Columbia Distributors Inc


W. W. Twigg, who lived at 3107 General Pershing, was the manager of the New Orleans branch of Columbia Distributors, Inc. in 1925.
While Columbia did not have a recording studio in New Orleans, they did have offices located at 517 Canal Street at this time. [1] “Columbia maintains the ideals which, as a pioneer organization, it established so long ago- to present to the public the best and most desirable in music, whether in instrumental or standing highest in public esteem and perpetuated by means of the most advanced scientific methods of recording and reproduction,” read Columbia’s catalog in 1925. [2]

“Race” Records

Before 1921, very few black artists were recorded. Their recordings were limited to vocal standards, vaudeville comedy, and spirituals. Popular spiritual artists included C. Carroll Clark, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and Bert Williams. This began to change in November of 1920 when Mamie Smith released on the OKeh label a very successful blues album entitled Crazy Blues/ It’s Right Here for You. Columbia saw an opportunity for profit and began “race records” by Mary Stafford, Edith Wilson, Johnny Dunn’s Original Jazz Hounds, Bessie Smith, Clara Smith, and many others. In November of 1923, a new series started within Columbia devoted to “race” material. Between the years 1927 and 1931, race records were released at a rate of about 100 new releases each year. Columbia released the final race record in April of 1933. [3] The race records in order of popularity were:
1. City Blues (29.4% of total sales)
2. Country Blues (18.2%)
3. Religious (17.7%)
4. Vaudeville (16.7%)
5. Bands, 4 or more pieces (12.9%)
6. Solos, duets, trios (3.1%)
7. Popular (2%)
Between 1927 and 1931 City Blues lessened in popularity and Country blues increased. [4]

Columbia Records brought portable recording equipment to New Orleans in September of 1925 as a part of their “Race Series” recording session. The Imperial Serenaders were recorded on the 23rd and The New Orleans Owls on the 24th. Columbia segregated their recording sessions. A band of black musicians recorded the first day and a band of white musician the second. [5]

New Orleans Artists

The New Orleans Owls

The Owls were a band comprised of young, local musicians. Their first recording was with Columbia on September 24, 1925. Columbia was in New Orleans for their race records series. The men of the Owls were Benjie White as director, Bill Pardon on clarinet, Lester Smith on tenor sax, Mose Farrar on piano, Rene Gelpi on banjo and guitar, Dan Leblanc on bass, and Earl Crumb on drums. They recorded four tracks which included “Stomp Off, Let’s Go,” “Oh Me! Oh My!,” “The Owl’s Hoot,” and “Zero.” After this session, Frank Netto, tuba, and Pinky Vidacovich, clarinet and alto sax, joined the Owls. They recorded six more tracks with Columbia on April 14, 1926: “Spaghetti,” “Piccadilly,” “Tampeekoe,” “Dynamite,” “Pretty Baby,” and “West End Romp.” Before the Owls next recording, Sigfre Christensen replaced Mose Farrar on piano. Their next session was at Columbia’s headquarters in Atlanta because sometimes it was easier to bring the band to the studio, rather than the recording equipment to the band. During this session on November 8, 1926, the Owls recorded “Blowin’ Off Steam,” “Boneyard Shuffle,” “White Ghost Shivers,” “The Nightmare,” “Brotherly Love,” and “Eccentric.” The Owls recorded in New Orleans again on April 15, 1927. This time the tunes were “So Long, Joe,” “Killing Time,” “That’s a Plenty,” and “Meat on the Table.” Before the last recording session Bowman was added on clarinet and violin, and Nappy Lamare replaced Gelpi on banjo and violin. Their last session with Columbia was in New Orleans on October 26, 1927. They recorded “The New Twister,” “Goose Pimples,” and “Throwin’ the Horns.” [6]

Johnny DeDroit

Record companies came to record Johnny DeDroit in New Orleans, but the recording quality was inferior to the records made in New York, where, according to DeDroit, records were made properly. He believed the recording directors in New Orleans were more interested in having a good time than making records. [7]

Works Cited

  • The New Orleans City Directory. 1925.
  • Columbia Catalog. 1925. Colombia Phonograph Company. p. 8.
  • Mahony, Dan. Columbia: 12/14000-D Series. Record Handbook #1. Allen, Walter C. 1966. p. 4.
  • Mahony, Dan. Columbia: 12/14000-D Series. Record Handbook #1. Allen, Walter C. 1966. p. 12.
  • Rust, Brian. Jazz Records 1897-1942. 5th ed. Vol. 2. Storyville Publications. 1983. p. 1130-1131.
  • Rust, Brian. Jazz Records 1897-1942. 5th ed. Vol. 2. Storyville Publications. 1983. p. 1130-1131.
  • Johnny DeDroit. Interview by Allen, Richard B. and Thompson, Dexter. 16 March 1973. Archive of New Orleans Jazz, Howard Tilton Memorial Library. Reel I. p. 2.

This page was last modified on 27 April 2012, at 02:54


Columbia Distributors Inc.

517 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA