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Andy Sannella

Quality not quantity, the expression goes, but with Andy Sannella, one can literally drown in either. He was a top-notch reed player specializing in the clarinet and a highly original steel guitarist who managed to even make an impact with the Hawaiian crowd. Sannella, whose name is likely to show up missing an "n," turns up as part of some of the most historic sessions and key early encounters in American music history and also might have made history just by the sheer number of platters he played on. He got an early start making records on some of the first real popular music hits ever printed and distributed, but the prolific nature of his activity wasn't just about his being an old-timer. Utilizing all his instruments, which also included innovative use of cello and bass, he was part of a busy high-society big band scene whose members seem to have spent most of their free time hanging around in recording studios cutting multiple versions of the same tunes to be released simultaneously under several different band names. Sannella is in the running for having played in more bands than any other musician in history, but what trips him up is that many of these bands only existed on paper, the paper being glued in the center of a cheaply produced fox trot record to be sold for 13 cents at Woolworth's. The concept of making records like pancakes, always an appetizing comparison, is particularly apt in the case of the infamous Madison line of recordings; there are pancakes that, once allowed to dry out, would create a better sonic impression of a big band if placed on a turntable then some of these cheapjack sides. The high quality of Sannella's musicianship may have easily filtered down into these projects, but the best sense of his playing would have to come from the highwater marks in the discographical river that flowed under his own name, as well as collaboratory efforts with leading players and recording stars, some of whom recorded Sannella's compositions or decided to feature him on any one or all of his instruments. In the Virginians, Sannella was part of a fascinating combo with several brilliant players from late '20s: violinist Lou Raderman, virtuoso banjoist Harry Reser, and pianist Milt Rettenberg. One of the greatest groups of this era was Art Gillham's Southland Syncopators, the Columbia "house musicians" combo including the fine trumpeter Red Nichols, as well as the young clarinetist Benny Goodman. In the course of Gillham's superb run of releases, there is a patch heavy with Sannella's influence. There is a superb version of Sannella's original "I'm Waiting for Ships That Never Come In," while "The Saxophone Waltz" was really a record that handed Sannella the world on a platter in allowing him to write a piece for the group that would also feature him in the capacity of star soloist. This alto saxophone solo, played side by side with one of the man's guitar instrumentals, "Blues of the Guitar," makes a strong case for Sannella's versatility. The latter performance manages to evoke both the raw power and the elaborate ornamentation of Blind Lemon Jefferson, about as difficult to accomplish on the guitar as changing the instrument into a pretzel. Through the '30s and '40s, there were a variety of small groups that would cut three or more sides or go to work backing up a new singer someone was promoting, such as the Park Lane Trio featuring Sannella, Frank Signorelli, and Robert Michelson. Sannella blew clarinet in the band of polka king Frankie Trumbauer, then recorded for the Davis label with the Alpineers, a progressive polka collaboration first with the virtuoso accordion man Joe Biviano and then with the equally brilliant pianist Frank Banta. There were also credits with artists such as Bing Crosby and Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards. Cliff Edwards & His Hot Combination featured Sannella on alto sax and cello, jamming alongside violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang. The leader, best-known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket, really would have to wish upon a star to come up with such a great band. But listeners checking out the legend of Sannella will inevitably be drawn to the fascinating scrabble of the Madison recordings. Dozens of different band names, hundreds of different recordings, five different series of catalog numbers, and all of it the work of Sannella and his buddy Mike Mosiello. The Musical Masters Orchestra was actually just a trio, but the Melody Trio made up for it by having six members. Whatever number of players were in the group on a particular day, they claimed to have come from everywhere, except of course when the records were released without any band name on them. Meet the Atlanta Syncopators, the Broadway Syncopators, the Carlton Dance Club, the Frisco Players, the Hollywood Dance Orchestra, the Levee Syncopators, the Louisville Master Players, the Marlborough Dance Orchestra, the Nashville Jazzers, the Newport Society Orchestra, the Oceanic Dance Orchestra, and the St. Louis Serenaders. The madmen behind this musical factory never seemed to run out of ideas for band names, some of which would be useable half a century or more later. Joy Dispensers is better than Joy Division; Synco Jazzers would be a great name for a hip-hop or acid jazz group; People's Dance Orchestra suggests some kind of Mao-era Chinese big band. All these bands broke up the day in December 1962 when the American Federation of Musicians reported that the member known as Anthony G. Sannella had died. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Slidin' On The Frets: The Hawaiian Steel Guitar Phenomenon

1. My Little Grass Shack In Kealakekua

2. Pame Sti Honoloulou

3. Don't Sell It--Don't Give It Away

4. Milenberg Joys

5. My Little Blue Heaven

6. Why My Craf Vex With Me

7. Down In Waikiki

8. Honolulu Stomp

9. U Like, Noa Like

10. Mindanao March

11. Everybody Does It In Hawaii

12. Ghost Dance

13. You'll Never Find A Daddy Like Me

14. La Portena Es Una Papa

15. Has My Gal Been Here

16. Smiles

17. Clowin' The Frets

18. Caresses Venitiennes

19. Guitar Rag

20. The Cat's Whiskers

21. Happy Hawaiian Blues

22. Drifting And Dreaming

23. Sliding On The Frets

x

Track List: Steelin' It: The Steel Guitar Story

Disc 1

1. Slidin' On The Frets

2. Iniki Malie

3. Wai O Minnehaha

4. Black Boy Blues

5. Farewell Blues

6. The Memphis Blues

7. St. Louis Blues

8. Honolulu Stomp

9. Hawaiian Capers

10. My Best Girl

11. Wela-Ka-Hao

12. Ua Like No A Like

13. Blues Of The Guitar

14. Honolulu March

15. Hawaiian Melody

17. Saint Louis Blues

19. An Orange Grove In California

20. Oh, Lady Be Good!

21. Guitarese

22. Slippery Fingers

23. Limehouse Blues

24. Hula Blues

Disc 2

2. I Found A New Baby

3. Takin' Off

4. Stompin' At The Honky Tonk

5. Kelly Swing

6. Jitterbug Jive

7. Don't Ever Go Wrong

8. Dust Off That Old Piano

9. Stay A Little Longer

10. Texas Playboy Rag

11. Bogg's Boogie

12. The Daughter Of Jole Blon'

13. Spadella

14. Steel Guitar Stomp

15. Steel Guitar Stomp

16. Steel Guitar Rag

17. Steel Guitar Rag

18. Twin Guitar Boogie

19. Take It Away, Leon!

20. Train Whistle Blues

21. I've Got The Blues #2

22. Down At The Roadside Inn

23. Blue Steel Blues

24. Weary Steel Blues

25. Car Hop's Blues

Disc 3

1. Mean Mama Blues

2. Panhandle Shuffle

3. Sally's Got A Wooden Leg

4. Juke Box Jump

5. Steeling The Blues

6. Double Crossin' Mama

7. Steel Guitar Rag

8. Texas Steel Guitar

9. John's Other Wife

10. I Won't Stand In Your Way

11. So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed

12. Don't Look Now (But Your Broken Heart Is Showing)

14. Down In New Orleans

15. Pretty Baby Boogie

16. Steel Guitar Bounce

17. Steel Guitar Hop

18. Campbell's Steel Guitar Special

19. This Is Southland

20. And I Shook

21. Steel Guitar Boogie

22. Safety Pin Rag

23. Slidin' Steel

24. Hot Steel

25. I've Just Got To See You Once More

Disc 4

2. Remington Ride

4. Steeling The Mood

5. I Don't Care Anymore

7. Mexican Joe

8. Speedin' West

10. Settin' The Woods On Fire

11. Fire On The Strings

12. Peepin' Eyes

13. I've Been Deceived

14. Where Do We Go From Here?

15. Uncertain Love

16. Gonna Romp And Stomp

17. A Booger Gonna Getcha

19. Shame On You

20. I'm Gonna Live Some Before I Die

21. Looky There, Over There

22. That's The Way The Big Ball Bounces

23. Wham! Bam! Hot, Ziggity, Zam

24. I Ain't Gettin' Nowhere With You

25. Is It True What They Say About Dixie?

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