The Playlist • Columbia Race-Series Greats: Blind Willie Johnson, Seth Richard, Georgia Cotton Pickers (1928–1930)


BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON: The Rain Don’t Fall on Me

Atlanta: April 20, 1930
Columbia 14537-D (mx. W 194929 – 2, transcribed from W 150310 – 2)

Most recordings from this session were unissued in original form, having been dubbed to new masters in May 1930, prior to release. Dixon, Godrich & Rye (in Blues & Gospel Records, 1890–1943) speculate that the female vocalist is Willie B. Richardson, Johnson’s first wife. The singer is not identified in the Columbia files or on the label.


SETH RICHARD: Skoodledum Doo

New York: May 15, 1928
Columbia 14325-D (mx. W 146927 – 2)


GEORGIA COTTON PICKERS: She’s Coming Back Some Cold Rainy Day

Atlanta: December 8, 1930
Columbia mx. W 151106 – 2

From a c. 1950s custom vinyl pressing of the original stamper; original commercial issue was in 1931, on Columbia 14577-D.


Top collector prices paid for late 1920s and early 1930s records we need by black country blues and jazz artists; must be in undamaged V+ condition or better using conservative VJM grading, with exceptions made only for extreme rarities. Spare yourself the eBay hoop-jumping and commissions, or the huge hit you’ll take selling to a dealer — You’re welcome to e-mail us lists of your disposable records in these categories with your asking prices, accurately graded and with any significant condition issues (including label damage) noted.

Texting, 1898 Style

Texting? I-Watches? Nothing new — Here’s how it was done in 1898. Just plug into a telegraph line, tap out a message on your Morse Watch, then strap the thing to your ear  and wait for a reply from your  – …   ..-.   ..-.   (From The Phonoscope, September 1898)



Just Arrived — “Edison Two-Minute and Concert Cylinders” — In Stock

NOW IN STOCK — Available Exclusively from Mainspring Press

American Series, 1897–1912
By Allan Sutton

398 pages, illustrated • 7″ x 10″ quality softcover
$49 (U.S. –  Free Shipping)
Order directly from Mainspring Press


Edison Two-Minute and Concert Cylinders is the first study  of these records to be compiled from the surviving company documentation (including the factory plating ledgers, studio cash books, remake and deletion notices, catalogs, supplements, and trade publications), along with first-hand inspection of the original cylinders. All American-catalog issues from 1897 through 1912, including the Grand Opera series, are covered.

Unlike previously published guides, which don’t list Edison’s numerous and often confusing remakes, this new volume lists all versions — even indicating those initially supplied by Walcutt & Leeds — along with the listing or release dates and the distinguishing details (changes in artists, accompaniments, announcements, etc.) for each. Plating dates for brown-wax pantograph masters and early Gold Moulded masters, which provide valuable clues to the long-lost recording dates, are published here for the first time.

Other features include composer and show credits, medley contents, accompaniment details, pseudonym identification, an illustrated footnoted history of Edison cylinder production during the National Phonograph Company period, user’s guide, and indexes.


The Playlist • Dimitri Smirnov (1912–1924)


DIMITRI SMIRNOV & MARIA DAVIDOV (Julius Harrison, conductor)
Boris Godunov — Oh, Tzarevich, I implore thee (Mussorgsky)

Hayes, Middlesex, England: August 23, 1923
His Master’s Voice D.B.753 (mx. Cc 3335 – 1)


Boris Godunov — Yet one more tale

Paris: June 24, 1924
His Master’s Voice D.B.765 (mxs. CP 260 – 1 and CP 261 – 1)



DIMITRI SMIRNOV: May Night — The sun is low (Rimsky-Korsakov)

St. Petersburg, Russia: October 21, 1912
His Master’s Voice 022302 (mx. 2697c)


Discographic data are from the original Gramophone Company files, courtesy of Dr. Alan Kelly.


Coming This Summer • American Record Co. / Hawthorne & Sheble (Star) / International Record Company — Combined Volume

GOING TO PRESS IN JUNE (Releasing July–August 2015)


This unique combined volume covers three of the most persistent thorns in Victor’s and Columbia’s sides. All infringed various patents held by those companies; they were eventually vanquished by the courts, but not before releasing many intriguing (and now highly collectible) records. Included are:

American Record Company (Hawthorne, Sheble & Prescott) — U.S. affiliate of the Berlin-based International Talking Machine Company (producers of Odeon), American Record was managed by John O. Prescott, whose long and colorful career included a stint with the forerunner of Nipponophone in Tokyo and ended two decades later as the chief engineer at Gennett’s Indiana facility. All confirmed 7”, 10”, and 10½” single- and double-sided releases are covered, including U.S. and foreign subsidiary- and client-label issues as well as post-production reissues (American Odeon, Britannic, Busy Bee, Disco Nacional, Kalamazoo, The Leader, Nipponophone, Peerless, Pelican, National, et. al).

Star Records (Hawthorne & Sheble Manufacturing Co.) — H&S obtained their Star masters legally from Columbia, a former antagonist with which Horace Sheble developed a surprisingly cozy relationship (he even went to work for them after H&S collapsed in 1909). All Star releases, with basic information on the Columbia masters from which they were pressed, are covered. Also lists all corresponding same-number issues on labels that were pressed by H&S (Busy Bee, early Harmony, etc.) and information on the rare Star relabelings of American Record Co. discs.

International Record Company — Built on remnants of the original (pre-Johnson takeover) Zonophone record operation by defecting Zono manager Orville La Dow and Auburn Button Works’ Carlton Woodruff, IRC was a prolific producer of cheaply made records that appeared under a multitude of labels, including their own Excelsior, International Record, Lyric, and Mozart brands, as well as client labels including The Buckeye, Boston Symphony, Central, Clear Tone, Clico, Eagle, Kalamazoo, New York Grand Opera, Nightingale Parlor Grand, Philharmonic, Square Deal, Republic, Vim, and many others. All confirmed issues on these and many other obscure labels (including generic labels on which small-time operators could rubber-stamp their own brands) are listed.

Each section includes detailed illustrated histories, with primary-source reference listings, that update and greatly add to the information in American Record Labels & Companies 1891–1943 (now out of print, but we’re working on that!). Other features include identification of anonymous and pseudonymous artists; accompaniment details; composer and show credits; medley contents and interpolated songs; master numbers, where present; remakes, renumberings, and alternate versions; release and/or catalog dates; and coupling data for double-sided pressings. With separate artist and title indexes for each section.

Approximately 300 pages, illustrated • 7″ x 10″ quality softcover • Releasing Summer 2015


UPDATE: Our research is finally completed on the grand-daddy of all record-patent infringers, The Leeds & Catlin Company. Leeds & Catlin Records: A History and Discography is now in the early production stages and is scheduled to release this Fall.

The Playlist • The Famous Hokum Boys on Homestead (1929)

MSP_homestead-16098-copy2Some years ago, 78 Quarterly (an otherwise terrific magazine) ran an ongoing list of “The World’s Rarest Records,” which amounted to a few well-known collectors playing a game of “Mine’s bigger than yours.” Since 99.99% of the collecting community wasn’t polled on whether they owned any of the records in question, the rarity of some items was grossly over-estimated.

Case in point: Homestead 16098, which the 78Q gang assured readers was unknown on Homestead. Well, we’ve run across two copies over the years, one in Gettsyburg PA in the 1980s, and just recently, another one in Denver. Rare? Sure, in this form at least (the same recordings were also issued on the other ARC labels). World’s rarest? We wish! Anyway, enjoy…


FAMOUS HOKUM BOYS: That’s the Way She Likes It

New York: April 9, 1930
Homestead 16098 (ARC mx. 9598 – 2)


FAMOUS HOKUM BOYS: Papa’s Getting Hot

New York: April 9, 1930
Homestead 16098 (ARC mx. 9596 – 2)


FAMOUS HOKUM BOYS: Eagle Riding Papa

New York: April 9, 1930
Homestead 16099 (ARC mx. 9595 – )
This selection from a tape dubbing supplied by the late Gilbert Louey (take # not noted)

The Famous Hokum Boys were Big Bill Broonzy (guitar/vocal), Thomas A. (“Georgia Tom”) Dorsey (piano/vocal), and Frank Brasswell (guitar). The studio supervisor for this session was Arthur Satherley.




110 Years Ago at Victor • Highlights from the May 1905 Catalog

Normally this feature is “100 Years Ago,” but the May 1915 Victor catalog is a yawner, the product of a company that was growing fat and complacent. Instead, here are some highlights from ten years earlier, when the Victor Talking Machine Company was still an exciting young venture clawing its way to the top.

Note the instructions on the Eames page that her  records should be played at 76 rpm — which in fact is the correct playing speed for a great many other Victor “78s” recorded  during the acoustic era, based on those that have pitched to scores.

MSP_VICSUPP-hilites_may1905Courtesy of John Bolig

The Playlist • Ragtime Xylophone (1908–1920)


CHRIS CHAPMAN: Dill Pickles Rag

Camden, NJ: July 15, 1908
Victor 5560 (mx. B 6089 – 7)
With studio orchestra (conductor not listed in files)



New York (master shipment date): January 26, 1912
United A1149 (Columbia mx. 19737 – 1)
With studio orchestra (probably Charles A. Prince, director)



New York: February 1920
Emerson 10169 (mx. 4882 – 1)
With studio orchestra (possibly Arthur Bergh, director)


W. C. HANDY’S ORCHESTRA (Jasper Taylor, xylophone): That “Jazz” Dance

New York (master shipment date): September 21, 1917
Columbia A2419 (mx. 77367 – 1)
Taylor is not credited in the Columbia files or on the labels; his presence is confirmed in Handy’s memoirs.


Vintage Phonograph Gallery • The Baby (1915–1921)

The Baby originally was $3.95 phonograph that was marketed to play 5″ Little Wonder records, although there was no apparent connection to the Columbia-based Little Wonder operation itself. The teaser ad (top) appeared in The Talking Machine World in 1915, about a month in advance of the Baby’s launch. The company behind it turned out to be the Otto Heineman Phonograph Supply Company, which three years later would launch the Okeh label. The machines had 5″ turntables and were constructed of black-enameled sheet metal.

By the time the two 1921 ads appeared (center and bottom), there was no longer any mystery surrounding the Baby’s source. It was openly credited to the General Phonograph Manufacturing Company, a branch of the General Phonograph Corporation (successor to Heineman Phonograph Supply). The Baby’s design had been altered by then by removing the lower base, which required that the horn opening be re-routed through the upper case.

The original Baby had been marketed as a novelty rather than a toy; Little Wonders discs, despite their diminutive size, were not primarily children’s records. But by the early 1920s, with Little Wonder’s popularity fading fast, Heineman had repositioned the machine purely as a toy, raising the retail price to $6 in the process.

The Symphony Music Company (bottom) and others cross-marketed the machines with Gilbert Bob-o-Link children’s records, which were recorded by the New York Recording Laboratories (Paramount) and pressed by the Bridgeport Die & Machine Company. Ads for the Baby continued to appear, with decreasing frequency, into at least the mid-1920s.


The Playlist • The Memphis Jug Band (1927)


MEMPHIS JUG BAND (WILL SHADE, lead vocal): Sometimes I Think I Love You

Chicago (Victor Laboratory): June 9, 1927
Victor 20809 (mx. BVE 38657 – 1)
Released: September 16, 1927 — Deleted: 1929


MEMPHIS JUG BAND (WILL SHADE, vocal): Newport News Blues

Memphis (McCall Building): February 24, 1927
Victor (mx. BVE 37944 – 1; commercially unissued on 78s)

From a c. 1960s vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The issued version of this title (take 2, on Victor 20576) was released on July 15, 1927, and was deleted in 1931.



MEMPHIS JUG BAND (VOL STEVENS, vocal): Beale Street Mess Around

Atlanta: October 20, 1927
Victor 21066 (mx. BVE 40320 – 1)
Released: January 6, 1928 — Deleted: 1929


Discographic data from the original Victor recording ledgers and production-history cards, courtesy of John Bolig.

The Playlist • More East Texas Serenaders (1928, 1937)




Dallas: October 25, 1928
Brunswick 282 (mx. DAL 720)


EAST TEXAS SERENADERS: Say a Little Prayer for Me

Dallas: February 20, 1937
Decca 5458 (mx. 61886 – A)



Dallas: February 20, 1937
Decca 5375 (mx. 61890 – A)


Early American Noise Pollution (1903–1904)

From various 1903–1904 issues of Edison Phonograph Monthly:


The April 15th Playlist • Raymond Hitchcock on Income Tax (1914)



RAYMOND HITCHCOCK: The Income Tax Law (excerpt from “Mr. Hitchcock’s Curtain Speech”)

New York: June 26, 1914
Excerpt from Victor 55046 (mx. C 15018 – 3)


The Playlist • Don Murray with the Ted Lewis Band (1928–1929)

Clarinetist Don Murray is best remembered for his recordings with the likes of Bix Beiderbecke, but for a couple of years his work also graced some sides by Ted Lewis, who occasionally laid down his own clarinet and let Murray shine. Here are three of the best.


TED LEWIS & HIS BAND: Jungle Blues

New York: April 3, 1928
Columbia 1525-D (mx. W 145954 – 4)


TED LEWIS & HIS BAND (vcl. by Lewis): A Jazz Holiday

New York: April 3, 1928
Columbia 1525-D (mx. W 145953 – 3)


TED LEWIS & HIS BAND (vcl. by Lewis): Maybe — Who Knows?

Los Angeles: May 26, 1929
Columbia 1854-D (mx. W 148562 – 3)


The Playlist • Emanuel Feuermann Plays Dvorak’s Cello Concerto (1928 / 1929)


EMANUEL FEUERMANN (cello) with Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Michael Taube, conductor): Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104 (Dvorak)

Berlin: April 30, 1928 (first and second movements)
Berlin: September 27, 1929 (third movement)

Columbia G-68037-D – G-68041-D
(mxs. W 2-20748 – 2-20753; W 2-21582 – W 2-21584)

Caution — Large file (32mb)