Sunday, November 2, 2014

Big Noyes from Worcester

By Chet Williamson

He is a ghost. Largely forgotten – even in the history books -- he was a member of the first generation of American jazz musicians to play Europe. He is Ted Noyes, Worcester’s jazz ambassador.

On paper, his career is the envy of any aspiring musician. He played with the best and traveled the world. In the Jazz Age of the 1920s, when the exciting new “hot” music fit the burgeoning new century’s rapidly changing lifestyle, Noyes was in the center of the action.

Very little is known of his early life. People called him by his nickname “Ted,” but his given name was Edwin J. Noyes, who was born in Worcester on May 7, 1899. According to Jack Grady, his grand-nephew, his parents were Edwin C. Noyes, of old Yankee stock, dating back to the arrival of the Puritans in the 1620s.

“Ted’s mother was an immigrant from Ireland named Bridget Kiely. Family legend has it that Ted’s father’s family disowned him for marrying an Irish Catholic,” Grady says. “Ted’s father was a fire chief, who was hired by Norton Company to start up their fire department. Ted’s older sister, Anne Noyes, married my grandfather, Edward Grady. Ted was always interested in drums and was attracted to the earliest jazz and ragtime, which he heard in New Orleans when he was with the Army in Texas. He went over to Europe with the AEF [American Expeditionary Forces] in 1918 and fell in love with Paris and the jazz that was being played by some of the American servicemen there.”

In Worcester, the Noyes family first lived at 8 Hanover Street, which before the construction of the 290 expressway, was connected to Prospect Street. This puts them in the Laurel/Clayton neighborhood, an area where a band of notable Worcester musicians grew up including, Wendell Cully, Barney Price, Howie Jefferson, Reggie Walley, and Jaki Byard.

Living in that neighborhood, one could assume he attended Edward Street Elementary School and Commerce High School, but there is no public record available to be verified. What we do know is that, Edwin J. “Ted” Noyes was a doughboy in WWI, who served with the 104th infantry, 26th Division, during which time he received the Silver Star for heroism. He was also decorated by the French government for heroism in action. This hellacious time spent in the European theater would later prove to be invaluable experience for Noyes as both a musician and soldier.

The Paul Specht Orchestra. Noyes is third from left
Frank Guarente
As for his musical life, Noyes was barely a blip on the local radar and virtually silent on the regional and national landscape until the 1920s. He then became "le hot jazz batterie." His first gig of prominence was with trumpeter Frank Guarente, who according to writer Frank Powers, may have been “the first musician born outside the United States to have impact as a jazz musician and innovator in America.”

Born Francesco Saverio Guarente in Montemiletto, Italy in 1893, he led a band known as “The World Known Georgians,” in which Noyes first appeared in 1924. “Guarente is particularly unique through his exceptional skills as a trumpeter, composer, and leader, in addition to his witness of, and participation in, the development of New Orleans jazz, New York jazz, and the commercial music scene of the 1930s.

"There is good evidence that Joe "King" Oliver, Freddie Keppard, and Nick LaRocca influenced Guarente, and that he reciprocated by sharing his "legitimate" music knowledge with them. There is also evidence that Frank Guarente was an influence on Bix Beiderbecke. Guarente was also present in the first wave of American jazz players to invade Europe in the mid-'20s,” says Powers.

Guarente’s family came to America first residing in Allentown, PA, before moving to New Orleans. He is said to have traded lessons with Papa Joe “King” Oliver, offering his classical training in exchange for Oliver’s jazz schooling. Guarente's first gig of notoriety was with Charlie Kerr’s Orchestra in Philadelphia in 1920, a band that featured the young Italian banjo player, Eddie Lang. 

Powers says by 1921, Guarente was in New York City organizing a new band that featured “Arthur Schutt, a skilled novelty and jazz pianist and advanced arranger, and drummer Chauncey Morehouse, who would later anchor the famous Jean Goldkette rhythm section. Society bandleader Paul Specht heard the group and incorporated them into his orchestra. Many call this the first ‘band within a band,’ anticipating groups like Bob Crosby's Bobcats and Tommy Dorsey's Clambake Seven. Guarente's group would adopt the name of the Georgians and make a series of 42 excellent jazz recordings for Columbia starting in 1922, continuing until shortly after Guarente's departure in 1924.”

Although the dates are sketchy, there are accounts of Noyes performing with Paul Specht and the Society Serenaders in the early ‘20s. He was not with the Georgians during this time. Drummer Morehouse held that chair from 1922-24. Paul Specht’s Society Serenaders hailed from Detroit. They are a band of historical significance. In his book, From On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, John Dunning says, “As early as 1921 stations were experimenting with band music over direct wires from remote locations. The first dance bands to broadcast were probably Paul Specht, Vincent Lopez, and the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks. Specht is believed by Thomas A. DeLong and others to have made the first studio broadcast of dance music.”

Written by local musician EA Swan
In addition to Guarente and Noyes, a partial list of musicians to traipsed through the ranks of the Specht orchestras include Hal Kemp, Russ Morgan, Ted Weems, Joe Venuti, Artie Shaw, Charlie Spivak, and Lou Breese, among others. Specht himself, claims to have invented symphonic jazz, later exploited by Paul Whiteman. According to Powers, the recordings that Guarente made with Specht and the Georgians are what made the trumpeter’s reputation as a jazz improviser. “Guarente's ability as both a musician and a leader prompted Paul Specht to declare him ‘irreplaceable.’ Guarente and the Georgians were on board when the Specht band sailed for England in the summer of 1923. The tremendous success of the Georgians in London and Paris must have suggested to both Specht and Guarente that Europe offered real opportunity.”

Noyes also recorded sides with the Specht orchestra for Columbia. The tunes are “Some Other Day, Some Other Girl” backed by “You and I,” and “Oh, Peter" backed by “Bye Bye Baby.” Both were recorded on November 11, 1924.

The Georgians with drummer Ted Noyes
The "World Known" Georgians, Noyes is fourth from right. 
Noyes may have been on that first trip, but no record is found as of yet. However, the following spring, Guarente travelled back to Europe with a newly reformed Georgians with him at the helm. From 1924-26, Guarente and the New Georgians made several trips across the pond and traveled throughout the continent.

Grady says according to jazz discographer Brian Rust, Noyes played in two recording sessions for Columbia with the Georgians. The dates are November 18 and 24, 1924. The other members of the Georgians were Charles Butterfield, Frank Kilduff, Henry Wade, Arthur Schutt, Roy Smeck, and Noyes. The tunes are “My Best Girl” and Everybody Loves My Baby.”

In early 1925, Red Nichols joined the Georgians. Noyes recorded four tunes with the band. Two as the Georgians: “Charleston Baby, O’ Mine,” “Are They Pickin’ on Your Baby.” Two more as Paul Specht’s Georgians: “Are You Sorry?” and “Smile All the While.” 

Also in 1925, no doubt during a stop-over in between tours, Noyes recorded a couple of sides with Billy Lustig’s Scranton Sirens, a band that once featured the brothers Dorsey, Jimmy and Tommy. Recorded by Okeh in New Orleans, the tunes are “Common Street Blues,” and “Why Should I Believe in You?”

On his highly respected website, jazz writer Albert Haim noted that Raymond Mitchell, in his Eddie Lang biography, said that the guitarist "joined Scranton Sirens in 1924 and opened at Beaux Arts Cafe in Philadelphia on New Year's Day.” The personnel he cites were Vic D'Ippolito, Tommy Dorsey, Alfie Evans, Jimmy Crossman, Sid Trucker, Irving Ruskin, Mike Trafficante, and Ted Noyes. Billy Lustig was its leader. He also pointed out that in 1925, the Scranton Sirens recorded in New Orleans.

The Syphonians, led by Noyes

In 1926, the New Georgians recorded in Switzerland for the Kalophon label. Noyes is listed as the drummer for these obscure sessions. Only released in Europe, the tunes are “Boneyard Shuffle,” “Georgians Blues,” “Hard to Get Gertie,” “Lonely Acres,” “Lonesome and Sorry,” and “Valencia.” Along with Guarente and Noyes, the band is completed by Eddie Bave (clarinet, alto), Harold Connelly (tenor and baritone), Arthur German (banjo), Joe Murray (piano), Ben Pickering (trumpet and trombone), and Jack Ryan (bass brass).

According to Grady, when two members of the band, including Guarente quit to join the Savoy Orpheans – led by Clinton’s Carroll Gibbons, who wrote “Garden in the Rain” -- the touring Georgians disbanded. “Ted then took over the group and renamed it the Symphonians,” he says. “The group had a number of long engagements in the Netherlands before going to Paris. In Paris, Ben Pickering, the trombonist, quit to join the Playboys and with that the Symphonians disbanded, and Ted became the drummer of the Paris-based Gaumont Palace Orchestra, under the direction of a young Enoch Light.”
Enoch Light

Henry Parsons posted a clip of the Gaumont band playing a tune called, “She’s Some Baby.” Here his notes: “Something of a mystery disc. The label on the reverse side is stamped ‘Old Montmartre -- 6/8 One Step executé par le Jazz du Gaumont-Palace.’ Based on auditory evidence this side is by the same band, though the title has been stamped twice and the artist isn't credited. Someone has written ‘Columbia’ in blue wax pencil on both labels which suggests that it may be a French Columbia pressing.

“The presence of the copyright royalty stamps indicates that this was not a test pressing but most likely a semi-private issue produced for sale or distribution at the Gaumont Palace Cinema in Paris (where the band was probably resident.) Any information on the artist, composer or label would be gratefully received.” 

Parsons also said that it was recorded circa 1930 in France for “an unidentified label, this recording is long out-of-copyright. This side has been re-mastered from an original 78rpm record by this user and is a unique transfer.”

The Gaumont Palace, the biggest movie theatre in Europe at the time, was a re-construction of the famous Hippodrome Theatre built in 1900. Leon Gaumont purchased the building in the nineteen teens and re-opened it as a cinema. In the 1930s, Enoch Light studied conducting with the French conductor Maurice Frigara in Paris. He would later become vice-president of Grand Award Records and owner of Command Records.

Grady says that after the breakup of the Symphonians and Noyes joined the Gaumont Palace Orchestra. He recorded the following 14 sides with that band for Odeon Records. The tunes are “S’Wonderful,” “Blue Baby,” “He’s a Ladies Man,” “Faust,” “Dream of Love and You,” “Carmen,” “My Heart Stood Still,” “What Do You Say?” “Paillasse,” “Werther,” “Blue Shadows,” “Cavalleria rusticana,” and “Sweet Sue.” “Thus, between the Georgians, Paul Specht, the Sirens, the New World Georgians, and the Gaumont Palace Orchestra, Ted was on a total of 34 sides,” Grady says. 

In 1928, Noyes and the Gaumont Palace Orchestra played performances in Paris and other cities and towns throughout France. He also said that they toured many other countries in Europe, as well and recorded 16 or 18 sides for an unknown label. “When they were on tour in Italy, Ben Pickering, who was then playing with Carlo Benzi’s Ambassadors, based in Milan, talked Ted into leaving the Light’s group and joining Benzi’s band,” Grady says.

Carlo Benzi's Ambassadors with Noyes on drums.

The year was 1929. In his book, Jazz in Italia author Adriano Mazzoletti noted that the Ambassadors were the jazz band in Italy and only garnered more attention and jazz authenticity after hiring American musicians. A year later, Noyes was back in the states.

In an e-mail exchange with Grady, the author said: “Carlo Benzi, alto sax and leader of Ambassadors Jazz Band from Milano, played in Paris (at Abbaye de Thélème) during winter 1924-1925.  In the same period, Frank Guarente and his Georgians era in Paris too. Benzi and his piano-player Milietto Nervetti met Guarente and his musicians (Ben Pickering and Ted Noyes).

In fact in 1929, when Carlo Benzi organized a very important international band in Milano (Hotel Diana), he asked Noyes and Pickering to join the band. Meanwhile, Ted Noyes was in Italy with Enoch Light & his Light Brigade. This band with trumpet player Edward "Nibs" Dorsey, played in Roma (Apollo), Milano and other cities. When the tour with Light ended, Noyes and Dorsey joined Benzi.”

“With the depression finally hitting Europe, though, American musicians found it increasingly difficult to get jobs, as the musicians’ organizations in the European countries were trying to ensure that their own nationals had jobs,” Grady says. “After a period with the Ambassadors, Ted went back to Paris, but soon decided that it would be best to return to America, which he did on the Berengaria, departing from Cherbourg, France, and arriving in New York on March 28, 1930.”

Grady says that when Ted returned from Europe, he got married. “In the midst of a Depression and with a wife, he had to try to get real work instead of continuing with a musician's life in New York, Philly, and other places where he played. He sold typewriters for a while, then rejoined the military. No doubt the need for financial security had much to do with his decisions.”

Though Noyes and his bride are listed in the Worcester Directory as living at 8 Abbott Street, with the drummer identified as a musician, no other record is known of him working at this occupation. As the winds of war blew across the Atlantic, Noyes re-enlisted.

The February 28, 1946 edition of the Worcester Telegram ran an article with this headline: “France Honors Colonel Noyes.” It read: “The French provisional government has awarded Lt. Col. Edwin J. Noyes of 40 Island Drive, the Order of the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre with Palm and the rank of Chevalier for ‘exceptional services rendered in the course of operations for the liberation of France.’

“Word of the decorations was received today by Lt. Col. Noyes, who was called to active duty as a second lieutenant on May 10, 1942, and went overseas Jun 1, 1942, with the Air Force. He served with the American and Allied Expeditionary Air Forces as intelligence officer. He came home Aug. 14 to attend an advanced air intelligence school and was preparing to return overseas when the war ended.”

The article also noted that Noyes was “now on terminal leave and recently re-enlisted in the Army Air Force as a lieutenant on inactive service.”

Of his grand uncle, Grady says, “He's a mystery to me too in a lot of ways. Even his military career is somewhat vague, as many of the records were destroyed in a fire. I have a photo of Ted in uniform in my central hallway. I remember seeing photos of him at my parents' wedding and at my baptism. My father was always trying to get me into jazz and swing. … It was only after my father died that I started doing research on Ted, and, in the process, I fell in love with jazz age music.”

Noyes retired from the military as a full colonel. There is no record of him returning to music in Worcester or elsewhere. At some point the world-class drummer moved to Miami where he died in 1960. He was 61.

The Paul Specht Orchestra with drummer Ted Noyes

Note: Special thanks to Jack Grady for his assistance. 

This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome at: Also see:  Thank you.



1 comment:

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