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Friday, October 15, 2010

The "Sweet" sounds.....of Gus Arnheim and his Cocoanut Grove Orchestra :)

Gus Arnheim

During its heyday in the late 1920s and early 1930s Gus Arnheim's orchestra was stationed at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. The most popular band on the West coast, it featured several good singers, including, for a time, Bing Crosby.

Arnheim got his start with a group called the Syncopated Five, which also featured Abe Lyman on drums. He subsequently took theatre jobs then played for a while as Sophie Tucker's accompanist before working again with Lyman. He formed his aforementioned Cocoanut Grove orchestra in 1927. In 1929 they took a short leave of absence from the Grove to play at London's Savoy Hotel and the Ambassadeurs Club in Paris.

In 1930 Arnheim engaged male singing trio the Rhythm Boys, of which Crosby was a member, from Paul Whiteman's orchestra. Crosby recorded his first solo hit, ''I Surrender Dear,'' with Arnheim. In the late 1930s Arnheim revamped and updated his group, scoring big at the Congress Casino in Chicago with his new swinging sound.

Among the vocalists who worked in his orchestra are Russ Columbo (who also played violin), Bing Crosby, Shirley Ross, Loyce Whiteman, Donald Novis (later actor Dennis Day), and Joy Hodges. Art Pepper (sax), and Charlie Spivak (trumpet) were also in his band at one time. Actor Fred McMurray (tenor sax) and game show host Art Fleming (drums) were in his band, not to mention future bandleaders Jimmy Grier, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton.  In hindsight, we can now see that part of Arnheim's hard-driving, well rehearsed sound was largely due to their pianist-arranger, Stan Kenton.

Arnheim retired from the band business after the war. He died in 1955.

From :

Gus Arnheim is best remembered for his five year run at the legendary Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Cocoanut Grove was known as "The Playground of the Stars" and  was the nightspot for West Coast's  and Hollywood's rich and famous. A booking at the Cocoanut Grove meant instant exposure to the power brokers of entertainment world.

The Ambassador Hotel, which opened in 1921, was an impressive Mediterranean style structure situated on 23 landscaped acres on Wilshire Boulevard.  In addition to the over 400 rooms in the hotel itself, there were 76 bungalows on the property for guests who wanted greater privacy.   The hotel's swimming pool was the world's largest.

Arnheim got his start at the Ambassador as a pianist for Abe Lyman's Orchestra, which was the hotel's house band from 1921 - 1925.  When Lyman moved his band to Chicago in 1925, Arnheim chose to remain as a member of Ray West's band.  In 1927, Arnheim was given the opportunity to form his own band at the Ambassador.  The band's style was often upbeat and had a  somewhat jazzy yet sophisticated sound.   Because of its Cocoanut Grove booking, the band received lots of radio exposure through both live network broadcasts as well as through broadcasts of pre-recorded transcriptions distributed to individual stations.  Arnheim also had a recording contract with Victor.

While at the Ambassador, the Arnheim band played a role in launching the careers of two of the period's most famous "crooners."  In 1930, when the Paul Whiteman band was about to head back East after traveling to Hollywood to film  The King of Jazz,  his "Rhythm Boys" vocal trio of Bing Crosby, Harry Barris and Al Rinker decided to stay behind and strike out on their own.  A few months later, they secured a booking to appear with the Arnheim band at the Cocoanut Grove.  Crosby's unique vocal style was an instant hit at the club and with its radio audience. In later years Crosby credited the exposure he received at the Ambassador as being a major factor in his success.

Another famous vocal career that was launched at the Ambassador was that of Russ Columbo who served as a stand in for Crosby on Arnheim's radio broadcasts.  Columbo's career, however, was tragically cut short when he died in 1934 as the result of a freak accident with an antique gun.

After Arnheim left the Cocoanut Grove, his band was  replaced by the Jimmie Grier and  Phil Harris orchestras.

**NOTE** Most of this post is taken from live broadcasts of the band............

Let's swing the "sweet sounds" now, shall we??

Singin' in the rain
It must be true v=Bing 1930
One more time v=Bing 1931
Sweet Georgia Brown v=Bing
Avalon town 1929
I'll get by 1929
All I Want Is Just One Girl (From 'Paramount on Parade', 1930)
By A Country Lane
Come Take Me (b'cast) v=Dave Marshall 
Entire broadcast 1 from the Cocoanut Grove, Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles
Egyptian shimmy (b'cast 1933)
Go Home And Tell Your Mother v= Bobby Burns 1930
I'm Doin' That Thing 1930
It's love (b'cast)
It's the girl (b'cast)
Just one more chance v=Donald Novis
Love dreams
Love for sale (b'cast)
Moan you moaners (b'cast) v= The Three Ambassadors
Peach of a pair
Red red roses v=Jack Smith
Roll on
Say it again
She's nobody's sweetheart now v=Rhythm Boys
Stardust 1933 (b'cast)Sugar (b'cast)
Sweet Georgia Brown
Them there eyes w/ The Rhythm Boys 1930
This is the Missis (b'cast)
Walkin' in the moonlight
When the night is young  v= Loyce Whiteman
You came to me out of nowhere
Fool me some more v=Bing 1930
I surrender dear 1 v=Bing
I surrender dear 2 v= Bing (more relaxed, jazzy vocal)
Lie (b'cast) v= Dave Marshall/The Three Ambassadors
Come to me (b'cast) v=Donald Novis
Sweet and lovely v=Donald Novis 1931
There's nothing too good for my baby v= Eddie Cantor 1931
It's the darndest thing (b'cast) v=Harry Barris
Red red roses (b'cast) v= Jack Smith
I got the Ritz from the one I love (b'cast) v= Loyce Whiteman/Harry Barris
Put your little arms around me V=Loyce Whiteman 1931
When the night is young (b'cast) V=Loyce Whiteman
Pardon me pretty baby (b'cast) v= The Three Ambasadors
Back in your own back yard 1928
Doin' the New York
Every time you smile 1928
Feelin' good 1929
Glad rag doll 1928
I can't do without you v=The Three Ambassadors
If I can't have you 1928
My inspiration is you 1929
Somebody else
Stay out of the South 1929
There's something about a rose 1928
Tiger rag 1928
You're the surest cure for the blues (b'cast) v=The Three Ambassadors
You that's who 1929
Out of nowhere (b'cast) v=Bing
The little things in life (b'cast) v=Bing/Loyce Whiteman
What is it (b'cast)
One sweet kiss (b'cast) v=Buster Dees 1929 (From "Say It With Songs")
I'm Feathering A Nest(1929) From "Honky Tonk" v=Craig Leitch
Blue Kentucky moon V=Dave Marshall  1931
Dear I love you v=Donald Novis
Under the Palm (b'cast) v=Donald Novis
Broken up tune v=Doris Eaton (From "Street Girl" RKO-1929)
My troubles are over (b'cast) v=The Three Ambassadors
Sing a little jingle (b'cast) v=Jack Smith
St. Louis Blues (b'cast) v=Loyce Whiteman
Whistling in the dark (b'cast) v= Loyce
Why shouldn't I (b'cast) v=Loyce
Me (b'cast) v= Loyce and Dave Marshall
Take it from me v=The Three Ambassadors
Entire b'cast from the Cocoanut Grove 2
Entire b'cast from the Grove 3


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    The school that is there now could have been built somewhere else.
    The Ambassador Hotel should have been brought back to life.

    George Vreeland Hill

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  17. The Los Angeles School Board said they needed to built the most expensive school in the United States to educate illegal aliens, and that is the truth. So it was deemed necessary the most Historic Hotel in Los Angeles be torn down to built this school when a new school building wasn't needed as the number of students is at a new low in Los Angeles and could have been accommodated at other existing schools. That was the logic used to destroy the Ambassador Hotel and the Cocoanut Ballroom.