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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Come Play With Us: 1925

Come Play With Us: 1925

Arlington, Virginia, circa 1925. "Happy Walker Orchestra." On certain moonless nights, the old porters say, you can still hear them going at it. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Take my life, but please don't take my banjo!

Which is what the face of the banjo player, and corresponding grip on his instrument, seems to be saying. And the look on the trumpet player's face. Jeb70 seems to have hit the nail on the head.

And the sax player bears a slight resemblance to Adrian Rollini, who was one of the kings of the bass sax for most of the 1920s.

Mellophone on the floor

On the floor next to the trumpet player is an E-flat mellophone. I had to play the school's horn when I was in 5th and 6th grades. There was always gum in the mouthpiece, thanks to the girl who played it in the high school band (it was a small school),


That trumpet player looks like he has finished a large measure of bathtub gin and is thinking, "If I just sit here very still, I won't fall off of this chair. Ohhhh, I think I'm gonna be sick."

What a difference two years makes

The boys in the band have changed remarkably from the 1923 photo posted a couple days ago. In fact I don't think it's the same guys at all.

Could it be that we're looking a 2 different bands here: the Happy Walker Orchestra and Happy Walker's Madrillion Society Orchestra?

Altogether now,

Silk lapels and socks, striped vests and hair parted in the middle, a one and a two !

OK everyone, smile and blink your eyes!

Thanks to T.K. Torch for the interesting history on the instruments! I never knew where the saxophone got its name, until now!

I don't know that much about photography, but wouldn't the weird eyes have come from the shutter speed being a bit slow?

[The "zombie look" characteristic of flashlight photos comes from the subjects' eyes being both open and closed during a magnesium-powder exposure, where the shutter, not being synchronized with the flash, is opened before the charge is ignited and closed after it goes out. - Dave]

Thanks for the explanation!

That tall violinist is pretty handsome, despite the "zombie look"!


The fellow standing isn't Happy Walker; the fellow on trumpet at the left doesn't really look like Walker, where is Walker? And they've lost the bass player? A mystery for the ages, I suppose.

Bass Sax

That big bass sax reminds me of the Basil Fomeen band which played in the Congo Room at the Carlton Hotel in DC in the 1950s. The ONK! ONK! of that sax was characteristic. Unfortunately the band was well beyond its prime and was pretty terrible ... but they were in LIVE!! HiFi on the Continental FM Network (funded by Maj Edwin Armstrong of FM fame). It seems that the Carlton has become the St Regis Hotel at 16th and K.

Spit and Polish

Looks like they all stopped at the shoeshine stand on the way to the ballroom.

Nino Sax

Looks like our reedman's slinging a Sopranino Saxophone; the straight one standing up next to the oboe. B-flat and C sopranos saxes are about the same length as a standard B-flat clarinet; the standing straight saxophone is noticeably shorter, so odds are it's a sopranino. The tiny horn slung on the stand to the player's left might be a curved version of the Sopranino as well, but might just be a B-flat curved soprano. Hard to tell from the angle.

When Adolphe Sax invented the horn in the late 1830's (the first saxophone patent was filed about 1841) he described and built a family of saxophones ranging from the high end sopranino all the way down to contrabass.

Outside the alto saxophone, marching band music and a few orchestral composers, for years nobody much took saxophone very seriously; it really took American jazz to make it a broadly recognized and respected instrument. In the Teens and 1920s the entire saxophone family came into vogue, though outlying family members like the sopranino tended to be treated as novelty instruments.

Re the comment above - that's not a Bass sax, it's a mere Baritone. Bass saxophones are ginormous:

Not that a Baritone can't honk -- boy can they!!

Lots of bands in the '20's deployed the Bass Saxophone where a tuba would normally be used - they occupy the same subterranean sonic territory.

The Count

Count Dracula on Piano.

Which one is Happy Walker, is he the Undertaker with the Violin?

Michael Scott!

Is that Steve Carell with the violin?

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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