Category Archives: Jazz

Charlie Johnson, “Mo’Lasses” – 1929 (master disc / test pressing)

Charlie Johnson, "Mo'Lasses" - 1929 (front)

Charlie Johnson, "Mo'Lasses" - 1929 (back)

Publisher: Victor Talking Machine Company

Publication Year: 1929

Catalog Number: BVE-53600 (matrix number)

Format: 10″, 78rpm (master disc or test pressing)

A single-sided unique recording of “Mo’Lasses” by Charlie Johnson & His Orchestra. According to the Victor Discography this recording was destroyed and never released. A recent CD compilation of Johnson’s complete works mentions the song in the liner notes, though the track itself does not appear to be included on the CD, thus giving further evidence that this recording was never commercially available. Due to the lack of a label, and the curious information etched in the center of the disc, it seems likely that this is a master disc/test pressing. The etched information begins with the matrix number, BVE-53600. BVE is a Victor code designating it as a 10 inch disc, electrically recorded using a Western Electric recording head. This is followed by the date, “5/8/29”. A set of numbers appears next, “269 650-239”. To the left of this set of numbers is what appears to be a number 1, possibly indicting it as the first take. The title and band name appear subsequently, followed by a set of numbers which designate the amp, filter and level settings used during the recording, “+8-H-8-O”. Below this is the designation “USF” and then “Colored”. USF stands for “United States Foreign”, and it is not clear why exactly this designation was used. “Colored” clearly indicates that the recording was of African American artists, though the term “Race” was more often used by this date.

Charlie Johnson lead several different band incarnations during the 1920s, including Charlie Johnson & His Orchestra, Jackson & His Southern Stompers, and Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Ten. The name of the last ensemble refers to Johnson’s employment as the house band at Small’s Paradise Club, located in Harlem on 135th. At the time Small’s was a rival of the famous Cotton Club and is said to have had waitresses who brought trays of bootleg liquor to your table while dancing the Charleston.

Sources and Further Info:

Race Records

Charlie Johnson Bio

Victor Archives

CD Compilation

Small’s Paradise Club