The story of Norridge Mayhams (aka Norris the Troubadour) is one of the great under-explored stories of 20th Century music making. It has been explored in great detail by Phil Milstein at the American Song-Poem Music Archives, here, but nowhere else in much detail, that I'm aware of.
While Mayhams did work within the song-poem world in terms of employing many of the fields stalwarts to record his material, he exists largely outside of that world, in my view, because he seems to have been quite capable of writing the words AND the music to his songs, rather than farming out the latter. In addition, he often sang on his own records, especially in the early days, released records on legitimate labels at one point, and he even wrote a hit song.
I've explored the Mayhams story a bit more, mostly through the sharing of various records he performed, wrote and/or commissioned. I've even performed my favorite Mayhams song myself. A handful of Mayhams songs can also be found in the AS/PMA song-poem series that was posted here at WFMU a few years ago.
As those links will indicate, Mayhams was all over the map, musically, and managed to move with the times, from Gospel to R & B, from Latin rhythms to Rock and Roll. One thing, though, that every record I've seen documented on his own two labels (Mayhams Collegiate and Co-Ed (The Sorority Fraternity Record Company)), is that they all feature at least one song credited to Mayhams, under one of his many names (or at least under a version of his wife's name). Usually, this is true of both sides.
So what to make of this early Co-Ed 78 RPM release which does not feature any reference to Norridge Mayhams whatsoever? Yes, I've spent four paragraphs explaining who Mayhams was, only to feature a record that doesn't appear to have involved him. And yet, it must have - this was clearly his label, from the fascination with college life captured in so many of his lyrics (as well as both of his label names), to the DIY sound of the recording, to the fact that it captures a style that was in vogue at that moment - in this case, the early version of Calypso (a passionate favorite of mine) which had a fervent audience in the 1930's and 1940's.
But no, nothing on this record says Norridge Mayhams, and that's unique for a record on his labels. Side one is credited to The Black Prince, while side two is performed by Babtiste & Co., with the backing on both sides by Padmore, De-Vere, Nat Guy & Grant (however, there is no way four people are performing on the A-Side). Compositions on both sides are by Padmore and De-Vere. None of these names turn up anywhere else on any Mayhams record I've seen).
The A-Side is the more basic of the two, and holds more appeal to me. Over piano backing (with a soft clarinet and a guitar), The Black Prince sings a classic minor-key calypso, "Misunderstanding", building up a nice head of steam and intensity. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether this is the same Black Prince who recorded calypsos for Decca. "Last Train" by Babtiste & Co. is a more upbeat, major-key calypso, with a considerably busier backing track and choral vocals on the chorus. It's also enjoyable, and I really enjoy the way it ends, mid phrase, but I'll take the A-side any day.
A disclaimer as to the quality of these MP3's: I was thrilled to buy this record, but when it arrived in the mail, it was in two pieces, with a moon-shaped scoop broken out of it. I repaired the record as best as possible, but as you can imagine, it plays with two significant clicks every time the record spins (the broken part went through the entire length of the sides, almost to the label. But it's a fascinating enough record that I still wanted to share it.