They sold on newsstands during the Great Depression for 15 cents and quickly
became the best-selling records of the early 1930s: the laminated flexible
cardboard records known as "Hit of the Week." Featuring the top songs of the
day, performed by some of the most noted jazz and dance musicians (often under
pseudonyms), Hit of the Week records provided just that--one hit, once a week--to
an American public with hardly a dime to spare but hungry for great music by
great artists. Today, you'll find a number of these records all curled up and
unplayable at garage sales down the street, but for the first time ever, Archeophone
is presenting the complete output of the Durium Company, makers of Hit of the
Week records, during its short lifespan.
In collaboration with producer and engineer Doug Benson, and with a great
helping hand from the world's top Hit of the Week scholar, Hans Koert, Archeophone's
Volume 1 of the Complete Hit of the Week Recordings issues 46 songs on two
CDs from that magical year of pop music, 1930. In addition to the regular weekly
issues by Hit of the Week from February through October of 1930, this collection
presents several extremely rare non-standard-issue advertising and promotional
records from the Durium company. So collectors take note! You may have some
of these records, but you probably don't have all of them in the pristine shape
found here along with the excruciatingly uncommon issues such as "Back in Your
Own Back Yard" or "Get Happy" or even "Mysterious
Mose." They're all here!
A Technological Triumph
Professor Hal T. Beans of Columbia University developed the Durium
process for making flexible records and patented it with Joseph Reilly in 1930.
They boasted that Durium records would last longer and sound better than any
other records, and they had good reason for their claim. Hit of the Week records
have a wonderful, rich sound that will leave you incredulous that 75-year-old
cardboard-backed recordings can sound so good. The first promotional record
for the new line of records features a long spoken introduction into the method
of manufacture, the company's plans for releasing a new hit each week, and
a musical sample of "Tip-Toe Through the
Tulips with Me" by Don Voorhees Orchestra.
The musical jury of Vincent Lopez, Florenz Ziegfeld, and Eddie Cantor
had the job each week of selecting a song for recording by one of Broadway's
top orchestras, such as Bert Lown & His Hotel Biltmore Music, playing "Hello
Baby" with Smith Ballew singing and "Bye
Bye Blues" with vocal by Frank Luther, The New York Twelve doing "A
Cottage for Sale," sung by Scrappy Lambert, or even Lopez' own orchestra,
doing "Little White Lies," with
Lew Conrad on vocal. Two of the most sought-after Hit of the Week sides are
by Ben Pollack's Orchestra--"I'm Following You" and "Cryin'
for the Carolines"--and they are both here. Sometimes contractual obligations
kept the real names of the orchestras quiet, so Duke Ellington's band took
the pseudonym of the Harlem Hot Chocolates when they performed "Sing
You Sinners" and "St. James' Infirmary" (both sung by Irving Mills)--two
of the hottest Hit of the Week sides of all.
The Best House Band Around
The Hit of the Week Orchestra was not a random assortment of nameless
musicians. Instead, some of jazz's top names passed through its ranks--people
like Mannie Klein, Bunny Berigan, Tommy Dorsey, and Andy Sannella, along with
director Bert Hirsch. The Hit of the Week Orchestra also employed famous singers,
such as Dick Robertson, Frank Munn, singing "Dancing
with Tears in My Eyes," and Irving Kaufman, singing "Ro-Ro-Rollin'
Along." Other bands on Hit of the Week with different names, such as Hotel
Pennsylvania Music and Statler Pennsylvanians, were actually pseudonyms for
bands led by the most prolific recording artist on Hit of the Week, Phil Spitalny.
Here's Spitalny leading the band on "Confessin'
that I Love You" from the September 4, 1930 Hit of the Week release.
Thorough Collection with Rare Sides
Other attempts to reissue Hit of the Week recordings have featured
only tidbits and highlights, but Archeophone's series of four volumes will
include all regular weekly issues, as well as some notable duplicate takes,
such as "My Sweeter than Sweet" by Vincent
Lopez Orchestra and "Betty Co-Ed" by
Phil Spitalny's Music. Additionally, we have here several rare promotional
records, like "Get Happy" by the Happy-Rose
Orchestra, "A Medley of Canadian Songs," and "Souvenir from Phil Spitalny to
the Northwestern University," and some extraordinarily rare records such as "Mysterious
Mose" by Bobby Dixon's Broadcasters. That is a record that lives up to
its name: a true mystery in the history of Hit of the Week because, while it
looks like a regular weekly issue, it never was and may have been a "one-off" demo.
Only a handful of copies are known to exist, and this is the first commercial
release of "Mose."
The Hit of the Week is now the Hit of the Year
Those of you who like the classic dance songs of the early electric
era with some of America's most memorable lyrics will want to take note too,
because you'll find here the classic songs of yesteryear by the most celebrated
songwriters of the past--Berlin, Donaldson, Vallee, and many, many more. And,
with detailed liner notes and attractive illustrations, the 24-page accompanying
booklet is worth the price of admission alone. This is the CD you'll be taking
to all your Christmas and New Year's parties.