Wednesday, June 19, 2013

George Olsen and His Music..Beyond the Blue Horizon.. 24 original mono recordings 1923 - 1933

George Olsen (originally from Oregon, USA) went from being drum major of the University of Michigan marching band to leading successful pit orchestras for some of the most famous Broadway musical productions of the 1920s. He appeared in numerous Ziegfield follies, George White scandals, etc. His orchestra began recording for Victor records in 1924 and soon became a rival to the top-rated orchestras of Paul Whiteman and Fred Waring. Olsen's most successful recording was the 1925 smash hit, "Who?", and was followed by many others including, "Lucky Day", "Do Do Do", "Varsity Drag", and "Doin' the Racoon". Olsen appeared in the Eddie Cantor talking picture, Whoopee, in 1930. He also was Jack Benny's first orchestra leader when Benny began his weekly show on radio in 1931.

Olsen's recordings were generally up-tempo renditions of Broadway or other popular tunes. The arrangements were complex, musically "busy", and featured a rotation of lead instruments on repetitions of the main theme, driven by a relentless rhythm section of the "boom-chick" variety. The music reflects and embodies the carefree spirit and hyperactivity of the "jazz age". The vocals are remarkably good and surprisingly understated, for the period. The lead singer was usually Fran Frey who had an unpolished-but-effective-and-charming, relaxed, baritone delivery. (Frey was later musical director for the Ice Capades.) Other songs were tastefully and satisfactorily performed by a vocal trio. Several songs on this CD were sung by Olsen's wife, Ethel Shutta, who had an almost angelic, ethereal, soprano voice.