Our Final Title Now in Stock • Vintage Phonograph Advertisements 1895-1925

Announcing the final Mainspring Press publication:

MSP_cover-phonoads


Vintage Phonograph Advertising
presents some of the most interesting phono-related ads of the acoustic era, covering products from the commonly encountered to the impossibly rare.

You’ll find the famous makes here — the Berliners, Edisons, Columbias, Victors, Zonophones, and the like — but also a fascinating array of long-forgotten (and now highly collectible) products, in more than 280 professionally restored black-and-white ads with informative text.

Chapters include: Phonographs for the Home • Phonograph–Music Box and Phonograph–Player Piano Combinations • Import and Export Phonographs • Coin-Operated and Other Automatic Phonographs • Special-Use Machines • Phonograph Horns, Gadgets, and Attachments • Phonograph and Record Cabinets • Cylinder and Disc Records

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To order, visit the Mainspring Press website.
Mainspring Press titles will remain available online through February 2017, subject to availability. Please note that stock is running low on certain titles, and none will be reprinted once current inventory is sold.

 

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Two Passings to Note

rocky-3

Our Rocky lost his fight with cancer yesterday, at just seven years old. His sheer joy and boundless energy were infectious. He was a seasoned traveler, trekking all over Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, and Nebraska, always at home wherever he found himself. He was also my constant office companion. He found Mozart a crashing bore but adored Memphis Minnie — truly a dog after my own heart. He lived large, right up to the end.

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The second passing I have to note is Mainspring’s publishing program. The phono-ads book that will be going on sale later this week is our last. Sadly, we’re relinquishing two superb books that made their way into the pipeline too late to complete — Alex van der Tuuk’s Paramount biographies, and Richard Raichelson’s Marsh Labs bio-discography. My own Encyclopedia of American Record Companies and Producers, 1888–1950, which is nearing completion, now looks like it will be going to another publisher.

The Mainspring Press website will remain online, and book sales and record auctions will continue as usual, through February 2017. What happens beyond that will depend on many factors. But for now, I’ve done what I set out to do with Mainspring — with the help of the some of finest folks anyone could ever hope to work with — and after seventeen years, I’m looking forward to moving on.

— Allan Sutton (Publisher, Mainspring Press)

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Mainspring Vintage Record Auction List Now Online (Ends October 2)

Our 2016 auction list is now available. This year’s list is devoted largely to pre-1940 classical and operatic, ethnic, country and folk, popular vocal and spoken-word, and popular instrumental (mixed ragtime, jazz, dance, band music, and miscellaneous) — plus a nice selection of unboxed celluloid cylinders at very modest minimums, a smattering of later 78s, and our ever-popular Scrap Pile (some great jazz and country in far-from-great condition, at $1 minimum). Click the link below to get started:

Mainspring 2016 Vintage Record Auction

 

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End-of-Summer Savings on eBay

We’ve just posted a fresh batch of book specials to eBay, with savings of $4 – $30, and free U.S. shipping. These are new first-quality copies in original shrink-wrap, with our usual satisfaction guarantee. To see what’s on sale, log on to your eBay account and search for seller mspBooks.

Sales pricing is available exclusively on eBay. Because quantities are limited at these special promotional prices, we’re shipping them only to U.S. addresses.

These are convenient “Buy It Now” listings — No need to wait for the closing date (although it’s amazing how many eBay customers do, for some reason), just click-and-buy anytime.

The Playlist • The Chicagoans (1928–1929)

Some favorite sides featuring what early jazz writers termed “The Chicagoans,” a loosely affiliated group of young, white, mostly Midwestern jazz musicians who congregated in the city during the 1920s.

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CHICAGO RHYTHM KINGS (as “Jungle Kings”; Red McKenzie, uncredited vocal): Friars Point Shuffle

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. Late March – Early April 1928
UHCA 3 (dub of Paramount 12654 [NYRL mx. 20563-2])

Given the scrambled accounts of this session in Eddie Condon’s autobiographical We Called It Music, and later in Brian Rust’s Jazz & Ragtime Records (6th Ed.), the date remains open to question. Rust erroneously stated that Condon said this session was held “on the day after the Chicago Rhythm Kings session for Brunswick.” But what Condon actually said was “The next day, he [Red McKenzie] went to Paramount and sold Lyons a date for us.” Compounding the problem is Condon himself, who got his two Brunswick-studio sessions out-of-order in his autobiography, confusing the first (on March 27, which produced only unissued masters allocated to Vocalion, including “Friars Point Shuffle”) with the second (on April 6). Although Condon stated that the Paramount date followed the session that produced “I’ve Found a New Baby,” his confusion over the Brunswick-studio sessions raises the question of which date the Paramount session actually followed.

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CHICAGO RHYTHM KINGS: I’ve Found a New Baby

Chicago: April 6, 1928
Brunswick 4001 (mx. C 1886 – A)

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RAY MILLER & HIS ORCHESTRA: That’s a Plenty

Chicago: January 3, 1929
Brunswick 4225 (mx. C 2743 – )
Three takes were recorded; the selected take is not indicated in the Brunswick files or on inspected pressings.

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ELMER SCHOEBEL & HIS FRIAR’S SOCIETY ORCHESTRA: Prince of Wails

Chicago: October 18, 1929
Brunswick 4653 (mx.  C 4560 – A)

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EDDIE [CONDON]’S HOT SHOTS (Jack Teagarden, vocal): That a Serious Thing

New York: February 8, 1929 (released May 17, 1929)
Victor V-38046 (mx. BVE 48346 – 2)

“Eddie Condon and his Orchestra” entered in Victor ledger, with “Eddie’s Hot Shots” assigned. This was a mixed-race session, with Leonard Davis (trumpet), Happy Caldwell (reeds), and George Stafford (percussion) present, which apparently was enough to land it in Victor’s predominantly black “Hot Dance” series.

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The Playlist • Some Columbia “E” Series Favorites (1908 – 1920)

Be sure to check out Dick Spottswood’s excellent new Columbia “E” Series Discography, available as a free download courtesy of the author and Mainspring Press.

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ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA: Sher — Part 2 [Jewish]

New York: c. October 1920
Columbia E4905 (mx. 86691 – 2)

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STEFAN RADIN (accordion): Malo Kolo [Serbian]

New York: c. June 1917
Columbia E3638 (mx. 58373 – 1)

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TAMBURASKO DRUSTVO: Ah, haj, Boze doj [Serbian]

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

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VINDENSKA SALON KAPELA: Tance detektivu — Americká Melodie [Czech]

Unknown location and date (U.S. release 1913)
Columbia E1532 (mx. 66953 – 1)

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CHINESE NOVELTY ORCHESTRA: Chinese One-Step — Part 1 [Chinese]

Unknown location and date (U.S. release 1920)
Columbia E4506 (mx. 85544 – 1)

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ARISTIDE SIGISMONDI: ’E guaie ’e Nicola [Italian]

New York: c. March 1917
Columbia E3436 (mx. 58149 – 1)

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BAND with VOCAL CHORUS: Schorsch’l, kauf mir ein Automobil [German (British composition)]

Berlin: c. September 1908
Columbia E654 (mx. 41669 – 1)
A retitling of “The Perman’s Brooklyn Cake Walk” (a.k.a. “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend”), with added lyrics that have nothing to do with either title.

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BILLY WILLIAMS: I’ve Found Kelly [English (Australian artist)]

London: 1911
Columbia E1777 (mx. 27411 – 1)

Dick Spottswood’s Columbia “E” Series Discography Now Available for Free Download

We’re pleased to offer Dick Spottswood’s newly updated, 300-page Columbia “E” Series Discography as a free download for your personal use, courtesy of the author.

To download, click the “Free Online Discographies” link in the menu to your left. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader (Versions 5.0 and later) to view the file. This file is offered for personal, non-commercial use only; please review the use notice before downloading.

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Dick is one of the great pioneers in discographical research on vernacular music of all sorts, as well as a long-time author, record producer, and radio host.

During the 1950s, Dick began canvassing for forgotten sound recordings containing a broad range of music — originally, jazz, blues, and country, later tackling the largely unexplored field of early ethnic records. In the 1960s he began sharing his finds on  countless reissues, including those on his own Melodeon and Piedmont labels, and co-founded Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. He later produced and annotated the important fifteen-LP series,  Folk Music in America, for the Library of Congress.

Dick’s masterworks are his multi-volume Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 (University of Indiana Press, 1990);  and Country Music Sources, with Meade & Meade (John Edwards Memorial Forum and University of North Carolina Press, 2002) — both winners of ARSC Awards for Excellence, and works that we use constantly — and Banjo on the Mountain: Wade Mainer’s First Hundred Years, with Stephen Wade (University of Mississippi Press, 2010).

In addition to his other books and articles, Dick’s been an important contributor to many major discographical projects, both in print and online. He’s a founding member of The Association for Recorded Sound Collections, which honored him with their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. The International Bluegrass Music Association presented him their Distinguished Service Award in October 2009.

The Playlist • Indestructible Cylinder Favorites (1908 – 1911)

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BAND: In Darkest Africa (from Sousa’s “Three Quotations”)

New York: Released June 1908
Indestructible 785

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JOHN J. KIMMEL (accordion): Indian Intermezzo

New York: Released June 1909
Indestructible 1090

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FRED VAN EPS (banjo): Trombone Johnsen

New York: Released February 1908
Indestructible 722
“Johnsen” is the correct spelling, per the sheet music and copyright registration.

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VESS L. OSSMAN (banjo): Hoop-E-Kack

New York: Released July 1909
Indestructible 1113

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ELIDA MORRIS: Stop! Stop! Stop! (Come Over and Love Me Some More)

New York: Released April 1911
Indestructible 1457

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ARTHUR COLLINS: Come After Breakfast (Bring ’Long Your Lunch, and Leave ’Fore Suppertime)

New York: Released June 1910
Indestructible 1345

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Cylinder Fans — We still have a few copies left of Indestructible and U-S Everlasting Cylinders: An Illustrated History and Cylinderography (an ARSC Award winner). Quantities are limited , and we won’t be reprinting — order soon if interested!

 

The Playlist • Radio Broadcast Odds & Ends (1929 – 1944)

A hodge-podge of transcriptions, air-checks, and private off-the-air recordings

KFAB-amos

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THOMAS A. EDISON: Birthday Message

Fort Myers, Florida (relay to WJZ, New York): February 11, 1929
Edison experimental mx. 185 – B (excerpt)
Courtesy of Edison National Historic Site

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MARTHA WILKINS & BROOKS DUNBAR: Will You Remember?

WQXR Studios, New York: June 8, 1937
Radio & Film Methods Corp. air-check (5:30 p.m. broadcast, program not noted)

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YEHUDI MENHUIN: Perpetual Motion (fragment)

Unknown location and program: March 4, 1943
Private off-the-air recording

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BILLY MURRAY with B.A. ROLFE’S ORCHESTRA: Doin’ the Raccoon

WJZ Studios, New York: February 11, 1929
Edison experimental mx. 185 – A (excerpt)
Courtesy of Edison National Historic Site. The speed fluctuations are a defect in the original recording.

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CHARLES CORRELL & FREEMAN GOSDEN: Amos & Andy Station KOIL Promotional Spot

Unknown location: September 20, 1939
Central States Broadcasting System Transcription S-1

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MARY LOU WILLIAMS: Mary Lou’s Boogie Woogie

Unknown location and program: March 26, 1944
Private off-the-air recording

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ALBERT AMMONS & PETE JOHNSON: Boogie Woogie (fragment)

Unknown location and program: March 5, 1944
Private off-the-air recording

 

Coming in September • A Gallery of Vintage Phonograph Advertising, 1895–1925

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An intriguing collection off more than 280 professionally restored advertisements for vintage phonographs, horns, attachments, gadgets, accessories, and records. From the most commonly encountered items to the most elusive, there’s something here to interest every collector of antique sound equipment, including:
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Phonographs for the Home
Phonograph–Music Box and Phonograph–Player Piano Combinations
Import and Export Phonographs
Coin-Operated and Other Automatic Phonographs
Special-Use Machines
Phonograph Horns
Phonograph Gadgets and Attachments
Phonograph and Record Cabinets
Phonograph Records

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300 pages with 280+ illustrations • 7 x 10″ quality softcover
Releasing mid-September 2016

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The Playlist • Balinese Gamelan Gems (Late 1920s)

From a historic and very well-traveled group of location recordings that were issued in Germany in 1931 as part of Erich M. Von Hornbostel’s “Musik des Orient” set on Odeon, resurfaced in England in 1934 as “Music of the Orient” (Parlophone), then made their way to American Decca’s under-appreciated Odeon-Parlophone series in 1939.

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GAMELAN ANKLUNG — Berong Pengetjet

Bali: 1928
Decca Odeon-Parlophone Series 20125 (mx. JAB 581)

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GAMELAN DJOGED — Tjetjing Kereman

Bali: 1928
Decca Odeon-Parlophone Series 20126 (mx. JAB 596)

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GAMELAN GONG — Lagu Kebiar

Bali: Before 1931
Decca Odeon-Parlophone Series 20127 (mx. 28180)

Pioneer Recording Artists • The Prehistory of Ada Jones

This autumn, we’ll be revamping the Mainspring Press website. In advance of that, we will be migrating articles from the website to the blog over the next two months, beginning with this survey of Ada Jones’ early years in entertainment.

The Prehistory of Ada Jones

By Allan Sutton


Ada Jones led a checkered career before establishing herself as one of the most popular female recording artists of the acoustic era. She played juvenile roles in the early 1880s, 1 and by the end of that decade she was taking on adult parts.

The earliest mention of Jones’ adult work to be found in the New York Times is a January 22, 1889, review of John Wild’s Running Wild. 2 The play opened at the Star Theatre (New York) on January 21, 1889, 3 and was characterized by the Times as belonging “to that numerous collection of pieces designed to introduce ‘specialties.’” Jones played the part of “The Young Lady that Never Scorns,” and the Times reported that “Miss Ada Jones sang a number of ditties that pleased the audience.”

Despite a positive review, Running Wild closed after only eight performances. Out of work following its closure, Jones was reported to be “interested” in participating in a program of comic and dramatic readings that was to be presented at New York’s Chickering Hall on March 5, 1889. 4 It is not known whether she made the cut, or how else she might have been employed after Running Wild, but her name vanishes from the Times until the autumn of 1890.

September 1890 found Jones back on Broadway, playing the role of Lila Butte in a revival of My Aunt Bridget. The show had first opened in 1886, was revived briefly in early 1890, and then was revived again—this time with Jones in the cast—at the
Bijou Theatre on September 7, 1890. Advertised with the curious slogan, “Don’t Wait for Barnum, Circus Ain’t In It,” 5 the show closed after only sixteen performances, reopened at Niblo’s a short time later, flopped again, and closed after seventeen additional performances. 6

Jones’ name again disappeared from the press, and her activities during 1891–1893 remain largely unknown. In the early 1890s she made her first documented recordings, for the North American Phonograph Company. At least two of them — “Sweet Marie” (1289) and “The Volunteer Organist” (1292) — are rumored to  survive, although we have been unable to verify that. They are among the earliest recordings of a female vocal soloist to be issued commercially, although the often-cited claim that they are the first appears unlikely and would be virtually impossible to prove, given that the exact recording dates are unknown. Jones is not known to have made any further recordings for the next decade.

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Jones on the bill at Huber’s Museum, from the
New York Times for October 16, 1904. She apparently severed her full-time employment with Huber’s at the end of that year, coinciding with of her increasing activity in the recording studios.

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Jones finally found steady work at Huber’s Eighth Avenue Museum in New York. The earliest known mention that Jones was singing at Huber’s was a New York Times report on November 3, 1895. That week, she shared the spotlight at Eighth Avenue with Mlle. Sebastian and her Troupe of Trained Dogs, Pryer’s Punch and Judy, and something entitled “Frank’s Broom Factory.” 7

Huber’s Eighth Avenue was a lesser sibling to the main Huber establishment, the Fourteenth Street (or Palace) Museum. George Huber and E. M. Worth opened their popular Fourteenth Street “dime museum” on August 18, 1888. Originally named Worth’s Museum, it combined elements of historical museums and circus sideshows with live musical entertainment. The building contained a theater, but its main attraction was the Hall of Curios — 5,000 square feet of glass-fronted displays cases in which all manner of archeological, animal, and human curiosities were exhibited. In April 1890, Worth left the partnership, and Huber went on to build an entertainment empire that included Huber’s Casino, Huber’s Road House, Huber’s Wilhelmina Café & Hotel, and even Huber’s Ti Point Stock Farm. A typical Huber bill of the early 1890s featured “Rhea, the Peg-Legged Horse,” “Mitchell, the Soap King,” and bicycle races by “The Eight Fat Women.” Among the very few of Huber’s alumni to go on to greater things was magician Harry Houdini, who honed some of his early routines at the museum.

In February 1896, Jones moved from Eighth Avenue to Huber’s more famous Fourteenth Street Museum as part of “a specially organized company” that included Ravel, the Champion Club Juggler. At Fourteenth Street, Jones and company performed in the separate theater, apart from the parade of freak attractions in the Hall of Curios. On the week of Jones’ move, the featured act was one Captain Vetrio, “a young man who eats poisons and lives to tell of their effect as a diet.” The Captain, it was reported, had a fondness for Paris green but preferred morphine for lunch. 8

During the first week of March 1896, Jones and company shared billing with “Signor Monstrom’s Troupe of Boxing Monkeys” and “Bertha the Snake Charmer.” 9 But perhaps more intriguing was the appearance on that week’s theatrical bill of the Spencer Brothers. If these were Len and Harry Spencer— and that is not certain, as no first names are given in the billing — it would establish that Len Spencer was already familiar with Jones long before Billy Murray arrived in New York, and could lend some credence to the theory that it was Spencer, and not Murray, who first recommended Jones to the recording companies.

In November 1899, Jones shared the billing with an Edison Projectascope for the first time. 10 Her singing of “illustrated songs” became so popular that by May 1900 it was reported that she was heading Huber’s theatrical company. 11 For four more years her name would continue to appear in Huber’s advertising, although usually in small print and overshadowed by billings for the trained animals and human oddities that drew most of Huber’s patrons.

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Edison’s Vitascope was the motion-picture counterpart to his Projectascope, the slide projector in front of which Jones sang “illustrated songs” at Huber’s. (Library of Congess).

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Ultimately, Huber’s would prove to be a dead-end for Jones. Dime-museum acts were considered disreputable by much of the public and were ignored by reputable theater critics, denying Jones the reviews and publicity she would need to further her theatrical career. Then, too, Jones was not aging gracefully — something of a liability in the theatrical profession. Although only in her thirties, Jones’ already appears rather matronly in her earliest record-catalog photos.

The question of who actually arranged for Jones’ first 1904 recording session — the beginnig of her recording career proper — can probably never be answered definitively. Billy Murray’s claim to have done so first appeared thirteen years after the supposed event, in the January 1917 edition of The Edison Phonograph Monthly — a marketing publication not known for  factual accuracy in its biographical tidbits. Murray was still repeating his claim when interviewed in 1947 by entertainment columnist Jim Walsh (a fine writer, but a less-than-rigorous researcher, who tended to take his favorite old-time recording artists’ tales at face value). The possibility that it was Len Spencer who first brought Jones to the studios has been discussed above.

Then too, it is certainly likely that some Edison executives or managers were already familiar with Jones from her appearances at Huber’s. George Huber had a business relationship with the Edison organization dating back to 1899 or possibly earlier, and the Fourteenth Street Museum had the honor of being chosen to screen the 1903 premier of Edison’s historic feature film, The Great Train Robbery. Jones’ illustrated-song routines with the Edison Projectascope generated favorable publicity for that device in the press, quite possibly bringing her to the attention of Edison officials.

The question of which was Jones’ first recording (aside from the 1894 cylinders) is equally problematic, given that Columbia
session files for this period no longer exist. However, a combination of primary-source and circumstantial evidence suggests that her earliest sessions were held in December 1904. The last known Huber’s Fourteenth Street ad to mention Jones appeared in the New York Times on December 11, 1904, coinciding nicely with the earliest documented Jones recording date, for Victor, on December 29, 1904. 12 The earliest Ada Jones session to appear in the Edison cash books is January 12, 1905, for which she was paid $30. Unfortunately, the cash books do not indicate which title was recorded. 13

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Announcement of Jones’ first Victor release, March 1905. Billy Murray, her recording partner-to-be, was already well-established as a Victor artist.

Edison and Victor tied in releasing their first Ada Jones records, in March 1905 — Edison with “My Carolina Lady” (8948), from an unknown date, and Victor with “Mandy, Will You Be My Lady Love?” (4231), from the December 29 session. Perhaps tellingly, Columbia — the company for which Billy Murray claimed Jones made her first recordings, at his suggestion — lagged behind Edison and Victor in issuing its first Jones records. Columbia finally released its first Jones offering, “Mr. and Mrs. Murphy,” a comic sketch with Len Spencer, on disc #3108 in May 1905. Her first Columbia cylinders, a duet with Spencer of “E’vry Little Bit Helps” (#32730) and a solo of “My Carolina Lady” (#32731), were not released until June.


Notes

1 Jones’ year of birth is given as 1873 in most published works. The New York Times obituary gave her age at death as 46, apparently in error.

2 “Running Wild.” New York Times (1/22/1889), p. 5.

3 Norton, Richard C. A Chronology of the American Musical
Theater,
p. 445. New York: Oxford University Press (2002).

4 “What’s Going On.” New York Times (2/17/1889), p. 16. Jones’ interest in participating in a program of readings — as well as specimens of her written signature on contracts and other documents, and her hobby of telegraphy — casts serious doubt on the unsubstantiated claims seen in some hobbyists’ writings that Jones was illiterate.

5 “Amusements.” New York Times (9/7/1890), p. 7.

6 Norton, op. cit., p. 472.

7 “Theatrical Week.” New York Times (11/3/1895),
p. 12.

8 “The Theatres.” New York Times (2/9/1896), p. 10.

9 “La Loie Talks of her Art.” New York Times (3/1/1896), p. 10.

10 “Notes of the Week.” New York Times (11/19/1899), p. 18.

11 “Theatres and Music Halls.” New York Times (5/1/1900), p. 10.

12 Jones continued to perform sporadically in Huber establishments into mid-1905. Her last documented appearance was on June 18, 1905, at
Huber’s Casino.

13 Edison studio cash books (4/1904–12/1904 and 1/1905–6/1906).   Edison National Historic Site, Orange, NJ.

1937 Mystery Recording (Roberta Wilkins?)

Here’s a puzzler we picked up at an estate sale today. It’s a private recording, with no artist identification. What at first looked like a hastily scrawled “Farrar” on closer examination may simply be the word “Fair” (or it could be neither; the handwriting is unclear). This was in a large batch of bare-aluminum and aluminum-based acetates from a wide array of NYC studios, recorded from the mid-1930s to late 1940s by Roberta Wilkins, (with a handful of selections by Martha Wilkins). Presumably, this is Roberta as well, based on aural comparison.

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UNIDENTIFIED SOPRANO (Roberta Wilkins?):
Faust — Jewel Song

New York: “Spring 1937”
Artist Recording Studios — (10″ aluminum-based lacquer)

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Aurally, this side does not sound like a dubbing or off-the-air recording (the light crackle is in the surface material, not transferred from another source).

However, the reverse side, by an uncredited soprano with orchestra, is clearly dubbed, being marked “Duplicate of old record, not as good as original” and exhibiting a muffed needle-drop and high level of transferred noise from the source recording (apparently an extract from a radio transcription; the announcer speaks a few words at the end, before being cut off):

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UNIDENTIFIED SOPRANO (Roberta Wilkins?):
When Moonbeams Softly Fall

“Copy from WOR Record Oct-11 ’35”
Artist Recording Studios — (10″ aluminum-based lacquer)

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We’ve been able to find very little about Roberta Wilkins. She was on the air  from at least 1935 through 1949 (some of the discs are dated air-checks, unfortunately not giving program names, but listing stations WOR and WQXR). Her accompanists on these recordings included pianists Walter Goode (who performed with Pablo Casals and others in the 1920s) and Wildine Russell, and there are performances with tenor Brooks Dunbar and baritone Gordon Phelps (both well-known radio artists in the 1930s).

 

The Playlist • Memphis Minnie on Vinylite (1936–1937)

In the 1960s and early 1970s, while CBS was literally bulldozing Columbia’s recorded legacy into the scrap heap, some insiders at the Bridgeport plant began secretly pulling new vinyl pressings from important and threatened stampers. It was a preservation project, albeit an illegal one, not a money-making scheme. The pressings were quietly handed out to company employees and interested outsiders, free of charge. A surprisingly large number of these clandestine pressings seem to have been made, and over the years many have found their way into private collections. They’re not true “test pressings,” as some dealers would like you to believe, but they are magnificent specimens that often play better than even pristine shellac originals. Here are four of our favorites.

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: Ice Man (Come On Up)

Chicago: February 18, 1936
Mx. C 1263 – 1  (commercially issued on Vocalion 03222)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: Hoodoo Lady

Chicago: February 18, 1936
Mx. C 1264 – 1  (commercially issued on Vocalion 03222)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: It’s Hard to Be Mistreated

Chicago: November 12, 1936
Mx. C 1671 – 1 (commercially issued on Vocalion 03474)

From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: You Can’t Rule Me

Chicago: June 9, 1937
Mx. C 1927 – 1 (commercially issued on Vocalion 03697)

From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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