Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

Now in our 28th year (1986-2014) — Over 2,800 Questions Answered
Most recent column here — 16 years of archived ones are linked below


FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 29, 2014

DEAR JERRY: A couple of months ago you wrote about some rare and valuable 78 rpm records from the Gennett company. Would you be willing to something similar for the Paramount label?

I doubt there is another company with so many big ticket items for us collectors to drool over.
—Artie Moreland, Covington, Ky.

DEAR ARTIE: Well said, and drool they do every time a Paramount blues or country 78 hits the marketplace. Paramount is clearly the most collectible label ever.

Below are the 40 most recent Paramount sales that we have verified, and nearly all are from their golden age, (1926-1932).

Keep in mind that there are many more, by artists listed here as well as other folks, that are as valuable but just haven't sold as recently:

$31,700: Tommy Johnson "Alcohol and Jake Blues" (Paramount 1250) (1930)
$6,666: Charley Patton "Hammer Blues" (Paramount 12998) (1930)
$6,230: Tommy Johnson "Black Mare Blues" (Paramount 13000) (1930)
$6,200: Skip James "22-20 Blues" (Paramount 13066) (1931)
$5,778: Charley Patton "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues" (Paramount 12805) (1929)
$5,775: Skip James "Devil Got My Woman" (Paramount 13088) (1931)
$5,599: Charley Patton "High Water Everywhere" (Paramount 12909) (1929)
$4,083: Charley Patton "Shake It and Break It But (Don't Let It Fall Mama)" (Paramount 12869) (1929)
$3,939: Ed Bell "Frisco Whistle Blues" (Paramount 12546) (1927)
$3,743: Blind Lemon Jefferson (Birthday Record) "Low Down Mojo Blues" (Paramount 12650) (1928)
$3,716: Big Bill (Broonzy) and the Thomps "House Rent Stomp" (Paramount 12656) (1928)
$3,219: Blind Blake "Hard Road Blues" (Paramount 12583) (1927)
$3,161: Blind Blake "Wabash Rag" (Paramount 12597) (1927)
$3,075: Will Ezell "Bucket of Blood" (Paramount 12773) (1929)
$3,052: Buddy (Walter) Boy Hawkins "Snatch It Back Blues" (Paramount 12475) (1927)
$2,995: Will Ezell "Crawlin' Spider Blues" (Paramount 12729) (1928)
$2,983: Elder J.J. Hadley (Charley Patton) "Prayer of Death" (Paramount 12799) (1929)
$2,875: Blind Lemon Jefferson "Rabbit Foot Blues" (Paramount 12454) (1927)
$2,749: Dobby Bragg "Fire Detective Blues" (Paramount 12827) (1929)
$2,717: Ramblin' Thomas "Sawmill Moon" (Paramount 12616) (1928)
$2,605: Will Ezell "Freakish Mistreater Blues" (Paramount 12914) (1929)
$2,500: Henry Brown and Ike Rodgers "Blues Stomp" (Paramount 12934) (1930)
$2,482: Ramblin' Thomas "So Lonesome" (Paramount 12637) (1928)
$2,400: Blind Lemon Jefferson "Peach Orchard Mama" (Paramount 12801) (1929)
$2,356: Beale Street Sheiks "Beale Town Bound" (Paramount 12576) (1927)
$2,225: Blind Blake "Doggin' Me Mama Blues" (Paramount 12673) (1928)
$2,225: Ben Curry (Ben Covington ) "The Laffing Rag" (Paramount 13122) (1932)
$2,225: King Oliver's Jazz Band "The Southern Stomps" (Paramount 12088, red plastic) (1923)
$2,201: Fruit Jar Guzzlers "Stack-O-Lee" (Paramount 3121) (1928)
$2,179: James Wiggins "Corrine Corrina Blues" (Paramount 12916) (1930)
$2,156: Beale Street Sheiks "Fillin' in Blues" (Paramount 12894) (1929)
$2,150: Arnold Wiley "Spider in Your Dumpling" (Paramount 12955) (1930)
$2,016: Geo. "Bullet" Williams "Touch Me Light Mama" (Paramount 12680) (1928)
$2,015: Washboard Trio "Lady Quit Her Husband Onexpectinly" (sic) (Paramount 12682) (1928)
$2,007: Will Ezell "Pitchin' Boogie" (Paramount 12855) (1929)
$2,000: Winston Holmes and Charlie Turner "Skinner" (Paramount 12815) (1929)
$2,000: Charlie McFadden "Groceries on the Shelf" (Paramount 12928) (1930)
$2,000: Blind Joe Taggart "I've Crossed the Separation Line" (Paramount 12717) (1928)
$2,000: Dixie Land Thumpers "Oriental Man" (Paramount 12594) (1927)
$2,000: Ardell Bragg "Pig Meat Blues" (Paramount 12398) (1926)

DEAR JERRY: The one instrument in a band that is nearly always played by a man is the drums. In fact, the only female drummer I can think of is Karen Carpenter, of the Carpenters.

Karen was far better known for her magnificent contralto, but it was pretty much agreed that she truly was an excellent drummer.

Is there another famous female drummer, perhaps one whose career was specifically based on being an instrumentalist?
—Randi Holstein, Arcadia, Calif.

DEAR RANDI: Yes, and her name is Viola Smith.

Viola's glory years predate the 1970s, the decade when most of the world discovered Karen Carpenter, so it's understandable if you've never heard of this amazing lady.

Smith, born November 29, 1912, began drumming in her family band in the 1920s, but her skill and gender soon became known throughout the jazz and swing band world.

In the late 1930s, Viola joined Frances Carroll and the Coquettes, an all-girl, 12-piece, music and dance band. Smith's swinging drum solos were routinely spotlighted by Carroll and became the most anticipated segment of her shows.

Nearly the entire front cover of Billboard's February 24, 1940 issue is devoted to a photo of Vi during one of her blazing solos with the Coquettes.

In 1942, with WW2 requiring so many American men for military service, there was a shortage of male musicians. Phil Spitalny solved that problem with his very popular Hour of Charm, featuring an all-girl orchestra. Phil's choice on drums was Viola Smith, by now the country's No. 1 female percussionist.

Smith continued drumming up a storm until 1978, when she finally laid her drumsticks down.

If you've already done the math, you know that Vi will be 102 in just a few weeks (November 29).

To see and hear Viola Smith at work, check out this beautiful video!

IZ ZAT SO? Hollywood quickly took notice of the attractive young lady who also happened to be one of the nation's top instrumentalists.

Viola appeared in two war time films: "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (1942) and "Here Come the Co-Eds" (1945).

In 1966, when "Cabaret" opened on Broadway, the cast included the Kit Kat Klub Kittens, and the drummer in the Kit Kat band was, of course, Viola Smith.

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Jerry Osborne: Background and Publishing History


Previous 2014 columns
January 6 January 13 January 20 January 27
February 3 February 10 February 17 February 24
March 3 March 10 March 17 March 24 March 31
April 7 April 14 April 21 April 28
May 5 May 12 May 19 May 26
June 2 June 9 June 16 June 23 June 30
July 7 July 14 July 21 July 28
August 4 August 11 August 18 August 25
September 1 September 8 September 15 September 22

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