Edison Phonograph “Theater Ticket” Promo Piece

This nice little Edison promo recently turned up in a box of old papers that was about to be tossed on the last day of an estate sale. It’s a single die-cut sheet, printed on heavy card stock. Not sure of the date just yet, but we’ll  post it as soon as we track one down.



The Playlist • Ma Rainey Favorites (Paramount, 1924–1928)



MA RAINEY: Farewell Daddy Blues
(Acc: Possibly Milas and Miles Pruitt, guitars)

Chicago: August 1924
Paramount 12222 (mx. 1825 – 2)


(Acc: Members of Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra)

New York (1140 Broadway): October 1924
Paramount 12252 (mx. 1926 – 2)



Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): June 1928
Paramount 12668 (mx. 20665 – 2)


Reprocessed from tape dubbings supplied by the late Mike Stewart. For undocumented personnel listings, see Brian Rust’s Jazz and Ragtime Records, 1897–1942: 6th Edition) (out-of-print in book form, but available exclusively from Mainspring Press on a convenient, full searchable CD). If you enjoyed these recordings, be sure to check out:

Myth-Busting the First Jazz Record (Victor 18255 • February 26, 1917)

MSP_victor_18255bFirst Edition: An “A”- / “A”-stamper copy of Victor 18255. The styling of the band’s name changed as the labels were reprinted for later pressings, progressing from
(with quotes) to Jass (without quotes), then finally to Jazz.


Ninety-eight years ago today, a white quintet from New Orleans made the first recordings of something that is recognizably jazz, albeit of a crude sort. Gunther Schuller perhaps best summed up the band’s performance style and its place in jazz history:

“[The Original Dixieland Jazz Band] took a new idea, an innovation, and reduced it to the kind of compressed, rigid format that could appeal to a mass audience. As such, it had a number of sure-fire ingredients, the foremost being a rhythmic momentum that had a physical, even visceral, appeal. Moreover, this drive was cast in the most unsubtle terms, as was the ODJB’s melodic and harmonic language, with none of the flexibility and occasional subtlety shown by the best Negro bands of the period. But in its substitution of sheer energy for expressive power, the ODJB had found the key to mass appeal.” (Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968)

As momentous as this first jazz session seems today, attitudes in 1917 were quite different. Critics dismissed the ODJB’s music as little more than a noisy fad that would soon pass; and in all likelihood, the Victor executives saw the band as just another novelty act to be briefly exploited before record buyers moved on to the next new thing. The company didn’t even offer the ODJB an exclusive contract at the time. The band went on to record for competitors Columbia and Aeolian-Vocalion before finally returning to Victor (this time with an exclusive contract) in March 1918.

The result of that milestone February 26 session, issued in May 1917 on Victor 18255, has been subjected to myth-making for decades. Here are four of our favorite tall-tales, most of them perpetuated by Rudi Blesh — an early pop-culture writer who was not one to let the facts get in the way of a good story — along with what we now know to be true as the result of more rigorous research:


MYTH: “[On January 29, 1917] Victor’s leading competitor [Columbia] signed the ODJB to a term contract and hustled them into the studio to wax two numbers for a single… Scared out of their wits by what they heard, the executives paid off the band, shelved the masters, and unilaterally tore up the pact.” — Rudi Blesh

FACT: None of that ever happened, but this did: On January 29, 1917, E. A. Donovan (the head of Columbia’s Personal Recording Department) wrote a letter inviting the band to contact him about “a matter which may prove of mutual benefit and interest” — presumably, a solicitation to make Columbia Personal Records. (The Personal division was a private-recording operation; customers paid all costs, and the records were never listed in the Columbia catalog.) There’s no evidence that the band took Donovan up on his offer, nor that they made any recordings for the company prior to their single May 1917 Columbia date.

 *   *   *

MYTH: “[Studio carpenters] were hammering away while we tried to play.” — Eddie Edwards, as reported by H. O. Brunn

FACT: This almost certainly never happened, although there could be some basis for the myth. Victor’s 38th Street studio had opened just a few weeks earlier, so it’s conceivable that some construction work was still under way while the band was present. However, work never would have been allowed to continue within earshot during an actual recording session; the noise of would have registered, rendering the masters unusable. There are many references in the Victor files to masters that were rejected because extraneous noises were captured.

 *   *   *

MYTH: “Victor rushed the coupling out… [It] released on March 5, 1917.” — Rudi Blesh

FACT: Wrong on both counts, as the original Victor documentation confirms. In fact, production proceeded at Victor’s usual, rather leisurely pace, suggesting no rush whatsoever on the company’s part. Master numbers were not even assigned until a week after the session. A March 5 release would have been impossible, given the time needed to generate sub-masters and stampers, print labels, produce enough pressings to cover anticipated initial sales, and pack and ship the records (usually by rail) to regional distributors, from which they would finally make their way to retailers. A further tip-off: On March 29, a staffer in Victor’s editorial department wrote to Eddie Edwards to inform him that a special catalog supplement was being prepared, with a guess that it might be issued to dealers “inside of a couple of weeks.” The supplement was indeed issued in mid-April, and it’s likely that some advance copies of the disc were given to sales reps and distributors at that time, as was normal practice. However, the record was not officially placed on sale until May 17, 1917, according to original company documentation.

 *   *   *

MYTH: “[Victor 18255] was the first million-sale disc.” — Rudi Blesh (among many others, with no primary source cited)

FACT: No reliable sales figures are known to exist in the Victor archives for this or most other acoustic-era Victor releases. Some of the blue production-history cards do have sales figures jotted on their reverse sides, although we have no idea who added those figures, or when,  or how accurate they might be. In the case of 18255, however, we don’t have even this scrap of evidence — the card is missing. Some band members reportedly also made the million-seller claim, but as far as is known, none backed it up by supplying Victor documentation (such as royalty statements) that could have clinched the case. The same “million-seller” claim has been made for earlier records, including Alma Gluck’s 1914 “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” (also not supported by the Victor files) and Columbia’s 1913 “25¢ Special Advertising Record” (as reported by Columbia’s marketing department, which later upped the figure to 3 million). There’s no doubt that Victor 18255 was a good seller; copies are still plentiful nearly a century later. But the million-seller claim, let alone the first million-seller, is unprovable given the state of surviving documentation.

*   *   *



New York (46 West 38th Street, 12th floor): February 26, 1917
Victor 18255 (mx. B 19331 – 1, assigned c. March 2, 1917)
Released: May 17, 1917 — Deleted: 1926


*Interpolating Joe Jordan’s “That Teasin’ Rag” (uncredited)

New York (46 West 38th Street, 12th floor): February 26, 1917
Victor 18255 (mx. B 19332 – 3, assigned c. March 2, 1917)
Released: May 17, 1917 — Deleted: 1926

Nick LaRocca (cornet and nominal director); Eddie Edwards (trombone); Larry Shields (clarinet); Henry Ragas (piano); Tony Sbarbaro (percussion).




The Playlist • Klezmer and Other Ethnic Gems (1909–1924)



HARRY KANDEL’S ORCHESTRA: Kiever Bulgar (Dance from Kiev)

New York: May 6, 1921
Victor 73436 (mx. B 25255 – 1)



Constantinople: March 29, 1909
Victor 63512 (Gramophone Co. mx. 12578b)



New York: March 1918
Columbia E4190 (mx. 84187 – 1)


HOYER INSTRUMENTAL TRIO: Na Poskok (Jumping Polka)  [Slovenian]

Cleveland, OH: November 30, 1924
Victor 77915 (mx. B 31239 – 1)


Discographical data are from Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records (University of Illinois Press)




Inside the Hawthorne & Sheble Phonograph Horn Factory (Philadelphia, 1898)

A rare glimpse inside Hawthorne & Sheble’s “horn room” in the late 1890s. Ellsworth Hawthorne & Horace Sheble produced an excellent line of horns, cranes, and other phonograph accessories, but they seemed to have a knack for getting into legal trouble, beginning with their blacklisting by Edison for removing the nameplates from Gem phonographs.

They were involved in two record ventures in the early 1900s — first as sales agents (in partnership with John O. Prescott)  for the Odeon-backed American Record Company, which was shut down for patent infringement in 1906; and then as the manufacturers of Star discs. The latter were produced legally enough, using licensed (albeit disguised) Columbia masters, but a Victor patent-infringement suit involving H&S’s Star and Starola phonographs, combined with declining demand for horns, drove Hawthorne & Sheble into bankruptcy in 1909.

MSP_h&s_hornfactory-1898The whole colorful, convoluted story of Hawthorne, Sheble, and their associates is covered in a new history and discography being released by Mainspring Press later this year:


The Antique Phonograph Gallery: U-S Everlasting Cylinder Phono Advertisements (1912)

Some 1912 Talking Machine World advertisements for U-S Everlasting phonographs and cylinders. U-S Phonograph’s turbulent history, and details of its complete cylinder-record output, can be found in the ARSC Award–winning Indestructible and U-S Everlasting Cylinders: An Illustrated History and Cylinderography, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.


The Playlist • Sophie Tucker: Edison Cylinders (1910–1911)


“When I first heard the playback, I turned to the boys and let out a yell: ‘My God, I sound like a foghorn!” I was terrible. However, the manager seemed satisfied with the recordings… I said to myself: ‘The Edison Company must know what they’re doing. They can’t think I’m as bad as I think I am.'”
Sophie Tucker (from her 1945 autobiography)


SOPHIE TUCKER: That Lovin’ Rag

New York: January 5 or 11, 1910 — Listed March 1910
Edison 10360 (2-minute cylinder)
The Edison studio cash book shows Tucker’s first two sessions on the above date but doesn’t list the titles recorded.


SOPHIE TUCKER: Some of These Days

New York: c. February 1911 — Listed April 1911
Edison Amberol 691 (4-minute cylinder)



New York: Probably July 27, 1911 — Listed October 1911
Edison Amberol 852 (4-minute cylinder)


The Playlist • “In Harlem’s Araby,” Three Ways (1924–1930)

Three very different performances of “In Harlem’s Araby,” the first by Leroy Smith’s Orchestra (a Harlem band that made disappointingly few recordings), and the others by apparent pick-up groups — the first white, the second black — of questionable personnel.

The song itself (the verse of which begins with the first bar of Irving Berlin’s “International Rag,” and the chorus of which ends with a slight reworking of McKierman & Spencer’s “Don’t Take Away Those Blues”) is something of an oddity, having been registered for copyright on July 24, 1924 by Jo Trent and Thomas [Fats]  Waller (who are shown  on the 1924 labels), but often credited to Porter Grainger (as seen on the Van Dyke label below).

We won’t get into the endless wrangling over personnel here, other than to note that no original recording-file data exist for either “Dubin’s Dandies” or the “Memphis Jazzers,” which were purely studio fictions; what you see in the discographies is all speculation. The Memphis Jazzers side has been especially victimized by the “I-hear-so-and-so” crowd, with the horn having been attributed in various works to everyone from King Oliver to blat-master Mike Mosiello (both now ruled out).



New York (probably Emerson Recording Laboratories): c. September / October 1924
Radiex 1283 (as “Metropolitan Dance Players”; Up To Date mx. [T-] 2017 – “B”)

Studio attribution is based upon the recycling of Blu-Disc/Up To Date masters on the Bridgeport Die & Machine and Grey Gull-group labels, both of which were being supplied by the Emerson Recording Laboratories at the time.


“DUBIN’S DEMONS” (Jack Kaufman, vocal): In Harlem’s Araby
New York: January 7, 1930
Oriole 1824 (mx. 9268 – 3)

“MEMPHIS JAZZERS”: In Harlem’s Araby

New York: c. November 1929
Van Dyke 71804 (as “Dixie Devils”; mx. 3744 – B)


Correct Personnel for the California Ramblers’ Late 1927—Early 1928 Cameo Sessions (from Ed Kirkeby’s Files)

Some more corrections to American Dance Bands on Records and Film California Ramblers personnel listings, this time for the December 1927 and February 1928 Varsity Eight sessions for Cameo. The compilers somehow missed this material in California Ramblers manager W. T. “Ed” Kirkeby’s logbook and payroll records.

This also offers an object lesson on the dangers of “collective personnel” — a euphemism for “If you throw enough names at the wall, maybe a few might stick.” Here’s ADBFR’s “collective personnel” for these sessions. The names in boldface turned out to be correct guesses. We’ve crossed out the bad guesses (most notably, Tommy Dorsey), which make up the majority (64%) of the listing:


Angie Rattiner, Al King, Mickey Bloom, Fred Van Eps Jr., Frank Cush (trumpets); Ted Raph, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Ferretti, Chuck Campbell (trombones); Pete Pumigilo, Carl Orech, Harold Marcus (clarinets, alto saxes); Sam Ruby (tenor sax); Spencer Clark (bass sax); Chauncey Gray or Jack Russin (piano); Tommy Felline (banjo, guitar); Herb Weil or Chick Condon (drums).


And now, the actual personnel who were hired for these sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s files. As usual, Kirkeby did not enter first names or instruments; we’ve inserted the first names [in brackets] and usual instruments (in parentheses) of musicians who appear in his payroll records for this period. Musicians missing from ADBFR’s “collective personnel” are in underlined red type:


December 1, 1927 (Cameo mxs. 2715 – 2717) — [Chelsea] Quealy, [Henry] Levine (trumpets); [Al] Philburn (trombone); [Pete] Pumiglio, [Bob] Fallon (reeds); Jack Russin (piano); [/?] Mahoney (banjo); [Hank] Stern (bass); [Herb] Weil (percussion)

February 3, 1928 (Cameo mxs. 2857 – 2859) — [Henry] Levine, [Fred] Van Eps [Jr.] (trumpets); [Al] Philburn (trombone); Bob Montgomery [first name listed in this case], [Sam] Ruby (saxophones); [Chauncey] Grey (piano); Joe La Faro (violin); [Tommy] Felline (banjo, guitar); [Hank] Stern (bass); [Herb] Weil (percussion)

More to come…

The Playlist • Thomas A. Edison Speaking

EDISON_ore-plantHappy Birthday, Mr. Edison
(February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931)


THOMAS ALVA EDISON: The Liver Complaint Story

Probably West Orange, NJ; early 1900s
Privately made wax cylinder (commercially unissued)
From the Edison National Historic Site Collection, National Park Service

Walter Miller, whom Edison addresses at the beginning of the recording, was largely responsible for Edison’s recording operations until the phonograph division’s closure at the end of 1929.


THOMAS ALVA EDISON: Let Us Not Forget — A Message to the American People
(Introduction by Edison Vice-President William Maxwell)

West Orange, NJ: January 2, 1919
Edison Blue Amberol 3756 (original version*; dubbed from disc mx. 6540-B)

The corresponding Diamond Disc release (which originally was sold in a specially decorated box) was # 50509. *Released June 1919; a 1926 remake of this cylinder, using the same catalog number, adds a band excerpt dubbed from the reverse side of the disc.


THOMAS ALVA EDISON: Birthday Message from Fort Myers, Florida

Edison experimental mx. 185-A
February 11, 1929 (West Orange studio low-speed dubbing from broadcast)
From the Edison National Historic Site Collection, National Park Service

An except from the first “Edison Hour” broadcast aired, over WJZ on February 11, 1929, and captured at Edison’s Columbia Street studio in Orange, New Jersey. The broadcast celebrated the birthday of Thomas Edison, who spoke briefly via relay from his home in Fort Myers, Florida. Click to hear additional excerpts from the broadcast


“Lloyd Dayton & his Music” Finally Identified (from the Ed Kirkeby Files)

Thanks to our recent research of Ed Kirkeby’s files in conjunction with the ongoing Pathé-Perfect and American Record Corporation projects, we’ve finally unearthed the true identity of the band ARC credited as “Lloyd Dayton & his Music” (which, to further confuse matters, was logged by ARC as “Fred MacDougall & his Orchestra”). It’s none other than Ed Kirkeby & his Orchestra, with his usual personnel of the period.

The compilers of The American Dance Band Discography and American Dance Bands on Records and Film obviously didn’t check for these in Kirkeby’s files. ADB shows all personnel as unknown and doesn’t mention Kirkeby. ADBFR makes a tiny bit of headway, mentioning a “reported” Kirkeby connection, guessing correctly Jack Purvis, and getting Dick Dixon partially correct (right name, wrong instrument), while leaving the rest blank.

The correct data from Kirkeby’s logbook and payroll files are shown below. First names (except Dixon’s) are not listed in either file; we’ve inserted [in brackets] the first names of musicians who are confirmed to have been on Kirkeby’s payroll in late 1930.

Kirkeby logged this as a Cameo session, but that label was discontinued a short time later, so the recordings instead appeared on Banner, Romeo, and other ARC brands. The session is headed “Three dogs” (i.e, throw-away “filler” tunes,  generally not even copyrighted) in Kirkeby’s log — a surprisingly honest appraisal, given that Kirkeby himself composed one of them!

October 10, 1930 (ARC mxs. 10131 – 10133, issued as Lloyd Dayton & his Music):

[Jack] Purvis (trumpet); Dick Dixon (first name listed in this case only; the beginning of the logbook session entry reads “Add trombone Dick Dixon,” but the name appears in the payroll record as “Dickson”); [Bobby] Davis, [Joe] Gillespie (reeds); [Sidney] Harris, [Sam] Hoffman (violins); [Lew] Cobey (piano); [Ed] Sexton (guitar); [Ward] Lay (string bass); [Jack] Powers (percussion)


The Playlist • More Klezmer: Abe Schwartz, Harry Kandel, Art Shryer, Jacob Hoffman (1918–1925)


Doina and Hora

New York: January 25, 1923
Victor 77163 (mx. B 28671 – 1)


Mit der Kalle Tanzen

New York: April 1924
Vocalion 13012 (mx. 13038)



New York: October 1920
Columbia E4905 (mx. 86692 – 1)



Camden NJ: July 9, 1925
Victor 78613 (mx. BVE 33069 – 2)


Discographical data from Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records (Vol. 3), University of Illinois Press.

A Gallery of Pioneer Recording Artists (1898)

This gallery of early recording artists appeared in The Phonoscope for July 1898. Although touted as Columbia stars (on cylinders; Columbia discs were still several years away), they also recorded prolifically for other companies. Several, including Quinn and Gaskin,  ran display ads in the same paper, offering their services to any and all.

The “Mr. Emerson” mentioned in the first paragraph was Victor Hugo Emerson, later better known as the manufacturer of Emerson Records. Steve Porter and Russell Hunting would also come to play important roles in the early recording industry, the latter as a Pathé executive.


Jug Bands in the Kitchen: Earl McDonald and the “Ballard Chefs” (1930)

MSP-WOTT-4-30_ballardchefJug-band legend Earl McDonald (center) broadcasting over station WHAS (Louisville), from the April 1930 edition of What’s on the Air. McDonald first recorded in 1924, with fiddler Clifford Hayes’ Louisville Jug Band (click to hear some early examples) and was prominently featured with that group after it morphed into the Dixieland Jug Blowers, a Victor recording group:



Chicago (Webster Hotel): December 11, 1926
Victor 20415 (BVE 37227 – 2)
Released: February 5, 1927 — Deleted: 1932


DIXIELAND JUG BLOWERS (Elizabeth Washington, vocal): You’d Better Leave Me Alone, Sweet Papa

Chicago (Victor Laboratory): June 6, 1927
Victor 21126 (BVE 38638 – 2)
Released: February 18, 1928 — Deleted: 1928

Discographical data from the original Victor recording ledgers and production-history cards at Sony Music (NYC), courtesy of John Bolig.

The Playlist • Andrés Segovia Plays Bach (1928)


ANDRÉS SEGOVIA (guitar): Prelude (BWV 926) / Allemand (Lute Suite, BWV 996)
(J. S. Bach)

London (C Studio, Small Queen’s Hall): May 15, 1928
Victor 7176 (Gramophone Co. mx. Cc 12979 – 2)


ANDRÉS SEGOVIA (guitar): Fugue (Sonata No. 1, BWV 1001) (J. S. Bach)

London (C Studio, Small Queen’s Hall): May 15, 1928
Victor 7176 (Gramophone Co. mx. Cc 12980 – 1)


Discographical data from the Gramophone Company files, courtesy of Dr. Alan Kelly.