Delta Rhythm Boys: Clinton Holland, Traverse Crawford, Rene DeKnight, Harry Lewis, Lee Gaines.
Additional personnel: Mildred Bailey.
Recorded at AFRS radio between 1941 & 1945.
The Delta Rhythm Boys came up in the late '30s and early '40s, around the same time as the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, both of which worked in a similar kind of pre-doo wop harmony style. But history has not been as kind to the Delta Rhythm Boys as to the latter groups, despite their significant accomplishments. (Not only did they contribute substantially to the development of the harmony ensemble style, but founding member Lee Gaines wrote lyrics to such popular jazz standards of the time as "Take the 'A' Train," "One O'Clock Jump," and "Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'"). Masters of Hip Harmony is a collection of tracks taken from their radio broadcasts in 1944; it's about evenly split between material recorded for broadcast to American soldiers over the Armed Forces Radio Service and other songs recorded for a radio show called California Melodies, with Frank DeVol & His Orchestra. The best tracks here are those that find them harmonizing behind the great Mildred Bailey, who worked with them frequently during this period. Highlights from this material include "There'll Be Some Changes Made" and an unusually businesslike rendition of "Georgia on My Mind." Inevitably, they charge through a barnburner rendition of "Dry Bones" as well, and they deliver a spectacular version of "Paper Doll" with DeVol. Poor sound quality and embarrassing MCs are a nagging annoyance throughout the album, but it's very enjoyable overall. ~ Rick Anderson