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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Milt Herth born 3 November 1902

Milton "Milt" Herth (November 3, 1902, Kenosha, Wisconsin – June 18, 1989, Las Vegas, Nevada) was an American jazz organist, known for his work on the Hammond organ soon after it was introduced in 1935. Herth's work is available from his recordings of the 1930s and 1940s.

Milt Herth knew what he was going to do from the moment he saw the first Hammond organ displayed and demonstrated in the lobby of the Hammond Clock Company, circa the early '30s in Chicago. Organ history could practically be called "herth-tory" based on his subsequent pledge of dedication, which was to play the Hammond organ and document it in every way possible, from publishing organ solo sheet music to recording dozens of albums. An account of the 1938 Princeton College reunion provides a daily slice of life for this artist: "The feature of the event was Milt Herth, who with his electric organ produced an unprecedented marathon of music."

One of Herth's main musical vehicles was a trio he fronted featuring the combination of organ, a regular pianist, and a drummer. The word "regular" is used to differentiate the piano from the organ, not to describe Herth's choice of pianists, which included the amazing Willie "The Lion" Smith. Herth collaborators in these small groups also included pianist Billy Kyle, who also worked with Louis Armstrong regularly, drummer O'Neil Spencer, and guitarist Teddy Bunn. The organist's professional break came in 1935 when he was appropriately hired by Indiana radio station WIND as an organist.

Milt Herth-Hammond organ, Willie 'The Lion' Smith-piano, O'Neil Spencer-drums & vocal - The swinging Larry Clinton composition was one of 1937's top song hits, with Tommy Dorsey's recording leading the way. Transferred from 78rpm: Decca 25065, originally issued on Decca 1553 - The Dipsy Doodle (Clinton) by the Milt Herth Trio, vocal by O'Neil Spencer, recorded November 11, 1937

Developing a repertoire that would include titles such as the tasty "Home Cookin' Man With a Fryin' Pan," the creepy if sanctified "Goblins in the Steeple," the thrifty if romantic "Honeymoonin' on a Dime," and the predictably wimpy "Sissy," Herth also fashioned a way of enunciating phrases as if tossing darts at a typewriter, so natural to the style of the Hammond that many other organists were not able to find a way around imitation. Herth's quartet began recording for Decca in the second half of the '30s. Reissue collections of early Willie "The Lion" Smith performances have also included material from his berth in the Herth combo.

Herth also played himself in several short films (Love and Onions (1935), Swing Styles (1939), and Jingle Belles, (1941)) as well as the longer 1942 film, Juke Box Jenny, a movie noted for being a series of musical performances. He died in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 18, 1989. (Info mainly All Music)


boppinbob said...

Slim pickings on the net, could only find "Most Happy Organ" as mp3 here:

Enough on you tube for an album so watch this space.

Donald Sevier said...

While admitting that I haven't come across much of his music before now, having listened to this rendering I find it so refreshing to hear the crisp, sharp tones of Milt's Hammond organ, with fine piano and drums accompaniment. Thanks Bob

boppinbob said...

Uploaded a small compilation of Milt Herth recordings mainly from Youtube plus other blog postings. Track #9 is not Milt Herth but as of yet unknown big band. Will rectify playlist when time allows.!dwIhBThJ!Z-UW72whaWqR4kcGnZJKzCHFnMFfLC2WyYtsF7yMzEw