by Uncle Dave Lewis
The Manhattan Merrymakers was a highly unusual side project of Victor's waltz artists The Troubadours. Started in 1922 and led by drummer Eddie King, The Troubadours made records of waltzes and other slow-dance niceties that were still immensely popular and profitable in the early 1920s, but not many of Victor's mainstream artists wanted to deal with recording them.

The Troubadours' pianist Hugo Frey (1878-1952) is listed the nominal leader and probably arranger of The Manhattan Merrymakers' records. Hugo Frey was the brother of society bandleader Otto Frey, and his credentials as a composer of Novelty Ragtime and Tin Pan Alley hits go back to 1912; his hit tunes included "Uncle Tom" and "Havanola." Frey was also a prolific piano roll editor and led a working society band of his own that doesn't seem to have recorded. He was half of the piano duo, with Frank Banta, that played on some records with Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra, and by the time of The Manhattan Merrymakers sessions had already worked as a musical director at Victor for some time.

Things started out well enough - the first Manhattan Merrymakers record, "Maggie! 'Yes Ma'am?' (Come Right Upstairs)," was actually a little more interesting than the Paul Whiteman selection on the flip, and sold very well. But of the 22 sides they recorded, only one pair were issued as a coupling, otherwise everything they made appeared on the backsides of records made by other artists. Most of the later Merrymakers sides were rejected, probably as Victor felt that they didn't really need hot dance records from their in-house Waltz artists, as they were getting them from so many other groups. In early 1924, Hugo Frey left the company to become an arranger and facilitator at Robbins, and the "Manhattan Merrymakers" ceased to exist, although The Troubadours continued for many years afterward under the leadership of Nat Shilkret, still recording waltzes.

While they do not contain hot solos, the best Manhattan Merrymakers records have plenty of good-spirited playing in a happy, cartoonish style. However some titles that went into the books, and possibly even on records, under the Manhattan Merrymakers moniker were intended as Troubadours material, and tend to be more sedate.

thanks to Bob Palmer for his help with this page.

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
A Love Story 10-24-1923 New York, New York Victor
19204-B
Before You Go 12-14-1923 New York, New York Victor
rejected
Bonnie
(Hugo Frey)
10-24-1923 New York, New York Victor
19183-A
California, Here I Come 1-28-1924 New York, New York Victor
19261
Down on the Farm 11-26-1923 New York, New York Victor
19210
Every Night I Cry Myself to Sleep Over You 11-1-1923 New York, New York Victor
19191-B
I Love the Girl Who Kisses 1-7-1924 New York, New York Victor
rejected
I Never Had a Mammy 11-1-1923 New York, New York Victor
19196-B
I've Been a Fool
(Art Landry / Al. Hormer)
11-16-1923 New York, New York Victor
19203-B
Linger Awhile 1-21-1924 New York, New York Victor
19259
Love
(My Heart is Calling You)
10-2-1923 New York, New York Victor
19163
Maggie! "Yes Ma'am?"
(Come Right Upstairs)
10-2-1923 New York, New York Victor
19161
Medley Waltz (takes 1-4) 1-21-1924 New York, New York Victor
rejected
Nita
(I Need You)
1-28-1924 New York, New York Victor
rejected
Songs of Yesterday
Medley Fox Trot No. 1
"On San Francisco Bay" - "She Was Bred in Old Kentucky" -"In Dear Old Georgia" - "My Old New Hampshire Home"

(Hoffman-Carter / Van Alstyne / Von Tilzer)
9-21-1923 New York, New York Victor
19177
Supposing (takes 1-4) 1-7-1924 New York, New York Victor
rejected
Supposing (takes 5-7) 1-21-1924 New York, New York Victor
rejected
Ted Morse Medley Fox-Trot 2-18-1924 New York, New York Victor
19287
Toodle-Oo
(Introducingtoodle-oo.ra Flannel Petticoat Gal)
11-26-1923 New York, New York Victor
19220-A
Tweet Tweet
Bird Intepolations by Margaret McKee

(Egbert Van Alstyne)
11-16-1923 New York, New York Victor
19203-A
When Mother Sings "Sweet an 12-14-1923 New York, New York Victor
19234
When You Love 12-28-1923 New York, New York Victor
rejected
Yes, Dear (takes 1-4) 12-28-1923 New York, New York Victor
rejected
Artist Instrument
Hymie Farberman Trumpet
Hugo Frey Piano, Director
John Helleberg Bass Brass, Drums
Sam Lewis Trombone
unknown Banjo, Clarinet, Saxophones, Violins,