Original Capitol Orchestra | Mark Berresford RARE RECORDS | Mark Berresford

Original Capitol Orchestra

The Original Capitol Orchestra, London, 1923. Cartoon by 'Poli' from the Dancing World magazine. The personnel of the band changed during their tenure in England but the full identification of the band depicted is as follows:- --- Evans (bass), Bill Sell   (drums), (there is debate over the actual surname - according to author/researcher Bruce Vermazen, a relative, the  spelling should be Sell), Byron Webb (alto sax), Les Russuck (banjo) (often shown as Russick but all documentary evidence examined shows Russuck), Leon van Straten (viloin, director), John V. Sheppard (piano), Vic Sell (cornet), ---- Carter (sax), Richard MacDonald (trombone). The Sell brothers, were from Donnellson, Iowa and it has often been commented that Vic Sell's playing was very strongly influenced by such New Orleans trumpeters as Johnny De Droit and Albert Brunies.  I now have evidence courtesy of Bruce Vermazen that Vic and Bill Sell spent the winter of 1921/2 with The Melody Makers, the resident band on the Streckfus line Mississippi paddle steamer 'Capitol' based for the winter season in New Orleans. According to an unidentified newspaper report:- " There were six men in the band, and they thought that they were pretty fair, but when they hit gay New Orleans, they discovered that they had vastly over-rated themselves, or rather the crowds that boarded the big excursion boat discovered it for them, and told the ship's officers they wanted none of this northern corn. "You see how it was," Vic said later. "We just had to, or get our notice, so every night when we pulled in to the dock, after the last excursion, we started hunting and listening. We made every dive in New Orleans, white, tan and black, and all the big night clubs. We listened to every band and every one that seemed to have something we liked, we watched and listened, then next morning we went onto the orchestra stand and the "Capitol" and hammered away till we could do it the way we thought it ought to be done." "... one night a fellow who said he was a purser off an English ship, listened and stood around half the evening. He came up and us if we'd all like to go to London. Of course we said yes - - just brushed it off... because we'd heard so much of that kind of talk. "... He said his ship was sailing next morning and that he'd see us when he came back, so we forgot about him. Then one day he did come back and he had the contracts. Six months at Rector's Cafe in London! Did we sign? I'll say we did!"