Leo Slezak in the Pathé Studio (c. 1913)

MSP-TMW-1914_slezak-patheThe location is probably Vienna, reputedly the site of Slezak’s 1913 Pathé session. The photo was reproduced in the September 1914 Talking Machine World, just as the New York–based Pathé Frères Phonograph Company (the French company’s U.S. licensee) was preparing to unveil Pathé discs to the American public. The company had only recently begun to make its own recordings and thus had to rely heavily on imported discs, like Slezak’s, to fill the initial catalog.

The oversized cylinder master, from which the disc masters would be transcribed pantographically, can be seen at the far right. This photo (along with others taken in the American studio and in various foreign locations) contradicts the popular anecdotal tale that Pathé’s recording equipment was a jealously guarded secret, hidden behind locked doors and never to be glimpsed by performers or the public.

The Playlist • The Roosevelts (1912, 1920)

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You wouldn’t know it from the recent Ken Burns special, but Theodore Roosevelt was no stranger to recording. Here are two of his Edison cylinders, recorded in his Oyster Bay home — politicians were among the very few to whom recording companies would dispatch a mobile unit at the time. His sister Corinne’s only known commercial recording, backing Warren G. Harding in the 1920 presidential election, is among the rarest of the Nation’s Forum issues. And finally, we have a young FDR, in his first known recording, already touching on the themes that would put him in the White House twelve years later.

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THEODORE ROOSEVELT: Social and Industrial Justice

Sagamore Hill (Oyster Bay, NY): c. July 1912
Edison Amberol 1147 (released September 1912)

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THEODORE ROOSEVELT: The Right of the People to Rule

Sagamore Hill (Oyster Bay, NY): c. July 1912
Edison Amberol 1149 (released September 1912)

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CORINNE ROOSEVELT ROBINSON: Safeguard America!

New York: July 18, 1920
Nation’s Forum N.F. 18 (Columbia mx. 49864 – 1)

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FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: Americanism

New York: c. Late July 1920
Nation’s Forum N.F. 20 (Columbia mx. 49871 – 1)

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U-S Everlasting Cylinder Artists (1911)

From various 1911 issues of The Talking Machine World:

MSP-TMW-1911_u-s-e_AClockwise, from top: Frank C. Stanley, Henry Burr, Arthur Collins, Charles D’Almaine, Ada Jones, Byron G. Harlan, Fred Van Eps, Vess L. Ossman. Stanley died just a few months before this ad appeared, but most of his records remained in the catalog until U-S Phonograph’s end.
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MSP-TMW-1911_u-s-e-C MSP-TMW_u-s-e_B

 

This ad contains the only photo we’ve seen of the elusive Joe Brown, who also recorded for several of the smaller disc companies (including International Record, as early as 1906).

For details on all U-S Everlasting recordings, be sure to check out Indestructible and U-S Everlasting Cylinders: An Illustrated History and Cylinderography (Kurt Nauck & Allan Sutton), available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.cover_indestructible-x200.

The Playlist • Lev Sibiriakov (St. Petersburg Recordings, 1910–1913)

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LEV SIBIRIAKOV: Field-Marshall Death (Musorgsky; “Songs and Dances of Death”)

St. Petersburg, Russia: November 12, 1913
Amour Gramophone Record M 022327 (face # 022328)  (mx. 2904c)

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LEV SIBIRIAKOV: Judith — Cease your grumbling (Serov)

St. Petersburg, Russia: March 15, 1913
Monarch Record “Gramophone” 022319 (mx. 2730c)

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LEV SIBIRIAKOV: Boris Godunov — Once at eve (Musorgsky)

St. Petersburg, Russia: September 25, 1911
Monarch Record “Gramophone” 022233 (mx. 2439c)

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LEV SIBIRIAKOV & MARIA MICHAILOWA: Faust — Church Scene (Gounod)

St. Petersburg, Russia: September 27, 1910
Muzpared 024048 (mx. 2045c)

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All with uncredited orchestras and conductors. Discographical data are from the original Gramophone Company files, courtesy of Dr. Alan Kelly.

The Pathé Constellation of Stars (1919)

This double-page spread appeared in a special supplement section of the November 1919 Talking Machine World.

MSP-TMW_11-1919_pathe-2 MSP-TMW_11-1919_pathestars-At this point, Pathé was still issuing only sapphire-ball vertical-cut records under its own label, but it had begun producing universal-cut masters for several client labels, and standard lateral-cut discs were in the planning stages. Watch for Mainspring’s Pathé-Perfect Discography, Volume I (coming this November), which includes Pathé vertical-cut recordings that were later dubbed in lateral-cut form and reissued jointly on Pathé Actuelle and Perfect.

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The Playlist • Red Nichols & his Five Pennies (1926–1927)

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RED NICHOLS & HIS FIVE PENNIES: Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider

Brunswick Building, New York: August 15, 1927 — P.M. Session, Room #1
Brunswick (English) 01536 (mx. E 24232)

“Printed arrangement,” per Brunswick ledger.

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RED NICHOLS & HIS FIVE PENNIES: Mean Dog Blues

Brunswick Building, New York: June 25, 1927 — A.M. session, Room #1
Brunswick 3597 (mx. E 23755)

Red Nichols arrangement, per Brunswick ledger.

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RED NICHOLS & HIS FIVE PENNIES: Boneyard Shuffle

Brunswick Building, New York: December 20, 1926 — A.M. session, Room #1
Brunswick 3477 (mx. E 21597)

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Personnel for all of Nichols’ pre-war recordings can be found in Brian Rust’s classic Jazz & Ragtime Records 1897-1942, Sixth Edition — out-of-print in book form, but available exclusively from Mainspring Press in a searchable CD-ROM edition.
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The Hoxie Pallophotophone (1922) — Roots of the Brunswick “Light-Ray” System

This article from the December 1922 Wireless Age is one of the earliest explanations of Charles Hoxie’s Pallophotophone electrical recording system. At this early stage it was being used to make optical sound recordings on film, but Hoxie noted that the system could easily be adapted to conventional disc recording.

The Victor Talking Machine Company experimented with the device beginning on December 8, 1922, under the supervision of in-house engineer Albertis Hewitt. After two weeks of testing, Victor management rejected it. The breakthrough for Hoxie came in 1925, when the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company — faced with Columbia’s and Victor’s strangle-hold on the new Western Electric system — turned to the Pallophotophone (which it promptly renamed the “Light-Ray” system) out of sheer desperation. Badly flawed, it was replaced with a more conventional system in 1927, but in the meantime the Pallophotophone allowed Brunswick to compete with the new Columbia and Victor electrical recordings.

Recording the ‘Twenties (available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries) includes four chapters detailing the conversion to electrical recording.

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Highlights from “The Columbia Record” • Indestructible and the 15¢ Wax Cylinder Sell-Off (1909)

Today we start a new series of highlights from a long-forgotten dealer publication, The Columbia Record. The first two pages below, from the June 1909 issue, deal with the remaindering of Columbia’s two-minute wax cylinder inventory following the company’s purchase of the Indestructible Phonographic Record Company — producers of the Indestructible celluloid cylinder. The third page is from the February 1910 issue, by which time Columbia was marketing a four-minute Indestructible to compete with Edison fragile wax Amberols.

You’ll find the whole Indestructible story, and details of the company’s complete output, in Indestructible and U-S Everlasting Cylinders: An Illustrated History and Cylinderography (Kurt Nauck & Allan Sutton), available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

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The Playlist • Thomas Edison Gets the Blues (1923–1924)

Thomas Edison was a bigoted man (as were many of his contemporaries in the recording industry), so it’s not surprising that he refused to enter the race-record market in the early 1920s. But he relented briefly in 1923–1924 and allowed a few “blues” titles by singers from Joe Davis’ talent pool to be recorded.

The 1923 Diamond Disc releases were “red-starred,” a warning to dealers that the company expected below-average sales and would not accept returns. The 1924 masters were shelved for many months until Arthur Walsh (in a memo preserved at the Edison National Historic Site, in which he refers to the records as “nigger blues”) finally urged their release for financial reasons. But marketing was nil, and distribution was restricted to Southern states, even though all the performers were based in New York, where they probably were better known in the North than in the South. Edison used the resulting poor sales to justify a quick exit the race-record market.

Some of the titles were dubbed from the disc masters to Blue Amberol cylinders, which are the source of today’s playlist.

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HELEN BAXTER (as ELLEN COLEMAN):
Cruel Back Bitin’ Blues

New York: July 10, 1923 (acc: Lemuel Fowler’s Orchestra)
Edison Blue Amberol 4915 (dubbed from disc mx. 9065 – )

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HELEN BAXTER (as ELLEN COLEMAN):
You Got Everything a Sweet Mama Needs (But Me)

New York: July 10, 1923 (acc: Lemuel Fowler’s Orchestra)
Edison Blue Amberol 4911 (dubbed from disc mx. 9066 – )

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ETHEL FINNIE:
You’re Gonna Wake Up Some Mornin, But Papa Will Be Gone

New York: August 27, 1924 (acc: Porter Grainger, piano)
Edison Blue Amberol 4917 (mx. 15836, dubbed from disc mx. 9675 – B)
(Unissued in disc form)

There’s much more about Edison, the 1920s “blues craze,” and the development of the race-record industry in Recording the ‘Twenties, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

The Playlist • Flight of the Flagship (1940 American Airlines Promo)

A souvenir of the days before planes became flying cattle-cars. The co-author of this elaborate production was Stanley Washburn, Jr., who championed the dirigible as the airship of the future before signing on with American Airlines. He was later director of promotions for Pan Am, published a number of books, and invented the Bongo Board (an exercise device designed to improve balance). Captain Bill Lester, who explains the ear-piercing radio guidance system on side 2, was chief of American Airline’s Pilot Training School.

FLIGHT OF THE FLAGSHIP (Part 1): THE DEPARTURE FROM LA GUARDIA FIELD, NEW YORK, OF AMERRICAN AIRLINES’ MERCURY TRANSCONTINENTAL SKYSLEEPER
Dubbed at Reeves Sound Studios (New York) March 1940
General 6001 (a)   (mx. R-2740)

FLIGHT OF THE FLAGSHIP (Part 2): THE RADIO BEAM (EXPLAINED BY CAPT. BILL LESTER) / THE ARRIVAL IN LOS ANGELES
Dubbed at Reeves Sound Studios (New York) March 1940
General 6001 (b)  (mx. R-2739) 


Book Updates: “Pathé–Perfect” to Press / “Recording the 20s” Back in Stock

COVERS_pathe-1_x3Volume I of The Pathé–Perfect Discography goes to press this Friday and will go on sale in early November. It covers all joint Pathé-Actuelle issues in the Race Record, Popular Vocal, Star, Standard / Miscellaneous, and Classical / Operatic series (you can find more details in the Mainspring Press Newsletter). Volume II, covering the jazz and dance band  issues, will release in 2015.

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COVERS-rec-20s_x3Recording the ‘Twenties, our most popular title, is now back in stock after having sold out its fourth printing a few weeks ago.

Vox Comes to America, Advertises Chaliapin’s Daughter (1923)

Vox LPs are well-known to classical collectors, but the German company had attempted to enter the American market long before the high-fidelity era. The ads below, from The Talking Machine World for November and December 1923, announced the company’s first arrival in the U.S.

Although Vox made a high-quality record, most of its artists were unfamiliar to the average American. For their early U.S. advertisements, Vox apparently settled on Feodor Chaliapin’s daughter Lydia as the one name that Americans might readily recognize. The recognition factor, probably coupled with some lingering anti-German sentiment, seems have doomed Vox’s attempt from the start. After failing to attract much attention, the Vox Corporation of America was dissolved on March 11, 1927. Vox’s second American venture, launched in the late 1940s, fared far better.

We’ve seen just one example of the a Vox domestic red-label disc (pressed from a foreign master). Although Vox called them “Red Seals” in the ad below, that name was a registered trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company, and it does not appear on the label of the inspected copy. We’ve yet to see a Vox “Green Seal.” The domestic label design differs markedly from the designs used on Vox’s foreign-made pressings, which were exported to the U.S. for a time and still turn up on occasion.

MSP_TMW_23_vox_Nov-Dec

Paramount Records Before the Blues (May 1918)

This stunning double-sided ad ran in the May 1918 Talking Machine World. Paramount had recently introduced 10″ discs to replace its initial 9″ offerings; the last of the latter appear in the No. 6 Supplement, alongside the 10″ offerings. At this early stage, the trademark eagle perched on a phonograph rather than the more familiar globe.

The large structure to the left is the Paramount pressing plant at Grafton, Wisconsin, a converted water-powered mill that already had a long and varied history when this ad appeared — you’ll find the whole fascinating story of the Grafton complex in the new expanded edition of Alex van der Tuuk’s Paramount’s Rise and Fall. The smaller structure to the right would eventually house the studio in which the likes of Son House and Skip James recorded.

In 1918, however, Paramount was recording exclusively in New York, and doing its best to imitate Columbia and Victor. Note the usual NYC studio free-lancers — Henry Burr, Collins & Harlan, Louise & Ferera, Arthur Fields, Grace Kerns, the Shannon Four, et al. Even some of the portraits are the same as those used in the major companies’ catalogs. Fortunately for posterity, the powers at NYRL eventually realized there wasn’t much money to be made by following the pack, and instead turned their attention to the new race-record market (although there wasn’t much money to be made there either, as it would turn out).

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The Playlist • “Don’t Sell It — Don’t Give It Away” (Three Ways)

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OSCAR WOODS (acc. own guitar): Don’t Sell It — Don’t Give It Away

New Orleans: March 21, 1936
Decca 7219 (mx. 60849)

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BUDDY [OSCAR] WOODS with THE WAMPUS CATS:
Don’t Sell It — Don’t Give It Away

San Antonio, Texas: October 30, 1937
Vocalion 03906 (mx. SA-2845 – 1)

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DALLAS JAMBOREE BAND (Carl Martin, vocal): Dusting the Frets

Dallas: September 25, 1935
Vocalion 03092 (mx. DAL-153 – 2)

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King Oliver and Erskine Tate Sign with Okeh (1923)

From the August 1923 Talking Machine World. According to other trade-paper accounts, the recording engineer on this trip was Charles Hibbard, with Ralph Peer (in his pre-Victor incarnation) tagging along as supervisor. Oliver and Tate apparently were something of an after-thought; the main purpose of this trip was to record material for the Rational Rhythm typing-instruction discs, which occupied much of Hibbard’s and Peer’s time.

The temporary studio mentioned in the article was set up in the Chicago headquarters of the Consolidated Talking Machine Company — the same firm that just a few years earlier bought out the Standard Talking Machine and O’Neill-James (Busy Bee) operations and dabbled for a time in marketing relabeled Columbia pressings. Its president, E. A. Fearn, played an important role in promoting Okeh’s race-record series; the whole Okeh–Consolidated story appears in Recording the ‘Twenties, available from Mainspring Press.

MSP-TMW_tate-oliver-okeh-19…And two gems from a later Oliver session for Okeh. Note that these were listed in the standard catalog rather than the 8000 Race Record series, an indication of  the wide appeal of Oliver’s band:
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KING OLIVER’S JAZZ BAND: Riverside Blues

227-229 W. Washington Street, Chicago: c. Late October / early November 1923
Released March 1924
Okeh 40034 (mx. 8484 – A)

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KING OLIVER’S JAZZ BAND: Working Man Blues

227-229 W. Washington Street, Chicago: c. Late October / early November 1923
Released March 1924
Okeh 40034 (mx. 8486 – A)

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