I have been researching any and all institutions for recordings that were made by my great-grandfather, Caleb O’Connor. He was a guitarist, banjo player, arranger, and even a bandleader at one point in the early 1930s. He got his start at what he described as “connector places” in Connecticut, such as the Ritz Ballroom in Bridgeport, CT and the Roger Sherman Ballroom in New Haven. He was a native of New Haven. I’m not exactly sure what the timeline is, but he claimed that he played with Mal Hallet and his orchestra. I have not been able to find his name on any records, or written down elsewhere. He went by the nickname “Kay” O’Connor in those days. He was also in a banjo duo with a friend named Bill White, who went on to perform in Europe. I have not found anything on his friend Bill. He went to the University of Alabama with Bill White in 1930, and became very involved with music at that time. He was a member of the university Glee Club, which later promoted him and his friend’s banjo duo to travel and give concerts throughout the Southern U.S. I have not found anything that may have been recorded by the two while they were on the road. They called themselves in concert the “Banjo Buddies”. A notable performance by them was for the Miss America Show of 1933, which was held at the Poli Palace theatre in Bridgeport, CT. In 1932 or 1933, Caleb started his own band, which he named after himself: Kay’s Commander’s. They played at fraternity and sorority gatherings, and some band members that went onto become famous musicians were: Moe Zudicoff aka Buddy Morrow, Al Klink (played with Glenn Miller), and Jerry Jerome (Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman). I cannot locate a recording of this band. By the 1940s, Caleb was working in Hartford, CT at either the Hotel Bond or the State Theatre, or both. At this time, about 1941, Charlie Barnet came to play at the State Theatre, where he met Caleb and apparently asked him to be his guitarist after his original player was in a car accident. He was doing more arranging for bands at this time, and according to a 1943 article, arranged the tune “Dark Forest” for the Buddy James orchestra. I have searched, but cannot find a recording by ‘Buddy James’ or of this song, by any band. The only other song I can name is titled “Each Time I Close My Eyes”, which Caleb wrote before departing for the Army in 1943. I have sought out a recording of this as well. His musical activities after the war were less frequent, but he still was arranging into the mid 1970s. He made one last arrangement for Middlebury College in Vermont, before donating his music library, and who knows if there were records…probably.
I have searched audio archives, from the Library of Congress to Discogs, and have contacted the University of Alabama, Middlebury College, etc. Nothing. Unfortunately, all that music that got donated (and now lost) was valuable to somebody, his grandson. Any help finding records is appreciated, and if you have a relative that may have known Caleb, I’d love to hear their story.