Earl Fuller

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Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band in 1918. Left to Right: Harry Raderman, Ted Lewis, John Lucas, Earl Fuller and Walter Kahn.
Earl Fuller

Earl Fuller (1885–1947) was a pioneering American ragtime and early jazz bandleader, composer and instrumentalist. Fuller helped to initiate the popularity of jazz in New York City shortly before America's entry into World War I. He also had an ear for talent, and discovered Ted Lewis and Teddy Brown.[1]

Biography[edit]

Earl Fuller was born Earl Bunn Fuller on March 7, 1885[2] in Stonington, Illinois[3] however his family had longstanding ties to Warren County, Ohio. Practically nothing is known of his musical education, but he was proficient on several instruments; photos of his jazz band show him seated at the piano, whereas he also is credited with playing trumpet and trombone in his Novelty Orchestra; other accounts identify him as a drummer. Fuller was hired, in 1913,[4] as musical director of Rector's Restaurant on Broadway in Manhattan's theater district; since about 1912 it was already established as a place where famous personalities from the New York Stage rubbed shoulders with politicians and other prominent New Yorkers.[5] Fuller's Novelty Orchestra's star attraction was xylophonist Teddy Brown, then just a teenager and later destined for far greater fame in Britain.[6] However, a Christmas ad placed in Variety on December 28, 1917 shows that Fuller also used George Hamilton Green in this role.[7]

According to an unpublished autobiography by Ted Lewis,[8] Lewis and his "clown band" was playing at the boardwalk at Coney Island; this was a group that had evolved from a circus band and included cornetist Walter Kahn, trombonist Harry Raderman and drummer John Lucas—at that time the "clown band" did not have a pianist. Sometime towards the end of the summer, Fuller approached Lewis' clown band and offered to hire them into Rector's. The contract they signed in September 1916 still survives,[9] and shows that what became "Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band" was signed, as a whole, into Rector's at one time. Trading in their clown costumes for tuxedoes, Fuller's Jazz Band was an immediate success, and appeared at Rector's a few months before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made its acclaimed debut at Reisenweiber's Restaurant in January 1917. The Novelty Orchestra—playing rags, schottisches, waltzes, polkas and two-steps—alternated sets with the more raucous jazz band. While the jazz band was exciting, only the bravest dancers could contend with its tempo. So the resulting show was a successful balance between the revolutionary rhythm of jazz and more sedate material that was friendlier to dancers. According to the 1917 Christmas ad, Fuller also maintained two other groups, his "Celebrated Society Orchestra" and "Earl Fuller's Combination Seven," but of these only the first group is known on recordings through a single Victor side.[10]

The Novelty Orchestra recorded for the first time for Columbia on June 1, 1917 and the jazz band three days later for Victor. Fuller's groups remained busy in the recording studios through February 1919, recording for Victor, Columbia, Edison, Emerson and Starr/Gennett. There is some controversy as to whether Fuller functioned as pianist in the jazz band; some sources contend that the pianist in the Earl Fuller Famous Jazz Band was actually Ernest Cutting, rather than Fuller.[11] However, the Victor ledgers show Fuller as pianist, at least on sides made for that company; Cutting did play with the Famous Jazz Band in live engagements, however.[12] Likewise, Fuller's authorship has been challenged for five Fuller Jazz Band titles credited to Fuller as composer. However, Fuller did publish sheet music that he had written,[13] and Lewis in his autobiography makes no such claim.

Ted Lewis has taken some criticism over his handling of the matter of extracting himself from Rector's and Fuller's control, which included the whole of the Fuller Jazz Band, minus Fuller. In his autobiography, Lewis recalled that by mid-1919 that he was being offered outrageous sums of money by Florenz Ziegfeld to play the Roof Garden of the New Amsterdam Theater. Neither Lewis nor his fellow jazz band members were paid more than other musicians at Rector's, and when his contract came up, he opted not to renew, and the band simply left Fuller along with him, including pianist Ernest Cutting. However, Cutting returned to Fuller after only about a month, and Cutting's composition Jazology was featured on the last recording credited to Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band, made in December 1919. This disc was issued both on Arto and as a special "Earl Fuller Record" with Fuller's picture on the label; the latter is one of the rarest of all early jazz records.[14]

Jazology was one of 15 pieces compiled in Earl Fuller's Collection of Classic Jazz, published by a cooperative which Fuller headed called the American Musicians Syndicate with offices located at 1604 Broadway. The collection was available both as a piano folio and as a set of orchestral parts arranged by Harry L. Alford, whom Fuller brought out from Chicago to make the arrangements; among other pieces in the collection were early works composed by future bandleaders Lou Gold and Irving Aaronson. The folios were issued in conjunction with three Q.R.S. piano roll medleys consisting of nine pieces from the set.[15]

With the final passage of the Volstead Act in October 1919, rather than to continue as a restaurant without a liquor license, Rector's opted to close its doors. After making the final Earl Fuller Famous Jazz Band disc, Fuller took his bands on a coast to coast tour of vaudeville houses in the United States. Variety stated in his obituaty that Fuller therefore "was the first big time orchestra leader to invade the hinterland."[16] On returning to New York, Fuller diversified, renaming his band "Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra" and establishing a dance band booking agency, primarily run by his wife, Katherine.[17] While Fuller's band halted its recording activities in 1921, the booking agency continued in New York until at least 1925.[18] By 1928, Fuller and his wife had relocated to Cincinnati to continue the business there, but it ultimately foundered. Afterward, Fuller served as manager of WFBF radio in Cincinnati. When he died of a heart attack in Morrow, Ohio on August 19, 1947, Earl Fuller was working as a real estate agent in nearby Lebanon.[19] He was buried in Morrow Cemetery, near to, but not in, the Fuller family plot.[20]

Legacy[edit]

Outside of enthusiasts of early jazz and vintage record collectors, Earl Fuller is a forgotten figure. He has not been regarded well by mainstream jazz experts; Gunther Schuller's evaluation of the Fuller Band in the seminal survey Early Jazz[21] was couched in mostly negative terms. However, there are listeners who are attracted to the "crude sort of excitement" that Schuller also alludes to, and overall their recordings are more violent and chaotic sounding than even the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Some post-modern scholars refer to its like as "punk jazz," a kind of early jazz with a nihilistic aesthetic akin to the punk rock movement in England in the 1970s. The one inescapable factor of Earl Fuller's legacy is that he played a major role in popularizing jazz in New York City; Ted Lewis' "clown band" may have been one of the first groups to play something that could be regarded as instrumental jazz in New York, and by incorporating their act into his high profile show at Rector's, Fuller exposed the new sound to the very clientele that would take to it most ardently. Moreover, like the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Fuller's groups were among the first artists to record pieces that have become standards, such as W. C. Handy's Beale Street Blues.

Apart from Ted Lewis, Teddy Brown and George Hamilton Green, musicians who worked in Fuller's various groups included Sig Behrendson (who sometimes filled in for Raderman), Willie Creager, Ben Selvin, Joe Green, Joe Kayser, Joseph Samuels and Ted Weems. Variety states that of the band Fuller took on tour of the United States "many of the men later formed the basis of the late Ben Bernie's first stage band."[22]

Discography[edit]

Earl Fuller's first record, "Cold Turkey"

Earl Fuller made an impressive number of recordings in a very short time. The table below contains all known Earl Fuller recordings, minus non-U.S. issues; some undocumented items may have also been issued on Olympic, Arto or Starr/Gennett, labels incompletely documented in this period. Edison Blue Amberol cylinders are generally identical to the Diamond Disc issues, though takes may vary. Victor 18395 was announced, but ultimately not released. Fuller is also credited as a director and/or manager on some Pathé recordings by Joseph Samuels' Orchestra, but his connection to these items remains uncertain.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

Artist Credit Title Date Label Issue Matrix
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Cold Turkey 6-1-1917 Columbia A2298 77092-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra 12th Street Rag 6-1-1917 Columbia A2298 77093-7
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Slippery Hank 6-4-1917 Victor 18321-A B-20062-2
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Yah-de-dah 6-4-1917 Victor 18321-B B-20063-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Cold Turkey 6-4-1917 Victor unissued B-20064
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra I Never Knew 6-4-1917 Victor unissued B-20065
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra One Fleeting Hour 6-9-1917 Columbia A5989 49235
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Castle Valse Classique 6-9-1917 Columbia A5989 49236
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Pork and Beans 7-20-1917 Columbia A2370 77220-3
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzin' Around 8-13-1917 Victor unissued B-20502-1-4
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band A Coon Band Contest 8-13-1917 Victor unissued B-20503-1-3
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band The Old Grey Mare 8-13-1917 Victor 18369-A B-20504-2
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Beale Street Blues 8-13-1917 Victor 18369-B B-20505-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra More Candy 9-5-1917 Columbia A2403 77307-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Ida Sweet As Apple Cider 9-5-1917 Columbia A2403 77308-2
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzin' Around 9-10-1917 Victor 18395-A B-20502-5
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band A Coon Band Contest 9-10-1917 Victor 18394-A B-20503-4
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band L'il Liza Jane 9-10-1917 Victor 18394-B B-20549-3
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Cotton Blossoms 9-10-1917 Victor 18395-B B-20550-1
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Smiles 11-17-1917 Columbia A2578 77516-2
Earl Fuller's Orchestra When the Incense is Burning 11-19-1917 Victor 18450-B B-21465-1
Earl Fuller's Orchestra Charming 11-19-1917 Victor unissued Vi trial
Earl Fuller's Orchestra What Could Be Sweeter? 11-19-1917 Victor unissued Vi trial
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Mama's Baby Boy 12-18-1917 Columbia unissued 77582
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Graveyard Blues 3-1-1918 Columbia A2523 77583-3
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Sweet Emalina My Gal 3-1-1918 Columbia A2523 77697-3
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra I Ain't Got Nobody Much 3-18-1918 Columbia A2547 77725-3
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Down Home Rag 3-18-1918 Columbia A2547 77726-1
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazz De Luxe 3-1918 Emerson 952 3182-1, -2
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzbo Jazz 3-1918 Emerson 952 3183-1, -2
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzbo Jazz 3-1918 Medallion 817 3183
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazz De Luxe 3-1918 Medallion 818 3182
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Mickey 5-3-1918 Columbia A2595 77806-1
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra We'll Do Our Share 5-7-1918 Columbia A2566 77815-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra I Want Him Back Again 5-7-1918 Columbia A2566 77816-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra The Missouri Waltz 5-14-1918 Columbia A2578 77821-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Here Comes America 5-1918 Columbia A2595 77838-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra When I Feel Sad and Lonely 6-3-1918 Columbia unissued 49439
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Texas - Fox Trot 6-3-1918 Columbia A6075 49440-1
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Oriental - One Step 7-1918 Columbia A6075 49474-1
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band I'm Sorry I Made You Cry 6-4-1918 Edison Blue Amberol 3585 6198-C
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band I'm Sorry I Made You Cry 6-4-1918 Edison Diamond Disc 50521-L 6198-A-B-C
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzbo Jazz - One Step 6-4-1918 Edison Blue Amberol 3554 6199-C
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzbo Jazz - One Step 6-4-1918 Edison Diamond Disc 50505-L 6199-C
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazz De Luxe 6-13-1918 Edison Blue Amberol 3610 6005-C
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazz De Luxe 6-13-1918 Edison Diamond Disc 50541-R 6005-C
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzin' Around 6-13-1918 Edison Blue Amberol 3572 6225-C
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Howdy 8-6-1918 Columbia A2649 77987
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Cold Turkey 8-1918 Gennett 8504-B 1334
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band I'm Sorry I Made You Cry 8-1918 Gennett 8504-A 1335
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Unknown Selection 8-1918 Gennett unknown 1336
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazz De Luxe 8-1918 Gennett 8522-B 1337
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Russian Rag 8-30-1918 Columbia A2649 78034
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Sand Dunes 8-30-1918 Columbia unissued (12") 49488
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Singapore 12-10-1918 Columbia A2686 78194-3
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Out of the East 12-10-1918 Columbia A2686 78195-3
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Sand Dunes 12-19-1918 Columbia A2697 78195-3
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Spaniola 12-19-1918 Columbia A2697 78195-3
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Egyptland 1-31-1919 Columbia A2722 78280-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Mummy Mine 1-31-1919 Columbia A2722 78281-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Ruspana 2-21-1919 Columbia A2712 78310-2
Earl Fuller's Novelty Orchestra Sweet Siamese 2-21-1919 Columbia A2712 78311-3
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazorient 12-1919 Arto/Earl Fuller 9009-A 31001-
Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band Jazzology 12-1919 Arto/Earl Fuller 9009-B 31002-2
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra Ain't We Got Fun 5-1921 Olympic 15116-A
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra Ain't We Got Fun 5-1921 Symphony Concert Record 21180-A
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra Just Because 5-1921 Olympic 15116-B
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra Just Because 5-1921 Symphony Concert Record 21180-B
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra Melody in F 5-1921 Olympic 15118
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra Melody in F 5-1921 Black Swan 2058-B
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra Just Because 6-17-1921 Edison Diamond Disc 50824-R 8076
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra I Wonder Where My Sweet, Sweet Daddy's Gone 6-17-1921 Edison Blue Amberol 4392 8077-A
Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra I Wonder Where My Sweet, Sweet Daddy's Gone 6-17-1921 Edison Diamond Disc 50824-L 8077-A

Reissues[edit]

Reissues of Earl Fuller recordings in modern formats are almost unknown. A notable, early departure from this state of affairs was the work of Dutch black music authority Dr. Hans Rookmaaker, who included two Earl Fuller selections on his 1961 collection New York Jazz Scene: 1917-1920[31] which was the first volume in his series "Classic Jazz Masters" for Dutch Philips. Fuller is also included by virtue of two tracks on John R.T. Davies' Ragtime to Jazz I[32] and one on Archeophone's Real Ragtime.[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band, by Tim Gracyk -redhotjazz.com
  2. ^ Earl Fuller's WWI Draft Card, issued 1918, supplied by researcher Ryan Barna
  3. ^ Earl Fuller's WWII Draft Card, issued 1942, supplied by researcher Ryan Barna. The 1942 card shifts the birthdate ahead one day to March 8th, and one year to 1886, but Fuller's tombstone reads "1885."
  4. ^ "Earl B. Fuller" Obituary, Variety, August 27, 1947 pg. 55
  5. ^ "Era of the Rectors," New York Times, November 28, 1947, Page 26
  6. ^ Earl Fuller's Rector Novelty Orchestra, by Tim Gracyk [1] republished from Gracyk, "Popular American Recording Pioneers," The Hayworth Press, Binghamton NY, 2000
  7. ^ Earl Fuller Christmas Ad, Variety December 28, 1917, pg. 156
  8. ^ Ted Lewis, Untitled Autobiography, manuscript held at the Ted Lewis Museum, Circleville, Ohio
  9. ^ Contract between Earl Fuller and Ted Lewis, dated September 1, 1916, held at the Ted Lewis Museum in Circleville, Ohio
  10. ^ Earl Fuller Christmas Ad, Variety December 28, 1917, pg. 156
  11. ^ Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band, by Tim Gracyk [2] republished from Gracyk, "Popular American Recording Pioneers," The Hayworth Press, Binghamton NY, 2000
  12. ^ Earl Fuller Christmas Ad, Variety December 28, 1917, pg. 156
  13. ^ One example is "When the Old Boat Heads for Home" at the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection of Johns Hopkins University [3]
  14. ^ Brian Rust, "Jazz Records 1897-1942, Volume 1: Irving Aaronson to Abe Lyman," Arlington House Publishers, New Rochelle, NY 1978
  15. ^ Jacobs' Band Monthly, Volume 4, September 1919
  16. ^ "Earl B. Fuller" Obituary, Variety, August 27, 1947 pg. 55
  17. ^ Earl Fuller's Rector Novelty Orchestra, by Tim Gracyk [4] republished from Gracyk, "Popular American Recording Pioneers," The Hayworth Press, Binghamton NY, 2000
  18. ^ "Mrs. Earl Fuller...", Variety, April 1, 1925, pg. 41
  19. ^ Earl Fuller Death Certificate, supplied by researcher Ryan Barna.
  20. ^ Morrow, Ohio Cemetery listing
  21. ^ Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development, Oxford University Press, New York City 1968
  22. ^ "Earl B. Fuller" Obituary, Variety, August 27, 1947 pg. 55
  23. ^ Encylopedic Discography of Victor Recordings
  24. ^ Online Discographical Project Emerson 900 listing
  25. ^ Online Discographical Project Columbia A2000 listing
  26. ^ Online Discographical Project Columbia A2500 listing
  27. ^ Online Discographical Project Columbia A5500 listing
  28. ^ Online Discographical Project Columbia A6000 listing
  29. ^ Red Hot Jazz "Earl Fuller's New York Orchestra"
  30. ^ Allen R. Sutton, "Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders: U.S., Foreign and Special Issues (1912-1929)," Mainspring Press, Denver, Colorado 2009
  31. ^ Riverside RM 8801
  32. ^ Timeless Historical CBC1-035, 1997
  33. ^ Archeophone ARCH1A, 1999

External links[edit]