Victor’s Worst Sellers — Early 1930s Race and Country Music Sales Figures

A few weeks ago we looked at the Starr Piano Company’s Champion and Superior record sales in the early 1930s. Victor’s sales weren’t nearly that bad, on average, but many titles in the their race and country-music series came close. Below we present a representative listing of some of Victor’s worst sellers.
The figures came from the Victor production-history cards, which survive at the Sony archive in New York. The sample above (a photocopy from Bill Bryant’s papers) is for what amounted to a good seller by early 1930s standards — the Carter Family’s Victor 23585, for which sales of 7,261 copies are noted. Add in the later Bluebird and Montgomery Ward re-pressings, and it’s not a hard recording to find.

The accuracy of these figures is open to question. It’s not clear who entered them, or at what point they stopped doing so. We don’t know if they represent records shipped to distributors and dealers, or records that were actually sold to consumers (which are not necessarily the same figure, once things like returns, comped copies, and credit for damaged or defective discs are factored in). There are too many possible variables to say that these are the final, definitive sales figures — But at least they provide a scale by which to judge relative rarity.

This list is just a sampling; many other early 1930s Victor race and country-music releases that fall into this range.

76 copies
23356 (Tate & Mantan: That Reminds Me / Depression of Prayer)

68 copies
23370 (Four Wanderers: The Fault’s in Me / Animals Coming In)

69 copies
23369 (Kid Coley: War Dream Blues / Freight Train Blues)

77 copies   
23372 (Charlie Jordan: Greyhound Blues / Bad Breaks Blues)

109 copies  
23324 (Eddie [Schaffer] & Oscar [Woods]: Nok-Em-All Blues / Flying Crow Blues)

110 copies   
23349 (Victoria Spivey & Harold Grey [Porter Grainger]: Baulin’ Water Blues, Parts 1 & 2)

141 copies    
23336 (De Ford Bailey: John Henry / Noah Lewis: Like I Want to Be)

124 copies   
23353 (Ruby Glaze & Hot-Shot Willie [Kate & Blind Willie McTell]: Lonesome Day Blues / Searching the Desert for the Blues)

135 copies    
23366 (Rev. F. W. McGee: The Book of Live / I Got to Leave Here)

148 copies    
23345 (Furry Lewis: Cannon Ball Blues / Dry Land Blues)

149 copies    
23350 (Pace Jubilee Singers: Life Is Like a Mountain Railroad / A Little Talk with Jesus)

165 copies
23352 (Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe: I’m Going Back Home / Georgia Skin)

166 copies     
23347 (Memphis Jug Band: Taking Your Place / Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues)

175 copies   
23755 (Wheeler & Lamb: Will You Sometimes Think of Me? / I’ll Ever Be Faithful to You)

195 copies    
23330 (Pinetop & Lindberg: 4 x 11 = 44 / East Chicago Blues)

207 copies     
23341 (Frank Stokes: I’m Going Away Blues / Old Sometime Blues)

240 copies   
23319 (Carolina Peanut Boys [Memphis Jug Band]: Spider’s Nest Blues / [Noah Lewis’ Jug Band]: Selling the Jelly)

302 copies    
23740 (Bud Billings Trio [Luther-Robison]: My Ivy-Covered Cabin Home / Just Around the Bend)

325 copies   
23926 (Rev. F. W. McGee: Women’s Clothed / A Dog Shall Not Move his Tongue)

339 copies     
23293 (Kid Coley: Tricks Ain’t Walkin’ No More / Clair and Pearley Blues)

349 copies
23720 (Gene Autry: The Gangster’s Warning / Bud Billings: I Wonder If He’s Singing to the Angels Tonight)

361 copies   
23306 (Lizzie Miles: Done Throwed the Key Away / Electrician Blues)

380  copies
23700 (Darby & Tarlton: Ooze Up to Me / The Weaver’s Blues)

391 copies    
23288 (R. T. Hannen: Happy Days Blues / She’s Got Jordan River in her Hips)

400 copies  
23304 (Charlie Jordan: Santa Claus Blues / Working Man’s Blues)

447 copies  
23287 (Louisville Sanctified Singers: God Give Me a Light / So Glad I’m Here)

481 copies
23271 (Blind Clyde Church: Pneumatic Blues / No. 9 Blues)

490 copies   
23351 (Jelly Roll Morton & his Red Hot Peppers: Strokin’ Away / Each Day)