I'm not expert in Les Baxter, but I do know some things about his
intersection with Yma Sumac (see my article re Sumac in Fall, 2012 ARSC
Journal).  I know that Baxter had already done one or more LP albums before
Voice of the Xtabay in 1950, but I have often wondered about the sales
figures for his albums, pre- and post- Yma Sumac (the other Sumac album
with Baxter's arranging/conducting work on it is Legend of the Sun
Virgin--and he also composed the songs on the much later Miracles album,
but that's a different story).

There is an interview with Baxter from his later years reproduced in a very
inaccurate book about Sumac by Limansky, in which Baxter seems to have
greatly exaggerated his role in Sumac's career and success.  Baxter's
interview (assuming it has been accurately presented in the book) is laced
with factual inaccuracy.  Contrary to what Baxter reportedly said in this
interview, Sumac obviously read music, spoke English, etc. and was already
musically quite sophisticated, having a decade of experience behind her as
a musical stage performer in South America, including performances of
operatic material and possibly operatic or zarzuela roles.  Baxter
essentially claims to have created Yma Sumac, whom he presents as an
ignorant Peruvian peasant girl, but I will bet that if we had the sales
figures, the opposite is true, as Voice of the Xtabay, Sumac's first
Capitol album, was a huge seller and has never been out of the catalog
since the day it was issued.  I have often thought that Yma Sumac may have
been the best thing that ever happened to Les Baxter with respect to the
exotica movement, of which he became a prime purveyor after 1950.  I know
that he was a band leader of some repute before 1950, but we remember him
today mainly for his exotica albums.  I personally think he did very good
work as the arranger for these Sumac albums, and I don't discredit the role
that the arrangements played in the success of the albums.  But the albums
are about Sumac's extraordinary singing and her own musical material, not
Baxter and his arrangements.  And home and live recordings of Yma Sumac
prior to VOTX also show that she was already Yma Sumac well before she ever
met Baxter--she was already a polished, glamorous and hard working

Baxter's discussion in the interview of how VOTX was recorded is at odds
with the hard evidence that I know about.  All of the tracks for both VOTX
and Legend of the Sun Virgin were in fact pre-recorded with no singer, and
I doubt very much if any wacky recording session with Sumac, Baxter and the
studio orchestra, as "recalled" by Baxter in the interview, ever took
place, and certainly not the piecing together of snippets of this and that
to create the final tracks, as "recalled" by Baxter.  As with her later
Capitol albums, Sumac took the prerecorded accompaniments and then devised
the notes that she would sing, and then came into the studio and recorded
the vocals over the pre-existing accompaniments.  I have tape and disc
copies of both the VOTX and Legend of the Sun Virgin orchestral
accompaniments, owned by Sumac, to prove it.  This was a consistent pattern
with all of her Capitol albums, including the first one.  It would seem
that Baxter was more interested in telling a good story, emphasizing his
own importance, than telling the truth.  There are lots and lots of "Sumac
stories" like this--she was a colorful character and very famous in the
1950's, and it seems like everybody had a story about her.  There is a huge
amount of pure fiction out there about her, including that generated by
Capitol's PR folks (Incan princess, etc.).  I tried to set forth documented
and accurate facts about her in my article.

John Haley

On Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 9:46 AM, David Lewis <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> The discography you might need to compile yourself, as I don't know of a
> single resource for Bax' non-commercial work, but stumble into it all the
> time. He was incredibly productive beyond his
> commercial albums, and a lot of his best work seems to have gone in that
> sphere rather than his regular issue LPs.
> Check out the minute-long theme that starts at 5:08 of this:
> You may wish to contact these folks:
> "Proof ref" sounds like an early stage of album assembly, and perhaps Les
> decided to do his album over once he heard this disc. Bear in mind that Les
> composed and conducted an incredible amount of
> "Hi-Q" music for Capitol, and perhaps this is a gathering of Hi-Qs that was
> assembled in advance of "Space Escapade," a sort of workprint of ideas
> towards the album.
> Uncle Dave
> Lebanon, OH
> On Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 9:29 AM, Roger Kulp <[log in to unmask]
> >wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > I have a nice collection of exotica.I have something like all but three
> of
> > the known  "golden age" records of the 50s and 60s,as well as jukebox
> > mini-LPs,and some of Les Baxter's records not commercially released,like
> > "The Sound of Selling",so I was pretty excited when I found a mint minus
> > Capitol Les Baxter lacquer at a local record show today for $7.00. This
> may
> > be an early version of the "Space Escapade".It says "Music From Outer
> > Space" and Les Baxter,on a Capitol label that looks just like this.
> >
> it says Form 5029 Rev 8/54 on the bottom.It is double sided. There
> > is no master number,but it says "Proof ref" instead at bottom. Does
> anybody
> > know about the recording of this album?Were there working versions that
> > differed from the commercially issued one? While we're at it,can anyone
> > provide a discography of all of Baxter's records not commercially
> > released,such as those made for various company's ad campaigns? Thanks in
> > advanceRoger
> >