[Dixielandjazz] Bud or Bill?

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Wed Nov 4 01:15:38 PST 2009

Anton Crouch wrote in reply to Richard Flecknell's provocative link to
- a blog posted on 5 February 2009 by Ricky Riccardi.
> Listening to the 3 "Dippermouth"s and "Kentucky Stomp" now leads me to
> believe that the interjector on the Gennett "Dippermouth" is Bud  
> Scott.

Dear Anton and Richard,
I wholehearted concur that Bud Scott calls out "Oh Play That Thing on  
both King Oliver's "Dippermouth Blues" based on the sound-bites  
provided by Ricky Ricardo. (Whose article I had read earlier this year.)
The voice on the Dixie Four sides, I believe, is a different person  
and may well be Bill Johnson, although I doubt this.
Why, I want to know, after all these years are learned collector/ 
discographers still so keen to claim Bill Johnson as the bassist on  
the two King Oliver Gennett sessions of April 1923 when our ears (if  
open) tell us that it is Bud Scott. Just listen, and compare, the  
banjo work behind Johnny Dodds on "Canal Street Blues" (April 1923)  
and his playing on "Sobbin' Blues" (June 1923).
Try playing both, one after the other.
Johnny St Cyr's arrival in Chicago is well documented as 23rd  
September 1923. So it can't be him.
Bill Johnson has claimed to have been the manager of the Oliver band  
at this time and interviewed participants agree that he was present in  
Richmond, Indiana at the beginning of April 1923. Baby Dodds recalls  
Johnson being there, as does Lil and Louis.
However, Johnson, in a 1959 interview recalled that he was ill during  
the two day session at Gennett in April.
Another red herring.
But nobody has said that Bud Scott was NOT there. According to Bud  
Scott he arrived in Chicago in early 1923, played casuals until  
joining King Oliver at the Lincoln Gardens.
Bill Johnson was a very powerful string bass player, as can be heard  
on his late 1920s recordings with the Dixie Four, Chicago Footwarmers,  
Johnny Dodds, State Street Ramblers, Junie Cobb, Midnight Rounders,  
Frankie 'Half Pint' Jaxon, Ikey Robinson, Chippie Hill, his own  
Louisiana Jug Band and Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band.
If the sound engineer at Gennett would not permit Baby Dodds to use  
his bass drum and allegedly positioned Oliver and Louis far away from  
the recording horn, I can imagine him freaking out on hearing Bill  
Johnson's solid bass playing.
Anton does not dismiss Baby Dodds' and Lil Hardin's memory of the  
story that Baby Dodd's missed his break and 'someone' jumped in with a  
vocal break. As Anton says the lapse could have occurred "during a  
rehearsal or early take? Bear in mind
that the issued take is number 3 and that there is no reason to  
believe that the interjection is anything but rehearsed on this take."
[All not unlike the oft-repeated myth of Louis dropping his music  
during the recording of the Hot Five's "Heebie Jeebies" and thereby  
'inventing' scat singing!!]
To use the publicity photographs, taken in Chicago, with Bill Johnson  
holding a banjo (not even a 6-string as used on the recordings) as  
evidence that he played with the band is tosh.
A companion photograph shows him holding bass and banjo (published on  
the Archeophone CD cover) and the third photo shows a staged action  
shot with Johnson 'playing' banjo.
Maybe Bud Scott missed the photo shoot. Or they were taken just before  
he joined the band.
He certainly didn't miss the Gennett record session, on the aural  
evidence of his playing.
The 'experts' should think laterally. Forget about the photographs,  
accept that Johnson was in the studio, but did not play bass (and  
certainly not banjo).
Therefore the shout on "Dippermouth Blues could be Bud Scott or Johnson.
Notwithstanding comments regarding "Kentucky Stomp" in the Ricardo  
article, I can't accept that this is the "Dippermouth Blues" shouter.
And we don't really know if Bill Johnson speaks on these sides or any  
of the others from the the late 1920s mentioned above.
And why has no one commented on the fact that Bill Johnson doesn't  
play bass on ANY of the King Oliver 1923 sides (Gennett, Okeh,  
Columbia and Paramount). Why didn't he?
Thankfully, Jos Willems has got it right in his definitive 2004 Louis  
Armstrong discography, 'All Of Me', positively naming Bud Scott on the  
Gennett April 1923 sessions. Although still opting for Bill Johnson as  
"probably" the shouter on the Gennett "Dippermouth Blues".
Very kind regards,
PS: In the September 1952 issue of Australian Jazz Quarterly, I  
contributed a biograhical article about Bud Scott, "The Rhythm Man Of  
Great Renown", wherein I argued that Scott was on the Oliver April  
1923 Gennett sessions.
In rereading my words, I note that Scott had claimed in an interview  
to be the voice on both the Oliver "Dippermouth Blues", the Okeh  
"Snake Rag" ('Oh Sweet Mama') and, on 29 May 1926, the Oliver Dixie  
Syncopators "Sugarfoot Stomp" (a renaming of "Dippermouth Blues").
So there. I've been banging the same drum for over 57 years!
PPS: I'm now going to listen to all the late 20s records featuring  
Bill Johnson in an attempt to isolate his voice.
More at a later date.

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