Liza Morrow’s recorded legacy is not extensive: some broadcasts and recordings with Eddie Condon, Freddie Slack and George Paxton, all preceding a brief stay with Benny Goodman. She was an outstanding singer, and her brief stay with BG is notable for her fine recording of “Give Me the Simple Life,” complete with solo by Stan Getz. But it is her stay with George Paxton that concerns us here.
“Dance With a Dolly”a 1939 pop composition that received renewed Hit Parade attention in the mid 1940s, then revived again by Bill Haley and the Comets the following decade. While Paxton did not record the number, it is a fine vehicle for Ms. Morrow, with backing by George Paxton’s band and a dance routine by Gaylord and Norma.
Liza did not recall this Soundie until seeing it again in the early 1980s. She commented, “I joined Paxton pretty much when he put the band together, 1944, and I clearly remember the five months engagement at Roseland. I am pretty sure “Dance with a Dolly” was part of our book; I can still recall most of the lyrics. But these films … well, I am drawing a blank. Paxton did quite a bit of arranging for the orchestra, and the arrangements of the two songs that feature me are probably his. We had a great deal of airtime and became fairly well known. Then we went on tour, and moved on to jobs in New Jersey and Florida. I did one recording session with the band but I don’t have it.
From the Paxton band, string bassist John Crescenzi recalled, “George had been Ina Ray Hutton’s musical director before putting together his band. George was a fine enough tenor player, but all of the saxophone solos in this band were handled by “Boomie” Richmond. Now, there was a talented guy. I was pretty green at this point in time, and George’s arrangements, especially the up-tempo things, made me work hard. This was a strong, precision band, and I learned a lot playing with the group.”
And last, comments from tenor sax Abraham “Boomie” Richmond, who was less than exited to talk about the Paxon Soundies: “That was so long ago, and I really not that interested in things that go that far back. But I’ll tell you, Paxton was a classy guy … dressed well, liked his food and drink, liked the women. Yes, I was the primary soloist on the band, but the trumpet player [Guy Key], he was pretty good, too. Had good ears. George didn’t do much playing with the band, just filled out the section when the arrangement called for it. But listen, he was a very talented arranger. He knew how to back vocalists, give the dancers something nice to move to, and rock the joint when necessary.”
“Boomie” was ready to sign off until I mentioned Liza Morrow: “Look, I’ve backed more band singers than I can count. Back then, in the 40’s, Liza was one of the best. She could swing, understood that the lyrics mattered, had terrific intonation and pitch. Benny had her, and he should have signed her long term.”