The California Ramblers

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The California Ramblers were a popular and prolific jazz group from the 1920s, that recorded hundreds of songs under many different record labels throughout the 1920s. Three of the members of the band, Red Nichols, Jimmy Dorsey, and Tommy Dorsey, would go on to front big bands in later decades.[1]


The original bandmembers were from Ohio but chose the name California Ramblers because they thought people would be less inclined to listen to a jazz band from the Midwest. The Ramblers Inn was named after the band and was in Pelham, New York. The band was instantly successful, and would remain well known throughout the decade. They were one of the most prolific recording groups in the 1920s.[2] The Ramblers recorded originally for Vocalion Records in November 1921. In early 1922, the front man for the California Ramblers, violinist Oscar Adler, told their manager, Ed Kirkeby, that he, Adler, was going to take over as the band's manager and booking agent. Ed Kirkeby, who was influential in New York music, had the B. F. Keith Circuit forbid the Ramblers from playing in their restaurants, dance halls, or theaters.

By the end of March 1922 the original band broke up. They made their last recording on March 16, 1922 for Arto Records. The banjo player and founder of the Ramblers, Ray Kitchenman, asked Kirkeby if the band could be reformed and suggested a band playing at Shanley's Dance Hall which was led by violinist Arthur Hand. Kirkeby agreed, and the new band of California Ramblers made their first recording on April 3, 1922 for Emerson Records. In late 1924 the Ramblers signed a contract with Columbia Records and then, in conjunction with their manager Ed Kirkeby, agreed to waive all royalties to Columbia for the right to record for other companies under pseudonyms.[3] They recorded for nearly every independent label in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., using over 100 unique aliases.[4]