An inventory from the collections of
Keller Whalen and Jean-Francois Pitet
by Keller WHALEN
PART ONE: THE 7-INCH EP’S
Cab holds some 45 rpm records; photo by Otto Hesse (1949).
EP or Extended Play records were produced in the 1950s and 1960s. They were a middle ground between the 33 1/3 rpm LP, with 10 or 12 cuts, and the 45 rpm single, at one cut per side. At seven inches wide, with a large hole, EP’s usually held four songs and were played at 45 rpm. Some EP’s were played at 33 1/3 rpm allowing up to six songs. Extended Play 45rpm records with cardboard picture sleeves were immensely popular in the U.S. and Europe from about 1950 through the sixties and into the Beatles era. Elvis Presley issued 28 EP’s between 1956 and 1967.
Although RCA was the inventor and champion of the 45 rpm format, the U.S. label didn’t reissue any of Cab Calloway’s superb 1933-34 RCA recordings on either Extended Play or 10-inch LP records. Italy, Germany and France all issued selections from the RCA recordings on 12-inch LP’s later in the 70s and 80s.
See the examples below for the relative sizes and capacities of singles vs. EP’s vs. LP’s.
7-inch 45 rpm single, one song per side
7-inch 45 rpm EP, two songs per side 7-inch 33 1/3 rpm EP, three songs per side
10-inch 78rpm single, one song per side 10-inch 33 1/3 rpm LP, four songs per side
Selections from Cab Calloway’s classic Brunswick and Columbia recordings made between 1930 and 1945 were frequently issued on Extended Play records throughout Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. Cab’s early work, and classic jazz in general, was deeply appreciated in France especially, as demonstrated by the many excellent French releases that follow.
The Missourians “Harlem in the 20’s” RCA EVA 15. RCA released this U.S. EP in 1954 with recordings made in 1929 and 1930 by The Missourians, the band that would soon become Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Orchestra. The sides were cut before Cab took over the band. It’s an interesting cover illustration -- the band doesn’t seem to be holding any instruments. Click here to hear the Missourians playing “Ozark Mountain Blues.”
“Cab Calloway and His Orchestra” Epic EG 7016. An excellent four-song introduction to Cab’s orchestra work for Columbia 1939-1945, including “Minnie the Moocher” and “St. James Infirmary,” was released in 1953 on the Epic label in the U.S. The cover photo, by Otto Bettman, is from the then-current stage production of “Porgy and Bess.”
“Cab Calloway Orch.” Coral ECV 18 050. From the French EP series “Connaissance du Jazz,” Volume 17 has four Brunswick sides from 1930-1931 including the earliest recordings of the two classic songs named above. Issued in 1958, there’s a great photo of the band on the cover circa 1945 at the Strand Theatre in New York.
“Cab Calloway” Fontana 462101 TE. The four songs on this French EP from 1958 were recorded from 1939 to 1945, complementing the prior EP on Coral. The brilliant cover illustration by Sam Norkin was also used on a U.S. Epic LP, and the excellent liner notes are by recording impresario George Avakian (freely translated into French by Boris Vian - Read our article about this French EP).
Another shot of Cab in the recording studio.
“Cab Calloway” EP Fontana TFE 17216 “Four Star Series.” Four songs originally recorded between 1932 and 1942, in addition to the classics “Minnie” and “St. James,” there are two other popular gems on this 1960 U.K. release: “Eadie Was a Lady” and “Miss Otis Regrets.” The Cover photo shows Cab in the recording studio for the “1959 Porgy and Bess” sessions (see below for his “Porgy” songs on EP). Read the complete story of the song “Eadie Was a Lady” here.
“Cabulous Calloway” VJM VEP 24 (left). Containing deep cuts for collectors, this 1967 U.K. EP has the original 1930-1931 Brunswick sides “I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby,” “The Nightmare,” “Yaller” and “Honey’s Lovin’ Arms”. VJM 24 can also be found with a gray cover. Click here to listen to Cab singing “Yaller.”
“Cabulous Calloway” VJM VEP 35 (right). More deep cuts with “Happy Feet,” “The Viper’s Drag,” “Mood Indigo,” and “Farewell Blues.” Collectors in the 1960s must have been thrilled to obtain these rare recordings in the EP format. The evocative cover illustration is not credited, and the fine liner notes are by jazz discographer Brian Rust.
“Cab Calloway and his Orchestra 1931” Brunswick 10302 EPB Kings of Swing Volume 2. On this 1961 German EP there are four more 1930-1931 jazz classics, “You Rascal You,” “Some of These Days,” “Nobody’s Sweetheart,” and “Trickeration.” The cover illustration is by Irma Seidat. (Volume 1 of the Kings of Swing series covered Luis Russel and Don Redman.)
Various Artists “Songs from Blackbirds” RCA 483 (left). While briefly under contract with RCA, Cab recorded a new version of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” found on this 1953 EP. Cab had performed the song ‘live’ since about 1936.
Various Artists “Songs from Porgy and Bess” RCA 487 (right). Cab recorded this version of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” also in 1953, several years before the iconic “Porgy and Bess” soundtrack. He had been touring in the part of Sportin’ Life for some time, but the movie wasn’t made until 1959.
These two EP’s were part of The RCA Victor “Show Time” Series with newly recorded songs from classic Broadway shows sung by contemporary artists. Eight 10-inch LP’s were released by the label with songs from 16 different shows. It’s unclear how many of the LP’s were also released on the 7-inch EP format. The excellent cover illustrations are by Ed Kysar. These records were released in the U.S. only.
“Cab Calloway Classics” La Guilde du Jazz POP 30. Cab recorded eight songs for Bell Records between 1953 and 1955, alternating among classics (“Minnie the Moocher”), country (“Gambler’s Guitar”) and recent pop songs (“Unchained Melody”). The records were first produced in a budget-priced 7-inch 78 rpm format for the U.S. market. Several countries licensed the Bell recordings for EP releases. Six of the eight songs are included on this 1955 EP from France. With a generous six cuts, this 7-inch EP is played at 33 1/3 rpm.
“Cab Calloway Classics” La Guilde du Jazz POP 30 (top). Differently colored covers for the various European releases of the “Cab Calloway Classics” EP.
Various Artists “Rock, Roll and Mambo” EP La Guilde du Jazz POP 41 (top). On this Various Artists compilation from 1956, Cab sings “Learnin’ the Blues” from the Bell sessions, a song which wasn’t included on the POP 30 EP. The cover variations (bottom) include a fun illustration by Heinz Steiger (left). That cover doesn’t even mention Cab Calloway.
La Guilde du Jazz was a popular subscription label in France that sold jazz records by mail order, including reissues and new recordings licensed from other labels.
“Cab Calloway Classics” Varieton POP 30 (top left). This German record has the same six cuts as the French release but adds the cover illustration by Heinz Steiger. “Cab Calloway Classics” Varieton POP 30 (top right) is an alternate cover for the same record. And at bottom are two more cover color variations from different European countries where the EP was released between 1954 and 1955. All four of these EP’s are played at 33 1/3 rpm.
“Cab Calloway” Gala 4SXP1016. This British release from 1958 selects four of the Bell recordings and the cover displays an excellent publicity photograph of Cab by Armand of Havana. Click here to listen to Cab singing “Learnin’ the Blues.”
“Cab Calloway in ‘High Fidelity’” Belter 45 001 and “Cab Calloway Con la Orquesta de Sy Oliver” Belter 45 008. These 1955 EP’s from Spain have selections of four of the Bell recordings on each. The cover photo is a classic shot of Cab by James Kriegsmann, the official Cotton Club photographer.
The “Porgy and Bess” original soundtrack album of 1959 was a consistent bestseller in multiple formats, stereo and mono LP’s, 8-track and cassette tapes, and of course EP’s.
“Porgy and Bess” Original Soundtrack Volume 1 Philips 429 641 BE (left). The fine Andre Previn arrangement of Cab’s showstopper “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is included on this U.K. EP. “Porgy and Bess” Original Soundtrack Volume 2 Philips 429 642 BE (right). This U.K. EP has Cab’s definitive recording of “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York.”
“Porgy and Bess” soundtrack Philips 429 642 BE, with black and white sleeve. “Porgy and Bess” soundtrack Volume CBS EP 5517, with yet another cover variation. Both EP’s are probably from 1959 or 1960.
These “Porgy and Bess” EP’s on Philips have a different assortment of songs. In this case, Volume 1 and Volume 4 include Cab’s two numbers from the score. Click here for Cab’s soundtrack version of “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York.”
“Porgy and Bess” soundtrack on CBS, alternate cover #1, and “Porgy and Bess” on CBS, alternate cover #2. These German EP’s contain the same song selections as the UK releases, from 1959 or 1960.
“Porgy and Bess” soundtrack Philips 429 665 BE and 429 680 BE. French EP releases from 1959. Sammy Davis is pictured in his role as Sportin’ Life (right) even though Cab Calloway sings the part on the record. Of course, both Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge (pictured on all the other covers) both had their singing dubbed by other artists for the movie and its soundtrack; the voices you hear are Robert McFerrin and Adele Addison.
“Porgy and Bess” Columbia (Japan) LSS 13. This 1961 Japanese EP has four of the songs from the soundtrack album, including Cab’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Liner notes and lyrics are included with this record.
Sammy Davis Jr. “Porgy and Bess” Decca ED 72647. Although Sammy played Sportin’ Life in the movie, due to his recording contract his voice couldn’t appear on the Philips soundtrack LP of “Porgy and Bess.” In 1959, his label Decca released this four-song EP in the U.S. with custom arrangements of the score and with orchestras directed by Buddy Bregman and Morty Stevens.
Chu Berry “Chu” Epic 7107; Chu Berry “Blue Berry” Epic 7108; Chu Berry “The Greatest Performances of Chu Berry” Epic 7109.
Chu Berry was the inventive and popular saxophonist in Cab’s orchestra from 1937 until his untimely death in a car accident in 1941. Epic collected many of his best performances with various bands and released the 12-inch compilation LP “Chu.” That 1955 LP’s cuts were split into three separate EP’s for the 45rpm market in the U.S. There’s fine artwork on all three sleeves, especially the wonderful cartoon by William Steig (top).
“Chu Berry et ses Déménageurs” [Chu Berry and His Movers] Philips 426 021 BE and 426 022 BE. In 1956 Phillips in France issued these two EP’s with various selections from the Chu Berry archives. Read about the recording legacy of Chu Berry here.
PART TWO: THE 10-INCH LP’S
With the adoption of microgroove in 1948, the 78 rpm record was soon to be obsolete. While RCA promoted its new 45 rpm and Extended Play formats, Columbia introduced Long Playing records. The new 10-inch LP’s were the same size as 78’s but could hold eight to ten songs. The 12-inch long-playing records were originally reserved for classical pieces, but as artists and listeners soon began to appreciate the LP format, the 10-inch records were phased out. For many years, the 10-inch LP was especially popular with jazz artists and they inspired some fantastic cover illustrations.
Pascal Ferrer, author and jazz collector, has put together a spectacular tribute to one of those 10-inch LP artists, Pierre Merlin, in his book “The 10” French Jazz Design Records 1952-1962.” Click here for some of the wonderful record cover artwork.
Unfortunately, Cab Calloway didn’t maintain a regular band for most the 1950s and he released no new music on full-length 10-inch LP’s. There are, however, several examples of re-issued songs on 10-inchers.
The Missourians, “Harlem in the 20’s” Volume One RCA LVA 3020. This 10-inch USA LP from RCA in 1954 presents the future Cab Calloway Orchestra just before Cab took it over. At least one corresponding EP was released at the same time.
“Cab Calloway and His Orchestra in a Group of Original Recordings” Brunswick BL 58010 “Brunswick Collectors Series.”
These eight songs from 1930-31 were previously released in a best-selling 4-record album of 78rpm disks, originally brought out in the U.S. during the recording ban of 1942-44 when no new songs could be recorded. The best songs of the Cab Calloway Orchestra’s first recording sessions are included on this 10-inch LP issued in 1950. Read about that first recording session here. Read about that iconic first recording session here.
Various Artists “The RCA Victor Encyclopedia of Recorded Jazz” LP RCA LEJ-2. Volume 2 of this 12 volume set issued in 1956 has Cab’s alternate take of “The Scat Song” from his 1933 RCA sessions.
Various Artists “Songs from Shuffle Along/Blackbirds” RCA LPM 3154; Various Artists “Songs from Porgy and Bess/Girl Crazy” RCA LPM 3156.
The two 10-inch albums from The RCA Victor “Show Time” Series have one song each by Cab Calloway freshly recorded in 1953 and issued in 1954 for the American market. The tunes were also released on EP’s (see above). Cover illustrations are by Ed Kysar.
Various Artists “Musica Popular: 8 exitos del Hit Parade” Music Hall 6018. This compilation LP from Argentina includes the 1955 Bell recording of “Such a Night,” (not sung in Spanish, it’s the original recording in English).
Cab Calloway “Let The Bells Keep Ringin’” RWA 10503. This brand new 10-inch LP released in the U.S. in 2017 has a gatefold cover and extensive liner notes. After 64 years, it finally brings together all eight songs that Cab recorded for Bell Records in the 50s. The cover and inside photographs were actually taken from a later photo session for Cab’s “Hi De Hi De Ho” LP on RCA (read about that LP here).
Lael and Cab Calloway “Little Child” ABC-Paramount 9671.
This not an LP but a late-era (1956) U.S. 78 rpm recording with a picture sleeve, included here because it was unusual for the time.
Are these all of the Cab Calloway related EP’s and 10-inch LP’s? Additions and corrections welcome!
(We’d hate to think that there are records that we don’t have.) Contact the author at Keller78rpm@yahoo.com