Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Yank Lawson & Bob Haggart - Hark The Herald Angels Swing

This album has a long past with me... it wouldn't unzip correctly - several tracks would not open or read. It took me nearly seven or eight tries to get the whole album downloaded. I had to rework several MP3s using my Sound Forge Sonic Foundry audio editor and voila! I had a full album.

Good thing too because this may very well be my favorite album that I downloaded at Ernie (not Bert's) blog for the entire 2005 Christmas season.

The album is credited to "The World's Greatest Jazzband of Yank Lawson & Bob Haggart". It's nice to know such a humble band wouldn't complain when their whole name couldn't be fit onto the marquee outside a jazz spot. They were content with being known as TWGJB - a precursor of NKTOB? More on that name later.

Their credentials speak for themselves. Both Lawson and Haggart got their start with the Bob Crosby (Bing's younger brother) Dixieland band back in the 1930s, utilizing many of Haggart's arrangements until its breakup in 1942. Crosby later said of Haggart that "he could have been another George Gershwin if he'd channelled all his talents into composing."

Between 1942 and 1951, Haggart stayed in New York and played backup bass fiddle (as well as musical arrangements) for well established stars such as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington. During this same period, Lawson free-lanced throughout the music industry to the point where it became impossible to keep track of his recordings.

In 1951, both reunited and created the Lawson-Haggart Jazz Band. For the next eleven years, they recorded albums (with other ex-Crosby bandmates in tow) and toured every hall and concert venue possible. They had a solid following within the jazz community when they both called it quits in 1962. Lawson toured for a brief time with his own band while Haggart settled into semi-retirement, occasionally playing at Crosby reunion concerts.

Enter an eccentric millionaire named Barker Hickox. In 1968, after one of the aforementioned reunion concerts, he asked Lawson & Haggart to restart their band, offering oodles of money to front the band, and rechristening their name to "The World's Greatest Jazz Band". After some blushing over this new band name, the second decade of Lawson & Haggart began.

Several years later (1972 to be precise), they recorded this fantastic, brassy, doozy of an album. From the opening riff of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", TWGJB takes you for one helluva ride - even throwing in some Satchmo-inspired vocals on "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", "Jingle Bells", and "I'll Be Home For Christmas. Although listening to these vocal tracks again, they sound like the famous "Schoolhouse Rock" vocalist (think "Conjunction Junction")!

There's so much going on a typical track: the bass line, the trombone rhythm, the blaring trumpets. This is how I like my Christmas music!

Lawson & Haggart took the bandstand for the final time together in 1978, going their separate ways but never leaving the TWGJB entirely. Both took turns taking different versions of the band on the road separately for the next 20 odd years - Lawson's final tour went to Europe in the early 1990s and Haggart's last stand brought him to Japan in 1996. Both died shortly after their final tours of duty.

I definitely want to find some more of their albums now. Someone mentioned at Ernie's blog in the comments section that the TWGJB recorded some 60s hits & Beatle songs in Dixieland style - the commenter specifically mentioned "The Windmills Of Your Mind"! Let the search begin!

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...



Ernie said...

I think Bob Dorough is the name you were looking for. He's the voice from Schoolhouse Rock.

CaptainOT said...

Yep, that's him... a very unmistakable voice! Bet he doesn't go
thru drive-thru windows very often:

Speaker: Welcome to Happy Burger. May I take your order?

Dorough: Yes... I'd like a...

Speaker: Hey, I know this voice... you want a conjuction?


Ernie said...

I think I found a Christmas song by The World's Greatest Jazz Band that isn't on this LP. Stay tuned...

Simón said...

You can find a higher-quality (320kbps) rip of this over here:


Thanks for the high-res cover!

hmengland41 said...

Before Bark Hickox, there was Dick Gibson...he was the man who got the WGJB going, and Hickox took it over.