Ellington on CD The Dooji Collection
(Ellington record labels)TDWAW
|1941 06 09
|.||Los Angeles, Cal.||MBS studio
at radio station KHJ
|MBS broadcast, 18:30-19:00 PDT, "Salute to Canada Lee"
The Herald-Statesman announced:
'Paul Robeson, Bill Robinson, Jack Benny's "Rochester," Hattie McDaniel, screen comedienne, and other Negro figures of the entertainment world will join tonight at 9:30 [EDT] in a salute to Canada Lee, stage star of the play, "Native Son," on WOR.'Similar announcements were published in newspapers across the United States on June 7 and June 9.
'1474. Salute To Canada Lee. June 9, 1941. Mutual net. Sustaining. The program originates from New York and Hollywood. Canada Lee is called, "the newest American star of our race." He is appearing in, "Native Son." Alvin Josephy (preparer), Roger Bower (producer), Erskine Butterfield, Hattie McDaniel, Bill Bojangles Robinson, Duke Ellington, Herb Jeffries, Ivie Anderson (vocal), Paul Robeson (host), Eddie Anderson, W.C.Handy, Richard Wright, Canada Lee. 28:54.'
Afro-American actor Canada Lee (Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata) began his stage career in 1934. Previously, he had been a well-known boxer with about 200 fights under his belt, losing only about 25, and he became a band leader. Click here to read his fairly comprehensive biography on Wikepedia.
Steven Lasker's recording of the show is on two 33-rpm, 14-inch lacquer disks dubbed professionally from an original line transcription disk. They have plain white labels which are actually "Western Recorders" labels pasted on backwards, an indication that the discs were cut in Hollywood where Western Recorders was an active recording studio. Mr. Lasker reports:
'The west coast portion of this half-hour broadcast originated from Hollywood, probably from the radio station which transmitted it locally, KHJ, 5515 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, flagship station of the Don Lee network and a Mutual Broadcasting System affiliate.
The program opens with Paul Robeson announcing the artists present in New York and California. Ivie Anderson is among those named at the beginning and end of the broadcast, yet she isn't heard at all. The show is turned over to "a studio on the west coast" ("Hello, Hollywood!") where Hattie McDaniel and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson perform a comedy sketch.
Rochester and Duke Ellington banter some, then we hear Duke and Herb Jeffries, piano and vocal, perform The Brown-Skin Gal in the Calico Gown followed by more banter with Rochester, Chocolate Shake (piano solo) and then the show returns to New York.
Bill Robinson sings and taps Let the Punishment Fit the Crime from The Hot Mikado (a take-off on Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado), then Paul Robeson sings Jim Crow accompanied by Lawrence Brown,* his regular pianist.
Playwright Richard Wright speaks of actor Canada Lee and Native Son.
Canada Lee performs a dramatic scene from his star-making role as Bigger Thomas in "Native Son" (written by Richard Wright and directed on Broadway by Orson Welles with scenic design by Perry Watkins).
W.C. Handy, trumpet, and Erskine Butterfield, piano, play St. Louis Blues. Paul Robeson reads a scripted tribute to Canada Lee as the recipient gushes in suitably modest fashion. Robeson reads a complimentary telegram from Joe Louis, with whom Canada Lee sparred when he was a boxer.
The broadcast ends with Erskine Butterfield playing St. Louis Blues and a closing announcement that you have heard a presentation of the Mutual Special Features Division prepared by Alvin Josephy and produced by Roger Bower.
The radio listing in the 1941-06-09 L.A. Daily News (page 31) lists a half-hour "Canada Lee" program on station KHJ from 11:30 to midnight. As it was broadcast at an earlier hour in other time zones, we must presume either the performers in New York and Hollywood stuck around to repeat their performances for different time zones (which would result in alternate "takes" of the entire program), or else the show was recorded onto disks which were played back for later broadcasts.'
* Not to be confused with Ellington's trombonist of the same name.
A report published after the event in the Indianapolis Sunday Star says:
'THE NEGRO AMUSEMENT field honored its newest star, Canada Lee, on a gala coast-to-coast radio program last week...Duke Ellington, also in Hollywood, introduced several numbers from his forthcoming musical "Jump for Joy," never before heard on the air. His soloists were Ivy Anderson and Herb Jeffries... 'The radioGoldindex database has Ivie Anderson singing, but what she sang in this broadcast is undocumented. She sang Chocolate Shake in the studio recording a few days later, but New Desor's analysis of the recording from the broadcast doesn't have a vocal.
In this half-hour show, Ellington did a comedy routine with Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, accompanied Herb Jeffries on "Brown-Skin Gal," and playedChocolate Shake as a piano solo.
Variety, 1942-11-11 p.38
While the Indianapolis Sunday Star report was published after the event, it may be that it was written based upon press releases, rather than by a reviewer who actually heard the show. If Ivie actually did sing, her voice is not on the two 15-minute acetates It was broadcast to a full hour would require half an hour of additional material. All the artists announced by Robeson (who, being in New York, couldn't see the line-up of talent in L.A. so reading from his script which named Ivie) performed on the broadcast except for Ivie. She wasn't going to supply 30 minutes on her own. I suppose she just missed the gig, and so was unable to sing on "Chocolate Shake" which was her vocal feature, which DE played as a solo. Why did she miss the show? Was she sick? Was Ivie preoccupied with readying her Chicken Shack for its grand opening three days after the Salute to Canada Lee broadcast? I don't hear any obvious edits on my lacquer discs (two 33-rpm, 14-inch lacquer disks dubbed professionally from an original line transcription disk). It all sounds "of a piece." My conclusion is that a one-hour version is devoutly to be wished, but it would be a stretch.
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