The Playlist • Will F. Denny’s Cussing Record (and Other Early Columbia XP Cylinders)

Some more ancient Columbia XP’s from our recent Denver warehouse haul. “Miss Helen Hunt” was about as racy as commercially issued records got during this period — the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and their ilk saw to that.

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WILL F. DENNY: Miss Helen Hunt

New York: c. 1902–1903 (remake of 1899)
Columbia XP cylinder 6365

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LEN SPENCER & PARKE HUNTER: Auction Sale of a Musical Instrument Store

New York: Released August 1903
Columbia XP cylinder 32220

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J. W. MYERS: Up in the Cocoanut Tree

New York: Released November 1903
Columbia XP cylinder 32284

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CAL STEWART: When the Circus Comes Around

New York: Released February 1905
Columbia XP cylinder 32627

Take numbers and other cylinderographical details will appear in The Columbia Cylinderography, which is currently in development for publication by Mainspring Press.

The Two Mrs. Cal Stewarts

A couple of artifacts from the Bill Bryant papers relating to Cal Stewart’s two wives. Stewart’s first wife Florence was pictured on the cover of “Pretty Kitty Clover” (here photocopied from the Library of Congress’ copy). Whether it was actually she performed  as “Mrs. Cal Stewart” on early Uncle Josh recordings will probably never be confirmed for certain, especially given the early record companies’ liberal use of pseudonyms. What is certain is that the voice on early records credited to her is not that of Ada Jones, as some have alleged; nor is it likely to have been the second Mrs. Cal Stewart, with whom Stewart had no known connection at the time those recordings were made.

Stewart’s second wife was the exotic (and considerably younger) Hazel Waugh, a professional violinist who used the stage name “Gypsy Rossini.” They were married on July 7, 1914, in St. Joseph, Michigan, some time after the last of the “Mrs. Cal Stewart” records had been issued. The page pictured here is a memorial published by her sister many years after Waugh’s death.
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Cal Stewart’s “Portland Daily Advertiser” Interview

UPDATE: Our thanks to George Sweeny, who tracked down the date of Stewart’s Portland appearance (April 5, 1904)

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From the Bill Bryant papers — A rare Cal Stewart interview, in which he discusses his early career and influences, and the origin of his “Uncle Josh” character. Note Stewart’s mention of having made personal recordings for presidents McKinley and Roosevelt. This clipping (which is lacking its date) is from the Portland Daily Advertiser (Maine).

In spots, the article reads like a planted publicity piece (note the plug for Columbia in the lead paragraph), but even if so, the biographical material is of interest.

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Fourth of July at Pumpkin Center (and Other Uncle Josh Classics)

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CAL STEWART: Fourth of July at Pumpkin Center

New York (Knickerbocker Building); Released June 25, 1912
Edison Amberol Cylinder 734

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CAL STEWART: Uncle Josh at the Bug House

New York; Released July 1907
Columbia 3667 (take -3)

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UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Uncle Josh Weathersby at the Opera

Probably New York, late 1890s
Unbranded brown-wax cylinder

This “mystery” cylinder is probably by a Stewart imitator, based on the aural evidence. (Such subterfuges weren’t uncommon; Leeds & Catlin issued bogus “Uncle Josh” discs by Andrew Keefe as late as 1907.) This early reading deviates significantly from the version published in Uncle Josh Weathersby’s “Punkin Centre” Stories (1903):

STEWART_UJ-at-Opera

Replacing Cal Stewart: Andrew Keefe’s “Uncle Josh” Records

In late 1903, Cal Stewart signed an exclusive three-year contract with Columbia. Left without a fresh supply of Stewart’s immensely popular “Uncle Josh” routines, Edison and Leeds & Catlin finally brought in a substitute — an Albany stove merchant and former junk dealer who did a credible imitation of Stewart. The Edison-endorsed version of Keefe’s discovery originally ran in the Albany Exchange and was later reprinted in the September 1906 edition of the Edison Phonograph Monthly:

keefe-epm“I’m Old, but I’m Awfully Tough” (a laughing song composed by Stewart) was released in December 1905, nine months before this article found its way into EPM. Edison went on to release Keefe’s renditions of two popular Stewart routines — “Uncle Josh in a Department Store” and “Uncle Josh in a Chinese Laundry” — March 1906 and January 1907, respectively.

The infamous patent-infringing firm of Leeds & Catlin issued no fewer than seven “Uncle Josh” routines by Keefe, which appeared during the late summer of 1906. Although very rare today, they were widely circulated at the time, appearing on Leeds’ own Sun and Imperial labels as well as Aretino, D&R, Oxford, and other client brands. Many of the labels showed no artist credit, probably leading buyers to believe they were genuine Stewart records; the truth was revealed in the opening announcements, which credited Keefe.

Stewart finally returned to Edison in August 1908 (the details can be found in Cal Stewart’s Recording Contracts, on the Mainspring website), and Keefe’s Edison records were deleted the following year. The Leeds issues were discontinued in the same year, after the company was ordered to suspend record production by the U.S. Supreme Court (more on that in A Phonograph in Every Home, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries).

 

Hawthorne & Sheble’s Star Records • Catalog B, Bulletin No. 2 (1908)

A scarce Star Records supplement, from the Bill Bryant archive. By the time this leaflet was issued, Star records were being pressed from Columbia stampers — most of which Columbia altered to delete their own catalog-matrix numbers. (You can find full details of the corresponding original Columbia issues in Tim BrooksColumbia Master Book Discography, Vol. I, and the whole story behind the Hawthorne & Sheble labels in A Phonograph in Every Home).

This supplement is undated, but the latest titles listed here had their initial release by Columbia in late 1907 and early 1908.

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Emerson 78 Records • Highlights from the October 1919 Catalog

Emerson was still issuing new nine-inch discs (9000 series) when this supplement was issued in October 1919, but the small-diameter discs were rapidly being overtaken by new standard ten-inch records (1000 series). Emerson for some reason called the early ten-inch discs “Gold Seal” records, although the labels were black.

Paul Bolognese (last panel) was the musical director for Emerson’s classical, operatic, and international series. He later worked as a house conductor for cheap-record producer Grey Gull. Cal Stewart (fourth panel) died two months after this catalog was issued, but some of his “Uncle Josh” records were still listed when the Emerson label was discontinued in 1928. (From the Bill Bryant archive)

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