From the Record Shelves #188

Beedle Um Bum

LP RCA Victor RD-7561

This is one of the first LPs that I bought in my life, and it is still one of the best. I had seen it in a shop, and when I had saved up the money I went back. This was in the 1960s, and I was naive when I was shocked because they were not familiar with this group. I had to spell it out for them —McKinney’s Cotton Pickers!

The record starts with the numbers recorded in New York when the band was double booked, so to make a recording session their leader Don Redman brought his arrangements with him and got together an all-star group with very good results. Then, at the end of the first side and on the second, we hear the real McKinney’s, without stars but, in my opinion with only stars, including their fabulous tenor saxophonist and singer George Thomas who’s been one of my favorites since then.

There are so many masterpieces, but I have to choose one, so it became a hokum tune taken from the bluesmen. (It should be rightly credited to Thomas A. Dorsey.) George Thomas sings the verse and leads the chorus about Miss Simmie who made the best Beedle Um Bum in Tennessee.

Then, after the trumpet solo by John Nesbit and the trombone by Claude Jones, Thomas is back as the master of scat. After Prince Robinson’s tenor solo it’s Redman’s turn to scat, and a very lively well-arranged ending finishes the record. The year of recording is 1929.

In school I gave a speech about the band in which, among other things, I told about the term “woodshedding.” It came from this band because when Don Redman took over the orchestra they were not very good readers, so he would send out the members in the nearby wood to practice their parts until they knew it.