These extracts are from an August 1898 Phonoscope feature, “Gallery of Talent Employed for Making Records” (entries without photographs are not shown).
All of the artists pictured were active into the early 1900s, and far beyond in many cases, but Russell Hunting and Steve Porter had the longest and most distinguished recording-industry careers. In addition to his prolific recording activities, Hunting was the editor of The Phonoscope (the industry’s first trade journal) in the 1890s, and he was still active in the later 1920s as American Pathé’s technical director.
Stephen Carl (Steve) Porter spent several years abroad in the early 1900s, including a stint as a recording engineer with the Nicole company, for which he made ethnic recordings in India and Burma. Upon his return to the U.S. he resumed recording (often in a stereotypical “dumb Irish” role that belied his brilliance), organized and managed the Rambler Minstrels (a popular recording and for-hire act that featured Billy Murray), and successfully filed for patents on various devices, including the Port-O-Phone, an early hearing aid. His activities are covered in detail in Steve Porter: Global Entrepreneur, on the Mainspring Press website.
JOSEPH C. SMITH’S ORCHESTRA, Featuring HARRY RADERMAN & HIS LAUGHING TROMBONE: Yellow Dog Blues — Medley Fox Trot, introducing “Hooking Cow Blues”
New York: October 1, 1919 — Released December 1919 (Deleted 1926)
Victor 18618 (mx. B 23282 – 1)
BESSIE SMITH (acc: Fletcher Henderson’s Hot Six):
Yellow Dog Blues
New York: May 6, 1925
Columbia 14075-D (mx. W 140586 – 1)
DUKE ELLINGTON & HIS ORCHESTRA: Yellow Dog Blues
New York: June 25, 1928
Brunswick 3987 (mx. E 27771 – A or B) The selected take (of two made) is not indicated in the Brunswick files or on inspected pressings.
MEMPHIS JUG BAND: Rukus Juice and Chittlin’
Chicago: November 8, 1934
Okeh mx. C 801 – 1 From a c. 1960s vinyl pressing from the original stamper. This recording was issued commercially on Okeh 8955, as part of the final group of Okeh race releases made before the 8000 series was scuttled.
Introduced in 1906, the Junior was Victor’s cheapest talking machine at the time, originally retailing for $10. The ad below announced its impending arrival on July 1 of that year.
Six months later the Junior was featured on the cover of the Victor Records supplement. Although the illustration is unsigned, a note in the catalog confirms it is by Grace Wiederseim, creator of the Campbell’s Soup Kids (Campbell’s Soup being Victor’s Camden neighbor; its factory whistle spoiled a few masters in the early days).
Although the Junior reputedly was used in some premium schemes, we’ve not yet tracked down any specifics in that regard. The machine remained available until 1920, by which time it was retailing for $12. The Junior is uncommon today.
Chicago: October 25, 1929 — Released December 20, 1929
Victor V-38096 (mx. BVE 57322 – 2) The common Bluebird reissue of this recording used an anemic-sounding dubbed master; here’s “Grand Piano” as originally issued, before RCA’s engineers wrung the life out of it (albeit a bit noisy, having spent many years in a Nebraska barn before being recently rescued).
EARL HINES & HIS ORCHESTRA: Chicago Rhythm
Chicago: February 22, 1929 — Released April 19, 1929
Victor V-38042 (mx. BVE 50511 – 2)
EARL HINES & HIS ORCHESTRA: Beau-Koo Jack
Chicago: February 15, 1929
Victor unissued take (mx. BVE 48887 -1) From a c. 1960s custom vinyl pressing from the original stamper. Take 2 was issued on Victor V-38043 (released April 19, 1929)
Discographic data are from the original RCA files, courtesy of John R. Bolig. Details of all of the Victor V-38000, V-38500, and other Victor race records are available in John’s mammoth Victor Black Label Discography, Vol. 4, available from Mainspring Press.