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Author , Composer , Writer , Performer :
Isham Jones

Song Best Love Rating:

Song Title: Wabash Blues(1921), On The Alamo(1922), Farewell Blues(1923), Swingin' Down the Lane(1923), Stardust(1931),

Song Artist: Isham Jones

Song Performer: Isham Jones

Song Show: Bandleader, Orchestra, Jazz

Authors Description: Isham Jones led one of the finest dance bands of the 1920s and wrote many hits, notably "It Had To Be You," "I'll See You In My Dreams," " Swingin' Down the Lane," and "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else." He was born in Coalton, Ohio, but grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. The September 1923 issue of the sheet music publication Melody includes an article about his early years (the article itself is based on an interview Jones gave to the Boston Post). He had worked in coal mines leading blind mules. Jones's father, originally from Arkansas, played fiddle and was an important musical influence. The son took up fiddling and led a small band at a local Methodist church. He even played fiddle at work while driving his mule with its string of coal cars. His attention to his instrument evidently distracted him enough one day for a train to crash into a shaft door, frightening him so much that he never returned to the coal pit. He devoted himself to music. A Saginaw music publisher was first to print sheet music bearing the name Isham Jones, his earliest known published composition being "Midsummer Evenings," from 1906. He would not enjoy success as a composer for another dozen years. Isham, pronounced "eye- sham," moved to Chicago in 1915 and continued composing, often working in the World War I period with lyricist Olaf ("Ole") Olsen, a member of Jones's early Chicago band (later, in 1926, Ole Olsen and His Orchestra recorded three titles for Pathé Actuelle). One of their works from 1917 is among the first songs to refer to the new music called "jass." Actually, the spelling used is even more unorthodox: the song is "That's Jaz!" Possibly the songwriters had not seen the word "jazz" (or "jass") in print when they wrote the song. Its lyrics refer to saxophones and banjos, so the writers did not have the Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) specifically in mind though they would have known the sensation the band made in Chicago in 1916. It is possible that Jones's own band at the time featured saxophones and banjos. The first Isham Jones tune to be recorded was probably the comic "Oh! Min!" It is sung by Edward Meeker on Blue Amberol 3514, issued in August 1918. Another 1918 composition by Isham Jones is "Indigo Blues," recorded by Ford Dabney's Band in early 1919 and issued on Aeolian-Vocalion 12097 in April, backed by the ODJB's "Oriental Jazz." After serving in the military in 1918, Jones returned to Chicago and joined a dance hall orchestra that would eventually take his name. He learned to play C melody saxophone at this time but switched to tenor saxophone by 1920. Eventually conducting pressures forced him to give up playing in the band itself though his band always featured a strong saxophone section. According to the Melody profile, Jones and his musicians were given the option in the early 1920s of royalties or steady salaries. Jones himself opted for royalties and by September 1923 had received $800,000. If this account is accurate, it means that Jones was wealthy before penning his most successful compositions. The name on early discs, "Isham Jones Rainbo Orchestra," reflects the band's engagement at Chicago's famous dance palace known as the Rainbo Gardens, operated by Fred and Al Mann at the intersection of North Clark Street and Lawrence Avenue (Frank Westphal succeeded Jones and recorded his Rainbo Orchestra in Chicago by early 1922--Ralph Williams followed with his Rainbo Orchestra in late 1924, his first record issued by Victor in January 1925). Talking Machine World establishes that in mid-1921 Jones regularly played at the Marigold Gardens (817 West Grace Street, west of Broadway), operated by brothers named Eitel. The band toured heavily by 1921--in early February 1921 it had been featured in Ziegfeld's "Midnight Frolic" on the Amsterdam Roof in New York City. Around 1922 the band took up residency at the Hotel Sherman's College Inn, remaining as its main attraction until February 1925, when Vincent Lopez's band replaced Jones's. It played elsewhere in Chicago after long engagements at the College Inn. For example, in mid-1923 it played for six weeks at the new Trianon Dance Palace. The Isham Jones Orchestra was a Chicago institution from 1920 to 1925. It was also important to the Brunswick- Balke-Collender Company, from mid-1920 to 1932 recording exclusively and frequently for the company, from its entry into the American disc market until after Warner Brothers acquired Brunswick's record division. The Chicago-based Brunswick company and Jones matured together. He even shared ownership of a shop that carried Brunswick products exclusively. Page 155 of the June 1922 issue of Talking Machine World reports the opening of the Isham Jones Brunswick Shop in Saginaw, Michigan. Other co-owners were Gerald Marks (a composer and, like Isham Jones, once a Saginaw resident), Thomas Jones, and Frank Jones. During Brunswick's first year as a maker of discs, artists--including Jones--had sessions in the company's New York City studio, but page 135 of the July 1921 issue of Talking Machine World indicates that the company was eager to accommodate the Chicago-based Jones: "The Brunswick-Balke- Collender Co., after months of preliminary preparation, has opened an experimental laboratory and recording room on the sixth floor of its Chicago headquarters. The object of this laboratory is to record the work of Isham Jones and other Western talent...This is the first time that a permanent laboratory of this kind has been established in Chicago. Heretofore any recording laboratory in Chicago was but a temporary affair." Some early Jones discs were issued in Brunswick's prestige series, which began at 5000 (purple labels were used). A few Jones performances were issued in both the prestige series and the regular popular series. For example, "Look For The Silver Lining" was issued on Brunswick 5045 and 2224. Jones used fewer instruments on Brunswick records than Paul Whiteman used on Victor discs of this period. According to the June-July 1924 issue of Jacobs' Orchestra Monthly, band members at that time were pianist Roy Bargy (he replaced Al Eldridge), trombonist Carroll Martin (he also served as arranger), second trombonist William McVey, violinist Leo Murphy, second violinist Arthur J. Vanasek, cornetist Louis Panico, saxophonist H. E. Maulding, banjoist Charles McNeill, tuba and Sousaphone player John Kuhn (formerly with Sousa's Band), and drummer Joe Frank. In Chicago Jazz (Oxford University Press, 1993), William Howland Kenney states that Jones "refused to label his music 'jazz,'" preferring "that his music be called 'American Dance Music.'" Kenney's source is a 1924 issue of Etude. While it is true that Jones's was not a jazz ensemble, some hot performances notwithstanding, Jones speaks of his music as jazz in the previously mentioned Melody article. If Jones rejected the term "jazz" and embraced "American Dance Music," it happened around 1924. The 1923 Melody article cites his advice for those wishing "to start a jazz band of your own," beginning with this tip: "First of all, you must have musicians--real musicians...Gone are the days when a jazz band was an aggregation of jugglers who gave more pleasure to the eye than to the ear." Incredibly popular from late 1921 was the orchestra's version of the Ringle-Meinken song "Wabash Blues" featuring the "laughing" cornet of Louis Panico, who joined the ensemble around mid-1921. Panico eventually left to begin his own band at Chicago's Guyon's Paradise. Jones's band provided accompaniment for many Brunswick stars, including Marion Harris and Al Jolson. Jones recorded for Brunswick many of his own compositions, including "On the Alamo" (2245, 1922), "Ivy (Cling To Me)" (5177 and 2365, 1922), "Broken Hearted Melody" (2343, 1922), "Swingin' Down the Lane" (2438, 1923), "Spain" (2600, 1924), "It Had To Be You" (2614, 1924), "I'll See You In My Dreams" (2788, 1925), and "Ida- -I Do" (2915, 1925). For "I'll See You In My Dreams," Jones conducts Ray Miller's Orchestra, another of Brunswick's popular dance bands. He finally moved from Chicago to New York City. On March 1, 1925, Jones was given a testimonial dinner and reception at the Park Lane Hotel by music publishers. On March 6, Jones and his orchestra opened the Rue de la Paix, a nightclub possibly owned by Jones himself at 247 West 54th Street in Manhattan. Page 35 of the May 1925 issue of Talking Machine World reports that on April 25, 1925, the formal opening of the Brunswick Salon on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was broadcast on station WJZ, adding, "This was the first appearance of the Isham Jones aggregation before the [radio] microphone." He remained popular after Brunswick converted to its electrical "Light-Ray" recording system. The band leader switched to Victor in 1932 (it was not a propitious time for a label change since all record companies were hit hard by the Depression at this time--his Victor records sold poorly), then to Decca in 1934, with clarinetist Woody Herman joining for Decca sessions. One of Jones's last bands to make 78 rpm records was called Isham Jones' Juniors on Decca. In 1936 it contained the basic personnel for the band led by Woody Herman. Later Isham Jones ("and his Famous Orchestra") cut numbers for Coast Records, including "I'll Never Have To Dream Again" backed by "The One I Love" (8025), vocals by Curt Massey. With Marilyn Thorne as vocalist, the Isham Jones Orchestra also recorded for the obscure Bantam label. He died in Hollywood, California.

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