The Playlist • Black Swan at the Beginning — Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter, Katie Crippen (1921)


A first-state pressing of Waters’ “Down Home Blues.” The record stayed in Black Swan’s
catalog until the end, and was reissued by Paramount. It was frequently re-pressed,
with examples from at least three different plants — NYRL, Fletcher-Olympic,
and BD&M — all confirmed,
so it appears with many variations in label
design and pressing characteristics.

Folks are often disappointed when they hear early Black Swans for the first time and discover just how un-jazzy and un-bluesy they are. This, however, was Harlem in early 1921 — still dominated by cabaret- and vaudeville-blues singers and the ghost of Jim Europe, and definitely not a jazz haven just yet.

Be that as it may, the records are loaded with historical interest, and they have a certain charm if you can get past the plodding house-band accompaniments, directed in the early days by a very young and inexperienced Fletcher Henderson; so here are a few  of the best early offerings from the world’s second black-owned record company (hats off to George W. Broome, who founded the first one):


KATIE CRIPPEN: Blind Man Blues

New York: c. March 1921 (Released May 1921)
Black Swan 2003 (mx. P 103 – 2)


Down Home Blues

New York: c. April 1921 (Released July 1921)
Black Swan 2010 (mx. P 115 – 1)


How Long, Sweet Daddy, How Long

New York: c. May 1921 (Released July 1921)
Black Swan 2008 (mx. P 121 – 2)


Frank Walker and the Role of Recording Managers in the 1920s (Featuring Chris Bouchillon and Gid Tanner’s Skillet Lickers)

A question often overlooked in historic recorded-sound research is: How much influence did recording directors and artists-and-repertoire managers exert over a performer’s recorded output? When we listen to 1920s jazz, blues, and country records today, are we hearing what live audiences heard at the time, or was the performance altered — for better or worse, and to what degree — by the record-company managers?

Recording directors could be utter tyrants, and Edward “Eddie” King — the Victor studio manager who’s remembered mainly for nixing Bix Beiderbecke’s first recorded solo with the Jean Goldkette Orchestra — ranks among the worst. We know from the Victor recording ledgers, as well as from musicians’ recollections, that King was not above usurping the conducting duties, leaving popular band leaders on the sidelines while he brow-beat their musicians into submission — No doubt the reason why so many mid-1920s Victor jazz and dance-band recordings (such as those from Armand J. Piron’s January 8, 1924 session, which King hijacked) turn out to be bland disappointments.

On the other hand, a perceptive and open-minded recording director could work wonders for a company. King’s counterpart at Columbia was Frank B. Walker, the man who signed Bessie Smith after other labels rejected her, and who many years later turned Hank Williams into a star for M-G-M. While King blustered and bludgeoned artists into playing things “the Victor way,” Walker took a more creative and ultimately productive approach, personally working with many of Columbia’s country and race-record artists to make them more marketable without losing what made them distinctive.

Here are two examples of Walker’s work for Columbia in the 1920s, in his own words (excerpted from a fascinating June 1962 interview with Mike Seeger):



Atlanta: November 4, 1926
Columbia 15120-D (mx. W 143060 – 2)


[FW] Chris Bouchillon from down in South Carolina who made that tremendously famous Talking Blues – he was down out of a little bit of a town outside Columbia, South Carolina…

Well, he came to see me down in Atlanta. I listened to him and I thought it was pretty awful. I thought the singing was the worst thing I had heard, but I didn’t want to tell him that, so we kept on talking. We kept on talking, but I liked the voices. I liked the way he talked to me. I said: “Can you play guitar and banjo while you’re talking?” He said: “Yes.” So I said: “Let’s do it, let’s fool around with something like that.” He had a little thing called a “blues thing” and he tried to sing it. I said “Don’t sing it, just talk it.” So we ended up with talking the blues. That’s all, except we dropped the “the” out and called it Talking Blues…..



Atlanta: April 12, 1928
Columbia 15258-D (mx. W 146033 – 2)


[MS] Who wrote all those skits that they [Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers] did…?

[FW] … I had a young man who was with a radio station in Atlanta, Dan Hornsby… Dan and I would sit down when we were doing nothing else and would gather material for these skits. Then we would rehearse as best we could with the boys. Much of it was done naturally, with only just an outline for them to do.

[MS] What was the musician’s part in making up these skits would you say?

[FW] Not to any great extent. The skits were made up from things they let drop. Then we would sit, Dan and I, and read it to them, and if we got a laugh here or a laugh there, we knew that it was pretty good. From that we worked on it and they got the general feeling of it. In Riley [Puckett]’s case, he couldn’t see, so he couldn’t read. He only learned from the hearing of our voices. At times we had people who couldn’t read even though they had excellent eyesight. So it became a going over and over until they became familiar with it, almost a party to them without an audience, because of course we didn’t allow any audience.

[MS] Did these records sell fairly well?

[FW] Tremendously. In the hundreds of thousands.

[MS] Did they outsell the musical records?

[FW] Yes, yes, because they looked for them. They were just waiting until you could bring them out another one of those and we didn’t issue them out too often… Remember, in those days we never used the word “hillbilly” because “hillbilly” was not a favorable term… Well, in those days we called them “old familiar tunes” and that’s the way they were issued. We did not call them country tunes. That came afterwards.


* While we’re on the subject, let’s put one of Jim Walsh’s old Hobbies goofs to rest: The Bill Brown on these and other Atlanta recordings was not a pseudonym for vaudeville and recording star Harry C. Browne, nor for anyone else. Brown, who worked in Columbia’s Atlanta sales office and was a friend of Walkers’, occasionally did small bits on recordings like these.

Shifting Focus (And a Preview of Our 2016 Titles)

Next year will mark a turning point for Mainspring Press, as we shift our focus to narrative and encyclopedic works rather than pure discographies.

Contrary to rumor, Mainspring Press is not closing in 2016 — far from it! In fact, we’re currently putting the finishing touches on our initial 2016 titles: Race Records and the American Recording Industry, 1919–1945 (part of the popular Evolution of American Recording series), a fresh approach to race recordings that focuses on the business, marketing, and social aspects, while debunking some popular myths and misconceptions; and Vintage Phonograph Advertising, 1895–1925, our first venture into the antique-phonograph field.


In addition, the preliminary manuscript is nearing completion for the epic American Record Companies and Producers: An Encyclopedia, 1888–1950 (replacing the more limited American Record Labels and Companies), which covers all U.S. record-makers,  from the advent of commercial wax cylinders to the decline of the 78. Nothing currently in print comes close in terms of completeness, detail, and the scope and quality of documentation.

What you won’t see in the 2016 list are discographies. Sadly, sales of printed discographies continue to soften, while production, manufacturing, and transportation costs continue to escalate. At the same time, sales of our texts have been increasing steadily, even for older titles (Recording the ‘Twenties, for instance, just went into its fifth printing, with no signs of slowing down). The decision to stop publishing discographies is purely a business one, and is in no way a negative reflection on the outstanding discographers with whom we’ve had the pleasure of working, and who have done so much to elevate discography from a hobbyists’ pastime to a serious, respected discipline.

Does that mean Mainspring is “out of the discography business” entirely? Not at all.

First, our existing printed discographies will remain on sale until current inventory is exhausted (which is fast-approaching for certain titles, so don’t delay ordering; we won’t be reprinting any discographies, and used copies often list for far more on the used/collectible market that what we charge for fresh new ones).

Second, I am retaining all rights to works in which either I or Mainspring Press hold copyright (which includes Rust’s Jazz Records and the Bryant–Record Research Associates volumes, as well as my own titles),and this material at some point will be made available for licensing by others. (Rights to other works, such as the Victor series, will revert to the authors once their books are out-of-print.)

Third, and most importantly, the discographical research will continue in earnest, albeit not in print form. I’ve long been convinced that online digital is the best solution for complicated minor-label discographies, given their notorious inter-connectedness and the corresponding need for advanced search and query functions, as well as on-the-fly update capability. Therefore, I personally will continue to oversee development of Mainspring’s minor-label database (employing data from Bill Bryant, the Record Research group, and other highly trusted collectors and researchers) for eventual release as a purely online product. At present, two preliminary hosting offers are under consideration, but please understand that this is going to be a long process, given the technical considerations and sheer volume of data involved.

My thanks for your continued interest and support,

— Allan Sutton (Publisher, Mainspring Press)

Three ARSC 2015 Awards for Mainspring Press Books: Eli Oberstein, Victor Special Labels, Ajax Records

We’re honored to announce that three Mainspring Press titles have received 2015 awards from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Details and secure online ordering are available on the Mainspring Press website.

The ARSC Award for Excellence—Best Label Discography went to Eli Oberstein’s United States Record Corporation: A History and Discography, 1939–1940:


2015 Certificates of Merit were awarded to The Victor Discography: Special Labels, 1928–1941; and Ajax Records: A History and Discography:


ORDER SOON if you’re interested in Oberstein or Victor Special Labels. Both titles have been on the market since 2014, and in addition, there’s recently been a big library run on USRC. We won’t be reprinting either title once our current supplies are gone.

Sorry, Ajax has already sold out, although we might consider reprinting this one if there’s sufficient interest — Let us know.

The Playlist • Okeh Jazz Odds-and-Ends (1923–1926)


CHARLES CREATH’S JAZZ-O-MANAICS (Floyd Campbell, vocal):
I Woke Up Cold in Hand

St. Louis: March 1925
Okeh 8217 (mx. 9018 – A)



New York: May 1924
Okeh 8150 (mx. S 72524 – B)


GUYON’S PARADISE ORCHESTRA (Jules R. Herbuveaux, director):
Henpecked Blues

New York: May 1923
Okeh 4862 (mx. S 71514 – B)



New York: March 1926
Okeh 8342 (mx. 74059 – A)


The Playlist • Kansas City Blues — Lottie (Kimbrough) Beaman, 1924 and 1928


LOTTIE BEAMAN (Acc. by Milas & Miles Pruitt): Honey Blues

Chicago: c. March 1924
Paramount 12201  (mx. 1695 – 1)


LOTTIE BEAMAN (Acc. by Jimmy Blythe, piano; unknown, banjo): Mama Can’t Lose

Chicago: October 1924
Paramount  12235  (mx. 1904 – 1)


LOTTIE BEAMAN, as LOTTIE EVERSON (possibly acc. by Miles Pruitt, guitar):
Rolling Log Blues

Richmond, IN:  August 21, 1928
Champion 15636  (mx. 14162)


LOTTIE BEAMAN, as LOTTIE EVERSON (possibly acc. by Miles Pruitt, guitar):
Going Away Blues

Richmond, IN:  August 21, 1928
Champion 15591  (mx. 14163-A)
The accompanist for this session is not listed in the Gennett ledger. Pruitt is listed as “probable” in Dixon, Godrich & Rye’s Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943.

Discographical Update • Correct Date and Personnel for the First Meritt Record (1924)

MSP-NAUCK_meritt-2201 (Label scan courtesy of Kurt Nauck. MP3 conversion from
a tape dubbing supplied by the late Mike Stewart.)



City of the Dead

Kansas City: Late 1924
Meritt 2201 (mx. X-22)


Winston Holmes’ Meritt label is one of the rarest race-record brands of the 1920s, and although anecdotes concerning it abound, reliable documentation has been hard to come by.

Traditionally, works like Dixon, Godrich & Rye’s Blues and Gospel Records, 1890–1943 have cited mid-1926 as the date of Meritt’s first release. However, we now know otherwise, thanks to a blurb on p. 8 of the National Edition of The Chicago Defender for January 10, 1925. Clearly, Meritt 2201 had already been recorded by that time; based on the article, the correct recording date would be late 1924, approximately eighteen months earlier than has been assumed by discographers:


There are also some discrepancies in the personnel listing, although here we are not certain which account to trust — the Defender wasn’t particularly reliable when it came to  fine details, but on the other hand, BGR doesn’t cite its sources. Clifford Banks is shown as a clarinetist in the Defender article, but as an alto saxophonist in BGR; Simon Hoe is shown as a one-string violinist in the Defender, but as a clarinetist in BGR. Personally, we don’t hear either a saxophone or a violin on either side, although admittedly the few copies we’ve heard have been so worn, and that questionable third instrument is so faintly recorded, that we wouldn’t want to bet on what it was. (By the way, these are acoustic recordings, not electrical as one might expect had they actually been made in mid-1926.)

Lena Kimbrough was one of several names used by Kansas City blues-belter Lottie Kimbrough Beaman; this is the first mention we’ve seen of her having studied in Europe. The revised recording date could explain why Holmes used a pseudonym for her — perhaps he did so to avoid a conflict with Paramount, for whom she was still recording in the fall of 1924?


Back in the late 1960s, Doug Jydstrup located Lottie’s sister Estella, who had two versions of a photo that Winston Holmes used to promote Meritt 2201. Turns out, Lottie was sick on the day of the shoot according to the far slimmer Estella, who filled in for her sister in the photo. Just to add to the deception, Simon Hoe also failed to show up, so Winston Holmes himself filled in, posing with a clarinet (which, by the way, he could not play), and Clifford Banks was posed with a saxophone — in other words, a rather fanciful re-creation all around. You can find the details and both photos in 78 Quarterly (Volume 1-2) — The  entire run can be downloaded free at 78 Quarterly Download (on the late, lamented Dinosaur Discs blog, which sadly is no longer active but is still online as of this writing).

Life After the Gramophone: Emile Berliner’s Last Hurrah (1929–1930)

Gramophone inventor Emile Berliner stayed active until the end. As owner of the Berliner Gramophone Company, Ltd. (Victor’s Canadian cousin), he established a second residence in Montreal around 1903, but continued to spend time in Washington, D.C. After Victor acquired the Canadian operation outright in 1927, Berliner returned home for good. According to a late 1920s report, Berliner’s estate at 1438 Columbia Road (on what was then the outskirts of the city) included a separate building housing a laboratory and experimental recording studio.

Exactly what went on in there isn’t well-known (there’s no evidence of any commercial recording activity), but these ads from April–June 1930, which appeared some months after Berliner’s death, might be a good starting point for further investigation. It would also be interesting to determine whether son Herbert (a skilled engineer, who developed his own electrical recording system for the Compo Company in the mid-1920s) had any hand in the Berliner Acoustic System.



(Berliner’s Variety obituary, August 7, 1929)



Discographical Update • Re-Dating the Kid Ory “Sunshine” Recordings (1922)


KID ORY’S CREOLE JAZZ BAND (as Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra): Society Blues

Santa Monica, CA: c. Late May, 1922
Sunshine 3003 (label pasted over Nordskog 3009)


Kid Ory’s Nordskog / Sunshine title are important as the first issued recordings by a black New Orleans band. For decades, they have been listed in the standard discographies as the product of a single June 1922 session (others list 1921, which will be ruled out below). However, evidence in The Chicago Defender suggests that there were actually two dates involved: One session, c. early April 1922, for singers Ruth Lee and Roberta Dudley, accompanied by Ory’s band; and a second session, c. late May 1922, for the two Ory band sides.

There have been many conflicting anecdotal accounts of the business arrangement between the Spikes brothers and Nordskog. What is known for certain is that the records were pressed a continent away, at the Arto Company plant on Orange, New Jersey. A portion of the pressing run was allocated to the Nordskog label; the balance (5,000 copies, according to Reb Spikes’ recollections) were to have Sunshine labels pasted over the Nordskog originals, for sale by the Spikes Brothers’ music shop in Los Angeles. All three Sunshine releases also appeared in the Nordskog catalog, using Nordskog’s own catalog numbers and artist credits (Ory’s band became “Spikes Seven Pods of Pepper Orchestra” on Nordskog)  — rebutting the assertion in at least one classic-jazz history that all of the Nordskog specimens are simply Sunshine issues from which the Sunshine label have fallen off. (The Sunshine labels often do peel away to varying degrees, particularly at the edges, but not very cleanly.)

Several published accounts have claimed that Andrae Nordskog  made the Ory recordings during a single session in his living room in 1921 — a colorful tale, but nothing more. The 1921 date has long-since been debunked, with 1922 now well-established, and Nordskog’s storefront Santa Monica studio was operating by that time. Reb Spikes recalled in a 1951 interview that the Ory recordings were made in that studio.

Local cabaret-blues singers Ruth Lee and Roberta Dudley appeared on the first Sunshine releases, backed by members of Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band from the Creole Cafe in Oakland, California. The Chicago Defender for May 22, 1922, confirmed that Lee and Dudley had already recorded “Maybe Someday” and “Krooked Blues,” respectively, which the paper reported were expected to release on or about June 1. [1] We know from comparing confirmed Arto recording dates (listed in Ed Kirkeby’s logs) to those records’ release dates that the Arto pressing plant’s usual production cycle was six to eight weeks from receipt of masters to release (about average for the period). Add another five or six days for master shipment by rail from LA to New Jersey, and five or six more days for return of the finished pressings, and early April 1922 becomes the most likely recording date.

The projected June 1 release turned out to have been an accurate prediction. The Defender reported that on June 2, the Spikes Brothers hosted a gala event at the Gaumet Auditorium in Los Angeles to celebrate the first two Sunshine releases. After a lengthy program, the Sunshine artists finally took the stage. Ragtime Billy Tucker, the Defender’s California correspondent, reported:

“Hon. Frederick M. Roberts, member of the California legislature, thanked the audience on behalf of the Spikes Bros. while the stage was being set for Kid Ory’s famous Creole band, which made the first records for the Spikes Bros. The band offered a number from the pen of Mr. Ory, entitled, “Ory’s Creole Trombone.” Then they played “Maybe Some Day,” which was successfully featured by Miss Ruth Lee, who is after the laurels of Mamie Smith… Dainty little Roberta Dudley was the next little “mite” of personality to grace the boards. She rendered the “Krooked Blues”… She started a panic with her number, and it was a long time before she could break into the song, the applause came so fast.” [2]

Note that although the title of one Ory band releases is mentioned (“Ory’s Creole Trombone”), there’s no mention of it having yet been recorded. The reason can be found in a May 27 Defender report that the Spikes Brothers a week earlier had “sent to Oakland for ‘Kid Ory’s Famous Creole Jazz Band’ to make their first records,” presumably meaning the first records in their own right, rather than in just an accompanying role. (The same article repeats that Dudley and Lee had already recorded their numbers — further proof that these could not have been June recordings).

The earliest mention we’ve found of the Ory band release (Sunshine 3003) is in the Defender for July 29, 1922. [3] Using the same turnaround time outlined above, that fits perfectly with a late May recording session. In addition, there was a production error on this release that did not occur with the earlier releases (the Sunshine labels were not applied at the factory, requiring the Spikes brothers to apply them by hand), suggesting the records were not pressed at the same time as the two vocal releases.

Based on the above evidence, we feel that two separate sessions were involved for the 1922 Ory recordings, for which the following are more accurate dates than the customarily cited June 1922:

Santa Monica, CA: c. Early April 1922 (released June 1, 1922)
Roberta Dudley, acc. by Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band:

Krooked Blues / When You’re Alone Blues
Nordskog 3007, Sunshine 3001

Santa Monica, CA: c. Early April 1922 (released June 1, 1922)
Ruth Lee, acc. by Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band:

Maybe Someday / That Sweet Something, Dear
Nordskog 3008, Sunshine 3002

Santa Monica, CA: c. Late May 1922 (released August, 1922)
Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band:
Ory’s Creole Trombine / Society Blues
Nordskog 3009 (as Spikes Seven Pods of Pepper Orchestra)
Sunshine 3003 (as Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra)

[1] Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (May 27, 1922), p. 8.
[2] Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (June 24, 1922), p. 8.
[3] Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (July 29, 1922), p. 6.

The Playlist • Bessie Smith: “St. Louis Blues” Soundtrack (1929)

MSP_bsmith_slb-1929Bessie Smith’s only film was released in September 1929. Columbia probably wasn’t pleased to find their star advertised as a “famous Victor recording artist” (above). The blurb below appeared in the December 1929 edition of Screenland magazine .




New York (R.C.A. Gramercy Studios): c. Late June 1929
This is a 1940s edited dubbing, deleting some incidental comic dialogue in which Bessie Smith isn’t heard.


The Playlist • Bill Brown & his Brownies: Complete Recordings (1927, 1929)

MSP_brown-b_composite(Top) Chicago Defender ad for the Vocalion version of “Bill Brown’s Blues” (sic; the possessive form doesn’t  appear on the labels or in the Brunswick files). The Vocalion uses the same master as the Brunswick release (renumbered as E 6444, assigned on September 9, 1927), but has a different coupling.

(Bottom) The very rare alternate take of “Hot Lips” (mx. E 21990), showing the telltale “90” at the three-o’clock position.




New York: March 17, 1927
Brunswick 7003 (mx. E 21986)




New York: March 17, 1927
Brunswick 7003 (mx. E 21989)



New York: March 17, 1927
Brunswick 7003 (mx. E 21990)
This very rare take is shown in error as unissued in Laird’s Brunswick Records Discography (Greenwood Press), although listed correctly in Rust’s Jazz Records. We found this copy a few years ago in an Englewood, Colorado, thrift store.


BILL BROWN & HIS BROWNIES (Ovie Alston, vocal): Zonky

New York: December 26, 1929
Brunswick 7142 (mx. 31743 – A or –B*)


BILL BROWN & HIS BROWNIES: What Kind of Rhythm Is That?

New York: December 26, 1929
Brunswick 7142 (mx. 31744 – A or –B*)

*The selected takes are not shown in the surviving Brunswick files or on inspected pressings.


The Playlist • St. Louis Jazz: Jesse Stone and Dewey Jackson Rarities (1926–1927)



St. Louis: April 27, 1927
Okeh 8471 (mx. W 80761 – C)



St. Louis: April 27, 1927
Okeh 8471 (mx. W 80763 – A)



St. Louis: June 1926
Vocalion 1040 (mx. E 3417, renumbered from test TC 1007)



St. Louis: June 1926
Vocalion 1040 (mx. E 3415, renumbered from test TC 999)

The Playlist • Louis Armstrong with Alberta Hunter, Clarence Williams, and the Red Onion Jazz Babies (1924–1925)




New York: November 26, 1924
Gennett 5607 (mx. 9206)



New York: November 26, 1924
Gennett 5607 (mx. 9207)


Texas Moaner Blues

New York: November 8, 1924
Silvertone 4033 (Gennett mx. 9176 – A)


Cake-Walking Babies from Home

New York: January 8, 1925
Okeh 40321 (mx. S 73083 – A)


The Playlist • Edward M. Favor (1903 – 1906)



Edward M. Favor (1856 – 1936) isn’t easy on modern ears, but his recordings allow us to hear a popular nineteenth-century stage star in action. Favor’s career pre-dated the start of commercial sound recording. He was attracting notice in New York as early as 1883, when he landed a starring role in “Fun in a Balloon” at Tony Pastor’s. His biggest musical-comedy success came with wife Edith Sinclair in E. E. Rice’s long-running extravaganza, “1492 (Up to Date, or Very Near It),” which opened at Palmer’s in 1893. Two years later he made a successful transition to vaudeville, headlining on the B. F. Keith circuit in an act that a New York Times critic dismissed as “rather more of the rough-and-ready kind.” He also began to record prolifically in the late 1890s, churning out hundreds of titles for major and minor concerns alike. He returned to musical comedy in the early 1900s, with a corresponding drop-off in recording activity, and reportedly remained active in vaudeville into the early 1930s.


EDWARD M. FAVOR (self-announced): Bedelia

New York: c. October–November 1903 (released January 1904)
Columbia 1667 (take 1; no “M-“ number present)


EDWARD M. FAVOR: La Ti-dly I-dly Um

Philadelphia: March 16, 1906
Victor 4667 (mx. B 3185 – 2)


EDWARD M. FAVOR: Fol the Rol Lol

Philadelphia: March 16, 1906
Victor 4856 (mx. B 3182 – 2)
Note: The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings also shows this on Victor 4669, a number that does not appear in the Victor Monthly Supplements, and which we have not been able to confirm as actually issued (let us know if you have one). Victor 4856 is a delayed release (November 1906).


EDWARD M. FAVOR & CHORUS (announced by Edward Meeker):
Fol the Rol Lol

New York: c. August 1906 (released November 1906)
Edison 9142 (2-minute cylinder)


The Playlist • Organ Classics — Commette and Dupré Play Charles Marie Widor (1929 – 1930)

MSP_HMV-D1898bUPDATE: Thanks to Nick Morgan, an independent researcher and discographer in the U.K., we now have the correct dates for the Commette sides, from Michael Gray’s CHARM data. As suspected, we were off by a couple of years (we’d guessed c. 1931 based solely on the U.S. release date, always a shaky way of determining recording dates). The correct date is April 18, 1929, and the original release was on French Columbia D 11078.

Last week we were lucky enough to pick up the late James Bratton’s collection of historic pipe-organ 78s at his estate sale in Denver. Bratton was a prominent organist, instructor, and journal editor who moved to Colorado from Baltimore (where he had studied at the Peabody Conservatory) in the early 1970s. We’ll be posting some of the most interesting recordings from his collection on the blog from time to time.

The Dupré data are from the original Gramophone Company files, courtesy of Dr. Alan Kelly in the UK. The crackle, unfortunately, is a feature of most British HMV pressings of the period, even on pristine copies like this one.


EDOUARD COMMETTE (Organ of St. Jean Cathedral, Lyons, France):
Symphony No. 2 (Widor): Finale

Columbia 50285-D (mx. [W] LX 1004 – 1)
Lyons, France: April 18, 1929


EDOUARD COMMETTE (Organ of St. Jean Cathedral, Lyons, France):
Symphony No. 4 (Widor): Toccata

Columbia 50285-D (mx. [W] LX 1005 – 1)
Lyons, France: April 18, 1929


MARCEL DUPRÉ (Organ of Alexandra Palace, London):
Variations from Fifth Symphony (Widor) — Conclusion

His Master’s Voice D.1898 (mx. CR 2750 – 2)
London (relay to van): March 17, 1930