal Whose Girl Are You?
March 1949

190 Gene Heier's Orchestra Westphalia Waltz
March 1949
UB9954 191-A
RLP-34
EPR-8
Ken Griffin at the Organ The Wedding of Lilli Marlene July 1949 August 1949
UB9955 191-B
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Someday July 1949 August 1949
D9-CB-1056-1 192-A
RLP-27
EPR-4
Ken Griffin at the Organ By the Waters of Minnetonka
By the Waters of the Minnetonka [later pressings]
June 1949 July 1949
D9-CB-1053-1 192-B Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Hill Beautiful Wisconsin June 1949 July 1949
SR 2129-2 193
R-1009
RLP-29
Max Gordon Trio Memories c. April 1947 1949
SR 2130-1 193
R-1009
RLP-29
Max Gordon Trio Carolina in the Morning c. April 1947 1949
SR 2132-1 194
R-1009
RLP-29
Max Gordon Trio Marie c. April 1947 1949
SR 2128-2 194
R-1009
RLP-29
Max Gordon Trio My Little Girl c. April 1947 1949
SR 2127-3 195
R-1009
RLP-29
Max Gordon Trio Whispering c. April 1947 1949
SR 2134-3 195
R-1009
RLP-29
Max Gordon Trio Button Up Your Overcoat c. April 1947 1949
D9CB 1000 196-A
RLP-27
RFD-1-A
EPR-3
Ken Griffin at the Organ | Celeste: H. Moss Ting-A-Ling (The Waltz of the Bells) 1949 May 1949
D9CB 1001 196-B Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Hill You Didn't Want Me When You Had Me c. April 1949 May 1949
D9CB-1002-1X 197-A
RLP-27
EPR-3
Ken Griffin At the Organ | Celeste: H. Moss The Skaters Waltz c. April 1949 June 1949
D9CB-1003-1 197-B
RLP-27
EPR-6
Ken Griffin At The Organ | Celeste: H. Moss Take Me Out to the Ball Game And The Band Played On c. April 1949 June 1949
UB9762 198A
RLP-33
Ken Griffin at the Organ Souvenir Waltz June 1949 Summer 1949
UB9767 198B
EPR-13
Ken Griffin at the Organ Ti Pi Tin June 1949 Summer 1949
UB9956 199-A
EPR-16
Ken Griffin at the Organ College Medley | Notre Dame - Wisconsin - Maine - Illinois - Georgia July 1949 September 1949
UB9957 199-B
EPR-15
Ken Griffin at the Organ The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi July 1949 September 1949
D9-CB-1102-1B 1010-1A
R-1010
RLP-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Bells & Celeste) Jingle Bells c. August 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1103-1A 1010-1B
R-1010
RLP-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes) Oh Christmas Tree! c. August 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1106-1A 1010-2A
R-1010
RLP-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes) Hark the Herald Angels Sing c. August 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1107-1A 1010-2B
R-1010
RLP-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes) It Came upon a Midnight Clear c. August 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1108-1A 1010-3A
R-1010
RLP-1010
RLP-24
Ken Griffin At The Organ Up on the House-Top c. August 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1110-1A 1010-3B
R-1010
RLP-1010
Ken Griffin At The Organ Winter Wonderland c. August 1949 Late 1949
D9CB-1120-1 200-A
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At The Piano Mason's Boogie c. August 1949 September 1949
D9CB-1123-1 200-B
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At The Piano On the Sunny Side of the Street c. August 1949 September 1949
D9CB-1122-1 201-A
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At The Piano I Got Rhythm c. August 1949 November 1949
D9CB-1121-1 201-B Olive Mason At The Piano Yesterdays c. August 1949 November 1949

202-A Bill Snary with The High Steppers Trio You're Going to Be Mine
Fall 1949

202-B Bill Snary with The High Steppers Trio Love in the Fall
Fall 1949
UB9-1074 203-A The Max Gordon Trio | Vocal by Karen Ford The Century Waltz July-August 1949 October 1949
UB9-1112-2 203-B The Max Gordon Trio with Barney Bones Toot-Toot-Tootsie August 1949 October 1949
UB9-1075 204-A Max Gordon Trio | Vocal by Karen Ford | Max Gordon: Organ Arnie Erickson: Guitar Ben Kay: Accordion You're Too Dangerous, Cherie July-August 1949 November 1949
UB9-1073 204-B
RLP-29
The Max Gordon Trio Wild Honey July-August 1949 November 1949

205




205



UB9-1142 206-A Ken Griffin at the Organ | Sung by Karen Ford and Bill Snary Our Christmas Waltz September 1949 October 1949
UB9-1143 206-B Ken Griffin at the Organ Star of the East September 1949 October 1949
UB9-1151 207-A Hoylman Quartet | Vocal by: Gene Colin | R. Hoylman: Piano, Gene Colin: Guitar, G. Ryan: Bass, M. Lishon: Drums Johnson Rag September 1949 November 1949
UB9-1152 207-B Hoylman Quartet | Vocal by: Gene Colin | R. Hoylman: Piano, Gene Colin: Guitar, G. Ryan: Bass, M. Lishon: Drums Side by Side September 1949 November 1949

EO-CX-650 [45 rpm]
208
RLP-30
Harmony Hawaiian Quartet Ulili Hula (Hula Chant)


EO-CX-651 [45 rpm]
208
RLP-30
Harmony Hawaiian Quartet Luana

SRR-2038 209-A
RLP-30
Harmony Hawaiian Quartet On the Beach at Waikiki
Late 1949
SRR-2040 209-B
RLP-30
Harmony Hawaiian Quartet Kuu-Ipo-I-Ka-Hee-Pue-One (Sweethearts from the Sea)
Late 1949
SRR-2032-II
EO-CX-654 [45 rpm]
210-A
RLP-30
Harmony Hawaiian Quartet South Sea Moon
Late 1949
SRR-2039-1
EO-CX-655 [45 pm]
210-B
RLP-30
Harmony Hawaiian Quartet Aloha-Oe
Late 1949
EO-CX-656 [45 rpm] 211-A Harmony Hawaiian Quartet Malahini Mele (Song of the Strangers)
Late 1949
EO-CX-657 [45 rpm] 211-B Harmony Hawaiian Quartet Ke-Ahi-Kuu-Ipo (Love's Fire)
Late 1949

212-A Ken Griffin At The Organ Merry Christmas Late 1949 December 1949

212-B Ken Griffin At The Organ Santa's Coming Late 1949 December 1949
D9-CX-267 [45 rpm] 213-A
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Sentimental Me Late 1949 December 1949
D9-CX-268 [45 rpm] 213-B
RLP-34
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ My Blue Heaven Late 1949 December 1949
D9-CX-269 [45 rpm] 214A
RLP-33
EPR-4
Ken Griffin at the Organ Till We Meet Again Late 1949 January 1950
D9-CX-270 [45 rpm] 214B
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Tiger Rag Late 1949 January 1950
D9CB2216-1 215-A
[Autograph 813]
Martha Lou Harp | Vic Anthony | Vocal with Orchestra Directed by Dan Mendelssohn Sentimental Me c. September 1949 December 1949
D9CB2215-1 215-B
[Autograph 813]
Martha Lou Harp and The Carolers | Vocal with Orchestra Directed by Dan Mendelssohn Little Pink Toes c. September 1949 December 1949

216-A The Max Gordon Trio Back Home Again in Indiana
1950

216-B The Max Gordon Trio You Bring Out The Love in Me
1950
217-A
D9-CX-279 [45 rpm]
217-A Gene Colin's Quartet | Vocal by Gene Colin | Buddy Shaw: Clarinet, Gene Colin: Guitar, Paul Gordon: Piano, Maurie Laurie: Drums Too Thin Polka November or December 1949 1950
217-B Gene Colin's Quartet | Vocal by Gene Colin | Buddy Shaw: Clarinet, Gene Colin: Guitar, Paul Gordon: Piano, Maurie Laurie: Drums My Date Book Is Open November or December 1949 1950

218 Gene Colin's Quartet Shut Up Shut Up November or December 1949 1950

218 Gene Colin's Quartet Someday Sweetheart November or December 1949 1950

219-A
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At The Piano Boogie on the Humoresque February or March 1950 April 1950

219-B
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At The Piano Angry February or March 1950 April 1950

220
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At The Piano Lady Be Good February or March 1950 April 1950

220
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At the Piano Liza February or March 1950 April 1950

221-A
RLP-38
EPR-13
Ken Griffin at the Organ Half a Heart
February 1950

221-B
RLP-38
EPR-14
Ken Griffin at the Organ Under a Red Umbrella
February 1950
E0-CX-663 on 45 222-A
RLP-38
EPR-18
Ken Griffin at the Organ Music! Music! Music!
March 1950
E0-CX-664 on 45 222-B
RLP-38
EPR-18
Ken Griffin at the Organ Jumping Beans
March 1950
E0-CB-3352-1 223-A
EPR-17
Ken Griffin At The Organ Put Your Arms around Me Honey January 1950 March 1951
222-A [sic] 223-B
EPR-17
Ken Griffin At The Organ Margie
March 1951
E0-CB-3349 224-A
RLP-38
EPR-16
Ken Griffin At The Organ Wabash Blues January 1950 1950
E0-CB-3350 224-B
RLP-38
EPR-8
Ken Griffin At The Organ Stardust January 1950 1950

225-A
RLP-38
EPR-15
Ken Griffin at the Organ Liebestraum January 1950 May 1950
E0-CB-3351 225-B
RLP-38
EPR-14
Ken Griffin at the Organ Bayadere January 1950 May 1950

1050-A Ken Griffin at the Organ with St. Nicholas Boys' Choir Little Prayers for Little People Part 1 Prayers 1-8 c. February 1950 March 1950

1050-B Ken Griffin at the Organ with St. Nicholas Boys' Choir Little Prayers for Little People Part 2 c. February 1950 March 1950
5005-A 226-A Tommy Carlyn's Orchestra | Featuring DeLoris Randall and Carlyn's Quartet If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake
March 1950
5005-B 226-B Tommy Carlyn's Orchestra | Featuring Carlyn's Take It Easy Trio I Found a Rose
March 1950

227 Ken Griffin At The Organ Tea for Two


227
EPR-11
Ken Griffin At The Organ Miss You


228
See Appendix D

229




229



UB50-427 230-A
RLP-42
Arsene Siegel At The Organ Gold and Silver Waltz April 1950 1950
UB50-428 230-B
RLP-42
Arsene Siegel At The Organ Nights of Gladness April 1950 1950
UB50-450 231-A
RLP-42
Tommy Fairclow At The Organ Blue Skirt Waltz April 1950
UB50-451 231-B
RLP-42
Tommy Fairclow At The Organ Honeymoon Waltz April 1950
UB 50-452 232-A
RLP-42
Tommy Fairclow At The Organ State Fair Polka April 1950 August 1950
UB 50-453 232-B Tommy Fairclow At The Organ Beautiful Ohio April 1950 August 1950

233 The Songsmiths Old Injun Trail in the Valley April 1950

233 The Songsmiths Dancing with You April 1950
UB50-462 234-B The Songsmiths | Accompanied by Charlie Agnew's Orch. Ida April 1950 c. June 1950
UB50-460 234-A The Songsmiths | Accompanied by Charlie Agnew's Orch. Sunshine Song (Smile Till the Sun Comes Through) April 1950 c. June 1950
UB50-513 235-A Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland | Vocal Refrain by Lola Ameche The Bucket Song May 11, 1950 c. June 1950
UB50-515 235-B Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland Red Pepper Rag May 11, 1950 c. June 1950
UB50-514 236 Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland Lassas Trombone [sic] May 11, 1950 c. June 1950
UB50-516 236 Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland Maple Leaf Rag May 11, 1950 c. June 1950
UB-50-608 237-A Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra Someone Stole My Heart June 1950 August 1950
UB-50-609 237-B Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra Lost and Gone June 1950 August 1950

238 Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra No One to Love June 1950 July 1950

238 Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra Waltzing with Tears in My Eyes June 1950 July 1950
UP 2284-1 239A The Cherokees with Frank Baron's Orchestra Let's Do It Again [England] August 1950
UPC 2285-2 239B The Cherokees with Frank Baron's Orchestra Say Oo La La, Oui Oui [England] August 1950
UB9-1144 240-A Vocal refrain by Willy Rodrian | Music by Homer's Melody Makers With My Schatz September 1949
UB9-1166 240-B Homer's Melody Makers Honey Polka September 1949

241 Marguerite Colbert At The Organ You Tell Me Your Dreams and I'll Tell You Mine
December 1950

241 Marguerite Colbert At The Organ Home
December 1950

242




242



UB50-855 243-A Marguerite Colbert At The Organ Stormy Weather August 1950
UB50-858 243-B Marguerite Colbert At The Organ Linger Awhile August 1950

244




244




245 Tommy Fairclow At The Organ Poor Butterfly


245 Tommy Fairclow At The Organ Weeping Willow Trees

UB 50-1051 446-A Sung by Gene Colin with Tommy Fairclow At the Organ Whistlin' Cowpoke October 1950
UB50-874 446-B Tommy Fairclow At the Organ Ragtime Cowboy Joe August 1950

247 Tommy Fairclow At The Organ Rosalie
February 1953

247 Tommy Fairclow At The Organ Have You Ever Been Lonely
February 1953
UB 51-271 447-A Vi and Jerry Wagner | Organ & Piano | Earl Backus: Guitar | Vocal by Jack Lester I'm a Rollin' c. July 1951
UB 51-272 447-B Vi and Jerry Wagner | Organ & Piano | Earl Backus: Guitar [title unknown] c. July 1951

248




248




249




249



250 through 255 See Appendix C
UB 45 260A [sic, 45 rpm] 260-A Sung by: Melody Five | Music by Bill Walker Ensemble Home in Dear Old Wisconsin
1951
UB51-239 260-B Bill Walker Ensemble Billy Bock Polka May 1951 1951
3CC-102-7 261-A Vocal by Gene Schiller and Ensemble with Chuck Cabot's Orchestra Ella with the Polka-Dot Umbrella
May 1951
CC-5-3 261-B Vocal by The Encores and Ensemble with Chuck Cabot's Orchestra Just Go on Your Own Merry Way
May 1951

262 Vocal by Emma Lou Welch with Chuck Cabot's Orchestra Somewhere on Skid Row
May 1951

262 Vocal by Emma Lou Welch with Chuck Cabot's Orchestra On a Trail Goin' Nowhere
May 1951
UB51-265 265-A Johnny Hill with Caesar Giovanni's Orchestra Be Careful 1951

265-B




266-A Percy Haid at the Piano Slaughter on 10th Avenue


266-B Percy Haid at the Piano Moon over Lake Michigan


268-A Sung by: Melody Five Accompanied by Bill Walker Trio I'm Cuckoo
1951

268-B Sung by: Melody Five Accompanied by Bill Walker Trio The Indiana Waltz
1951
106-13 275-A Lee Kelton Orchestra Featuring Art Pallan with the Kinder Trio Waiting c. May 1950
107 275-B Lee Kelton Orchestra | Vocal: Buzz Aston I Spoke Too Soon c. May 1950

279 Tommy Carlyn's Orch. Featuring Nan Green with Bill Bickel at the Organ Holiday in Paris


279-A Tommy Carlyn's Orch. Featuring Nan Green with Carlyn's "Take It Easy" Trio Sweetheart, Where Are You?

283 through 289 See Appendix D
E1-KB-1684 290 Jack Teter Trio | Sung by Jack Teter Jig-a-Long Joe c. May 1951 1951
E1-KB-1687 290 Jack Teter Trio | Sung by Jack Teter Baby Talk c. May 1951 1951
291 through 298 See Appendix D
299-B 299-A Captain Stubby And The Buccaneers Featuring Tiny Stokes Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart 1952 July 1952
299-A 299-B Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers Featuring Tiny Stokes You Can't Be True Dear 1952 July 1952

300-A Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers Featuring the Buccaneer Trio Yearning (Just for You) 1952 July 1952

300-B Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers Featuring the Buccaneer Trio If You Would Only Be Mine 1952 July 1952

301-A Capt. Stubby and the Buccaneers The Knockin' Song (True Love Is Knockin')
February 1953

301-B Capt. Stubby and the Buccaneers featuring Tiny Stokes Each Time You Leave
February 1953
RR-302-A
[Modern Recording Studio]
302-A Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers Forever with You
February 1953
RR-302-B
[Modern Recording Studio]
302-B Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers featuring Tiny Stokes I'll Never Tell
February 1953
U-2461
E3QB 2293 [trailoff only]
303 Capt. Stubby and the Buccaneers | Vocal Tiny Stokes Sunshine c. April 1953 April 1953
U-2462
E3QB 2297 [trailoff only]
303 Capt. Stubby and the Buccaneers Featuring Tiny Stokes You Can Push Your Luck Too Far c. April 1953 April 1953
[Master UB52-565] 304-1 Ronnie Orland At The Piano Blind Mice Boogie late 1952 February 1954
[Master UB52-564] 304-2 Ronnie Orland At The Piano Ronnie's Boogie late 1952 February 1954

305-1 Carmen Vincent and his Orch. Featuring Joe Buck on the accordion | Vocal by Carmen Vincent Wonderful Wisconsin
1954

305-2 Carmen Vincent and his Orch. Featuring Joe Buck on the accordion | Vocal by Carmen Vincent and The Versal-Aires Hey Hey Polka
1954

307-1 Ronnie Orland At The Piano with rhythm Bumble Boogie prob. late 1952

307-3 [sic!] Ronnie Orland At The Piano with rhythm Back of the Yards prob. late 1952

308-1 Ronnie Orland At The Piano with rhythm Jean prob. late 1952

307-2 Ronnie Orland At The Piano with rhythm Hawaiian War Chant Boogie prob. late 1952

309-1 Bob Kames at the organ and clavioline with rhythm Oh Marie!


309-2 Bob Kames at the organ and clavioline with rhythm Alexander's Ragtime Band

Appendix C. The Rondo 500 and 250 Series

Matrix Number Release Number Artist Title Recording Date Release Date
SR1957-1 501-A
Carolina Play Boys It Takes a Long Tall Brown Skin Gal December 1946
SR1750- 501-B
Carolina Play Boys Baby You Gotta Quit That Noise April 1946
UB9713 250-A Dusty Rivers and the Rangers Wheelwright Boogie c. May 1949 October 1949
UB9715 250-B Dusty Rivers and the Rangers | Vocal by "Speedy" Ross I Don't Know Where I Go But I'm Goin' c. May 1949 October 1949
UB9714 251-A Dusty Rivers and the Rangers | Vocal by "Speedy" Ross Hongkong Blues c. May 1949
UB9716 251-B Dusty Rivers and the Rangers | Vocal by: The Rangers Trio Kentucky Means Paradise c. May 1949
1880 252A
[Sonora H7024-B]
Stu Davis and Orchestra | Vocal by Stu Davis I Can Beat You Doin What You're Doin to Me [sic] September 1946
1878 252B
[Sonora H7027-A]
Stu Davis and Orchestra | Vocal by Stu Davis Land, Sky and Water September 1946

253




253




254




254




255-A Dick Brown | Van Smith Orhestra That Little Girl
October 1949

255-B Dick Brown | Van Smith Orchestra What Have You Done to My Heart?
October 1949

We had previously listed just Rondo 501 here. However, the presence of another Sonora-derived single (Rondo 252), the 1949 recording dates on Rondo 250 and 251, and the 1949 release date for Rondo 255 (it was reviewed in Billboard on October 22, 1949, p. 74) suggest that for some reason the company switched the numbering on its Country series.


Appendix D. Singles on Rondo with Overdubbed Vocals

Matrix Number Release Number Artist Title Overdubbed on Recording Date Release Date

228-A Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal by Jerry Wayne You Can't Be True Dear Rondo 128-A
March 1948

228-B Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal by Jerry Wayne Doodle Doo Do Rondo 130-A
March 1948

328-A Ken Griffin: (Orgel) | Gesang: Jolly Franzl Du Kannst Nicht Treu Sein Rondo 128-A


328-B Ken Griffin: (Orgel) | Gesang: Jolly Franzl Komm' in Meine Liebeslaube Rondo 135-A

UB 8776 428-A Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek akomp. Ken Griffin na organie Niewiernym Jestes (You Can't Be True Dear) Rondo 128-A
April 1949
UB 8777 428-B Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Rudy Plocar i jego orkiestra Dziadunio Polka (Clarinet Polka) Rondo 553-B
April 1949
UB8569-3-1 143-A Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Cuckoo Bird Waltz Rondo 128-B
1948
UB8568-3-2 143-B Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Every Little Movement Rondo 135-A
1948

150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp If I Had You Rondo 137-A
October 1948

150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp Brown Jug Polka Rondo 137-B
October 1948

600-A Featuring The Payson Sisters | Jolly Franzl | Rudy Plocar's Orch. More Beer! Rondo 588-A
December 1948

600-B Rudy Plocar's Orch. Silver Lake Waltz Rondo 588-B
December 1948

283-A Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill and Karen Ford Yes, Sir, That's My Baby Rondo 183-A
August 1949

283-B Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill Love Was the Cause of It All Rondo 183-B
August 1949

287 Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill and Karen Ford You're My Love Song Rondo 187


287 Ken Griffin The Miller's Daughter Rondo 187


292-A Ken Griffin By the Waters of the Minnetonka Rondo 192-A
August 1949

292-B
RLP-33
EPR-4
Ken Griffin Beautiful Wisconsin Rondo 192-B
August 1949

298 Ken Griffin | Vocal: Bill Snary with the Songsmiths Souvenir Waltz Rondo 198-A


298 Ken Griffin Ti-Pi-Tin Rondo 198-B


421-A Ken Griffin At the Organ Featuring The Songsmiths Under a Red Umbrella Rondo 221-B
1950
221-A 421-B Ken Griffin At the Organ Half a Heart Rondo 221-A
1950

Notes on Appendix D: These records with overdubbed vocals are listed in the chronological order of the original instrumental releases from which they were derived. Where no vocal credits are included, that side of the record was carried over as an instrumental.

The discerning reader will note the absence of vocal credits on both sides of Rondo 292. That's because, for some reason, Rondo put out 192 with a vocal on "Beautiful Wisconsin"—which sounds as though Johnny Hill and Ken Griffin were actually in the studio at the same time—then put the instrumental version out on 292. (The rationale for the switch has proven elusive.)

After appearing on Olive Mason's first session in 1949, and provided overdubbed vocals for several of Ken Griffin's that same year, Johnny Hill was signed to a small label called Barthel (Cash Box, January 7, 1950, p. 10; he was desrcribed as "formerly on Rondo"). Not a whole lot happened with Barthel, and in 1951 Hill would be back for at least one single with pianist Caesar Giovanni.

Bill Snary, who sang with Ken Griffin on Rondo 298 and Rondo 206, also got a record of his own on Rondo 202 (not that we can tell you more about it for now; our only source is an advertisement). His activity with Rondo seems to have been confined to the fall of 1949. In 1950, he appeared on Tower 1487, in a duet with Elaine Neblett on a single recorded by Tony Papa and his band. According to Michel Ruppli, in The Mercury Labels: The 1945-1956 Era (p. 243), Snary sang on two sides from an Al Trace session for Mercury in July or August 1951 ("Oh! How I Love You" came out on Mercury 5694 and 5703; "A Half-Fast Waltz" was on Mercry 5695 and 5704). By the end of the year, he was with Ralph Marterie, doing "Tell Me Why" on Mercury 5767 (Billboard, December 22, 1951, p. 21). Snary later recorded for Jim Martin's Sharp label (Sharp 53, which has to be one of label's last, with the Dick Marks Trio). In 1953, Snary was touring with Ralph Marterie. We learn from the June 18, 1955 issue of Cash Box (p. 16) that Snary sang at WIND for two years, and that on signing with Coral Records he'd changed his name to Bill Carey. As Bill Carey, he moved more in an R&B direction. In 1956 his rendition of "Goin' to Chicago Blues" (originally Coral 61622, with George Barnes and his Chorus and Orchestra) made it onto a Coral Rock 'n' Roll Party LP, which was licensed to Deutsche Grammophon and released only in Europe, as Coral 97 006. A poster at the Mellow's Log Cabin site said "Bill Carey (aka Bill Snary) was my uncle. […] he was on radio and TV quite a lot in the 1950s and then moved on to the west coast, where he sang in clubs and did some acting (small role in "Born Losers," the original Billy Jack film). He once told me he tried to emulate Billy Eckstine" (comment from June 12, 2013 at http://hillbillycountry.blogspot.com/2012/05/coral-rocknroll-party.html). Carey had at least 5 singles out on Coral.

There are two known Rondos that overdub a vocal over something besides a Ken Griffin organ solo. While the A side of Rondo 428 is yet another version of "You Can't Be True, Dear," side B has Alicja Kusek's vocals dubbed on top of a polka from Rudy Plocar's first session for the label.

The second dub, also over a Rudy Plocar recording, was the product of a long-forgotten music business frenzy. In October 1948, "More Beer!" (a good-timey polka with words in English) found some traction commercially. Not long after the original version came out on Manhattan Records, a small label based in St. Louis (Billboard, November 6, 1948, p. 43), a bunch of competitors wanted in on the action. Before November was out, RCA Victor was offering a Lawrence Duchow rendition with vocals by one Johnny Olsen. By December, Dana, a polka specialist label, had its own version out by Walter Ziemba. So Rondo took Rudy Plocar's November 1947 recording of the "Wisconsin Polka," as recently released on Rondo 588 (the C strain had become the tune to "More Beer!"), snipped off the first presentation of the A strain (so listeners wouldn't have to wait so long for the words to start), and overdubbed lead vocals by Jolly Franzl (who had been previously entrusted with vocals in German and English) with backing by the Payson Sisters. The resulting souped-up version, on Rondo 600, reused the instrumental recording of "Silver Lake Waltz" (already the B side of 588) for a flip. As with the Ken Griffins so modified, overdubbing vocals wasn't considered a violation of the Musicians Union recording ban. (We previously misidentified the overdubbed polka as the "Beer Bucket Polka," but another listen to "Wisconsin Polka" disabused us of that notion.)

Not to be outdone, in January 1949 Rondo would roll out a second version of "More Beer!" by Pete Ochs (Rondo 601, advertised in Billboard on January 22, 1949; see our 550 series listing). Whether this was freshly recorded for Rondo with vocals, or had undergone doctoring, we are not in a position to say (the Plocar rendition is a little easier to find today). Plocar and Ochs were facing well distributed competition, and not just from Duchow; in early January Decca released a version by the Andrews Sisters, recorded in late December 1948, which soon reached the pop charts. In July 1949, Decca's Coral subisidiary was offering still another "More Beer!" by the Ames Brothers. By the the middle of 1950, the wave had subsided. An advertisement for Lawrence Duchow's RCA Victor releases (Billboard, August 12, 1950, p. 36) showed two-thirds of them as available on 78s and 45s. "More Beer!" was among the lower-priority disks, available only on 78 rpm. As late as 1954, however, Chance would release another rendition, by the BEL Trio from Milwaukee. )The BEL Trio brought a jazz infuence to the number, which might make it more listenable today but surely failed to enhance sales then.)


Rondo ad, December 10, 1949
From Billboard, December 10, 1949, p. 40

Appendix E. 10-inch LPs on Rondo

LP Number Artist Title Release Date
RLP-24 Organ and Chimes [Elmer Ihrke, Cosmo Teri, Ken Griffin] Merry Christmas Melodies 1953 or 1954
RLP-25
Victory {Be] VLP 25
Ken Griffin At the Organ July 1949
RLP-26 Elmer Ihrke Christmas Carols (Organ and Chimes) October 1949
RLP-27
Victory {Be] VLP 27
Ken Griffin The Wizard of the Organ October 1949
RLP-28 Rudy Plocar Polka Parade October 1949
RLP-1010 Ken Griffin (Organ and Chimes) Merry Christmas November or December 1949
RLP-29
Victory {Be] VLP 29
Max Gordon Trio
December 1949
RLP-30 Hawaiian Harmony Quartet Songs from the Islands 1950
RLP-31 Jimmy Blade Jimmy Blade's Music 1950
RLP-32 Don Pablo's Orchestra Music of the Americas April 1950
RLP-33 Ken Griffin At the Organ 1950
RLP-34 Ken Griffin The Wizard of the Organ 1951
RLP-35 Elmer Ihrke The Golden Album of Hymns 1951
RLP-36 Elmer Ihrke and the Noller-Straub Duo At the Organ 1951
RLP-37
Victory [Be] VLP 37
Olive Mason At the Piano 1951
RLP-38 Ken Griffin The Wizard of the Organ 1951
RLP-39 Gabor Radics & His Orch. Gypsy Music 1951
RLP-40 Armand Bernard Orchestra Viennese Varieties 1951
RLP-41 Rudy Plocar New Polka with Plocar 1951
RLP-42 Tommy Fairclow — Arsene Siegel Organ Favorites II 1952
RLP-43 Ken Griffin Wizard of the Organ on Rondo Records 1952 or 1953
RLP-44 Ken Griffin Wizard of the Organ on Rondo Records 1952 or 1953
CLP-1
Children's Long Playing Record 1950 or 1951
ALP-1 H. B. Moss, Piano | Produced by Maestro Dino Bigalli For Tenor and Soprano 1950
ALP-2 Dr. Otto Herz, Piano | Produced by Alexander Kipnis For Baritone and Mezzo Soprano 1950

Some Notes to Appendix D: As with most small record companies at the time, Rondo's 10-inch LPs generally reissued tracks that the label had already put out on singles. We have indicated on our 100 and 550 series lists which items were later released on LPs.

The exceptions, to our present knowledge, are RLP-39, Gypsy Music by Gabor Radics and RLP-40, Viennese Varieties by Armand Bernard; complete track listings for all 4 LPs are on a late 1951 Rondo sleeve in Robert L. Campbell's collection. And an advertisement for RLP-42 on the back of another LP in Robert L. Campbell's collection lists "State Fair Polka," which we know is by Tommy Fairclow, "Blue Skirt Waltz" and "Honeymoon Waltz," which appear to be by Tommy Fairclow, "Claire de Lune" and "Narcissus," which look like Arsene Siegel material, and "Gold and Silver" and "Nights of Gladness," which definitely are. Every individual track on these albums probably first appeared on a Rondo single, even if we haven't located it yet. On the other hand, we are rather sure that the two Accompadisc LPs, both of which were announced in January 1950, used material that was not released on singles.

Meanwhile, we can reasonably assume that all 6 tracks on CLP-1 had previously been released on singles, even though we have not yet run across RC-3 from that series.

Every side out of the 46 included in the first 6 Ken Griffin LPs is on our list of the 100 series (Appendix B), as is every side on the Jimmy Blade LP and every side on the Olive Mason LP. There is just one track on the Max Gordon LP not presently listed in the 100s, and we know that it was released on Rolin. We are reasonably sure that every Elmer Ihrke track on his his two solo LPs and his other two shared LPs made a previous appearance in the 100 series. (For instance, RLP-24, which Ihrke shares with Cosmo Teri and Ken Griffin, supplements the 6 Teri and Ihrke tracks in the 78-rpm album R-1004 with one other Ihrke track, previously released on Rondo 109 and 120, and one side from Ken Griffin's 78-rpm album R-1010). We can now confirm that RLP-30, by the Hawaiian Harmony Quartet, consisted on Rondo 208, 209, 210, and 211. On the back of RLP-28, as released in 1949, the statement is made that "All these selections [on RLPs 25, 26, and 27] are also available singly—(on 78 rpm records)." And every track on the 2 Rudy Plocar LPs is included in our 550 series listing (Appendix A).

Ken Griffin's last two LPs, RLP-43 and 44, are different animals. Not one of RLP-43's 8 tracks was released while he was still under contract with Rondo. The titles are "Twelfth Street Rag," "The Whistler and His Dog," "Humoresque," "Santa Lucia," "Prune Song," "Sentimental Journey," "Freight Train Boogie," and "La Paloma." Between his return to the studio toward the end of 1948 and his departure from Rondo in March 1950, Griffin was recording at a much faster pace than even Rondo's aggressive release schedule could support. Some of these titles may, of course, have appeared on singles, as yet undocumented, between 1951 and 1953.

The same goes for RLP-44. What appears to be the label's very last LP consists of "Heavenly Hawaii," "Cielito Lindo," "Serenade," "Beer Barrel Polka," "Funiculi, Funicula," "La Golondrina," "Dark Eyes," and "Barcarole."

On the 17 4-track Griffin EPs released by Rondo, just 1 track out of the first 32, "Lorelei Waltz" on EPR-4, is not on our 100 series list (nor is it any of his 7 known LPs). EPR-11 includes "12th Street Rag" and "Prune Song" from RLP-43. EPR-12 includes "The Whistler and His Dog" and "La Paloma," as on RLP-43. EPR-13 has "Humoresque" and "Freight Train Boogie"; EPR-14 "Santa Lucia" and "Sentimental Journey." The last four EPs correspondingly duplicate the contents of RLP-44. The couplings are "Heavenly Hawaii" and "Cielito Lindo" from EPR-15; "Beer Barrel Polka," and Schubert's "Serenade" from EPR-16; "Funiculi, Funicula" and "La Golondrina" from EPR-17; and "Dark Eyes" and "Barcarole" from EPR-18.

RLP-25 was announced in Billboard; a later story, dated October 22, 1949, declared that Rondo had 4 LPs out; and four of the first six were listed in a small Rondo advertisement in the same trade paper on December 10, 1949. The back liner to RLP-29 (released December 1949) refers to RLPs 25, 26, 27, 28, and 1010. The release date on the Don Pablo comes from an ad for Kuras Furniture Appliance and Music store in Ludington, Michigan; it is listed among several "New LP 33 1/3 RPM Records" (Ludington Daily News, April 14, 1950, p. 8). Although the numbering might lead one to believe that RLP-24 was the first venture into the medium, the only copy we have seen looks like a 1953 or 1954 release. RLP-24 uses a red Rondo label in the standard 10-inch LP size, not the green 78-rpm style label that the company had otherwise relied on (even on its last two Ken Griffin LPs, RLP-43 and 44).

As for Don Pablo and his Orchestra, Rondo had a ton of single releases to choose from (we probably still don't have all of them listed). When 8 sides were selected for RLP-32, Music of the Americas, the front cover listed "Cielito Lindo," but "Mercury Waltz" was advertised on other LPs as being included, and the B side label for the LP shows "Mercury Waltz." Probably an error on the cover (but we have not heard the LP and cannot rule out an error on the label).


The original Rondo had gone down slowly; after the move to Union City there was a prolonged twilight. The Obersteinian Rondo label initially did some straight-up reissues of Rondo 78s. (We will include pictures of a 78 rpm release from the earliest Obersteinian days, to show it differed from Chicago-era Rondos.) In 1957, there were some new Rondo 45s in a 900 series that the Chicago operation had never used, with their label design copied from the last Rondo 78s. To our knowledge, there were no straight reissues of Rondo 10-inch LPs; Oberstein used his Royale imprint for any of those that interested him. But with the advent of the 12-inch LP, the Oberstein subsidiary eventually refocused on them, especially light classics and show tunes; the new Rondo LP series began in 1958. After Oberstein's death in 1960, Rondo became a Pickwick property, with the imprint being retired around 1970.


Click here to return to Red Saunders Research Foundation page.