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.
The 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
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.