Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

June Richmond / Roy Milton and his Band “Hey Lawdy Mama”

There is a nice little “backstory” to this clip, which is a real swinging SOUNDIE.

I had met Red Callender a number of times, although Red had never been to one of my clip programs. But he called one afternoon and asked if he could come over to watch some of his old films. This was long before the Internet, long before DVD, probably back when people were just getting VHS recorders for their homes. Needless to say, very little was available where jazz film was concerned. JAMMIN’ THE BLUES and NEW ORLEANS were totally unknown to most jazz fans, and Red knew that I had these on 16mm film, and wanted to see himself “back in the day.”

Midway through our afternoon … we had already watched a whole bunch of films, some with Red and some not … the doorbell rang. It was the postman, who needed a signature for a package delivery. It turned out to be a mid 1940s SOUNDIE with Roy Milton’s band. Red asked what it was, I told him, and he said something like, “Hey, I remember Roy. Always like his music, can we see the film?” So I threaded it up, turned on the projector.

And Red and I almost fell off of our chairs … because there he was in the band, taking the first solo in the performance. These coincidences are bizarre, I admit, but this one actually happened! Red didn’t remember ANYTHING about the film, didn’t remember the date, didn’t recall ever working with Roy. It must have been a “day’s pay for a day’s work,” one that came and went and was forgotten until that moment!

The Roy Milton SOUNDIE “Hey Lawdy Mama,” along with two others, was produced in Los Angeles, with the soundtrack recorded April 24, 1944, and sideline photography taking place on or around April 29.

Other than Red, I suspect that the band was Roy’s regular working band of the period, although that is hard to say since he didn’t start recording until the following year:

ROY MILTON AND HIS BAND – Roy Milton and his Band (Roy Milton, drums and leader; Arthur Walker, trumpet; Lemon (or LeMon) E. Thompson, Jr., alto sax; Lorenzo “Buddy” Floyd, tenor sax; Camille Howard, piano; Red Callender, string bass)

Singer June Richmond adds a great deal to this performance. She had worked with both Jimmy Dorsey and Cab Calloway before a lengthy stint with Andy Kirk and his Orchestra. The SOUNDIE publicity materials suggest that she was an “add on” for the date, and not performing with Roy at the time:

“Roy Milton and his Band, who made such a hit at the Creole Palace in Hollywood, are noted for their originality in the creation of new numbers. The vocal is ably done by buxom June Richmond, a hit for the past weeks at Hollywood’s famous Trocadero. This colored band pours out some hot rhythm, while June proves that the big gals can swing it too.”

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