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The Goofus Five

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In 1924 Ed Kirkeby, the manager of the California Ramblers, decided to form a small group taken from the larger orchestra to play novelties and hotter jazz numbers. At first known as the Little Ramblers on its Columbia recordings, the quintet (comprised of trumpeter Bill Moore, Adrian Rollini on a goofus, pianist Irving Brodsky, banjoist Ray Kitchingman who was soon replaced by Tommy Felline, and Stan King on drums and kazoo) also recorded for Pathe as the Five Birmingham Babies and, most prolifically, for Okeh as the Goofus Five. The "goofus" that the versatile Rollini played sounded like a mouth organ or a melodica but was shaped like a saxophone. The Goofus Five quickly grew in size, eventually to eight pieces, and Rollini played as much bass saxophone as he did goofus. Other band members included (at various times) cornetist Red Nichols, altoist Bobby Davis, trumpeter Chelsea Quealey, trombonist Abe Lincoln and various vocalists including Ed Kirkeby himself. In late-1927, when Rollini and some of the other bandmembers visited England, The Goofus Five continued recording domestically with less distinctive players and the style was less interesting and more dance music-oriented than jazz. Rollini returned to the U.S. in time to be on the final recording session (Feb. 28, 1929) of the Goofus Five before the name passed into history. A 1994 Timeless CD has all of the group's recordings from the May 1926-Aug. 1927 period, the Goofus Five's prime. ~ Scott Yanow

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