Harlem Wildcats

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The Harlem Wildcats recorded for the Gennett label and its subsidiaries such as Varsity, one of the earliest discount lines, during what is considered by keepers of recording company time lines to be…
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The Harlem Wildcats recorded for the Gennett label and its subsidiaries such as Varsity, one of the earliest discount lines, during what is considered by keepers of recording company time lines to be the "late period" of Gennett activity. As opposed to the all-important "early years," the roster circa the early '30s -- exact dates tend to be lost -- is a fascinating collection of obscure bands with weird and groovy-sounding names. Not that much is known about some of these ensembles: from the same catalog pages there are also sides by Bat the Hummingbird, who was neither; Scare Crow; Jim Jam; and the presumably morose Sally Sad.

The titles of tracks released by the Harlem Wildcats are an enticement to dancing in themselves, if not outright civil disobedience. What a pity, then, that so few listeners have experienced recordings such as "White Zombie," "The Call of the Freaks," "Mouthful of Jam," or -- its title a fit of existentialism -- "This Is the Chorus of a Song." A lack of patience best described as "licensing burnout" is one reason such attractive-sounding material has not been gobbled up by the producers of sensational compilations. Apparently in the case of the early outright resales of the entire Gennett catalog, producers were so worn out that they passed on whole sections of the later release lists, sometimes assuming the titles came from fad genres such as hillbilly music. These producers were not only wrong about this sort of genre being on the way out, in many cases the acts they passed over played another style entirely. A J. Shaw is listed as the composer of some of the Harlem Wildcats numbers; this was Joel Shaw, a bandleader who recorded "The Call of the Freaks" on his own and may also have had something to do with the Harlem Wildcats pack itself. The latter song was also a theme for the band of Luis Russell.