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Mound City Blue Blowers

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The Mound City Blowers were an unlikely success. Originally comprised of Red McKenzie on comb and tissue paper (which sounded like a kazoo), Dick Slevin on an actual kazoo, and Jack Bland on banjo, the unique band's initial recording in 1924 ("Arkansas Blues" and "Blue Blues") became a big hit. The group recorded 12 titles in all during 1924-1925, including two with guest Frankie Trumbauer on C-melody sax and with guitarist Eddie Lang firming up the rhythm on the final six numbers. McKenzie made additional sessions as a vocalist under his own name, while the Mound City title was retired for a few years. However, in 1929, McKenzie used the name for four selections recorded with all-star groups. While "Tailspin Blues" and "Never Had a Reason to Believe in You" featured trombonist/vocalist Jack Teagarden, "Hello Lola" and "One Hour" are considered classic. Coleman Hawkins took a historic ballad solo on the latter, trombonist Glenn Miller rarely sounded hotter than on "Hello Lola," and both clarinetist Pee Wee Russell and McKenzie on comb were in top form. A 1931 date with cornetist Muggsy Spanier, clarinetist Jimmy Dorsey, and Hawkins was mostly a feature for McKenzie's vocals, but his contributions to the final Mound City Blue Blowers recordings (25 songs cut during 1935-1936) are actually quite minor with a few vocals and not enough comb playing. Nappy Lamare, the Top Hatters, Spooky Dickenson, and Billy Wilson actually do most of the singing, but the reason that these last performances (all available on a single Classics CD) are of great interest are the trumpet solos of either Bunny Berigan or Yank Lawson and Eddie Miller on tenor and clarinet. ~ Scott Yanow

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