In October of 1942, Billboard magazine — which had been tracking best-selling records since 1936 — added a new chart to its listings, one that it called the Harlem Hit Parade. (It would eventually be renamed the R&B chart.) The very first #1 record on the newly-created chart was “Take It and Git” by Andy Kirk and and His Clouds of Joy.
Andrew Dewey Kirk was born near Cincinnati (across the river in Kentucky) but raised in Denver, a city with a rich tradition in musical education under the long-time guidance of Paul Whiteman’s father. By the time Kirk was in his late teens he’d learned tuba and saxophone well enough to play in a local group, and within a few years had relocated to Dallas and joined a more renowned band, one that called itself Terrence Holder’s Dark Clouds of Joy.
By then it was the mid-1920s and the era of hot jazz was really getting underway, but the band didn’t do as well as some and by late in the decade the guys were ready for a change. Holder was kicked to the curb and Kirk was elected the new leader of the group, now based in Kansas City, and it was renamed Twelve Clouds of Joy. (The ‘Twelve’ would later be dropped.)
Although Kirk was just an average instrumentalist himself, he had some talented musicians on board — including future legend Mary Lou Williams playing piano and doing arrangements — and the band did very well for a couple of years, generating several good-selling records along the way. Things did slow down in the early 1930s but the group relocated to New York and rebounded in 1936 with a pop hit on “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” featuring inventive vocalist Pha Terrell.
The band continued to do well for the next decade, with a lot of solid records in addition to its 1942 chart-topper, and at one time or another employed some of the best musicians around. In addition to Williams (and her husband, John, who played sax), alumni included Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Don Byas, Buddy Tate, and many others. But by the late 1940s Kirk was ready to slow down a little, and he dissolved the band and for the most part devoted himself to business concerns from then on. He did serve as a musician’s union official for a while, and later made an attempt at a comeback, but not too much came of it. He was 94 when he died in 1992.
Andy Kirk And His Clouds Of Joy – “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” Andy Kirk And His Clouds Of Joy – “Take It and Git”
(Video removed at source.)