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Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band

By 1917 Earl Fuller led a society dance band at the popular Rector’s Restaurant in New York City called Earl Fuller’s Rector Novelty Orchestra. Their records released on Victor, Columbia, Emerson and Edison sold well from 1918 to 1920. Fuller ensembles helped popularize dance band trends of that period.

Click Here To OrderFor several of his earliest sessions Fuller led a small jazz ensemble dubbed on record labels Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band, which was probably formed at the suggestion of Victor executives eager to duplicate the success of the first disc of the Original Dixieland Jass Band, made in late February of 1917. Because of various grievances, the Original Dixieland Jass Band severed ties with Victor for a year after making its first record, instead cutting titles for Columbia and the new Aeolian- Vocalion label. Fuller’s hastily assembled jazz group filled the void, enabling Victor later in 1917 to meet a sudden demand for jazz music.

Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band included Walter Kahn on cornet, Harry Raderman on trombone, Ted Lewis on clarinet, and John Lucas on drums. This was the nucleus of the dance orchestra later led by Ted Lewis. Before Fuller’s first session, Lewis had been playing with Arthur Stone’s Syncopated Orchestra. In the early 1920s, the popular Ted Lewis orchestra consisted of these four musicians in addition to cornetist David Klein, trombonist Frank Lhotak, tuba player Harry Barth, and pianist Frank Ross. This is reported on page 21 of the October 1923 issue of Musical Truth, which was the trade journal for the maker of Conn instruments.

Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz BandPhotographs on sheet music suggest Fuller played piano on these dates though Ernie Cutting may have been the pianist on records (as on other jazz records of the period, piano on Fuller discs is the least audible of the instruments). It was one of the first bands to imitate the Original Dixieland Jass Band though the Frisco Jazz Band made an Edison recording on May 10, 1917, a little earlier than Fuller’s jazz ensemble.

Slippery Hank” and “Yah-De-Dah,” cut during the group’s first session on June 4, 1917, were issued on Victor 18321 in September 1917. These jazz performances are notably loud, and the musicians use instruments for comic effects. Victor’s September 1917 supplement states, “A terrific wail from the trombone starts ‘Slippery Hank‘ (F.H. Losey) on his glide, and the rest of the Jazz Band noises are in kind. And if you think these are all the noises available for a Jazz Band, turn the record over and listen to ‘Yah-De-Dah‘ (Mel. B. Kaufman). The sounds as of a dog in his dying anguish are from Ted Lewis‘ clarinet. Notice the two little chords at the end of each number. This is how you know for certain that a Jazz Band is playing.” Ending records with these “two little chords” had been introduced by the Original Dixieland Jass Band.

His jazz discs sold well, especially “The Old Grey Mare” backed with “Beale Street Blues” (Victor 18369), and, on Victor 18394, “Coon Band Contest” (a rag composed by trombonist Arthur Pryor and recorded by banjoist Vess L. Ossman as well as Sousa’s Band as early as 1900) backed with “Li’l Liza Jane,” written by Countess Ada de Lachau and arranged by J.L. Burbeck.

Historian and critic Gunther Schuller expresses mixed feelings about the band in Early Jazz (Oxford University Press, 1968), writing on page 184, “The band’s ricky-tick rhythms and cornetist Walter Kahn are very hard to take today. Moreover, its performances are structurally monotonous in their exact repetitions. Nevertheless, the band had a crude sort of excitement…” The now- forgotten discs helped define and popularize a new music, jazz, influencing young people who would later, in the 1920s, make important recordings.

In 1918 Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band recorded for Edison several numbers with titles that refer to the new music, including “Jazzbo Jazz” and “Jazzin’ Around.” The August 1918 issue of Edison Amberola Monthly characterizes “Jazbo Jazz One-Step” on Blue Amberol 3554 as “a real, red- hot jazz dance of the most ultra modern variety,” and this may be the first time that a jazz record is promoted as “hot.” The jacket for Diamond Disc 50541, featuring Fuller’s own composition “Jazz de Luxe,” states that the band “was organized just at the time the jazz music became popular in New York, and through its playing of jazz music in Rector’s Restaurant, New York City, Earl Fuller’s Band became famous.” Promotional literature for the same number on Blue Amberol 3610 states, “Until you have heard one of Earl Fuller’s ‘symphonies in rhythm’ you are a novice in the art of appreciating Jazz.”

From the book “Popular American Recording Pioneers 1895 -1925.” By Tim Gracyk. If you would like to order a copy click here for details.

Thanks to Al Simmons and Dominic Combe for their help with the recording on this page.

TitleRecording DateRecording LocationCompany
Beale Street Blues
(W.C. Handy)
8-13-1917New York, New YorkVictor
Coon Band Contest
(Arthur Pryor)
9-10-1917New York, New YorkVictor
I’m Sorry I Made You Cry
(N.J. Clesi)
6-4-1918New York, New YorkEdison
Jazzbo Jazz
(Earl Fuller)
3-1918New York, New YorkEmerson
Jazzbo Jazz One-Step
(Earl Fuller)
6-4-1918New York, New YorkEdison
Jazz de Luxe
(Earl Fuller)
3-1918New York, New YorkEmerson
Jazz de Luxe
(Earl Fuller)
6-13-1918New York, New YorkEdison
Jazzin’ Around
(Earl Fuller)
6-13-1918New York, New YorkEdison Blue
Amberol 3572
(Ernest Cutting)
12-1919New York, New YorkArto
(Lou Gold)
12-1919New York, New YorkArto
Li’l Liza Jane
(Countess Ada de Lachau / arranged by J.L. Burbeck)
9-10-1917New York, New YorkVictor
Old Grey Mare
(arranged by Frank Panella)
8-13-1917New York, New YorkVictor
Slippery Hank
(F.H. Losey)
6-4-1917New York, New YorkVictor
(Mel B. Kaufman)
6-4-1917New York, New YorkVictor

Earl FullerPiano
Walter KahnCornet
Ted LewisClarinet
John LucasDrums
Harry RadermanTrombone


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