[Dixielandjazz] Dixielandjazz Digest, Vol 89, Issue 10

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat May 8 18:52:13 PDT 2010

On May 8, 2010, at 3:00 PM, dixielandjazz-request at ml.islandnet.com  

> "Hans en Corrie" <koerthchkz at zeelandnet.nl>
> In a Downbeat interview from ca 1958 Pee Wee Russell remembers that  
> he was
> on a recording session by Don Voorhees Orchestra for a "paper-record",
> probably Hit of the Week. Can someone scan me this interview?

Here it is Hans. The Voorhees part starts with the 7th paragraph.

Steve Barbone

Pee Wee on 'The Old Days'
An Exclusive Online Extra


When Esoteric Records releases a stereophonic LP by Pee Wee Russell  
and his group later this month, it will mark some sort of a recording  
landmark for the jaunty clarinetist.
For Charles Ellsworth Russell goes back to the days of acoustic  

"Back in the early '20s," Pee Wee recalled, "we recorded into big  
horns. Each of us had a big horn with a rope on it, so we could pull  
it down to our level.

"I remember once going through a take without pulling down the rope  
and being puzzled that the clarinet didn't come through at all. Milt  
Mole finally called it to my attention."

In the early days of electrical recording, Russell said, the drums  
gave technicians all kinds of trouble.

"Dave Tough used to sit back about three lengths from the band. We'd  
all pile our overcoats on the bass drum. Even so, the sound would  
sometimes make the needle jump."

Russell recalled the days of paper records, some of which he cut with  
Don Voorhees and his orchestra.

"We did an experiment," he laughed. "The saxes faced a wall and played  
against it. We had to turn around to get the beat from Don. These  
records were slipped into newspapers or given away, but I don't think  
they were very successful."

In all the years he's been recording, through countless studios and  
with scores of bands and groups, Pee Wee's distinctive, subtle sound  
has been a highlight.

"I don't think a clarinet player should scream all the time," he said.  
"It's great to be able to do it when it's needed.

"But I think he should utilize the whole horn -- the middle and the  
lower registers, too. An awful lot of fellows should do that. I don't  
say they couldn't, but from what I hear, I don't think they do.

"If you give a change of pace once in a while, the public will realize  
that the clarinet isn't a screaming, loud instrument."

As recorded sound has improved and broadened, Pee Wee's often harsh,  
often whispering, always delightful clarinet has been captured with  
more and more realism. The subtleties which too often escape a  
listener at a club or concert now come through with a clarity which  
often startles his fans.

On the Esoteric date, Russell was recorded in stereo for LPs, thus  
spanning virtually all the eras of recording, including tape.

"Things have changed a lot since I first started to play," Pee Wee  
said. "In those days, anything resembling jazz was considered more or  
less noise. But the leaders of country-club orchestras and dance bands  
always wanted some jazz players in their bands, so they could slip in  
a hot solo or two on the public. Maybe they figured they'd educate them.

"That happens today, too. But things are shoved down our throats. If  
people hear some things on the radio, they think they must be good.

"But being young today has its advantages. There are so many different  
types of music to listen to today. A youngster can take something from  
here and something from there and mold it together with his own  
talent. There's no reason why he shouldn't develop.

"And there's so much more opportunity for schooling. Way back there,  
we didn't have those opportunities. In smaller towns, the local  
teacher or the best musician in town were the ones who would give you  
lessons. There were recordings--if you were fortunate enough to hear  
them. But there were not as many different types of music to listen to."

Pee Wee was born in St. Louis, Mo., 52 years ago. He took his first  
lessons on clarinet there, and continued his studies at Western  
Military academy and the University of Missouri.

Early in his professional life, he spent a year working in Mexico. He  
acquired his nickname "because I seemed to always be around a big  
bunch of bruisers. I got shoved around until I could take care of  

He played riverboats, barnstormed the west and midwest with various  
bands and groups, and although somehow generally connected with the  
Chicago scene, Russell will admit, "I'm not from Chicago. I know where  
it is, though. It's a big town about 300 mil

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