It appears that I was in error (maybe twice) in the October 20, 2011 “Hallelujah!” blog entry. I don’t like to propagate misinformation, and I appreciate it when readers point out my mistakes. Those times I’m in error I’ll do my best to set the record straight!
Is Gus Cannon the banjo player in “Hallelujah!” ?
I’m happy to be wrong in the first instance, because it means we now have additional support for the claim Gus Cannon was the banjo player in “Hallelujah!” and we can give him his due credit.
In my initial Hallelujah blog entry I made the following assertion:
“There is a banjo player in the film appearing before and during a wedding scene, who is reputed to be Gus Cannon — to my eye it’s not even close, this is not Cannon.”
All thanks go to music researcher and Vernacular Shellac follower Robert (Bob) Vee for shedding additional light on whether or not it’s Gus Cannon in the above mentioned wedding scene.
left: Cannon, banjo in hand, pays a visit to the Johnson family.
right: Cannon (left center) with banjo and jug band.
Bob relates that he was in the South during the late 70s/early 80s when a copy of “Hallelujah!” became available, and upon showing a photo of the “Hallelujah!” banjo player to two local musical contemporaries of Cannon (at different times) both immediately said “yep, that’s him [Gus]”.
Vee, a prudent researcher, insists that he would like further confirmation of Cannon’s roll in Hallelujah before calling it definitive, but 80+ years post movie release we have to acknowledge that this may be the closest we can come to giving Cannon his due respect…
Is Frankie Jaxon in the “Hallelujah!” cabaret scene ?
Bob also weighs in on the question of the appearance of Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon in the “Hallelujah!” cabaret scene:
“On another note, I would strongly disagree with the idea of Half-Pint Jaxon being in Hallelujah. I don’t think he was ever in Los Angeles professionally (the cabaret scene was filmed in Hollywood) …I do remember reading that practically the entire group of people in the cabaret were dancers, singers, etc. from the local community.“
I have the highest regard for Vee’s input on this matter, and have to consider that he may be right about Jaxon… but in the meantime, based on the visual and aural evidence, I believe we must entertain the possibility that this is, in fact, Frankie Jaxon and I invite the reader to listen to several Jaxon recordings, then watch the “Hallelujah!” cabaret scene – listen and compare…
The “non-Jaxon” alternative would be that the gentleman in the cabaret scene is impersonating Jaxon’s look, style and voice, as well as wearing what appears to be virtually the same cap Jaxon wore two months later in the Duke Ellington film “Black and Tan Fantasy” (as well as the photo below).
Granted, none of this is proof of Jaxon appearing in “Hallelujah!” but to my eye and ear, it’s either Jaxon or someone going to a whole lot of effort to perform a very credible imitation.
left: Photo of Frankie Jaxon on Document DOCD-5260 right: Frankie Jaxon? from the “Hallelujah!” cabaret scene.
“Hallelujah!” began filming on location in the South (Tennessee, Arkansas & Mississippi) on October 28, 1928 and wrapped up in Los Angeles in mid-January, 1929.
We know that during that time frame, Jaxon recorded in Chicago on October 31, November 9 and November 28, 1928.
Jaxon’s whereabouts in December, 1928 through January, 1929 are unknown but we have found no evidence of his being in Los Angeles.
Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon bustin’ a move…
Thanks again to Bob Vee for providing the facts of the matter, as well as for holding my feet to the fire and demanding documentation, not supposition on my part.
The fine print:
Images and media content are from my personal collection are noted with a “/bb“ at the end of the title when hovering over the image.
Other images and/or media content are deemed “open access” and will be duly credited whenever possible. Notice of copyright protection in any Vernacular::Shellac blog does not and will not apply to open access images or media. If I have used any images or content that is copyright protected, please advise and appropriate credit will be given. All Vernacular::Shellac content, excepting that excluded above, is ©2011 by Bill Boslaugh
Inaccuracies, corrections, feedback or additions? Please let me know!