Drummer Chauncey Morehouse was born in New York in 1902 and grew up in Pennsylvania. He started playing drums, piano and banjo early, leading a group called the Versatile Five at High School. He played and toured with Paul Specht’s orchestra from 1922-24, including a smaller group from the orchestra, The Georgians.
Listen to Chauncey Morehouse playing Land Of Cotton Blues with The Georgians in 1923. It is said that this is 'the first recorded wire brush drum solo.'
Between 1924 and 1929 he was with the bands of Jean Goldkette, Adrian Rollini and Don Voorhees, but he also recorded with Frankie Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, The Dorsey Brothers and Joe Venuti.
Chauncey playing on Jazz Me Blues with Bix and his Gang.
From 1929 Chauncey mainly played as a studio musician in radio and television in and around New York City.
In 1938 with Stan King he put together a percussion set that was tuned chromatically and developed this into a set of drums called the N'Goma drums, made by the Leedy Drum company. The company endorsed Morehouse during his career.
Here is a video of Chauncey playing the drum set in 1938 from the show Saturday Night Swing Club, Paul Douglas introduces Chauncey who plays Koo-Lai-Ay with the Leith Stevens Orchestra and then participates in a "jam session" of the tune The Dipsey Doodle which also includes Bobby Hackett and his band with Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell and George Brunies. 'Chauncey Morehouse was not just a drummer but a true percussionist of the old school who could also play melodic instruments such as vibraphone and, like here, a set of tuned "N'Goma" drums'.
Chauncey worked in studios into the 1970s and then retired from studio work and began playing jazz again, mostly at festivals. He played at Carnegie Hall for the Tribute to Bix concert for the Newport Jazz Festival and at one of the early Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festivals in Davenport, Iowa.
Chauncey in the 1970s playing Davenport Blues with cornettist Richard Sudhalter:
'yesterdaypop.com' carries an interesting playlist and background to the work of Chauncey Morehouse - click here to listen to their selection of his work. In talking about drum kits of the 1920s they say: '.... I’m starting with Chauncey Morehouse. He’s the most familiar to me, and probably to even occasional early jazz listeners. Anyone who has taken a Jazz 101 course has heard Morehouse’s cymbal backbeat on Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer’s seminal “Singin’ the Blues.”
Here is Singin' The Blues:
"His collaborations with “Bix” and “Tram” in the Jean Goldkette orchestra and on numerous studio dates with the famous duo make him one of the most frequently encountered drummers of the twenties. It’s a little trickier to hear his drums but feeling them is no problem, for example on Morehouse’s own composition “Three Blind Mice” with a Trumbauer-led group....."
Listen to Three Blind Mice:
Chauncey Morehouse died in 1980 in Medford, New Jersey at the age of 78.
Since writing this article in December 2019, Chancey's granddaughter, Susan Atherton, wrote to us saying: 'Thank you so much for writing about Chauncey Morehouse!! He is my grandfather. I was so blessed to know him. He was such an awesome person. Let me know if you have questions on him. There are a few grandkids like me who are super proud of him.'
I have found a very comprehensive article about Chauncey on the 'Drums In The Twenties' website that is well worth visiting as it tells his story, describes his contribution and gives many examples of his playing - click here.