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Take Two

Mean To Me

Phil Napoleon.jpg



​​​You're mean to me
Why must you be mean to me?
Gee, honey, it seems to me
You love to see me cryin'
I don't know why


Mean To Me with music by Fred E Ahlert and lyrics by Roy Turk was first published in 1929 and quickly became a popular number with hit recordings by Ruth Etting and Helen Morgan. It's popularity continued for many years with perhaps one of the most well known versions by Billie Holiday with Lester Young and Teddy Wilson in 1937. In the late twenties / early thirties it was often played with the lyrics sung by a vocal trio.


For our two takes we are staying with two differing versions from 1929. Our first take is fairly unknown version from 1929 by Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys. The vocal trio is led by one of the most popular vocalists of the time, Smith Ballew. One YouTube commentator says: "The vocal trio records of this period seem so representative of that collegiate image -- argyle sweaters, ukuleles, raccoon coats, flasks ... that has come to be the pictorial view of the exciting Jazz Age. Who can find fault with Smith's clear tone and a sweet and clever tune by one of the great teams of the time ... who, incidentally, remained prominent into the Great Depression?"






I'd stay home each night
When you say you'll phone
You don't and I'm left all alone
Singin' the blues and sighin'

Wallace Theodore Kirkeby, generally known as Ed Kirkeby, was assistant manager of the Columbia New York studios in 1916. He left to go into publishing but kept his connections to arrange sessions for groups he would put together. He had access to twenty-two recording studios. In 1921, he took over a young group called the California Ramblers and re-organised it.


As time went by, various band members came and went until the group was disbanded in 1927 when several musicians moved to the UK. From then, the groups he put together recorded under a variety of pseudonyms - Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys; The Golden Gate Orchestra; The Varsity Eight; The Seven Hot Air Men; etc.. Music included popular tunes of the day, often rhythmically targeted at collegiate audiences and featuring star soloists - Adrian Rollini was, for a time, given the job of organising this. Because of the number of recordings and changing personnel, much of the discography is not available. One discography gives Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys' version of Mean To Me as being recorded on March 6th 1929 and probably includes Phil Napoleon (trumpet) and Tommy Dorsey (trombone).

You treat me coldly
Each day in the year
You always scold me
Whenever somebody is near


For our second take and to illustrate what was going on at the time, another group under Phil Napoleon's name (Napoleon's Emperors) recorded Mean To Me two months later for the Victor label in May 1929.  It is interesting to compare the two recordings. The Emperors on this occasion were Phil Napoleon (trumpet); Tommy Dorsey (trombone); Jimmy Dorsey (clarinet, saxophone); Joe Venuti (violin); Frank Signorelli (piano); Eddie Lang (guitar) and Ted Napoleon (drums).






 Dear it must be
Great fun to be mean to me

You shouldn''t, for can't you see

What you mean to me.

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