Butterbeans & Susie

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1924-1925)

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Butterbeans (Jodie Edwards, 1898-1967) and Susie (Sue Hawthorne, 1899-1963) were the archetypal Ma and Pa comedy team in the world of African-American vaudeville during the 1920s. Married on-stage while young teenagers as part of a minstrel show act, they made it legal soon afterwards and began making records for the Okeh company in May 1924. In 1997, Austria's Document reissue label released two CDs purporting to contain everything by this duo that appeared in the Okeh catalog during the first three years of their collaborative recording career. Volume one finds them accompanied by pianists Clarence Williams and Eddie Heywood, Sr., with cornetist King Oliver sitting in on "Kiss Me Sweet" and the famously funny ode to physical labor entitled "Construction Gang." Despite their mutual lifelong romantic devotion, Butterbeans and Susie specialized in robust exchanges that made light of domestic squabbling. Favorite themes include shrewd assessments of sexual prowess ("Cold Storage Papa, Mama's a Little Too Warm for You"), morbid dissatisfaction with the wonders of matrimony ("A Married Man's a Fool"), and Susie's healthy attitude in the face of potential domestic violence ("I'll Put You Under the Jail"). Document did not expend any energy or money cleaning up the surface noise on these fine old records. The experience one gets is that of ancient 78 rpm platters spinning round with vintage entertainment rising up from the grooves into the needle, through the tone arm and out of a large tin horn. Sound quality varies according to the condition of the record, and some are decidedly scratchier than others. While some might disparage this kind of reproduction, others will testify as to its organic immediacy and wouldn't want it any other way.

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