Monday October 12, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Three Blind Mice

On this Day:

In 1609, the children’s rhyme “Three Blind Mice” was published in London in a book edited, and possibly written by, Thomas Ravenscroft.

“Three Blind Mice” is an English-language nursery rhyme and musical round. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 3753.

The modern words are:

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?

A version of this rhyme, together with music (in a minor key), was published in Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie (1609). The editor of the book, and possible author of the rhyme, was Thomas Ravenscroft. The original lyrics are:

Three Blinde Mice,
Three Blinde Mice,
Dame Iulian,
Dame Iulian,
the Miller and his merry olde Wife,
shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife.

Attempts to read historical significance into the words have led to the speculation that this musical round was written earlier and refers to Queen Mary I of England blinding and executing three Protestant bishops. However, the Oxford Martyrs, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer, were burned at the stake, not blinded; although if the rhyme was made by crypto-Catholics, the mice’s “blindness” could refer to their Protestantism. However, as can be seen above, the earliest lyrics don’t talk about harming the three blind mice, and the first known date of publication is 1609, well after Queen Mary died.

The rhyme only entered children’s literature in 1842 when it was published in a collection by James Orchard Halliwell (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

The Three Blind mice were chewing on a roll of movie film.  One of them said to the others: “I think the book was better.”

Second, a Song:

Orie Frank Trumbauer (May 30, 1901 – June 11, 1956) was one of the leading jazz saxophonists of the 1920s and 1930s. His main instrument was the C-melody saxophone, a now-uncommon instrument between an alto and tenor saxophone in size and pitch. He also played alto saxophone, bassoon, clarinet and several other instruments.

He was a composer of sophisticated sax melodies, one of the major small group jazz bandleaders of the 1920s and 1930s. His landmark recording of “Singin’ the Blues” with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang in 1927, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1977. His major recordings included “Krazy Kat”, “Red Hot”, “Plantation Moods”, “Trumbology”, “Tailspin”, “Singin’ the Blues”, “Wringin’ an’ Twistin'”, and “For No Reason at All in C” with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang, and the first hit recording of “Georgia On My Mind” in 1931.

“Tram” was described as one of the most influential and important jazz saxophonists of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly influencing the sound of Lester Young. He is also remembered for his musical collaborations with Bix Beiderbecke, a relationship that produced some of the finest and most innovative jazz records of the late 1920s. Trumbauer and Beiderbecke also collaborated with jazz guitarist Eddie Lang.

He was featured in the 2001 documentary Jazz by Ken Burns on PBS on the topic of the first jazz soloists and as an iconic image to symbolize jazz music.

Born of part Cherokee ancestry in Carbondale, Illinois, United States, Trumbauer grew up in St Louis, Missouri, the son of a musical mother who directed saxophone and theater orchestras. His first important professional engagements were with the Edgar Benson and Ray Miller bands, shortly followed by the Mound City Blue Blowers, a local group that became nationally famous through their recordings on Brunswick.

Trumbauer recruited Bix Beiderbecke for Jean Goldkette’s Victor Recording Orchestra, of which he became musical director. After leaving Goldkette, he and Beiderbecke worked briefly in Adrian Rollini’s short lived “New Yorkers” band, then joined Paul Whiteman in 1927. The same year, Trumbauer signed a contract with OKeh and released a 78 recording of “Singin’ the Blues”, featuring Beiderbecke on cornet and Eddie Lang on guitar. “Singin’ the Blues” was a jazz classic originally recorded and released by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1920. The Okeh recording became a hit. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra recorded it in 1931 in the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke version.

Trumbauer played with Whiteman for eight of the following nine years. He had a separate contract with OKeh from 1927 through 1930, he recorded some of the small group jazz recordings of the era, usually including Beiderbecke until the April 30, 1929, session. He recorded a handful of sides in 1931 for Brunswick. In 1932, he organized a band in Chicago and recorded for Columbia, but gave up the orchestra and returned to New York late in 1933. During 1934–1936, while again a member of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, he also made a series of recordings for Brunswick and Victor, often including Jack Teagarden.

In 1936 he led The Three T’s, featuring the Teagarden brothers; in 1938, he and Mannie Klein started a band which they co-led; he billed himself as “Frank Trombar.” In 1939, Trumbauer, a skilled pilot, left music (after recording a series of records for Varsity) to join the Civil Aeronautics Authority.

During World War II he was a test pilot with North American Aviation, and trained military crews in the operation of the B-25 Mitchell bomber. He continued to work for the CAA after the war, and also played in the NBC Orchestra. After 1947, although he continued to play and record, he earned most of his income in aviation.

Trumbauer died of a heart attack in Kansas City, Missouri, where he had made his home for some years. He was 55 years old.

Lester Young acknowledged and cited Trumbauer as his main influence as a saxophonist. When an interviewer asked Young about his influences, he stated that Frankie Trumbauer was his major influence: “So, it’s Trumbauer?” Young replied: “That was my man.”

His life and career were documented in the biography Tram: The Frank Trumbauer Story by Philip R. Evans and Larry F. Kiner with William Trumbauer (Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers and Scarecrow Press Inc., 1994).

He was featured in Episode 3, “Our Language”, in the 2001 documentary Jazz by Ken Burns on PBS on the topic of pioneering jazz soloists. A photograph of him holding his Holton C-melody saxophone was one of the images chosen by Burns to symbolize jazz. The photo is featured on all the intros and outros as well as in Episode 3, “Our Language”. His 1927 solo in “Singin’ the Blues” is analyzed as well.

“Singin’ the Blues”, released by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke on cornet and Eddie Lang on guitar in 1927 as Okeh 40772-B, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1977. Frankie Trumbauer played the C-melody saxophone solos on the landmark jazz recording.

In 2005, his 1927 recording of “Singin’ the Blues” with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang was placed on the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

In 2008, his recordings of “Ostrich Walk” and “There’ll Come a Time” with Bix Beiderbecke were included on the soundtrack to the Brad Pitt movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story from Tales of the Jazz Age.

Ken Burns used a photograph of him in the 2001 documentary Jazz, on PBS, on the topic of pioneering jazz soloists and as an image to represent jazz music.

Trumbauer’s compositions include:

  • “Trumbology” (1927)
  • “Plantation Moods” with David Rose
  • “Red Hot”, “Wringin’ an’ Twistin'” with Fats Waller
  • “Barbed Wire Blues”
  • “Troubled”
  • “I Like That”
  • “Bass Drum Dan”
  • “Break it Down”
  • “I’m Glad”
  • “Choo Choo”
  • “Sun Spots”
  • “Eclipse”
  • “Meteor”
  • “Krazy Kat” with Chauncey Morehouse
  • “G Blues”
  • “Tailspin” with Jimmy Dorsey
  • “Crying All Day”
  • “Loved One”
  • “Apple Blossoms” with Joe Venuti, Lennie Hayton, and Eddie Lang
  • “Three Blind Mice” with Chauncey Morehouse
  • “The Mayor of Alabam'”
  • “Flight of a Haybag”
  • “Cinderella’s Wedding Day”
  • “Runnin’ Ragged”
  • “For No Reason at All in C” with Bix Beiderbecke (1927), which was released as a single 78 on Okeh and subsequently reissued on Columbia and Parlophone (per Wikipedia).

Here is Frank Trumbauer & His Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke playing Frank Trumbauer and Chauncey Morehouse’s “Three Blind Mice”  in a 1927 recording with the incredible sound restoration and video done by Atticus Jazz (per  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.” – Matthew Henry

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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