Country Music on Early Radio Transcriptions: Carson Robison’s “Brown Fence” Program (1931)

Country Music on Early Radio Transcriptions:
Carson Robison’s “Brown Fence” Program (1931)
By Allan Sutton

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Carson Robison (G. G. Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

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With so much research now completed (or soon to be) on early commercial recordings, we’ve lately begun delving into radio transcriptions of the 1920s and early 1930s. Most transcriptions from this period were produced by the major commercial record companies (Brunswick, Columbia, Victor, and briefly, even Edison). It’s an area that’s ripe for discographical research. Although most of the actual discs have long-since vanished, some solid documentary evidence remains, such as the Columbia Phonograph Company matrix cards (the source for this posting).

We’ll start with Carson Robison’s “Brown Fence & Wire Company Program,” which aired over some widely scattered non-network stations in February 1931. These are original recordings, unlike some other early Columbia transcriptions that used dubbings from commercial releases (as was done, for example, on some of Gus Van’s “Mars Milky Way Minstrels” programs). A team of four engineers was employed, including Clyde Emerson (Victor Emerson’s younger brother), in what amounted to a three-day recording marathon. 

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From the Louisville Courier-Journal (February 4, 1931)

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The Columbia matrix cards don’t identify the other members of Robison’s group, or which members performed on which selections. That information probably would have appeared in the recording ledgers, which are not known to have survived. But we’re in luck, in this case. A Louisville Courier-Journal article identified Frank Luther (née Francis Crow) and his brother Phil (née Philip Crow, misspelled “Crew”), with banjo player John Cali, all of whom also made many commercial recordings with Robison during this period.

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Columbia matrix card for Program 2, Record B

 

BROWN FENCE & WIRE CO. PROGRAM

Artists: Carson Robison Group
Carson Robison (vocal, whistling, guitar); Frank & Phil Luther (vocal); John Cali (banjo); unknown (accordion)

Announcer: L. A. Witten

Production: Columbia Phonograph Co., Inc. (New York)
Recording Engineers: Emerson, Freiberg, Gloetzner, Theroux

Sponsor: Brown Fence & Wire Co. (Cleveland and Memphis)
Placement: Hubbell Advertising Agency (Cleveland)

Network: None
Broadcast By: WADC (Akron OH), WAIU (Columbus OH), WCAU (Philadelphia PA), WHAS (Louisville KY), probably others

Broadcast Date Range: Feb 4 – Feb 23, 1931
Broadcast Time: 6 PM (one 7 PM exception known)

 

DISCOGRAPHY

All transcriptions are sixteen-inch recordings made on Western Electric equipment, with playing times ranging from 13:30 to 14:50. The approved takes are underlined.

 

 Program 1, Record A

W 300392 – 1, 2   (New York: Jan 13, 1931 – AM session)
Comin’ Around the Mountain; Little Green Valley; Hot Fingers (banjo solo); Golden Slippers; Over the Waves

Program 1, Record B

W 300393 – 1, 2    (New York: Jan 13, 1931 – AM session)
Turkey in the Straw; Picture from Life’s Other Side; Why Did I Get Married?; Smoky Mountain Bill

 

Program 2, Record A

W 300394 – 1, 2   (New York: Jan 14, 1931)
Little Liza Jane; Red River Valley; Whistling solo [title not given]; Sing On, Brother, Sing; Moonlight on the Colorado

Program 2, Record B

W 300395 – 1, 2    (New York: Jan 14, 1931)
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane; In the Land Where You [sic: We] Never Grow Old; Naw, I Don’t Want to Be Sick [sic: Rich]; Left My Gal in the Mountains

 

Program 3, Record A

W 300936 – 1, 2   (New York: Jan 14, 1931)
Oh Susanna; Goin’ Back to Texas; Accordion solo [title not given]; I’m Gettin’ Ready to Go; Somewhere in Old Wyoming

Program 3, Record B

W 300397 – 1, 2   (New York: Jan 14, 1931 – PM session)
Ain’t Gonna Rain No More; When the Bloom Is on the Sage; Cross-Eyed Sue; Ain’t You Comin’ Out Tonight?

 

Program 4, Record A

W 300398 – 1, 2    (New York: Jan 14, 1931 – PM session)
Soraries [sic: Soldier’s?] Joy; Gonna Have a Big Time Tonight; Climbing Up the Golden Stairs; Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Program 4, Record B

W 300399 – 1, 2    (New York: Jan 14, 1931 – PM session)
Better Get Out of My Way; I Got a Gal in Kansas; Bad Companions; My Blue Ridge Mountain Home

 

Program 5, Record A

W 300400 – 1, 2    (New York: Jan 14, 1931 – PM session)
Arkansas Traveler; Down on the Old Plantation; Banjo solo [title not given]; Open Up Them Pearly Gates; Sleepy Rio Grande

Program 5, Record B

W 300401 – 1, 2    (New York: Jan 15, 1931 – AM session)
How to Make Love; We Sat Beneath the Maple on the Hill; May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister?; Puttin’ on the Style

 

Program 6, Record A

W 300402 – 1, 2    (New York: Jan 15, 1931)
The Runaway Train; I Know There Is Somebody Waiting; Accordion medley [titles not given]; Abraham; Sleepy Hollow Waltz

Program 6, Record A

W 300403 -1, –2    (New York: Jan 15, 1931)
Oklahoma Charley; Down on the Farm; So I Joined the Navy; Camptown Races

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(G. G. Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

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©2021 by Allan R. Sutton. The Bain photographs are in the public domain.

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