There are two ways of looking at the Seattle Harmony Kings — the glass-half-full way and the glass-half-empty way.
The glass-half-empty way is to lament that such a hot band only released four sides; the glass-half-full way is to give thanks that they recorded anything, given that such a small fraction of the bands of the 1920s got a chance to leave any records to future generations. I’m probably one of the glass-half-full people — though I wish they’d put out as many records as, say, their Victor lablemates the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks.
The Seattle Harmony Kings were put together in the early 1920s by impresario Edgar A. Benson’s organization of Chicago and led by reed player Eddie Neibaur. The band’s name, like that of the California Ramblers, is a kind of geographic false-front for the Chicago-based band, a bit of marketing hokum meant to suggest the untamed West Coast. The handle, understandably, caused confusion during the band’s heyday — when, for instance, they stopped in Seattle while on a vaudeville circuit with future silent-cinema clown Harry Langdon in 1923, they were hailed as a ‘a group of local entertainers’ by a critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — and can still throw record collectors off-track.
No matter what city it says on the label, the band lives up to its royal billing when it comes to hot dance music, as this week’s sides are from the Kings’ second (and final) recording session, show.
Breezin’ Along with the Breeze and How Many Times? both crackle with vitality, first-rate ensemble playing, hot solos and a supercharged rhythm section that’s still thrilling to hear almost 90 years after they were committed to wax. It must have been something to hear this band play live.
I don’t know why the Seattle Harmony Kings went silent after 1926. Were they too hot for their own good, and deposed by some waltz-minded Victor boss?
Breezin’ Along with the Breeze
How Many Times?
New York, August 2, 1926
Eddie Neibaur -cl – ts -dir. Earl Baker – Marvin Hamby – t / Bennie Neibaur – tb / Rosy McHargue – Artie Seaberg – cl – as / Joe Thomas – p / Leon ‘Sleepy’ Kaplan – bj / Swede Knudsen – bb / Richie Miller – d