PE200. Van & Schenck – Pennant-Winning Battery of Songland, 1916 - 1918, incl. 28 legendary recordings, 1916-18. (Canada) Archeophone 5016. - 778632905535
"Original readers of F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY would have heard the voices of Van and Schenck in their heads as they encountered the printed lyrics of ‘Ain't We Got Fun’, a song the Brooklyn duo made famous in 1921. They embodied the carefree sound of the Jazz Age, but the story of this dynamic vaudeville duo goes back much further. Still teenagers when they first performed together, Gus Van and Joe Schenck made their ‘easy’ harmonies appear effortless by putting in years of practice and honing their songcraft. PENNANT-WINNING BATTERY OF SONGLAND compiles the first 28 recordings made by the pair, waxed between 1916 and 1918. With stunning photos and notes by vaudevillian Trav. S.D., the CD tells the story of their leap from neighborhood fan favorites to established stars.
Van and Schenck attended the same school, but Van was four years older so they didn't know each other well. In 1905, 18-year-old Van left a singing act and went solo, accompanied on the piano by tween Schenck, whose voice hadn't changed yet. They practiced for a while at the home of Schenck's girlfriend, a certain Mae West, and within a few years, Schenck got his mature tenor voice and became a full partner with Van. By 1912, they had published a song, ‘Teach Me that Beautiful Love’, and Variety hailed their vaudeville act as one of the best of its kind. Publishers including Leo Feist hailed their ability to put over a song, making them the ‘Pennant-Winning Battery of Songland’.
They played London's Empire Theatre and they played the Palace—many times, in fact. The folks back home in Brooklyn formed a fan club that went to all the Manhattan shows to provide a cheering section. And in the fall of 1916, Van and Schenck made their first records for the fledgling Emerson label.
The boys debuted on Victor in March 1917 with ‘Yaddie Kaddie Kiddie Kaddie Koo’ and ‘That's How You Can Tell They're Irish’, before finishing their time at Emerson. Then Van and Schenck put forward their biggest hit of the period, the classic ‘For Me and My Gal’, backed with Irving Berlin's ‘Dance and Grow Thin’. As the year marched on, so did the U.S. involvement in World War I. Van and Schenck give us two remarkable songs during the conflict, both lighthearted and comical.
It's not by accident that many observers see Van and Schenck as heirs to the throne previously held by Collins and Harlan—who for nearly 20 years had been the most popular recording comedy duo. Their rough and ready routine wasn't built for the Jazz Age, whereas Van and Schenck were. There was Gus Van, acting out in front of the piano, while Joe Schenck tickled the ivories with one hand and gesticulated with the other. A nuanced pair, the material also became more complex.”