Roy Harte paid his dues during the final years of the Swing Era in the 1940s when major bands and orchestras were regularly booked at dance halls, auditoriums, and theaters across the United States. To paraphrase Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, “Roy Harte was a contender,” and regularly placed in the annual Down Beat polls. Hopefully this presentation will bring some recognition to Roy’s artistry during these years, performances that were recognized in the jazz press that placed him in annual Down Beat polls.
Roy began his swing era career with the Jerry Winner orchestra in January of 1942. The Winner orchestra disbanded when the leader was drafted at the outbreak of WWII. Roy spent a few months touring with the Henry Jerome orchestra before joining Muggsy Spanier for a six month stay from October of 1942 to March of 1943. Roy signed up with Bobby Sherwood in the latter part of March and toured with the orchestra until April of 1944. Roy did not make it to the Down Beat poll in 1943 that was dominated by Gene Krupa at No. 1, Buddy Rich at No. 2, and Jo Jones at No. 3. Roy’s first professional recording session was with the Bobby Sherwood Orchestra in December of 1943.
BOBBY SHERWOOD AND HIS ORCHESTRA:
Bobby Sherwood, trumpet, guitar, vocal, arranger; Eddie Green, Charles Cognata, Bill Moore, Bob Higgins, trumpets, Al Chait, Dave Clark, Bob Leeman, trombones; Ray Beckenstein, Eddie Lucas, alto saxophones; Frank Meyers, Dave Pell, tenor saxophones; Evan Aiken, baritone saxophone; Hal Becker, piano; Basil Hutchinson, guitar; Joe Ginelli, bass; Roy Harte, drums.
New York City, December 2 & 10, 1943
175 “Scheherazade” unissued
176-A “Swingin’ at the Semloh”
178 “Blue Room Blues” unissued
Roy’s second professional recording session was with the Bobby Sherwood Orchestra on February 14, 1944. Sherwood was under contract to Capitol Records and could not be listed as leader of the session for Savoy Records. Eddie Greene was the orchestra manager and played in the trumpet section. The 78 singles from the session were released as by Eddie Greene and His Californians.
EDDIE GREEN AND HIS CALIFORNIANS
Eddie Green, Bobby Sherwood, Charles Cognata, Bill Moore, Bob Higgins, trumpets, Al Chait, Dave Clark, Bob Leeman, trombones; Ray Beckenstein, Eddie Lucas, alto saxophones; Frank Meyers, Dave Pell, tenor saxophones; Evan Aiken, baritone saxophone; Hal Becker, piano; Basil Hutchinson, guitar; Joe Ginelli, bass; Roy Harte, drums. New York City, February 14, 1944.
S5379 “King Cotton”
S5380 “Bob’s Mob”
S5381 ‘More of the Same”
S5382 “Flight No. 39”
Savoy Records tapped Roy for another recording session on the 14th backing an organist who was leader on the date. Unfortunately no other details regarding personnel are available. The International Association of Record Collectors no longer functions as a society for like-minded record fanatics. During its heyday IAJRC issued many rare items like the Bobby Sherwood collection, Out of Sherwood’s Forest, IAJRC 135, that collected some of the sides that Roy Harte played on with Sherwood. The photo used for the cover shows Roy, dead center, at the back on a riser.
Roy Harte was with the George Paxton orchestra from June through October of 1944. Paxton did not book any recording sessions while Roy was with the orchestra, but the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America engaged George Paxton and His Orchestra to record six soundtracks for their Soundie film presentations that played on Panoram machines manufactured by the Mills Novelty Company. Dance with a Dolly, Four O’Clock Jump, Let Me Love You Tonight, Never Say Yes, Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes, and Get Happy were recorded at R.C.A. Studios in New York on September 19, 1944. One of the Soundies can be seen on YouTube. Vocalist Alan Dale blocks the view of Roy during portions, but Roy can still be seen at the top riser.
Roy Harte is credited as being on a V-Disc release. The Lord discopgraphy shows a December 1944 date, most likely tied to the release date of the V-Disc that captured a Paxton performance aircheck.
GEORGE PAXTON ORCHESTRA
George Paxton, leader; Amilio DePietro, Al Beck, Ziggy Kelly, Guy Key, trumpets; George Paxton, James “Jay” Kellerher, George Craft, trombones; Ray Beckinstein, George Furman, alto saxophones; Gilbert Koerner, Boomie Richmond, tenor saxophones; Sam Lambie, baritone saxophone; Tony Nicoletti, piano; Jack Purcell, guitar; John Crescenzi, bass; Roy Harte, drums; Paul Nero, Dave Novak, Al Ciccone, Jerry Reisler, violins; Alan Dale, Liza Morrow, vocals.
V-Disc 388A “Mary” “Louise” “Margie”
Roy spent a few weeks with the Johnny Richards orchestra in October of 1944 before joining Billie Rogers and Her Orchestra during their last three weeks at the Pelham Heath Inn from October 31st through November 19th. The Billie Rogers band entered Musicraft Studios in New York on December 15th for a recording session that produced two 78 singles.
BILLIE ROGERS and HER ORCHESTRA
Billie Rogers, trumpet, vocal, leader; Dick Getz, Johnny Mandel, trumpets; Mort Gellett, George Kraft, Paul O’Connor, trombones; Stuart Anderson, Charles Chadwick, Jay Ligion, Irv Stonebraker, Bob Whyman, saxophones; Harry Biss, piano; Harry Babasin, bass; Roy Harte, drums; Tony Dexter, vocal; and Ray Conniff, arranger. New York City, December 15, 1944.
5230 “Roger’s Corners”
The 1944 Down Beat poll for drummers still had the heavy-weights at the top – Buddy Rich, Jo Jones, and Dave Tough in the first three positions, but Roy Harte was on the list at No. 10 behind Ray McKinley, Sonny Greer, and George Wettling.
When Billie Rogers disbanded in early 1945, Roy Harte joined the Boyd Raeburn orchestra on February 3rd to play a dance function at Yale in New Haven, CT. He had the next two days off before traveling with the band to Boston, MA, for a booking at Raymor Ballroom that ran from February 6th through the 17th. The next day the Raeburn orchestra played the Schubert Theater in New Haven, CT, before going to New York for rehearsals on the 20th and 21st for a Signature Records session under Johnny Bothwell’s name on February 22, 1945.
JOHNNY BOTHWELL ORCHESTRA
Tommy Allison, Benny Harris, Stan Fishelson, trumpets; Walter Robertson, trumpet and trombone; Ollie Wilson, Trummy Young, Jack Carmen, trombones; Hal McKusick, Johnny Bothwell, alto saxophones; Al Cohn, Joe Megro, tenor saxophones; Serge Chaloff, baritone saxophone, Boyd Raeburn, bass saxophone; Ike Carpenter, piano; Steve Jordan, guitar, Oscar Pettiford, bass; Roy Harte, drums; and George Williams, arranger. New York City, February 22, 1945.
SRC110 “I’ll Remember April”
SRC111 “Street of Dreams”
SRC112 “Our Delight” (name may be changed)
SRC113 “Lonely Serenade”
The day after leaving the Boyd Raeburn orchestra Roy was in the recording studio, his seventh commercial recording session, for Jerry Wald and Majestic Records. Four tunes were recorded on April 11th. Roy’s popularity with the Jerry Wald orchestra was frequently noted in The Billboard reviews where Harte’s drumming for the orchestra was referred to as “sensash” – The Billboard lingo for sensational. Advertisements for Jerry Wald often named Roy Harte among the featured artists with the orchestra.
JERRY WALD ORCHESTRA
Jerry Wald, clarinet, leader; Al Porcino, Sonny Rich, trumpets; Billie Rogers, trumpet, vocal; Ray Sims, Walter Nimms, trombones; Al Cohn, Jimmy Mosher, Joe Grimm, reeds; Jimmy Raney, guitar; Arnold Fishkin, bass; Roy Harte, drums; Kay Allen, Dick Merrick, vocals; and strings. New York City, April 11, 1945
Blues Concerto” “Clarinet Hi-Jinks”
T516 “A Friend of Yours”
Jerry Wald, clarinet, leader; Al Porcino, Sonny Rich, trumpets; Billie Rogers, trumpet, vocal; Ray Sims, Walter Nimms, trombones; Al Cohn, Jimmy Mosher, Joe Grimm, reeds; Jimmy Raney, guitar; Arnold Fishkin, bass; Roy Harte, drums; Kay Allen, Dick Merrick, vocals; and strings. New York City, July 6, 1945.
T536 “That’s For Me”
T538 “The Continental”
Roy Harte remained in the 1945 Down Beat poll in 1945. Dave Tough took over the No. 1 spot with Jo Jones and Cozy Cole in second and third positions. Roy slipped one notch to No. 11 behind Specs Powell.
Roy Harte spent 49 weeks with Jerry Wald, his longest tenure with a band since his decision to become a swing band drummer. Roy’s last weeks included one performance at the Glen Island Casino, New Rochelle, NY; two weeks with Wald at the Rio Casino, Boston, MA; and a final performance at Valley Arena, Holyoke, MA. Roy gave notice to Jerry Wald on March 11, 1946, and signed with Lucky Millinder on the 12th. Roy took a breather from performing for the balance of the month, returning home to 1890 East 5th Street in Brooklyn. He went to the Savoy Ballroom on March 21st to experience the Lucky Millinder orchestra in action.
Roy Harte had been at RCA Victor Studios previously to appear in Soundies with the George Paxton orchestra. The Millinder orchestra was booked to perform in a one-reel movie at the studio on Tuesday, April 9, 1946. The movie set for Hello Bill and I Want a Man placed the orchestra on a series of risers. The top tier, dead center, featured Roy’s drum kit making his performance highly visible on both numbers. “Hello Bill” was composed by Millinder’s staff to be presented at an annual Elk’s ball in New Haven, CT. “Hello Bill” is the traditional greeting of the world-wide fraternal organization, B.P.O.E., Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Both numbers were released later in the 1940s as individual Soundies.
Roy was not on Millinder’s Decca session in February of 1946. The personnel was most likely the same when Roy joined the orchestra in March, replacing Panama Francis on drums.
LUCKY MILLINDER and HIS ORCHESTRA
Lucky Millinder, vocal, leader; John Bello, Harold “Money” Johnson, Archie Johnson, Leon Merian; trumpets; Al Cobbs, Gene Simon, Frank Mazzoli, trombones; Burnie Peacock, Sammy Hopkins, George Nichols, alto saxophones; Sam “The Man” Taylor, tenor saxophone, Bull Moose Jackson, tenor saxophone; Ernest Purce, baritone saxophone; Sir Charles Thompson, piano; Bernie MacKay, guitar; Jerry Cox, bass, Roy Harte, drums; and Annisteen Allen; vocal. New York City, May 10, 1946. Decca Studios.
Roy Harte had experienced life on the road during his time with Jerry Wald. Roy received another lethal dose of nights on the bus while the Millinder orchestra toured the south, mid west, and finally the West Coast. Roy left the Millinder band on September 9, 1946, and finished out the year working with Ike Carpenter, Dick Peirce, and Vido Musso.
Roy Harte was back in 10th place in the 1946 Down Beat Poll behind Louis Bellson. Dave Tough scored the number one position with Shelly Manne the runner-up at second position.
The Bobby Sherwood orchestra opened at Casino Gardens, Ocean Park, Santa Monica, on January 11, 1947. Roy continued to rehearse and work with Dick Peirce during his time with Sherwood in January and February.
Roy participated in his tenth commercial recording date on January 18, 1947, with the Ike Carpenter orchestra at Radio Recorders in Hollywood for the Bihari brothers Modern Records label.
IKE CARPENTER ORCHESTRA
Lou Obergh, Jr., Gerald Wilson, trumpets; Ollie Wilson, Tommy Pederson, trombones; George Weidler, alto saxophone; Ted Nash, alto & tenor saxophone, clarinet; Lucky Thompson, tenor saxophone; Joe Koch, baritone saxophone; Ike Carpenter, piano, arranger, leader; Jim Stutz, bass; Roy Harte, drums; and Paul Villepigue, arranger. Radio Recorders, Hollywood, January 18, 1947.
MM-510 “Jeep’s Blues”
MM-512 “Rhapsody in Blue”
At the end of eight weeks with Bobby Sherwood Roy rejoined Lucky Millinder. Roy was back in NYC on March 10th and spent that week rehearsing with Millinder. The band was at the Savoy Ballroom from the 16th through the 21st. The Millinder orchestra went into Decca’s New York studios on April 11th, Roy’s eleventh commercial recording session.
LUCKY MILLINDER and HIS ORCHESTRA
Lucky Millinder, vocal, leader; John Bello, Harold “Money” Johnson, Archie Johnson, Leon Merian, trumpets; Al Cobbs, Gene Simon, Frank Mazzoli, trombones; Burnie Peacock, Sammy Hopkins, George Nichols, alto saxophones; Sam “The Man” Taylor, tenor saxophone; Bull Moose Jackson, tenor saxophone; Ernest Purce, baritone saxophone; Sir Charles Thompson, piano; Bernie MacKay, guitar; Jerry Cox, bass, Roy Harte, drums; and Annisteen Allen, Paul Breckenridge, vocals. New York City, April 11, 1947. Decca Studios.
73862 “The Spider and the Fly”
73863 “Let It Roll”
73864 “Beggin’ For Love”
Roy left Lucky again on May, 15, 1947, and spent that weekend subbing for Dave Tough at the 3 Deuces with the Charlie Ventura band. Dave Tough returned to the Ventura band on May 20th and Roy had the rest of the week free before leaving for Chicago on the 25th where he joined Vido Musso.
Vido Musso formed a nine-piece band when Stan Kenton disbanded his unit due to illness in the spring of 1947. The group billed as “Stan Kenton All-Stars” included Boots Mussulli, alto saxophone; Bob Gioga, baritone saxophone; Buddy Childers and Ray Wetzel, trumpets; Gene Rowland, valve trombone; Pete Rugolo, piano; Norman Coleman, bass; and Roy Harte, drums. The group opened Memorial Day, May 30th, for eight weeks at the Panther Room, College Inn, Sherman Hotel. June Christy, vocalist with Stan Kenton, also joined the show at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. While the Musso band was at College Inn, a dance contest sponsored by the Chicago Tribune Charities as part of the Chicagoland Music Festival. Contest couples danced to the toe tickling rhythms of the Stan Kenton All-Stars. Vido Musso posed with the contest winners in a photo published by the Chicago Daily Tribune.
The Musso group recorded for Trilon Records on Thursday, June 19th, in Chicago. The group was essentially the same with Earl Swope replacing Gene Rowland, Mel Henke on piano along with Pete Rugolo on some tunes, and the Honeydreamers vocal group on some numbers. Ray Wetzel, who possessed an enormous waistline, performed “All Of Me” regularly during the College Inn engagement, always drawing laughs from the audience. The Stan Kenton All-Stars closed at the College Inn on Thursday, July 24, 1947.
VIDO MUSSO ALL STARS
Vido Musso, tenor saxophone, leader; Boots Mussulli, alto saxophone; Buddy Childers, trumpet; Ray Wetzel, trumpet, vocal; Earl Swope, trombone; Bob Gioga, baritone saxophone; Pete Rugolo, Mel Henke, piano; Norman Coleman, bass; Roy Harte, drums; The Honeydreamers, vocal. Chicago, June 19, 1947.
T1151-B “The Unfinished Boogie”
Roy Harte moved up in the Down Beat annual poll in 1947 placing 3rd behind Shelly Manner at the No. 1 spot and Dave Tough at the No. 2 spot. Congratulations to Roy!
Roy’s professional recording career continued in 1948 and 1949 where he played drums on sessions with Dave Pell, Ziggy Elman, and Les Brown. After settling in Los Angeles in 1950 and opening his professional drum shop Roy continued to record for dozens of artists in many styles: Hillbilly, Dixieland, Western Swing, Country & Western, and West Coast Jazz to name a few. Roy’s facility to adapt and play in many styles placed him in high demand in the movie and recording studios.
Roy Harte kept detailed log books covering his professional drumming with dozens of leaders. Roy noted his recording studio dates under these leaders with the tunes recorded. One date is missing from Roy’s diaries, a recording date with his cousin, Dave Pell, for the Checker label. Tom Lord’s Jazz Discography notes it as occurring in 1949. Some of the same musicians were on the date that appeared in a concert at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, December 19, 1949, most notably Art Pepper.
Roy spent a good portion of 1949 with the Les Brown band. Another clue that places the Checker Records recording session in 1949 is the presence of some other Les Brown musicians on the Checker session, Frank Beach, Wes Hensel, and Geoff Clarkson. Frank Comstock was also the principal arranger for Les Brown during this period. The Checker session might have been the precedessor of the Dave Pell Octet. Of course the missing instrument is the guitar that was an essential component of the Pell Octet sound.
I would like to thank Rex Harte for sharing details of Roy’s early career making this tribute possible.