Previous Vocal Group Record of the Week
#829 (1/3/15 - 1/16/15)

"Junk Man"/"Dr. Watson And Mr. Holmes"
by The Spirits Of Rhythm
on Brunswick 01944 A/B [England]
on Decca 160 [USA]
released in 1934


One of the novelty aggregations discovered by the Columbia Broadcasting Company during 1936 was the "Five Spirits of Rhythm." Part of their unorthodoxy consists, as shown, in the suitcase and whisk brooms. The two instruments at upper left lool like, but are not ukeleles. They are called "tipples." For a period of many months the boys were features of the "Harlem Serenade" hour.

NOTE: Above (Left to Right) Wilbur Daniels (tenor, tipple), Teddy Bunn (baritone, guitar), Leo Watson (bass, tipple), Virgil Scroggins (tenor, whiskbrooms & suitcase), and Douglas Daniels (tenor, tipple). Actually, they started on the Columbia Network radio in 1934 (per newspaper articles further down on this webpage).

California Eagle, October 30, 1936: ....This department was informed this week that the Spirits of Rhythm, who first came into prominence while playing in the Onyz Club, in New York City, before its fire a year and a half ago, have returned to that spot for the cocktail and dinner hours....

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 23, 1940: ....The Toppers, instrumental and vocal foursome, headline the new show-cycle at Irvin Wolf's Rendezvous in the Hotel Senator. The alternating musical syncopation is dispenced by the Spirits of Rhythm, jivin' five, and they feature the vocals of Leo Watson, "Scat Singer"....

Above: Clipping from the New York Age Newspaper dated 2/24/34. "Vergil" should be "Virgil." "Burns" should be "Bunn."

(From New York Age Newspaper dated 2/10/34)



The Five Spirits of Rhythm, radio's newest novelty musical troupe, swung into New York in the spring of 1933 after a sensational season in sunny Miami and immediately became the rage of a fashionable night club. They were recently signed to broadcast twice weekly over the WABC-Columbia network.

The quintet is composed of young men ranging from 20 to 23 years of age. Three of them play tipples (enlarged ukeleles, two of which have ten strings each and the other four). Another strums a guitar and the fifth enlivens the rhythm by swishing two whiskbrooms over the top of a suitcase. In addition, each of them sings, three being tenors, one a baritone and the fifth a bass.

By name they are Wilbur Daniels, 23, tenor, who plays a 10-string tipple; Douglas Daniels, 20, tenor, who plays a four-string tipple; Leo Watson, 21, bass, who plays the other 10-string tipple; Theodore Bunn, 22, baritone, who strums the guitar; and Virgil Scroggins, 21, tenor, who conjures rhythm with the whiskbrooms and suitcase. Wilbur and Douglas are brothers, and Virgil is their cousin. Each hails from St. Louis, Mo., except Theodore, who comes from Hempstead, Long Island.

Wilbur Daniels is the leading spirit in the group. He first began strumming a tipple in 1925, and within two years had taught his brother, Douglas, and Leo Watson to play the instrument; and they were joined by Virgil Scroggins, whose specialty was a flash dance. This quartet made its debut in a St. Louis night club, The Tent, in 1927, for a stipend of $20 per week each, and shortly afterwards went into vaudeville for three years with the Whitman Sisters.

During the latter part of this long engagement the quartet met Theodore Bunn, who then was appearing with another novelty organization. Not long afterwards Bunn joined the two Daniels brothers, Watson and Scroggins, and at that time they began to gain some bit of fame. Ben Bernie, the Old Maestro, took them under his wing and featured them in the famous College Inn, Chicago. They trouped with Duke Ellington's orchestra, then with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra, played throughout the South in Lou Holtz's second edition of the Hollywood Revue, and made their first invasion of Broadway in 1931. At that time they appeared at the Paramount, Roxy, Loew's State and Brooklyn Paramount theaters, attracting immense crowds in each case. After playing New York, they toured again and finally went to Florida.

Only within the last few months have the Five Spirits of Rhythm aspired to a radio career. In grooming themselves for it, Virgil Scroggins abandoned his dance and took to swishing the whiskbrooms over the suitcase. This, in addition to enhancing the rhythm, eliminates the monotony of the strings alone. After months of rehearsing, they were given an audition in the CBS studios in New York and immediately signed a radio contract. Simultaneously, they began making records, the first two of which are being released this month.

(From New York Age Newspaper dated 9/29/34)

(From California Eagle Newspaper dated 8/13/42)
From California Eagle dated 8/13/42: ....Starting this coming Sunday, the Lincoln theatre will present on the stage Teddy Bunn and his "Five Spirits of Rhythm," featuring Leo "Scat" Watson, Raymond La Rue, Wilbur Daniels, and Douglas Daniels.... (NOTE: The Lincoln Theatre was located in South Los Angeles.)


(Pittsburgh Courier 4/2/38)

Above: A still shot from the 1941 movie "Sweetheart Of The Campus," in which The Four Spirits Of Rhythm are singing "Tom Tom The Elevator Boy." Leo Watson is second from left in the picture. The "Four Spirits of Rhythm" appeared in another movie "Alabamy Bound" (1941) and a short "Yes Indeed!" (1941). Watson also performed in the 1942 movie "Panama Hattie" as the drummer who flashes across the screen in front of Lena Horne and hams it up while she sings "The Sping." As the "Six Spirits of Rhythm," they appeared in the 1934 movie "Gambling" (See further down for more information).

Above: Label image of Brunswick 01944 recorded on September 14, 1934 and released later in 1934 (on Decca in the USA). Disco-File shows the group members on this record as Teddy Bunn, Douglas Daniels, Wilbur Daniels, Wilson Ernest Meyers, Virgil Scroggins, and Leo Watson. In addition to this record, The (Five) Spirits Of Rhythm had one release on Brunswick (1934), two on Decca (1934), and three on Black & White (1945). The Brunswick was originally issued in December 1933 as by "The Nephews."

The flip-side, "Dr. Watson And Mr. Holmes," is from the stage show and movie "Gambling," for which George M. Cohan wrote, produced and starred. The Six Spirits Of Rhythm appeared in the 1934 film version, presumedly singing this song. However, Cohan was unhappy with the movie and ordered the negative and all prints destroyed.

Listen to this week's selections by The Spirits Of Rhythm on Brunswick 01944 from 1934:
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]

          1. Junk Man
          2. Dr. Watson And Mr. Holmes
          BOTH played in sequence

     B. Download RealAudio...
          1. Junk Man
          2. Dr. Watson And Mr. Holmes

     C. Stream/Download Media Player...
          1. Junk Man
          2. Dr. Watson And Mr. Holmes

     [To download audio files, right-click on link and then select "Save (Link) Target As..."]


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