Birch Smith - Dixieland Cornetist

 

Turk MurphyBirch Smith was the co-founder of the Salty Dogs Jazz Band in 1947 and also the founder of Windin' Ball Records in 1952. In 1957 Birch recorded with the legendary Turk Murphy ...

 

windin' ball recordings - 1952 – 2012 (60 years).

Senior Physicist - Institute of Medical Physics - 1956 – 1967 (11 years) - Belmont, California.
Operating ultracentrifuge equipment, primarily for research as well as clinical findings for Low Density and High Density Lipoproteins. The only clinical facility in the world at that time. Also, Serum Protein studies.

Education - Purdue University - Bachelor of Science, Physics - 1944 – 1950.
Accepted as accelerated student prior to high school graduation.
Activities and Societies - Sigma Pi Sigma (physics honorary) - Purdue Jazz Society.

 

Birch Smith - tells the story of how it all began ...

Caleb Birchall (1712-41) was born in Rainford in 1712 and married Rebecca Fletcher (1712-63) in 1734 in Hardshaw, Lancashire. The family emigrated to Philadelphia, USA in 1737 with their son, two year old John Birchall (1735-).

John Birchall (1735-) Was this John's house in West Chester, Philadelphia, described in 'Historical Sketch of Chester on Delaware' by Henry Graham Ashmead ... ??

Caleb Birchall (1772-) was John’s son, he married Sarah Cribbs (-) in 1794 and he fathered a famous son, another Caleb.

Caleb BirchallCaleb Birchall (1808-60) who left Philadelphia for Springfield, Illinois, in 1834 where he became prosperous as a book seller, his most famous customer was Abraham Lincoln!
Caleb also excelled in a commercial partnership with Thomas Jefferson Vance Owen (1824-76) as a chemical druggist. A partnership from 1847 to 1855 which was not only successful but also recorded in remarkable detail in preserved manuscripts at UCLA Biomedical Library History and Special Collections for the Sciences. And James Harvey Young wrote a fascinating piece of social history published in 'Pharmacy in History' in 1985 ...

Cordelia Birchall (1833-1914), Caleb’s daughter, married Philip Warren (-) from Georgetown, Kentucky, my great grandparents, and Cordelia’s marriage marked the end of the Birchall surname in my line. They had six children -

1. Cordelia' first child was Adele Warren (1860-1932)
Caleb Warren2. Cordelia's first son was Caleb Birchall Warren (1861-1926), was my granddad.
3. Louise Warren (1866-)
4. Lillian Warren (1869-)
5. A second son Philip Barton Warren (1870-1926) became a renowned lawyer in Springfield. He married Jessie Blanche Wilson (-) in 1894. Children Philip Wilson Warren (1896-) and Alice Katherine Warren (1900-)
6. Cordelia Warren (1873-)

Caleb Birchall Warren (1861-1926), was a banker, and my granddad. He married Ella Boynton (1865-) in 1887. Ella was born in Pleasant Plains. Caleb was the cashier of the Warren-
Boynton Bank, New Berlin, where they resided. Their children were Charles Boynton Warren (1891-) and Cordelia Birchall Warren (1896-), my mum.

Cordelia B Warren (1897-) married Harry B Smith (1887-) from Illinois who was my dad!.

 

Birchall Smith (1927-), Dixieland Cornetist, my surname is Smith, and since there are quite a few of us, my parents chose to use the surname "Birchall" in the family as a first name for me. The members of both sides of my family remained in Springfield, where I was born, but I left in 1944 to join the US Navy.
In 19?? I left the Navy and went to Purdue University to study ?? where I was co-founder of a Traditional jazz band called the Salty Dogs in 1947, still in existence! I left Purdue and the Dogs at the start of 1950, and returned to play with them again in 1955 in Chicago until I joined Turk in 19??. I have played in many bands, mostly out here on the West Coast, but Turk Murphy is the only time it was my principal employment. I was with Turk at the time when he was enjoying his greatest reputation with the general public, and he had his Columbia record label contract. I am on the last of that series, and it is a quite good recording owing to the other fine musicians, most notably Don Ewell, who was there mostly thanks to me.
Down through the years, the Salty Dogs connection to Purdue has become more and more tenuous. Several have remained in the Dogs from the fairly early years and have been full time professional musicians. Some of the members never had any connection with Purdue. For a short time, there was a splinter group, one on the campus, and the other working in Chicago. I have been extremely fortunate to have been in one on one relationships with very gifted persons in music, physics, science, medicine and military.

Salty DogsThe Advent of the Salty Dogs Jazz Band in 1947.

Still a bit damp behind the ears, I went over to Purdue without finishing high school. The war was in full blast and my idea was to establish a place to come back to after military service: and this plan worked out well. While the war was on, the place was quite austere and Cary Hall (men's residence hall) was almost completely taken over by the Navy V-12. I was fortunate to get one of the few civilian spaces. Cary Club, the residence hall's extracurricular and social arm, was not functioning because of the war disruption. On my return in 1946, the whole university was quite a different place: an interesting mix of various age veterans and recent high school graduates. The vets, many of whom had just seen a little more action than a Big Ten football game, were anxious to get their lives going in a serious way, while the high schoolers tried to restrain their remaining adolescent behavior a bit out of respect for the more experienced veterans. Again I was able to get into Cary Hall, because of my previous residence. But now Cary Club was going and all sorts of new activities were encouraged. Everything from stamp collecting on up or down. But someone had to take the initiative to start each sub-group. Whoever wished simply posted a bulletin to organize an activity. Jovial jazz fan Charles (Chuck) Marsh put up such a notice to form a jazz club. The meetings were to take place in the large lounge below the two towers of Carey Hall. There were no stated limits as to jazz styles, but the word "jazz" then did not have the same generic meaning which it does now. Unlike now, people generally understood that it was not the same thing as "popular music", and was not something that could be heard all over the radio dial. At meetings, different people would discuss a group or an individual artist, bring records to show, etc., but the situation did not lend itself to playing records. For example, one older member brought his collection of Armstrong Hot 5's which he would own only if an original OK label issue. There was low interest in the jazz club initially, but persons started coming in from other residence facilities and fraternities. One such individual, Carl (Ziggy) Zaisser, showed up to our delectation. In the center of this very large lounge where we were meeting was a large Steinway grand piano. Ziggy was a fraternity member, a PE major, and a jazz pianist of professional ability. His father was a piano teacher of high reputation in the New York-New Jersey area. Ziggy seemed almost as anxious to play for us as we were to listen. His favorite tune was "Cherry", and he had played at Condon's on occasion and was devoted to that style of jazz.

Don EwellIt didn't take long for other individuals who played instruments to start appearing to sit-in, although there really were none with his talent. Besides, pianists don't need anyone else when ability is in short supply. But this was the start of group playing which did provide pleasure for listening members and some satisfaction for those with the temerity to arrive with an instrument. Ziggy was mostly indulgent so long as he got his solo time. He was never to appear in a public performance with other jazz club instrumentalists and was never a member of the Salty Dogs or its predecessor formed groups. Mush (Dick Mushlitz) and I had been at the meetings from the start. He even then played with his characteristic powerful and accurate rhythm on washboard. We became close personal friends and have remained such through considerable time and space. On one university break, Mush not only acquired a banjo, but considerable ability in playing it. He had a real talent and the drive to develop it. My experience at that time mostly had been playing along with records and in school bands. We were the first to play along with Ziggy. Others who participated early were Don Scheid, who was interested in big band drumming and was competent; also Dale Dickinson (trombone) whose interest was modern jazz, but was very cooperative in doing the "old" material (because that's all there was). Scheid was only reluctantly interested in the music that was going on in the club and showed up rarely. Cliff Selman (drums) started coming, and favored the traditional styles. He was also an accomplished photographer and won a campus contest with a great photo of Big Sid Catlett whom we had both heard in Chicago at that time. I still prize the 11 X 14 print he made for me.

We needed more instruments to play as a group. The most glaring deficiency was a clarinet or reed. Once or twice a fellow named Don McMillan inserted a few notes, but could not be induced to appear when needed. The club members encouraged the instrumental aspirants, but of course they realized that they were not hearing the Armstrong Hot 5. More people from outside Cary Hall started coming to meetings and it was a natural move for the club to become an organization for the whole university. This approval was obtained, and at this point it became the Purdue Jazz Society. Then meetings were held in available spaces in the Purdue Memorial Union Building. After one meeting, some members got Ziggy to the small library within the Union Building where there was a piano to hear him play, but as soon as he began to play, the librarian ran over and stopped it saying (shocked) "Vladimer Horowitz had played this piano"!

Origial Salty DogsWho should start showing up at our meetings, but local high school student Wayne Jones! About this time the club arranged for a campus Doc Evans concert which was a hallmark event for Wayne, his first time to hear a real established jazz band live. Well, the tail began to wag the dog, and the Jazz Society was becoming subordinate to the instrumental antics. A faithful member of the Jazz Club (& Society) had been John Palmer. This man had a very remarkable ear, which is to say, musical aptitude. With his back turned to the piano, someone could strike a number of keys, not even particularly a real chord, and John could come over and get right to those notes, or find them with very little "feeling" for them. He provided what was needed most for the band which was his vamping out solid, correct chords in a rhythm. And we were very pleased for him to become the band pianist. In addition he had mechanical prowess. He made difficult repairs on my 1931 Chrysler, modifying available parts, and he also essentially rebuilt an arteriosclerotic player piano that the Club had purchased. Bob Berg had become the regular on trombone. He played a good, steady style and liked all the best traditional or tailgate players. Mush and I were what was then known as jazz purists. This meant mostly music by players from New Orleans or directly related jazz. In addition, Mush was very much into the more pure blues (Race) idiom. I, too, liked this music, but my exposure had been limited. Right away he turned me onto Little Brother Montgomery whom I recorded and has remained one of my all-time favorites. We certainly were in no position to be choosy about styles.

The Original Salty DogsHoward Simpsom, a Beiderbecke/McPartland devotee, jumped on the bandwagon. Selman's interest was not sustained, and we acquired Enie Barrott, a drummer who had won state high school drum championships. At times we thought we discerned him practicing paradiddles during ensembles. A tall, lanky, intense fellow came to a meeting. This was Ted Bielefeld. He made it clear that his tastes were pretty much underdeveloped and that he wanted to learn. I invited him to come to my room to do some record listening. He said that his instrument was tenor sax, and that he mostly followed the "Negro Jump" music which was fairly prevalent in the Hammond area from which he came. I got right to Lu Watters West Coast 78's, and he quickly arrived at an excited stat of incredulity. (John Palmer had brought some of these back from a break and introduced us to them). Spontaneous conversion. He quickly decided that the first thing was to switch to soprano sax, deferring clarinet until later because there is a different octave key arrangement which he could learn later. Ted wasted no time getting the soprano and immediately started filling our reed vacancy. Very well, indeed! Since the group was now making occasional campus performances and notices were appearing in "The Exponent", Mush figured we should take a name for the band. He got a thesaurus, and because we liked New Orleans bands with superlative names, e.g., Olympia, Zenith, Excelsior, etc., he and I decided Original Peerless to be appropriate for our campus activities. We had started playing, for fun, at a downtown Lafayette establishment named The Gun Club. Lynn Treece, the proprietor, loved the band, thought it right for his place, and hired us for a regular gig. He initiated this by taking the band to dinner at his country club. It was to separate our commercial jobs from university sponsored performances that led us to find a different name for the band when playing for hire. One time Ted and I were just listening to a record and not discussing a band name right then. On this particular record, after a vamp, someone (probably Bechet) exclaims, "Oh you salty dog!". It was sort of a "Eureka" moment and we both had the same idea that this should be the name. It took no persuasion of the others. Bielefeld was a very creative person and spent the rest of his life in the arts. I played with him in other bands, including Turk Murphy. One of his last major activities was teaching ceramics at Mills College, Oakland, an exclusive women's school. His life was tragically short, and I might have more to say about him another time. Treece (Gun Club) cut a picture frame opening and built a very small stage (limited space) in a back area of the Gun Club. At that time the musicians union still had some clout and, after a struggle, was able to force us to join. Treece paid our initiation fees. There was no designated leader, but for the first time it was a formally contained unit, mutually understood. The approach was that, almost by definition, jazz was to be improvised, and there was never any sheet music. We had a name, a direction, and a steady, paying job. This was the original Salty Dog Jazz Band, inclusive: Enie Barrott drums; Bob Berg trombone; Ted Bielefeld soprano sax; Dick Mushlitz banjo; John Palmer piano; Howard Simpson cornet; and Birch Smith cornet.

 Of course, this band personnel was just the start of an endless evolution ...

 

Visit trad jazz productions and purchase some traditional jazz!

Salty Dogs 1955 - This features trumpeter Birch Smith, who arranged for the music to be recorded, the legendary trombonist Jim Snyder, and John Cooper (piano); Jack Lord (banjo); Bob Rann (tuba); Dick Karner (drums).  

Wonderful playing of the good old toons -

Salty Dogs Jazz Band -
Birch Smith cornet, Frank Chace clarinet, Jim Snyder trombone, John Cooper piano, Jack Lord banjo, Bob Rann tuba, Dick Karner drums.
1. Flat Foot
2. Working Man Blues
3. Weary Blues
4. Ostrich Walk
5. London Blues
6. Snake Rag
7. Careless Love
8. Dr Jazz
9. After You've Gone
10. Irish Black Bottom
11. Beale Street Mama
12. Big Bear Stomp
13. Riverside Blues
14. New Orleans Stomp
15. Oriental Strut
16. Cakewalkin' Babies

Turk Murphy - New Orleans Shuffle - Hard as it might be to believe now, there was a time when the Columbia label documented trad jazz bands. In 1957 'New Orleans Shuffle' was the sixth and final Columbia LP by trombonist Turk Murphy and his popular group; none have been reissued on CD. The music is typically excellent for Murphy, including veteran standards and songs associated with Louis Armstrong in the 1920s, Jelly Roll Morton, and King Oliver among others. At the time, Murphy was featuring a now-obscure but talented trumpeter, Birch Smith, along with such regulars as clarinetist Bob Helm, banjoist Dick Lammi, Bob Short on tuba, and guest pianist Don Ewell. Highlights of their spirited outing include 'Mandy, Make Up Your Mind', 'My Honey's Lovin' Arms', 'Irish Black Bottom', 'Drop That Sack', and 'Come Back Sweet Papa' - Scott Yanow.

Birch Smith's greatest recording -

Turk Murphy Jazz Band
Birch Smith c, Bob Helm cl, Turk Murphy tb, Don Ewell p, Dick Lammi bjo, Bob Short tuba
1. New Orleans Shuffle
2. Of All the Wrongs You Done to Me
3. Mandy, Make Up Your Mind
4. Chattanooga Stomp
5. My Honey's Lovin' Arms
6. Waiting for the Robert E. Lee
7. Irish Black Bottom
8. Kansas City Man Blues
9. Drop That Sack
10. Gone Daddy Blues
11. Come Back Sweet Papa
12. New Orleans Stomp

Don Ewell Collection at The Hogan Jazz Archive - Folder 117: Smith, Birch, 3/28/53 - 10/30/74.

 

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