New Acquisition: The Revelers Vocal Arrangement Collection

Special Collections and University Archives has recently acquired a collection of handwritten musical scores for The Revelers, an American quintet composed of four male vocalists and a pianist popular on record and radio between 1925-1940.

This collection includes approximately 500 original vocal arrangements from The Revelers’ catalog of works performed in 1921-1939, including individual charts for each vocalist and master vocal scores. The arrangements are the work of two pianist-arrangers that worked with The Revelers: Ed Smalle (1887-1968) and Frank Black (1898-1969), with the latter forming the bulk of the collection. The scores include hand-written lyrics added by each vocalist for their part, as well as additional notes and annotations made by the arranger.

The singers began their musical association under the name The Shannon Quartet in 1918. In 1925, the group reorganized as The Revelers adding Ed Smalle, a talented pianist and arranger. Smalle’s jazzy song arrangements proved popular on both record and radio and, as a result, the group rose to international fame. The Revelers served as in-house performers for RCA/NBC, though they were known by a variety of aliases corresponding to radio sponsors including the: Seiberling Singers, RCA Radiotrons, Eveready Revelers, Raleigh Rovers, Palm Olive Quartet, Blue Ribbon Quartet, Imperial Imps, and Pennsylvania Keystoners. The Revelers also had success as recording artists, but their name also varied by label. They published music as The Revelers on Victor Records, The Merrymakers on Brunswick Records, and The Singing Sophomores on Columbia Records.

Smalle departed the group in 1927, and Frank Black joined The Revelers as pianist-arranger in 1927. Black became a leader in the music industry, including holding the title of Musical Director of NBC, while successfully leading The Revelers. The Revelers are credited by University of Oregon faculty member and Revelers scholar Craig Phillips as an important vehicle for introducing the public to many popular songs of the 1920s and 30s through their radio performances. This collection will provide access to notable arrangements of popular music from The Revelers library and also serve as primary sources that document social changes of the period as reflected by radio editing for controversial lyrics connected to vaudeville, cabaret, or jazz traditions.

Additional information on the history of The Revelers recording and performance career can be found in the Eugene Weekly article, “Resurrecting The Revelers.” This collection joins other collections of scores and arrangements in University of Oregon’s Special Collection and University Archives including Wally Beau Orchestra arrangements (Ax 806), Axel Stordahl papers (Ax 528), and George Steiner papers (Ax 537).  A future announcement will be made after the collection has been processed and the finding aid has been published online.

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