Friday, November 18, 2011

A Regal opening

Old newspapers, records and films allow us to step back in time. It is equally intriguing to visit a familiar location and see what it once was like.

On Chicago's South Side at one time, one could see and hear the men and women who, today, are among jazz's legends.

One of these spots was the Regal Theater, which opened on Feb. 24, 1928.

One of 34 theaters owned by the Balaban and Katz movie theater chain, it boasted more than 3,500 seats.

The opening was heavily covered by the black press. The following item was printed in the weekly Baltimore Afro-American on Feb. 18, 1928. The symphony orchestra was led by Dave Peyton, then a South Side musical celebrity, with another big name of the time, Sammy Williams, on the organ.

But the big act was the Peyton orchestra's front man, musician/entertainer Fess Williams, who recorded two songs, Dixie Stomp and Drifting and Dreaming, with the orchestra under the name Fess Williams and his Joy Boys.

The Red Hot Jazz Archive gives the following personnel.

The recordings are available on the following CD.

Here are the two selections:

02 Drifting and Dreaming (Sweet Paradise) by Stevie z

Fess Williams and his Joy Boys: Dixie Stomp by Stevie z

Not everyone was happy with Fess Williams' performance, as indicated by the following in the Afro-American.

Other attractions included Cab Calloway's sister, Blanche Calloway, as noted below by the Afro-American. The screen attraction was "The Gorilla."

Blanche Calloway had already recorded with Louis Armstrong. She would later make recordings with her own Joy Boys.