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.


GAMELAN ANKLUNG — Berong Pengetjet

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


GAMELAN DJOGED — Tjetjing Kereman

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


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.


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.


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.



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).


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




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.


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
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.



Faust — Jewel Song

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


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):


When Moonbeams Softly Fall

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


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.




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.



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.


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.



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.




The Playlist • Sonny Terry and Friends (1942 – 1944)


Moses Asch, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee



Washington, DC: May 11, 1942
Library of Congress transcription 6503-A-3 (recorded by Alan Lomax)



New York: April 1944
Asch 432-2A  (mx. 689), from the 78-rpm album Folksay


SONNY TERRY (with uncredited guitarist): Lonesome Train

New York: 1944
Asch 550-3A (mx. 1210), from the 78-rpm album Blues


Mainspring Press Book Specials on eBay


Knickers in a wad over “Brexit”? Never fear — In honor of yet another global economic meltdown, we’re offering you the “sterling” opportunity (sorry, couldn’t resist) to save between to save $4 – $30 on some popular Mainspring titles when you order them on eBay. The catch: We’re shipping them only to U.S. addresses at these special prices.

These are new first-quality copies, and shipping is free. Sale pricing is available exclusively on eBay. To see what’s currently on sale, log-in to your eBay account and search on seller name “mspBooks.” Quantities are limited at these prices!



Free Download of Brian Rust’s Jazz Records Discography Is Now Available

The Personal Use Edition of Brian Rust’s Jazz Records Discography (1917–1934) is now available for free download.

Before downloading, please be sure to read the Q & A below:


Q: Why is Mainspring Press making this available free of charge?

A: For many years, we have had requests from the collecting and research communities to make Brian’s jazz-record data freely available for much-needed revisions, additions, and corrections. Brian’s Jazz & Ragtime Records 1897–1942 (the sixth and final edition) is now a seventeen-year-old publication in dire need of updating. With Brian’s death several years ago, it’s time to pass the torch to others, as he certainly would have wanted.

Although several groups and individuals have expressed interest in carrying on Brian’s work, all wanted an exclusive “lock” on the data (although they were not willing to actually pay for it). In the end, it was decided that a new model is needed in which the material is made freely available to all, to share and revise as needed.

It is our hope that collectors and researchers will come together to coordinate their additions and corrections—with appropriate  documentation standards and quality-control measures in place— in a way that eventually results in a free online jazz discography containing the most authoritative data available.

Q: Am I required to share my additions or corrections with Mainspring Press?

No, there are no strings attached. Mainspring Press is not involved in this initiative in any way, other than to serve as the initial data supplier, and we will not be publishing a seventh edition of Jazz Records.

Q: Does this mean that other Mainspring Press publications are also free to access and distribute?

A: No. All other Mainspring publications remain subject to copyright and exclusive publication-rights protection and require a paid licensing agreement, in advance, for any use exceeding customary fair-use standards. Works by Bryant, Sutton, and/or  the Record Research Associates are currently available for pre-paid licensing on a non-exclusive basis. Works by other authors are not available for licensing.

Q: What is the legal status of this data?

Mainspring Press (the sole copyright holder in this material, per a 2001 contractual assignment by Brian Rust) is placing all material contained in the Free Personal-Use Edition — that is, all entries from 1917 through 1934 — into the public domain. This means that you may freely use, alter, and distribute the data in any way, with one important exception.

Q: What’s the important exception?

The Free Personal-Use Edition may not be sold, commercially published, or incorporated into a for-profit work — i.e., you may not sell print-outs for profit, charge customers to download the file from your blog or website, etc. Mainspring retains all commercial publication rights to this material (which is a separate issue from copyright) and is licensing it solely for personal, non-commercial use, non-profit use. The data is contains may be used as the underlying basis for a substantially new work, provided that work is distributed free of charge. In addition, Mainspring Press will continue to hold exclusive commercial publication rights to the full edition of Jazz & Ragtime Records 1897-1942 (JR-6).

Q: Will the full edition of JR-6 still be available?

Yes. Although sales of JR-6 have been essentially nil for some  years now, we will continue to make it available on CD as a service to the occasional customer who may still wish to purchase it.

Q: Are the pre-1917 and post-1934 Rust entries also free to use?

No. For now, Mainspring Press is retaining copyright and exclusive publication rights in that material, as contractually assigned by Brian Rust, and it remains subject to the same rights and restrictions as our other publications. It could be released for free access in time, provided that significant headway is seen being made in use of the 1917–1934 data.

Q: May I make and distribute copies, or convert the file to other formats?

A: Yes, so long as you do charge to do so. The files are not copy-protected in any way, and there are no restrictions on conversion to other formats.

Q: Will Mainspring provide assistance in converting or working with the files, or provide the files on CD?

No. We will not be supplying any advice or technical support, and the files will be available only online.

Q: Can I post these files to the Internet?

A: Yes, provided that (a) you do not charge for them, and (b) you credit Mainspring Press as the source, with an active link to



The Playlist • Five Harmaniacs (1926–1927)



The usual members of this group were Jerry Adams, Hampton Durand, Walter Howard, Ned Nestor, Clyde Shugart, and Percy Stoner (with the addition of pianist Tommy Reilly on one oddball  Brunswick session at which the Harmaniacs had no harmonica player — the only instance in which at least partial personnel were listed in the recording files).


HARMANIAC FIVE: Harmaniac Blues

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. May 1926
Paramount 20476 (Marsh mx. 1079)
From a tape dubbing supplied by the late Gilbert Louey. Jazz Records shows two banjos and no guitar, in error (one of each is audible, even through the horrendous surface noise and notoriously inaccurate “Marsh Sound”).


FIVE HARMANIACS: Coney Island Washboard

New York: September 17, 1926
Victor 20293 (mx. BVE 36327 – 2)
No personnel listed in the Victor files.


FIVE HARMANIACS (with uncredited vocal): Sleepy Blues

New York: February 24, 1927
Brunswick 7002 (mx. E 22013, renumbered from E 4587)
Race-series release (although the band was white). Originally recorded as a test master (Vocalion mx. E 4587, unissued on that label), and subsequently transferred to Brunswick on March 18, 1927, and assigned Brunswick mx. E 22013. No personnel are listed in the Brunswick-Vocalion files. Jazz Records shows a recording date of February 4, in error.


FIVE HARMANIACS: It Takes A Good Woman (To Keep a Good Man at Home)

New York: February 8, 1927
Victor mx. BVE 37751 – 1 (unissued in 78-rpm form)
From a c. 1960s blank-label vinyl pressing from the original stamper. Take 2 was released on Victor 20507 in April 1927. No personnel listed in the Victor files.


FIVE HARMANIACS (Walter Howard, speech): What Makes My Baby Cry?

New York: February 8, 1927
Victor mx. BVE 37750 – 1 (unissued in 78-rpm form)
From a c. 1960s blank-label vinyl pressing from the original stamper. Take 2 was released on Victor 20507 in April 1927. No personnel, aside from Howard, are listed in the Victor files.

The Playlist • Country Fiddle Classics (1927–1928, 1937)



New York: May 9, 1927
Vocalion 5165 (mx. E 4959)
Personnel per Brunswick-Vocalion files: Uncle Dave Macon (banjo, speech); Kirk McGee, Maize Todd (fiddles); Sam McGee (guitar)


FIDDLIN’ JOHN CARSON & HIS VIRGINIA REELERS (John & Rosa Lee Carson, vocal): Swanee River

Atlanta: March 17, 1927
Okeh 45139 (mx. W 80560 – B)



Johnson City, TN: October 15, 1928
Columbia 15377-D (mx. W 147183 – 2)



Memphis Auditorium: February 13, 1928
Victor 21294 (mx. BVE 41896 – 2)



Dallas: February 20, 1937
Decca 5347 (mx. 61887 – A)


In Production • “Orlando Marsh: Chicago’s Pioneer of Electrical Recording” (Richard Raichelson)




Nearly four years before Columbia and Victor released their first electrical recordings, Orlando Marsh was already recording electrically in Chicago and issuing the results under custom labels. Marsh’s story is finally told in depth by historian Richard Raichelson in Orlando Marsh: Chicago’s Pioneer of Electrical Recording, which is now in production for a summer release.

Impeccably documented and engagingly written, this new book includes a vast amount of newly unearthed information, while dispelling the various myths and misconceptions that have grown up around Orlando Marsh and his records over the years. Marsh’s entire career — from his earliest experimental work for the legendary Essanay movie studio, to his involvement with the short-lived Chicago Recording Laboratories, founding and operation of Marsh Laboratories, and later work with radio transcriptions — are covered in fine detail.

But more than that, Orlando Marsh takes a wide view, examining  Marsh’s work within the context of the 1920s and early 1930s Chicago recording industry. It also does an authoritative job of untangling Marsh’s various connections with other Midwestern labels and studios, including Paramount and the Rodeheaver studio — a subject that is often addressed only vaguely or incorrectly in earlier works.

Also included is the most complete and accurate Marsh discography ever published, covering his output from the earliest custom labels of 1921 to the final transcriptions and acetates of the 1930s, with illustrated guides to label types and markings in the wax. In addition to highly detailed discographical data taken from first-hand inspection of the original discs, the entries are extensively annotated,  with artist biographies, observations on musical aspects of the recorded performances, and fascinating historical notes.

The book will be printed in color throughout, with more than 160 illustrations.  (Projected release: August 2016)

About the Author



Richard Raichelson obtained a Ph.D in folklore/anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. He taught at the University of Memphis and was Director of Education and Research at the Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis. He is a member of the Association of Recorded Sound Collections, and a founding member and past president of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors, for which he is co-editor of the Discographical section and the editor of two other columns for the Journal. As a record collector, one of his special interests is the history of record labels. He has written numerous articles and liner notes on jazz and blues, as well as two books, Beale Street Talks: A Walking Tour Down the Home of the Blues (Arcadia Records, 2nd edition, updated in 2008) and Memphis Innovations: People, Ideas, and Innovations That Changed Our World (Power House, 2006). In addition, he was photo editor of Bluff City Barristers by John Thomason (Legacy, 2008) and Memphis Medicine by Patricia LaPointe McFarland and Mary Ellen Pitts (Legacy 2011). Currently, he continues his research and writing on early jazz artists, and lectures with piano demonstrations about the history and music of Memphis and the Mid-South for various Road Scholar (elderhostel) programs.


The Playlist • Memphis Jug Band (1927–1934)



MEMPHIS JUG BAND (Will Shade, vocal) : Sometimes I
Think I Love You

Victor Laboratory, Chicago: June 9, 1927
Released: September 16, 1927 — Deleted 1929
Victor 20809 (mx. BVE 38657 – 1)
Not designated as a race release in the Victor files.


MEMPHIS JUG BAND (Vol Stevens, vocal): Coal Oil Blues

Memphis Auditorium: February 13, 1928
Released: May 4, 1928 — Deleted: 1930
Victor 21278 (mx. BVE 41888 – 2)
Designated as a race release in the Victor files. From a tape transfer supplied by the late Mike Stewart.


MEMPHIS JUG BAND (as “Carolina Peanut Boys”; Charlie Nickerson, vocal): You Got Me Rollin’

Memphis Auditorium: November 28, 1930
Released: June 19, 1931 — Deletion date unlisted
Victor 23274 (mx.  BVE 64741 – 2)
The band’s identity is confirmed in the Victor ledger. From a tape transfer supplied by the late Mike Stewart.



Chicago: November 6, 1934
Mx. C 782 – 2 (commercially issued on Okeh 8955)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing from the original stamper


MEMPHIS JUG BAND (Will Shade and Charlie Burse, vocal):
Little Green Slippers

Chicago: November 7, 1934
Mx. C 784 – 1 (commercially issued on Okeh 8966/ Vocalion 03050)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing from the original stamper.

Pressing Plant Indicators on RCA Victor 78-rpm and 45-rpm Record Labels (1947, 1950)

One of the easiest way to determine pressing plants for RCA Victor’s later 78s and early 45s and LPs is from subtle clues in the label design. Victor revealed them in the Standardizing Notices pictured below in 1947 (for 78s) and 1950 (for 45s). For 78s, the clues lie in the concentric rings, and their spacing relative to the circled RCA logo; for 45s, in the placement of a double hyphen within the upper text circle.

“Canonsburg” refers to RCA’s auxiliary plant in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, which opened in 1947. In 1950 it was converted to a 45-only plant, then was closed in 1953.



Indianapolis text above, which is unclear on the original, reads: “Two concentric circles nearly touch small RCA circle.



The Playlist • Walter Barnes & his Royal Creolians (1929)


The Royal Creolians were a fixture at the Chicago Cotton Club in the late 1920s. The band was led by Walter Barnes, a diminutive saxophonist with an oversized ego, who was dubbed “The Midget Maestro” by The Chicago Defender. Barnes also took over Dave Peyton’s “Musical Bunch” column in the Defender in the late 1920s, and he continued to write for that paper for the next  decade. His columns are a treasure-trove of tour listings, biographical tidbits, and band personnel changes, often with a healthy dose of self-promotion tossed in.

In the off-seasons, the Royal Creolians toured widely. Like many other black bands in the 1920s, one of their stop-overs was Denver, which probably explains why these fairly scarce records have turned up here surprisingly often over the years. (Lest anyone be tempted to pack their bags for Colorado, a quick reality-check: The state was a goldmine for rare and unusual records of all kinds when we arrived here 25 years ago, but those days are long-gone. You might still find an occasional rare gem with some persistence and luck, but the unexpectedly rich pickings we enjoyed in the 1990s are pretty much just a memory.)

The 1928–1929 Brunswick sessions comprise Barnes’ total recorded output. After the Depression hit, he spent much of his time touring the Southern states, eventually renaming the band Walter Barnes and his Kings of Swing. He died in Natchez, Mississippi, on April 23, 1940, at age thirty-four, in a dance-hall fire that claimed 209 lives. His adventures on the road, and his tragic end, are beautifully recounted in The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll, by Preston Lauterbach (W. W. Norton, 2011) — a great read.



Chicago: February 27, 1929
Brunswick 7072 (mx. C 3009 – )



Chicago: February 27, 1929
Brunswick 7072 (mx. C 3010 – )


WALTER BARNES & HIS ROYAL CREOLIANS (with uncredited vocalist): Birmingham Bertha

Chicago: July 25, 1929
Brunswick 4480 (mx. C 3942 – )
Identification of May Alix as the vocalist in some discographies is based on aural evidence; the vocalist is not credited in the Brunswick files or on the labels. An alternate version (mx. C 3942 – G) was recorded without vocal, for export to Germany.


WALTER BARNES & HIS ROYAL CREOLIANS: If You’re Thinking of Me (When I’m Thinking of You)

Chicago: July 25, 1929
Brunswick 4480 (mx. C 3941 – )


Three takes were recorded for each selection (two, in the case of C 3941); the selected takes are not indicated in the Brunswick files or on the pressings. At least two takes of C 3010 are known to have been issued, although the differences are rather insignificant. Personnel listed for these records in Jazz Records and other discographies are undocumented; they are not from the Brunswick files.

In Memory of John R. Sutton (1926 – 2016)

I’m taking a short break from blogging in memory of my father, John R. Sutton, who died on May 15, just short of his 90th birthday.

In his college yearbook, his roommate called him “a slumbering intellectual giant.” I think he was always a little embarrassed by that, but quietly proud of it, too. He loved a good road trip, filled our home with interesting books and music, and taught us the importance of open-mindedness and life-long learning.




He gave me my own record-player when I was five, a home-built contraption that played only 78s. It wasn’t entirely altruistic, sparing him from having to listen to the stack of acoustic Victors that landed in our house after my grandmother cleaned the attic. I was hooked.

We never did agree on music to any great extent (he liked modern jazz and French avant-garde, I was more about jug bands and Russian opera), but we did agree that music was one of the greatest things in life, and he did all that he could to encourage my pursuit of it in recorded form. Before I could drive, he would haul me to some pretty dicey sections of inner-city Baltimore, in a quest for second-hand stores that looked like they might have a few records lying around.

After I got my license, my first solo trip was to a rural junk shop that was rumored to have cylinders (it didn’t), where I managed to back his car into a tree. Rather than fuss or berate, he took me to a local salvage yard, found a matching trunk and bumper, and spent the rest of the weekend teaching me the finer points of auto-part replacement. In the 1970s, when I was fresh out of college and basically broke, he made me an interest-free loan to start up my record-auction business, which eventually morphed into Mainspring Press.

As a school guidance counselor, he helped out countless kids who never had the advantages that my sister and I enjoyed. He encouraged us think for ourselves, find our own direction in life, pursue our passions, and stand up for our beliefs, even when they weren’t necessarily his own. He was a kind and gentle man, and we’ll miss him very much.

— Allan Sutton (Publisher, Mainspring Press)