A White Christmas in Calcutta


This cheery Christmas tune was recorded in sunny Calcutta in September 1942, only weeks after it had been released in the US as part of a set of songs from the film Holiday Inn. That version, sung by Bing Crosby, has since sold more than 50 million copies and is thought to be the highest-selling single of all time.

This version by Teddy Weatherford’s All Star Swing Band includes the African-American saxophonist Roy Butler, who lived in India for more than a decade. He’d made his way to India in the early 1930s, after performing in Europe and South America with an array of outfits.
He was a regular at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay in the mid-1930s, playing alongside the trumpet player Crickett Smith, the pianist Teddy Weatherford and the saxophonist Mickey Correa. He was known as the Reverend for his abstemious ways. When the other musicians went for a drink, he’d have ice cream.

He returned to the US in 1944, as the Japanese marched steadily on the Indian border. But his homecoming was less than happy. “The big changes had taken place,” he told interviewers from Storyville magazine. “Talking movies had come in, killing off jobs for thousands of musicians in the thirties, jukeboxes were now placed in all the taverns and pubs. Records that were available in all the leading bands in the homes had changed the entertainment habits of millions. The dance halls had folded like a deflated accordian, so gigs were scarce.”

So after a lifetime of being a performer, Butler went to work for the US Postal Department. He died in 1997, aged 97.  Here’s an obit from the Chicago Tribune.

These tracks are from the Marco Pacci collection.  Nester West is the vocalist.

Be Careful It’s My Heart by ALL STAR SWING BAND by Taj Mahal Foxtrot

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