"Billy Boy" by Luckey Roberts

Introduction and sheet music cover

Publicized as "the latest and greatest patriotic song dedicated to Col. William Hayward of the 15th New York Infantry", "Billy Boy" was composed in 1917 by Luckey Roberts, with lyrics by Lester A. Walton, and published by Walton Publishing Co. (New York).

It is a rare work by a then young Luckey Roberts, an upbeat march tune with a ballad flavor to it that sings about "our" pride in "Billy Boy". Roberts never recorded it, and the song has usually been credited as "traditional".

The story behind it:

The story of Col. Hayward goes like this (source: Parlor Songs website):

"Hayward was instrumental in organizing the first "colored" National Guard regiment (the New York 15th) in New York. Hayward was appointed to organize the unit in 1916 and recruiting began in June of that year. By April of 1917 the group reached "peace strength" and was recognized by the Federal government. Following that it was brought up to war strength. When they entered the war in 1918, the 15th became the US 369th. Led by Hayward, the 369th became known as the "Hell Fighters" and were awarded the Croix De Guerre for their bravery in September of 1918. Col. Hayward personally led his men into battle at Beallau wood and when a French officer called for a retreat, Hayward said; "My men never retire. They go forward, or they die!" Hayward was wounded and was cited for his personal bravery. The entire regiment was cited numerous times and many individuals earned medals for their bravery."

The lyrics:

1. Tommy Atkins is a warrior bold
Merrie England loves him more than gold
And to France the hero of today
is fighting in the trenches, miles away
Now Billy Boy, has gane across the sea
to help them in their fight for Liberty.

CHORUS [sung twice after each verse]
Billy Boy, Billy Boy
you’re a soldier of renown
Billy Boy, Billy Boy
in a uniform of brown
What a grand old sight
As you battle for the right
Billy Boy, Billy Boy
with a heart so fond and true
for the Red, White and Blue,
you are loyal thro’ and thro’
you put the “Brave” in Bravery
you are my pride and joy
Now let the bugle blow,
come on come on let’s go
“Atta” boy my Billy Boy.
Billy Boy.

2. There is Russia with a mighty host,
Of her sturdy cossacks she can boast
And for valor no one can forget
those fearless Belgian lads who’re
fighting yet Now Billy Boy, its put right up to you
to help them win so show what you can do.

Newspaper clipping:

The Baltimore Afro-American, August 25, 1917:


Donald Lambert's grave

Donald Lambert died on May 8, 1962 at the age of 58. Fellow musicians were responsible for his monument at the Princetown cemetery. Here's a couple of pictures of the grave marker.


McKinney's Cotton Pickers in Baltimore

The McKinney's Cotton Pickers, under Don Redman's direction, playing at Baltimore's New Albert Auditorium, March 25, 1930 and July 29, 1930.

Baltimore Afro-American, March 22, 1930

Baltimore Afro-American, July 28, 1930


Benny Carter and the QHCF in Barcelona (29jan36, 31jan36 & 2feb36)

En relación con el relato de la visita de Benny Carter y el Quinteto del Hot Club de Francia a Barcelona a primeros de 1936, escribíamos en este blog hace ya diez meses que "José María García Martínez, en su libro Del Fox-Trot Al Jazz Flamenco. El Jazz En España 1919-1996 (Alianza Editorial, 1996), hace referencia a un recital extra que se acordó celebrar en el Teatro Olimpia, en el que Stéphane Grappelli se negó a intervenir, siendo sustituido por Jaume Vila", puntualizando que no habíamos sido capaces de encontrar ninguna evidencia documental de este tercer concierto.

Gracias a uno de nuestros lectores (Xavier García-Tornel), hemos podido confirmar la existencia de dicho concierto en el Teatro Olympia el 2 de enero de 1936, mediante el siguiente anuncio, publicado en La Vanguardia ese mismo día:

Además, añadimos ahora una reseña del concierto del 31 de enero en el Palau de la Música Catalana, publicado en La Vanguardia el sábado 1 de febrero:


Adrian Rollini's last years

© William P. Gottlieb

By the end of the 1930s and into the 1940s, Adrian Rollini was concentrating on the vibraphone with his trio, putting aside his main instrument, the bass saxophone, and indeed the weirdest instruments from his portfolio, the goofus and the hot fountain pen (remember that he was a versatile player and we can hear him on recording also playing piano, xylophone, celeste and drums).

His final commercial recordings were twelve sides made for Mercury in 1949-1950, issued as Adrian Rollini Trio (Mercury MG200511). In the early 1950s, Rollini moved to Florida, where he opened The Driftwood Lodge, his own hotel. He occasionally led groups in Miami, and his final venue was the Eden Roc Hotel in September 1955. He would die in Homestead, Florida, on May 5, 1956, at the age of 53.

The following ad was published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on September 10, 1950. Though almost out or circulation, he was still advertised as "the famous Mercury recording artist".


Bernd Lhotzky plays The Lion

"Fading Star" (1939) is one of the most beautiful compositions by Willie 'The Lion' Smith and, for sure, one of his most impressionistic masterpieces. If you concentrate in Lhotzky's brilliant performance of the descending first phrase, played in triplets as most of the A theme, you'll be reminded of the trail left by a falling star. The second theme, developed on the chord progression of the first one, is nothing short of brilliance as well.

The melody of "Morning Air" (1938) sparkled up in The Lion's mind while contemplating the spectacular view of Manhattan from St. Nicholas Park, after he had being partying all night with Jack Teagarden and George Wettling. He quickly ran to his apartment and began modulating the phrase through different keys, developing it into the opening theme.

Let's end this series of Bernd Lhotzky videos with his rendition of "Passionette" (1935), a composition in which the left hand is not expected to play stride patterns except for three measures at the very end of the piece, and instead is used in counterpoint to the right hand.


Bernd Lhotzky plays Chopin

As the very same German pianist points out in Dan Morgenstern's liner notes to the Dick Hyman and Bernd Lhotzky duet disc Stridin' The Classics (Jazz Connaisseur JCCD 0347-2), Frédéric Chopin's Etude in Gb Major (Op. 25, #9), called "Butterfly Etude", "could almost be by James P. Johnson, and comparisons with "Carolina Shout" are almost inevitable: the harmonic structure of the beginning of the theme is almost identical". Listen and enjoy this 3:20 version, uploaded by TheGreatKahulik on youtube.

And what about the Waltz In C-sharp Minor (Op. 64, #2)? Check and compare the "straight" version, where Lhotzky displays his magnificent classical education, and then his hot and stompig stride take.


Bernd Lhotzky plays James P. Johnson

Several videos of Bernd Lhotzky have recently flourished on youtube, which is a pleasure for those like us who, in the "desert lands" (music-wise) of Spain, haven't had the opportunity to attend any concert of the young and not-so-young lions of stride piano.

Here is Bernd's excellent rendition of "Caprice Rag", one of James P. Johnson's first compositions (from around 1914) and also one of his first recordings (two piano rolls in 1917, one for Metro Art in May and one for Perfection in July):

Note that the vibrant ascending melodic line of the A section was paraphrased by Fats Waller in his "Handful Of Keys".

And, of course, here's "Carolina Shout", test-piece for every aspirant to the restricted category of "stride pianist":


Recientemente han aparecido en youtube varios videos de Bernd Lhotzky, lo que es un auténtico placer para aquellos que, en estas musicalmente desérticas tierras españolas, no hemos tenido la oportunidad de asistir a ningún concierto de los "jóvenes (y no tan jóvenes) leones del piano stride".

Para empezar:

-la excelente versión de "Caprice Rag", una de las primeras composiciones de James P. Johnson (alrededor de 1914) y también una de sus primeras grabaciones (dos piano rolls de 1917, uno grabado en mayo para Metro Art y otro en julio para Perfection). Nótese que la vibrante línea melódica ascendente de la sección A fue parafraseada por Fats Waller en su "Handful Of Keys"

-y, por supuesto, "Carolina Shout", el examen de entrada para cualquier aspirante a la restringida categoría de "pianista de stride"