Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 26 1917- The first Jazz recording, Livery Stable Blues, is released

"Livery Stable Blues" is a 1917 jazz composition copyrighted by Ray Lopez and Alcide Nunez. It was famously recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band on 26 February 1917 and, with the flip side "Dixie Jass Band One-Step" (a tune later better known as "Original Dixieland One-step"), became the first jazz recording ever released.
Victor release of "Livery Stable Blues", 18255-B, 1917.

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band recording was featured on Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of America's Music soundtrack collection.

The Original Dixieland Jass Band was a group of white musicians from New Orleans. They had gained popularity playing at Schiller's Cafe in Chicago and Reisenweber's Restaurant in New York City, and became largely responsible for making the New Orleans style popular on a national level.

The ODJB made test recordings for Columbia on 30 January 1917, but no usable recordings resulted. On 26 February the ODJB recorded "Livery Stable Blues" for the Victor label. "Dixie Jass Band One-Step" was recorded in the same session. Victor executives quickly released the record, which became an instant hit.

The record was a big hit, and was possibly the first popular music recording to sell a million copies. It established jazz as popular music and spawned demand for small jazz bands in New York and Chicago, at a time when it was getting harder and harder for musicians to find employment in New Orleans.

Both sides of the record were originally labeled as compositions by members of the band. However two other New Orleans musicians, Nunez and Lopez, beat the ODJB in registering a copyright on the tune. Alcide Nunez had been clarinetist with the ODJB until a few months earlier. Trumpeter Ray Lopez had worked with most of the ODJB musicians in New Orleans, especially in the bands of Papa Jack Laine. The members of the ODJB published the piece copyrighted as their own composition under the alternative title "Barnyard Blues". The two parties and their respective publishers sued each other. The case was thrown out without a decision rendered, as the conflicting claims could not be sorted out and the judge expressed doubt that musicians unable to read or write music could be said to have "composed" anything.

Meanwhile, a second lawsuit arose from one of the strains of "Dixie Jass Band One-Step" being almost identical to the 1909 Joe Jordan number "That Teasin' Rag". Later pressings of the record added Jordan as co-composer and he was awarded a share of the royalties.

After Victor's release became a hit, Columbia had the group back to record again, and released their recording of "Home Again in Indiana" backed by "At the Darktown Strutters Ball". Columbia selected two Tin Pan Alley tunes of the day for the band to record, probably to avoid the copyright problems which surfaced over both sides of the band's supposed original compositions for Victor.

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