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The Cotton Pickers

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Biography

Cotton Pickers was the generic band name that Brunswick Records used on its small jazz band recordings made in 1922-1923, 1924-1925, and again in 1929. These were intended to compete with popular dance records issued on other labels by groups such as Ladd's Black Aces, Bailey's Lucky Seven, and the Memphis Five. The earliest incarnation of Cotton Pickers was led by clarinetist Bennie Krueger and included trumpeter Phil Napoleon, trombonist Miff Mole, and pianist Frank Signorelli, all of who also appeared in the Memphis Five. In time practically the whole personel of the Memphis Five was brought into the ranks of Cotton Pickers, and this is the way the band stood until September of 1923. It is not known why the group stopped recording for Brunswick at this point, although one might speculate Columbia (to whom the Memphis Five was contracted exclusively) got wise as to the identity of Cotton Pickers and told Phil Napoleon and company to knock it off.

Brunswick decided to revive the name in February 1924 and continued to use it until late 1925 as a pseudonym for a small group drawn from the ranks of the New York-based Ray Miller Orchestra. At this stage the Miller band included both Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, saxophonist Frank Trumbauer, and coincidentally Miff Mole, who proved the only holdover from the earlier incarnation of Cotton Pickers. On these later Cotton Pickers sides it is Trumbauer and Mole who see most of the action, the latter spectacularly so on "Down and Out Blues."

The final 1929 batch of Cotton Pickers records, made seemingly as an afterthought, were also coordinated by Ray Miller. By that time the hot soloists of 1925 had moved on to other things, but the last sessions features vocal choruses by Libby Holman and Dick Robertson. While the name "Cotton Pickers" may have been intended as nothing more than a generic designation for hot music from Brunswick, as you can see from the names listed above, Cotton Pickers were anything but "generic."

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