by Joe Moore
(from the liner notes of the Georgia Melodians on Timeless Records)
Thomas Alva Edison's dislike of Jazz and Dance Music was well known; indeed, he was quoted as saying: "I always play Jazz records backwards, they sound better that way." Despite his personal views, Jazz Bands and Dance Orchestras were issued on his label, many recording for no other company.

Of the several obscure bands recorded by the Edison Company using its Vertical-Cut, or "Hill and Dale" process, the Georgia Melodians is one of more than passing interest, and not only for the quality of its recorded output. It has long been thought the band was no more than a "studio group", formed for recording purposes only. Far from it; they enjoyed steady work in New York for most of 1924 and had been in existence for about a year prior to that.

Click Here To OrderThe full story of the band is not yet known. A note in the Edison files states they were from Savannah, Georgia and the joint leaders were Ernie Intelhouse and Hill Hutchins. (Charles Boulanger has always been listed as director, but may have merely "fronted" the band on violin, a common enough practice at the time.) Reedman Merritt Kenworthy joined the band in Lynchburg, Virginia during the spring of 1923. After two weeks of full-time rehearsal, they took up a residency at a North Carolina coastal resort for the summer season, playing in a ballroom at nights and giving concerts at the beach on Sunday afternoons.

After this engagement, the band played a series of college dates while working their way up the coast to New York, where they arrived in about February, 1924. Some changes in personnel occurred at this time. Carl Gerrold (drums) rejoined after a brief absence, and Elmer Merry (banjo) joined the group along with George Troupe (trombone). (Troupe was shortly afterwards replaced by Herb Winfield.)

Regular work was not long in coming and they were playing opposite the Paul Van Loan Orchestra at the Cinderella Ballroom on 48th and Broadway shortly before their first recording date for the Edison Company. Their booking agent was one Verdi Fuller, formerly an Edison employee; it is probable they were talent-spotted and offered a recording date through his contacts there. However, their arrangements with Fuller were short-lived; by the summer of 1924 their agent was the bandleader Paul Specht, who even at this early date already had an impressive roster of bands under his direction. The residency at the Cinderella Ballroom continued until early September, when they moved to the Strand Roof, playing opposite Henri Gendron's Orchestra. (Their replacement at the Cinderella was none other than the famed Wolverine Orchestra, with Bix Beiderbecke.)

The band broke up (for reasons unknown) towards the end of 1924, and they had apparently left the Strand Roof before Christmas of that year. Their last booking was a New Year's Eve Ball at the Hotel Alamac, New York. The Edison file for a recording by Dave Harmon's Orchestra on January 5th, 1925 carries a brief note "...Georgia Melodians, for whom you selected this title is disorganised and owners out of town."

Despite the break-up of the band, Edison continued to issue records under their name until April, 1926. Why he should have done so is not clear, but presumably Edison dealers requested further recordings by the group.

It is difficult now to establish which musicians were present on recordings in 1925. The original reedmen had certainly left by January 1925. Merritt Kenworthy worked in Detroit for about six months, then played at the Hollywood Country Club in Florida during the summer of that year. The other reedman, Clarence Hill Hutchins, is believed to have played at the same venue that summer, going on to a brief stay with one of the Jean Goldkette Orchestras, prior to joining the band of Gerald Marks at the Hotel Tuller in Detroit, where he was certainly present in 1928.

One or more of the other members of the group seem to have departed before the end of 1924. Trombonist Abe Lincoln has confirmed his presence, along with Red Nichols, on the session for October 10, 1924. Another trombonist, Charlie Butterfield recalled at least one session in which he took part, and Al Philburn also remembered a date with the band, on which he replaced Butterfield. The trumpeter Micky Bloom is known to have been a member of the band for at least part of 1924, and he is probably the second trumpet heard on some sides recorded in that year.

Whilst the personnel of sides recorded in 1925 are difficult to identify, those made in 1926 are perhaps a little easier. At the end of 1925, the New York-based bandleader W.C. Polla retired from the dance-orchestra world to take up full-time work as an arranger. Some members of his band appear to have joined forces with the remaining Melodians to form The Mountaineers, playing at the Rosemont, Brooklyn. This band was directed by Charles Boulanger, violin and managed by Rex Gavitte, who played bass. The Edison files show payment for Melodians' recordings in 1926 to Gavitte, so it is quite possible The Mountaineers were responsible for these last sides.

Of the other members of the original group, little is known. Apart from Herb Winfield and Hill Hutchins, none of them appear to have recorded with any other band or record company. The pianist Oscar Young was in New York as early as 1911, having travelled there from Ohio with the young Ted Lewis and Jack Rose as part of a Vaudeville Trio. Charles Boulanger directed a band in the Midwest during the late twenties, and was manager of the Jack Teagarden Orchestra during the early forties. Towards the end of his life he owned a restaurant in Newington, Connecticut in which town he is believed to have died in about 1980.

Those who subscribe to the view that there is little of jazz or "hot-dance" interest on the Edison label will be pleasantly surprised by this CD, which has the added bonus of three unissued titles. With the exception of one of the unissued tracks, the band is more than competent, and at all times drives along to good effect. It is perhaps fortunate they came to New York. Had they stayed in Savannah they might never have had the opportunity to record, and we must be grateful that Edison saw fit to commit their efforts to wax for us to enjoy seventy years later.

If you would like to order the Timeless Records' CD of the Georgia Melodians you can do so through Worlds Records or direct from Timeless Records.

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
Charleston Ball
(Donald Heywood )
1-15-1926 New York, New York Edison
Charley, My Boy
(Gus Kahn / Ted Fiorito)
9-2-1924 New York, New York Edison
Doo Wac A Doo (A 'Wow-Wow')
(Gaskill / Donaldson / Horther)
10-10-1924 New York, New York Edison
Everybody Loves My Baby
(Jack Palmer / Spencer Williams)
9-24-1924 New York, New York Edison
Ev'rybody's Charleston Crazy
(William Holmes)
4-9-1926 New York, New York Edison
Give Us The Charleston
(Buddy DeSylva / Roy Henderson)
7-7-1925 New York, New York Edison
Hangin' Around
(Gardner / Harris)
4-7-1926 New York, New York Edison
How You Gonna Keep Kool?
(Jack Frost)
6-18-1924 New York, New York Edison
I Can't Get The One I Want
(Handman / Rose / Ruby)
7-14-1924 New York, New York Edison
I Found A New Baby
(Palmer / Williams)
4-7-1926 New York, New York Edison
I'm Bound For Tennessee
(Little / Gillespie / Fiorito)
11-10-1924 New York, New York Edison
I'm Satisfied (Beside That Sweetie O' Mine)
(Jack Yellen Maceo Pinkard)
10-10-1924 New York, New York Edison
In Spite of All
(Ed Ward / Roy Berkel / Charles Shisler)
6-18-1924 New York, New York Edison
My Mammy's Blues
(Spikes / Spikes)
11-10-1924 New York, New York Edison
Red Hot Henry Brown
(Fred Rose)
7-28-1925 New York, New York Edison
Red Hot Mamma
(G. Wells / Bud Cooper / Fred Rose)
9-2-1924 New York, New York Edison
Rhythm Of The Day
(Owen Murphy / Donald Lindley)
4-9-1926 New York, New York Edison
(Lindsay McPhail / Walter Michaels)
9-24-1924 New York, New York Edison
(The Georgianna Blues)

(Fred Fisher)
5-15-1924 New York, New York Edison
She's Drivin' Me Wild
(Gerald Marks / Bud Fields)
7-28-1925 New York, New York Edison
Spanish Shawl
(Billy Meyers / Lester Melrose / Elmer Schobel)
1-15-1926 New York, New York Edison
Tea Pot Dome Blues
(Frances Bradley / Harry Jay)
5-15-1924 New York, New York Edison
Wait'll You See My Gal
(Jerry Sullivan / Lucky Wilber)
4-22-1924 New York, New York Edison
Why Did You Do It?
(Jessel / Reisman / Breau / Tobias)
7-14-1924 New York, New York Edison
Wop Blues
(Jules Buffano)
4-22-1924 New York, New York Edison
Yes Sir, That's My Baby
(Gus Kahn / Walter Donaldson)
7-7-1925 New York, New York Edison
Artist Instrument
Charles Boulanger Leader, Violin
Vernon Dalhart Vocals
Carl Gerold Drums
Merritt Kenworthy Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
Clarence Hutchins Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
Ernie Intelhouse Cornet
Elmer Merry Banjo, Guitar
Herb Winfield Trombone
Oscar Young Piano