February 5, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: The Spikes Brothers and Kid Ory
One of the most important figures in early Los Angeles music history was Benjamin Reb Spikes. Early in his career Spikes was
billed as the world’s greatest saxophonist while working in San Francisco with the So-Different Orchestra. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1919 where he and his brother
opened a music store at 12th and Central Ave. Spikes also formed the Major and Minors Orchestra and opened the Dreamland Cafe at 4th and Central.
The Spikes Brothers store became the central location for the African American music scene in L.A. at that time. They also started a publishing company as well as a booking agency that operated out of the store. His Dreamland Cafe became an important venue for early jazz on the west coast. A little later they teamed up with Jelly Roll Morton to open Wayside Amusement Park at Leake’s Lake in Watts.
Around the same time Spikes landed in Los Angeles, the great New Orleans jazz pioneer Kid Ory moved to Los Angeles as well. He brought cornetist Mutt Carey with him. Before long Ory sent back to New Orleans for more musicians and began playing at the Dreamland Cafe.
The Spikes Brothers store was the only place in Los Angeles where recordings by black artists could be purchased. Business was so big that they decided to form their own label: Sunshine Records.
In 1921 they ask Ory to make records for their new label by backing two local blues singers. Ory agreed as long as he could do some of his own music as well.
The recordings were made at the experimental Nordskog studios in Santa Monica. There were no pressing plants on the west coast at the time so the records were actually pressed in Orange, New Jersey.
When the records came back from the plant the label read Nordskog Records featuring Kid Ory and his Seven Pods of Pepper. Spikes had to paste his own Sunshine label over the Nordskog label. There were less than 5,000 pressed and they were all sold at the Spikes Brothers store. Today, the original 78s are very rare especially with the pasted on Sunshine label intact.
Even though the Original Dixieland Jazz Band had made the first jazz records in 1917, the Kid Ory recordings are the first by a group of the true New Orleans jazz pioneers.