Kid Thomas Valentine was a New Orleans trumpet player. He’s not to be confused with Louis Thomas Watts who was also known as Kid Thomas. Kid Thomas Valentine and his band were pretty cool. There’s a joyfull exhuberance to the music. I love Kid Thomas. On this record he’s also joined by gospel singers Sister Annie Pavageau and Sister Alma Anderson.
I really can’t remember when or where I found this record. One of the cool things about it is that the cover is signed by Kid Thomas himself and by six other people. Some of those other autographs I can’t decipher and the ones I can didn’t play on the record. I’m presuming that they were in a band with Mr Thomas and an audience member bought the record at a gig they were playing at so they all just signed it anyway. One of the signatures reads “Dr. Paul Polo Barnes – jazzologist”. Polo Barnes was a jazz saxophinist and clarinetist who played a lot in the 20s and 30s. He died in 1981. On the subject of death, Kid Thomas passed on in 1987. Not many people make music like this anymore. In many ways jazz has become too highbrow lately. It’s lost the joy and freedom that it used to have.
I know very Little about the Smoky Mary Phonograph Company but I have one other album that was on that label. I think it is one of the coolest names ever for a record label.
I’m glad that I own this. With the old time musicians playing old 1920s style jazz in the 1970s and with their autographs on the cover it feels like a nice slice of history.
I first read about Gary Shearston in Craig MacGregor’s book People, Politics and Pop. I found a copy of Songs of Our Time for $1. Its cover was ripped cover and the record had so much surface noise that the crackle was as loud as the recording. This LP is one of my all time favourites and features the best version I’ve ever heard of Dirty Old Town. I’ve since bought two other copies in much better condition and one copy on CD. Listening to Gary Shearston taught me that singing in an Australian accent, singing in your own voice, was cool. Over here in Australia the whole culture is living so much in the shadow of America and England, American movies, American and British television, American music and so on that it is nice to be hear performers who aren’t trying to sound either American or British. There is nothing wrong at all with music from the States or from England, some of the best music ever comes from those places but to try to be something that you are not just comes across as false. Shearston had a great voice, it was instantly recognizable. In many ways he was like an Australian Pete Seeger, an anti-war activist, singer and a leftie. Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, was going to manage him but Shearston wasn’t allowed to enter the United States of America due to his anti-Vietnam war activities. Later in life he became an Anglican priest. He kept performing and recording and his voice never aged. Sadly Gary died a few weeks back. I’m glad I got to see him perform once. I loved his work but Songs of Our Time remains my favourite record of his. It is great stuff.