The earliest history of Oscar Alemán's life and career has been discussed in the contribution His European Career recently released on this Oscar Alemán blog. In the Dutch Doctor Jazz Magazine ( DJM 206 - September 2009) Christian Van Den Broeck published an article titled Robert de Kers ( 1906-1987) which contains some new information about the period Oscar left the Harry Fleming Band and started as a member of the Josephine Baker Baker Boys. As the article was written in Dutch most of you won't have access to this source, I'll post the info today in this small contribution.
Another article, Harry Fleming - "Der Dandy aus Harlem", written by Rainer Lotz gives some detailed information about the Harry Fleming band and the participation of Oscar Alemán in this group. This one is in German, so a good reason too to translate the info into English. I've combined both articles to introduce you some new info about this period. The family name of Harry Fleming is written as Fleming or Flemming. I have chosen for the former, which seems to be the eldest form: Fleming.
In the winter of 1928-1929 Harry Fleming performed in South America and on the 24th of January 1929 his revue Hello Jazz got its premiere in Teatro 18 del Julio in Montevideo ( Uruguay). Les Loups, Oscar Alemán and Gaston Bueno Lobos, were one of the acts. In Februari - March of 1929 the revue came to Europe and in March 1929 they performed in Paris, where Ray Butler, an American saxophone and clarinet player, joined the group. In June 1929 they performed for the very first time in Spain in Hello Jazz - Das horas en Nueva York in the Teatro del Gran Kursaal from San Sabastian. They also performed the month to follow in Barcelona, Saragossa and Valencia. In July 1929 Sam Wooding y Alabarderos joined the group for a series of performances. The Harry Fleming revue played at the Exposicion Internacional in Barcelona ( summer 1929) and several more gigs in Spain. Rainer Lotz lists it all. In April 1930 Harry Fleming played in Brussels at the Palais d'ëté and mid-June 1930 in Amsterdam.
Robert De Kers ( photo courtesy: Jean Robert archive) The article about Robert De Kers starts to tell about Robert De Kers earliest career, playing in the Hot Pickers directed by Gianni Del Dello, an Italian band, and his return to Belgium in September 1929 to play with the Candrix brothers. (Fud and Jozef). He played in the Merry Grill, a club in Brussels, that was closed in 1930. Robert started in Cabaret - Theatre des Dix Heures with the Harry Fleming band, featuring Egide Van Gils, Rene Compere, Jules Testaert and a guitar duo, named Los Lobos ( Les Loups) with guitar player Oscar Alemán.
The next month the Harry Fleming band played at the Varieté Theater Die Drei Linden in Leipzig-Lindenau. During this period they performed at a gig at the Hannover Tivoli during the second half of July 1930 and a month later Harry Fleming was billed as .. mit seiner Amerikanischen Yazz-Varieté-Schau (sic) in the Hamburger Hansa-Theater. In the program the guitar duo Les Loups was mentioned as one of the parts of the program. At that time the Harry Fleming group was labeled as the 16 Blue Birds-Yazz. In October 1930 the Harry Fleming revue Hello Jazz performed at the Nürnberger Apollo Theater and now Les Loups is billed as ... die berühmten Hawaiian-Gitarren-Spieler (sic). During the month of November and December 1930 the revue was playing at the Hamburger Hansa-Theater again. In December 1930 the band performed also in Berlin and it is interesting to learn that three Dutch musicians from the Ramblers Dansorkest were performing as a vocal trio (!): Maurits Dreese, Eddie Meenk and Wim Poppink.
In January 1931 the revue played at the Saarbrücker Apollo and late January 1931 they were in Mailand, San Remo and Genova. In May 1931 they performed at the Teatro Nuevo in Barcelona as the Follies de 1931 and in the Teatro Romea in Madrid. It must have been around this time that Los Lobos left the Harry Fleming band.
The Harry Fleming band, a very successful band, in artistic way, but financially a mess. While in Spain the band had to be discontinued. Roy Butler, an US musicians who played with Harry Fleming since March 1929, when he joined the Fleming band in Paris, said about Harry Fleming: Personally, he wasn't a bad fellow, just a bit unwise. He was always overspending money he didn't have. He'd hire a show into a city without having enough to get them there. ....... We never knew if he was going to get enough money to get to the next theatre or not ( Storyville no. 71 June-July 1977 ) The Roy Butler's Story (Peter Darke and Ralph Gulliver)(p. 184).
Robert De Kers, real name Robert De Keersemaecker, started his own band, the Cabaret Kings, with Mike Ortuso, banjo player, Jules Testart, Carus, Chacarra, R. Echapare and two Spanish saxophone players. Also Oscar Aleman became part of the band, that played at the Alcazar and the Stambul in Madrid. Rainer Lotz tells that Gaston Bueno Lobo traveled to Parish to play for Josephine Baker. Robert De Kers ( Rainer Lotz names him René De Kers, which seems to be wrong) should have introduced Gaston Bueno Lobo to Josephine, but the members of Josephine’s band didn't want Lobo. They loved to have that brilliant other guitar player that had stayed in Spain, Oscar Alemán. And so it happened. Gaston Lobo returned to Rio de Janeiro, desperate and depressed. He became a musician for the Radio Mayrink Veiga in Rio for which he played up to 1937. He recorded in 1932 for Columbia and in 1936 for Odeon with the guitar player Laurindo Almeida, who was playing since 1936 for that same Brazilian radio broadcast networks. Gaston Bueno Lobo passed away in 1939. It is said that he had suffered from cancer and committed suicide. Jørgen Larsen wrote about that in a contribution New Info on Gaston Bueno Lobo. As told, Oscar Alemán, together with Jules Testaert found a job in the revue band of Josephine Baker, The Baker Boys, directed by Leon Jacobs. There were nine Belgian musicians in that band. Oscar Aleman also started to perform with his old Harry Fleming colleagues Rene Compere and Jules Testaert and when Josephine Baker asked Robert De Kers to form a new band, Robert traveled to his native country, Belgium and engaged several musicians: The new band was called The 16 Baker Boys and contained Jean Omer on sax, Jules Testaert on trombone, Pierre de Bom at the drums, Robert De Kers on trumpet ( and of course musical director), Fritz Stammer at the piano, Michel (Mike) Ortuso and Oscar Alemán at the guitars, Gabor Radics violin, Arthur Saguet sax, Fernand Coppieters piano, Francois "Sus" Seluppens bas, tuba and sousaphone, David Van Wezel trumpet, Lucien Devroy piano and J. Brys violin. With this 16 Baker Boys Robert De Kers joined Josephine Baker on tours along France, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy and Switzerland. The article reads that in January 1933 Robert De Kers restarted his band The Cabaret Kings, without Oscar Alemán, and performed at the Kursaal in Oostende ( along the Belgian coast), The Century Hotel in Antwerp and the Atlanta in Brussel.