The Playlist • Bob Roberts Favorites (1904–1909)

MSP_victor-mon_2832_B1412Robert A. “Bob” Roberts came from theatrical stock (his father was Nicholas “Nick” Roberts, one of the crustier characters in nineteenth-century popular theater). He was a well-traveled headliner, and as the early 1900s progressed he spent an increasing amount of time touring, including long stays on the West Coast. As a result, his recorded output diminished markedly after 1909. Roberts’ family background, and his recording and performing careers (which began in vaudeville and ended three decades later on radio), are covered in  “American Recording Pioneers: Bob Roberts” on the Mainspring Press website.

As was symptomatic of the period in which they were written, some of these songs contain racial stereotypes and demeaning language, which does not represent the views or attitude of Mainspring Press.

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BOB ROBERTS: Good Bye, Eliza Jane

Philadelphia: May 23, 1904 — Released August 1904
Monarch Record 2832 (mx. B 1412 – )
Orchestra probably directed by Arthur Pryor *

Roberts also recorded this song with piano accompaniment on the same date (mxs. A and B 1341, in 7″ and 10″ form, respectively). The orchestra-accompanied versions apparently were  made as unnumbered tests, but then were assigned mxs. A and B 1412 in early June, having been selected for issue instead of the piano-accompanied versions. The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings’ entries for these recordings are scrambled, erroneously showing the orchestra-accompanied version as having been issued only in 7″ form and 10″ Monarch 2832 as being piano-accompanied only (although it is obviously orchestral, as heard here, and as correctly listed in Victor’s August 1904 supplement).

* Arthur Pryor’s likely presence is based upon recording engineer Harry Sooy’s recollection that Victor hired Pryor as its house conductor in late 1903, when the company began regular experiments with orchestral accompaniments. There was not yet a resident Victor studio orchestra when this recording was made; free-lance musicians were hired on an as-needed basis, according to Sooy. Pryor eventually found the job “too confining,” and around September 1904 the position was given to Walter B. Rogers, who built Victor’s own in-house orchestra.

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BOB ROBERTS: ’Tain’t No Disgrace to Run If You’re Skeered

New York; Released March 1904
Columbia XP cylinder 32398 (-2)
Self-announced; Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince
Hear Bob Roberts’ Victor version of this title

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BOB ROBERTS: I’m Just Barely, Living, Dat’s All

New York; Released June 1904
Columbia 1768 (mx. 1768 – 3; “X” under label)
Self-announced; Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince

The Columbia Master Book Discography shows this take only on the Fairview label.

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BOB ROBERTS: I’ve Got a Tickling Sensation ‘Round My Heart for You

New York; Released March 1908
Harmony 3743  (Columbia mx. 3743 – 1)
Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince

The Harmony issue is unlisted in The Columbia Master Book Discography.

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BOB ROBERTS: That Was Me

New York; Released June 1909
Columbia A667 (mx. 4003 – 2)
Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince

This take is unlisted in The Columbia Master Book Discography. The speed change  in the first verse is a flaw in the original recording.

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BOB ROBERTS with FEMALE CHORUS: The Boogie Boo

Brooklyn, New York (352 Livingston St.); Released July 1909
Indestructible 1104 (two-minute cylinder)
Studio orchestra probably directed by Joseph Lacalle. The female singers are unidentified.

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