This multimedia presentation of the music of Lt. James Reese Europe was made possible by the permission and cooperation of the following parties:
What the time? Nine? Fall in line Alright, boys, now take it slow Are you ready? Steady! Very good, Eddie. Over the top, let's go Quiet, lie it, else you'll start a riot Keep your proper distance, follow 'long Cover, brother, and when you see me hover Obey my orders and you won't go wrong There's a Minenwerfer [German mortar] coming -- look out (bang!) Hear that roar (bang!), there's one more (bang!) Stand fast, there's a Very light [flare] Don't gasp or they'll find you all right Don't start to bombing with those hand grenades (rat- a-tat-tat-tat) There's a machine gun, holy spades! Alert, gas! Put on your mask Adjust it correctly and hurry up fast Drop! There's a rocket from the Boche [German] barrage Down, hug the ground, close as you can, don't stand Creep and crawl, follow me, that's all What do you hear? Nothing near Don't fear, all is clear That's the life of a stroll When you take a patrol Out in No Man's Land Ain't it grand? Out in No Man's Land
Newspapers reported what was happening to soldiers overseas, but here the experience of battle is shaped in artistic form -- in Europe's case, in
ragtime. Nothing in American popular song at that time was quite like this. The record label identifies this as a "tenor solo," but that is an
understatement. All of Europe's musicians participate in recreating the chaos of battle.
A companion piece is "All Of No Man's Land Is Ours," sung by Noble Sissle. Although the title expresses the pride of victorious soldiers, this is
really a love song. A soldier has docked and phones a sweetheart to announce his arrival home, his intentions to marry her, and even his plans for
children ("Just think how happy we will be -- I mean we three").
After the returning soldiers phoned family, friends, and sweethearts -- that is, anyone not already at the pier greeting the ships -- the men
proceeded to their next destination for demobilization. Europe's men arrived in New York in February, 1919, and this song by Sissle and Europe was probably composed shortly after that homecoming. It was recorded one month later.
written by James Europe and Noble Sissle, vocal by Noble Sissle and recorded around 14-March-1919
Hello, Central Hello, hurry Give me 4-0-3 Hello Mary, hello dearie Yes, yes -- this is me Just landed at the pier And found the telephone We've been parted for a year Thank God at last I'm home Haven't time to talk a lot Though I'm feeling mighty gay Little sweet forget-me-not I've only time to say [Chorus] All of No Man's Land is ours, dear Now I have come back home to you, my honey true Wedding bells in june-y June All will tell by the tuney tune That victory's won The war is over The whole wide world is a-wreathed in clover Then hand in hand we'll stroll through life Just think how happy we will be I mean we three We'll pick a bungalow among the flagrant boughs When I come back to you with the blooming flowers All of No Man's Land is ours
"How 'ya Gonna Keep 'em Down On The Farm?", recorded in March of 1919, is also vocalized by Noble Sissle. This song became incredibly
popular when introduced in early 1919. Many recorded it, with versions by Nora Bayes and Arthur Fields especially popular. The song's lyrics
question if American men returning from battlefields and especially from "Paree" will readily settle down to the chores of farm life. Broadway
lights and jazz clubs will be far more alluring.
The song arguably took on a political significance when African-Americans performed it. Black musicians may be asking this: how will America
keep returning black soldiers "down" after they have tasted equality while serving in France? Jim Europe's musicians were not the only blacks to record this at the time. Ford Dabney's Band recorded it weeks after Europe's did.
written by Egbert Van Alstyne, vocal by Noble Sissle and recorded around 14-Mar-1919
See him marchin' along Oh, hear him hummin' a song Watch that baby throw out his chest -- whoa, boy! See them medals pinn'd on his breast Lord love him! I'm so happy and proud I just feel like shoutin' out loud: My honey -- come, come to your mammy My choc'late soldier Sammy boy
"Dixie Is Dixie Once More" is also sung by Noble Sissle. Lyrics express a Southerner's joy that loved ones in the Army are coming home. The
line about Alexander having his ragtime band back in Dixie alludes to Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and to songs that evolved
from Berlin's classic, such as "When Alexander Takes His Ragtime Band to France."
written by Turner and Kard, vocal by Noble Sissleand recorded around 7-Mar-1919
There'll be happy days in Dixie Happy days and night All our boys are back once more Celebrating 'cause they won the war Soon again you'll hear them singin' 'round that cabin door Old Alexander's got his ragtime band Where he belongs, in dear old Dixieland There'll be happy days in Dixie 'cause Dixie is Dixie once more
Not every song recorded by Europe's men stemmed from their war experience. Instrumental numbers share much with early "jass" recordings
made at this time. "That Moaning Trombone" was recorded around March 7, 1919 and is the most jazz oriented, especially in featuring the
breaks characteristic of jazz in its early years. "Ja Da," recorded around March 7, 1919, is also typical. Europe's version features some
innovative trumpet growling and even, at the end, a comparatively "hot" clarinet solo. This 1918 song by Bob Carleton has remained a standard
for traditional jazz bands.
Europe suffered a fatal stabbing two days after his band recorded six titles for Pathe. That recording session took place on May 7, 1919. There
was no clear motive for the stabbing. Accounts differ, but it seems that backstage during a Boston concert Europe reprimanded Herbert Wright
for the drummer's unprofessional habit of walking on and off stage while other acts performed. When Europe ordered Herbert Wright to leave
Europe's dressing room, the unstable drummer produced a pen knife and stabbed the bandleader in the neck. Europe was rushed to City Hospital,
where he soon died.
Europe could have contributed significantly to popular music in the 1920s and beyond. He was ambitious, talented, energetic. New opportunities
presented themselves in 1919, and Jim Europe's best days may have been ahead. We simply cannot know what form that contribution would have
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