New 4th Edition of “Ragtime on Records” Is Now Free to Download

New 4th Edition of Ragtime on Records (1894–1950)
Is Now Free to Download

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RAGTIME ON RECORDS (1894 – 1950)

The Worldwide Discography of Cakewalks, Rags,
and
Novelties on Cylinders and 78s


Fourth Edition (Mainspring Press, 2023)


By ALLAN SUTTON

 

Download RAGTIME ON RECORDS
(533 pgs / ~2 mb, Adobe Acrobat or Reader Required)

 

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This publication is a part of the free Mainspring Press Online Reference Library. It may be downloaded for personal, non-commercial use only. Unauthorized sale, reproduction, alteration, reposting, or other distribution in any form and by any method, whether or not for monetary gain, is prohibited. Please help us preserve this free service by honoring the terms of use stated in each document, and by reporting violations to: publisher@mainspringpress.com.

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Ragtime on Records, 4th Edition © 2023 by Allan R. Sutton. All rights are reserved. Co-licensed to Mainspring Press and the University of California–Santa Barbara. 

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The Playlist (Streaming MP3) • Some More January 2023 Additions

The Playlist (Streaming MP3) • Some More
January 2023 Additions

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Reposting or commercial use of these sound files is prohibited.
Please report violations to: publisher@mainspringpress.com.

 

 

NAP HAYES & MATTHEW PRATER: Nothin’ Doin’  (V+)

Memphis: February 15, 1928
Okeh 45231  (mx. W 400243 – B)
An outstanding  example of a recording by Black artists having been issued in Okeh’s White country-music series.

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GWEN FOSTER & DAVID FLETCHER (as Carolina Twins): Your Wagon Needs Greasing  (EE-)

Atlanta: February 20, 1928
Victor 21363  (mx. BVE 41922 – 2)
Gwen Foster, harmonica, guitar, vocal; David Fletcher, guitar, vocal. Regional release, per Victor files.

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UNCLE DAVE MACON & HIS FRUIT-JAR DRINKERS: Rock About My Sara Jane  (E- to V++)

New York: May 7, 1927
Vocalion 5152  (mx. E 4925)
Uncle Dave Macon, lead vocal and banjo; Sam McGee, guitar; Kirk McGee, Maize Todd, “fiddle,” per Brunswick-Vocalion files

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RICHARD M. JONES’ JAZZ WIZARDS: Boar Hog Blues  (E-)

Victor Laboratory, Chicago: November 7, 1927
Victor 21203  (mx. BVE 40822 – 2)
No personnel listed in the Victor files; those in Jazz Records and similar works are from an unknown  source. Race release, per Victor files.

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GEORGE E. LEE’S ORCHESTRA: Ruff Scufflin’  (E+)

Kansas City: November 1929
Brunswick 4684  (mx. KC 585 – )
No personnel listed in the Brunswick files; those in Jazz Records and similar works are from an unknown  source.

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

Berlin: May 1928 (movements 1–2), October 1929 (movement 3)
Columbia G-68037-D — G-68041-D (Masterwork Set 172)
(mx. 2-20748, 2-20749, 2-207503, 2-207512, 2-207522, 2-20753, 2-21582, 2-21583, 2-21584)

First U.S. issue, 1930; Original German issue on Parlophone
E 10856 – E 10860.

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Two More Missing Paramount L- Series Masters Found (And the Ozark Rambler Unmasked)

Two Missing Paramount L- Series Recordings Found
(And the Ozark Rambler Unmasked)

 

Two late Paramount recordings unlisted in the Van Rijn & Van der Tuuk discography and Country Music Records have been located. Unfortunately, neither is particularly remarkable, but at least we’re able to fill in the missing numbers (and unmask a pseudonymous artist in the process):
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L 1424 – 2  •  OZARK RAMBLER: The Mule Song
(Paramount 586 – A)

L 1426 – 1  •  OZARK RAMBLER: Lazy River
(Paramount 586 – B)

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“The Mule Song” is a reworking of Charlie Poole’s “I’m the Man That Rode the Mule Around the World,” done somewhat in the style of Harry McClintock. The reverse side is actually the pop tune “Up a Lazy River,” performed in a style reminiscent of Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers. They apparently are from the same March 1932 Grafton session that produced the Ozark Rambler’s “Abdul Abul Abul Amir” (Paramount 585).

So, who was this Ozark Rambler? Obviously a commercial artist, although assuredly not New York crooner Leroy Montesanto, as is stated in Country Music Records. A little sleuthing placed him in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was a staff singer at radio station WOWO during the 1930s. His real name was Ambrose Haley, and he often performed with his daughter, Little Mary Lou (The Ozark Sweetheart). In addition to radio work, they played small-time theaters and social clubs throughout the upper and lower Midwest well into the late 1930s.

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So, sorry — Not two long-lost Skip James or Son House blues masterpieces, just a quirky souvenir of Paramount’s dying days. If there are any Paramount “completists” out there who just have to have the record, trade offers are being considered. Condition is solid EE-, with some superficial, non-sounding scuffs on the A side, and quiet, shiny surfaces. 

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Revisiting Black Swan: The Documented History

Revisiting Black Swan: The Documented History
Harry Pace, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Fletcher, and the
Saga of the Second Black-Owned Record Label
By Allan Sutton

 

This new account draws on company documents and correspondence between Pace and Du Bois (W. E. B. Du Bois Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries), as well as information newly uncovered while researching John Fletcher’s involvement with Black Swan and the affiliated Fletcher Record Company.

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Founded in December 1920 by Harry Herbert Pace, the Pace Phonograph Corporation was the second black-owned and operated record company (preceded only by George W. Broome’s short-lived venture), and the first to succeed commercially, albeit briefly.

A 1903 graduate of Atlanta University, Pace initially worked in banking, but his interests turned increasingly to music. He and W. C. Handy collaborated on their first song in 1907, and in 1912 the pair formed the Pace & Handy Music Company in Memphis. The company had its first major hit in 1914, with the publication of Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” and in 1918 it relocated to New York. Pace resigned in late 1920 to launch his recording operation, taking some key personnel with him. Handy recalled, “With Pace went a large number of our employees, persons especially trained for the requirements of our business and therefore hard to replace. Still more confusion and anguish grew out of the fact people did not generally know that I had no stake in the Black Swan record company.”

Harry Pace, W. E. B. Du Bois, and the Birth of Black Swan

On December 27, 1920, Pace wrote to W. E. B. Du Bois that he had formed a corporation to manufacture phonograph records. He held open the possibility of involving others, telling Du Bois, “I made the capital stock elastic enough so as to take others into it if the idea met very favorable consideration.”

The letter also makes clear that it was Du Bois who suggested the name “Black Swan” (in honor of the pioneering African-American diva, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield). Pace wrote,

I note your suggestion about the name “Black Swan” and it strikes me very favorably indeed. I debated very seriously  whether I should use a fanciful name or whether I should capitalize on my own name and use it… All of this, of course, had been done before I talked with you on the subject.

Pace reported to Du Bois that he had Ford Dabney’s Orchestra under contract and had already made test recordings by the group, which apparently were never issued. He was hoping to do the same, he told Du Bois, with operatic soprano Florence Cole-Talbert, a very young Marian Anderson, and one or two “local folks who are getting in shape, and whom I am trying out with a view of having them record as soon as we are ready to make the permanent masters.”

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W. E. B. Du Bois (left) and Harry Pace (right)

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Pace invited Du Bois to join the new company’s board and provide whatever funding he could. The Pace Phonograph Corporation was formally chartered as a Delaware corporation in January 1921, with Du Bois initially purchasing a single share. The officers at the time of incorporation were Pace (president and treasurer) and D. L. Haynes (secretary). Directors, in addition to Du Bois, included Levi C. Brown, T. K. Gibson, William Lewis, John E. Nail, and Emmett J. Scott. Pace and Du Bois found eager investors not only in Harlem, but in Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio, and other far-flung locations.

Among Pace’s investors was comedian Bert Williams, who according to a misleadingly worded advertisement in The Crisis, “put thousands of dollars into the making of Black Swan records.” It would not be only time that Pace took some liberties in describing Williams’ relationship to Black Swan. Following Williams’ death, Pace took a full-page ad The Crisis, in which he claimed that Williams had intended to move to Black Swan once his Columbia contract expired. Canny businessman that he was, it seems unlikely that Williams would have abandoned a company whose annual sales of his records alone exceeded Black Swan’s total annual sales.

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Pace’s April 1922 ad in The Crisis includes the questionable claim that Bert Williams planned to leave “a White Company” for Black Swan.

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Harry Pace’s townhouse at 257 West 138th Street served as Black Swan’s first office. Among the employees Pace took from Pace & Handy Music was Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Jr., a young pianist from Georgia whom Handy had recently hired as a song demonstrator. Henderson’s defection garnered him the position of recording director and house accompanist, although Pace later admitted he felt that Henderson was not fully qualified for the job. William Grant Still, one of W. C. Handy’s staff arrangers, also made the move.

The studio in which Pace initially recorded remains a subject of debate. The location is not mentioned in any of Pace’s or Du Bois’ known correspondence, nor is there any suggestion in those letters that Pace equipped his own studio or hired a recording engineer. A New York Age article from June 1921 confirms that Pace did not yet have his own studio, reporting that the company was “planning to establish its own laboratory [i.e., studio] in the near future.”

If any of Pace’s pre-production test recordings have survived, they have not been located for inspection. Most of the early issued masters appear to have been made by the New York Recording Laboratories, based upon some distinctive physical and aural characteristics. (NYRL at that time was recording masters for other small labels as well — most notably Arto and Grey Gull, as confirmed in band manager Ed Kirkeby’s session logs — which were assigned master numbers in each label’s own series).

Black Swan Comes to Market

Black Swan records were in production by the early spring of 1921, with initial releases planned for May. Pressing was to be handled by John Fletcher’s Olympic Disc Record Corporation plant in Long Island City. Newly incorporated, Olympic commenced operations in March 1921, the same month in which the earliest issued Black Swan recordings are believed to have been made. Like Black Swan, Olympic advertised its first records as May releases, and their physical characteristics were identical with those of the earliest Black Swan pressings, confirming Harry Pace’s recollection that they were pressed in what he termed the “Remington factory” (the Remington Phonograph Company being Olympic’s parent corporation).

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(Left) An early first-state Black Swan label, showing the sunken ring around the spindle hole and other tell-tale Olympic pressing-plant characteristics. (Right) A second-state label, pressed by the New York Recording Laboratories. Based upon the typeface, it appears that both labels were supplied by the same printer.

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From the start, Pace found himself torn between two disparate markets within the African-American community — a relatively small, affluent group that championed what it saw as culture and refinement (mirroring Pace’s own background and musical preferences); and a far larger working-class group with a growing appetite for jazz and blues records. In August 1921, Pace told The Talking Machine World, “While it is true that we will feature to a great extent ‘blue’ numbers of the type that are in current favor, we will also release many numbers of a higher standard.” In his attempt to present Black Swan as a respectable operation to potential investors, Pace understandably erred on the side of caution in his choice of artists and repertoire.

The first three Black Swan records were announced as ready for delivery on May 4, 1921. Pace’s preference for “numbers of a “higher standard” was immediately apparent. For the inaugural release (#2001), he chose two old concert war-horses, “At Dawning” and “Thank God for a Garden,” sung by soprano Revella Hughes, with violin, cello, and piano accompaniment. There followed two equally straightforward sides by concert baritone Carroll C. Clark, then two blues-inflected pop tunes by vaudevillian Katie Crippen.

Pace reported first-month sales of 10,300 Black Swan records to Du Bois, who forwarded that figure to The Crisis. The editors, apparently unaware that figure was a minuscule fraction of the major labels’ sales for the same period, seemed impressed.

The black press (particularly The Chicago Defender) cast Pace’s attempt to launch Black Swan as nothing less than an epic struggle between good and evil. The venture had barely been launched when the Defender proclaimed that “a great uproar was caused among white phonograph record companies who resented the idea of having a Race company enter what they felt was an exclusive field.” If there was an uproar, it went unreported in trade journals like The Talking Machine World, which covered Black Swan to the same extent as the other small startups of the period, was positive in its reporting on the company, and readily accepted Pace’s advertising.

Pressing-Plant Woes

One of the Defender‘s most absurd claims, flying in the face of what are now well-established facts, was that the Remington Phonograph Company had purchased the Olympic pressing plant for the sole purpose of denying service to Pace—conveniently glossing over the fact that Olympic had indeed pressed Black Swan records, albeit briefly.

What actually caused Pace and Olympic to part company was a surge in orders that Olympic apparently was not prepared to handle. It was decided instead to contract pressing to the New York Recording Laboratories (Paramount). In a postcard to Du Bois, mailed on June 24, 1921, from Port Washington, Wisconsin (NYRL’s headquarters), Pace reported, “I am here arranging for an increased fall and winter production together with a line of Black Swan Phonographs.”

The NYRL pressing plant, although geographically remote, had the capacity for large-scale record production that Olympic lacked, and the company was actively courting new customers. Since Pace was already using NYRL’s New York studio, the move from Olympic made logistical sense, consolidating all Black Swan production within a single company. Black Swan pressings from the summer of 1921 into the spring of 1922 show the unmistakable characteristics of NYRL’s work.

Ethel Waters Sparks a Surge in Sales

The initial Black Swan releases were received politely enough by the press and public. Carroll Clark’s first offering appears to have been a relatively good seller, based upon the number of surviving copies. But the earliest offerings failed to generate the sort of excitement that would be needed to make Black Swan profitable. The situation changed with Pace’s signing of Ethel Waters in April 1921. Already a veteran of the southern vaudeville circuits, Waters was attracting a strong following at Edmond’s Cellar in Harlem.

Waters had already recorded two titles for Criterion Laboratories, an independent studio that supplied several small labels, but there had been no immediate takers (Cardinal eventually released them in September 1921), and Waters decided to visit Pace. Her first Black Swan release (“Down Home Blues” / “Oh Daddy”) was released in July 1921 and became a sizable hit. In October, Pace signed Waters to an exclusive Black Swan contract that reportedly made her the highest-paid black recording artist at the time. In November, she was sent on an extended tour as the star of the Black Swan Troubadours, eventually playing in twenty-one states.

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Black Swan’s first hit: “Down Home Blues” (here advertised in August 1921) brought national attention to Ethel Water and Black Swan. Pace plugged many of Waters’ subsequent releases as “Another ‘Down Home Blues'” (the example above is from late 1922), but none approached the popularity of the original.

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Thanks largely to Waters’ records, Black Swan developed a small following among white customers, including some stage and film stars. It was widely reported that actress Marilyn Miller had presented a “large selection” of Black Swan records to Jack Pickford (Mary’s brother) on their wedding day. The Dallas Express reported, “It is now becoming quite a fad with many stars of the theatrical profession, who have found something different in these all-Colored records, to have them sent to their friends in various parts of the country.”

Pace, however, failed to capitalize on that momentum. He placed no advertising in the white consumer publications and made little effort to court the important trade publications. His advertisements in The Talking Machine World, which did not begin running until August 1921, often appeared to be halfhearted efforts, sometimes simply listing a few artists’ names, or dwelling on past hits rather than fresh releases.

Trixie Smith, Pace’s next star, was signed in January 1922, shortly after she took first place at the Fifteenth Regiment Blues Contest in Harlem. With Waters and Smith on his roster, Pace found it easier to attract new singers. However, the oft-repeated tale that he auditioned Bessie Smith, and rejected her after she stopped to spit in the midst of her test recording, is apocryphal. It appears to have originated in the 1940s with W. C. Handy, who was prone to spinning colorful tales and is unlikely to have been present at the alleged session, given his strained relationship with Pace.

April 1922 saw Harry Pace’s quixotic attempt to cast Black Swan as a contender in the classical field with the introduction of a Red Label series, an obvious play on Victor’s prestigious Red Seals. Victor, which for years had taken legal action against competitors’ use of red labels on classical records, does not appear to have taken any such action in Black Swan’s case, casting further doubt on the Defender‘s claims that the white recording establishment was out to destroy Pace.

The Red Label listing included operatic arias by Florence Cole-Talbert and Antoinette Garnes, and concert selections by Hattie King Reavis. In December 1922, Pace tried to secure concert tenor Roland Hayes for Black Swan, only to be informed by Hayes that he was under contract to Aeolian in England. The series sputtered along until being discontinued in May 1923, marking the end of Pace’s production of original classical recordings.

Marketing Black Swan

With demand for Black Swan records growing steadily, spotty marketing and distribution were hobbling sales. Pace was unable to obtain national coverage through the major jobbers. Although racial prejudice was likely a factor in some cases, small white-owned startups had experienced the same problem for many years. In Pace’s case, however, the major distributors’ lack of confidence probably was compounded by his inexperience in the record business and Black Swan’s targeting of a still-unproven market.

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Lacking a national distributor, Harry Pace recruited small-time retailers and enterprising individuals to sell his records wherever and however they could.

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Pace countered by recruiting small-time retailers and enterprising individuals to sell the records wherever and however they could. In June 1921, he hired Paul Robeson (who was then a student at Rutgers) as a part-time salesman, but missed the opportunity to record him. That autumn, Pace hired C. Udell Turpin (spelled Turpine in some accounts, but Turpin in company correspondence) as his sales manager. A Columbia University business school graduate, Turpin brought along several professional salesmen from a previous venture, but he continued to build Pace’s network of small retailers and individual salespeople as well, advertising in The Crisis, “We want men and women with a backbone and a desire to earn $100 a week…men and women who don’t care what $20 a week people think.”

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Pace depended heavily on heavily on independent salespeople, like Mrs. L. A. Shaw of Dallas, Texas.

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In March 1922, Pace published a Black Swan distributor map in The Crisis that looked impressive at first glance, with all forty-eight states covered to varying degrees. The heaviest concentrations were east of the Mississippi, but many states had a distributor or jobber, and at least a few retail dealers. However, the largest number of dots on the map represented “agents,” those independent salespeople who peddled the records door-to-door, from their homes, or wherever else they could.

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Black Swan record distribution, as depicted in The Crisis
for March 1922.

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In January 1922, The New York Age perhaps unintentionally revealed the company’s financial fragility when it reported that Black Swan had made a profit of slightly more than $3,300 on sales of $104,628.74 in 1921. Although the reporter seemed impressed by the latter figure, it was minuscule by industry standards of the day. Given that Black Swan records initially retailed for $1 (reduced to 85¢ late in the year), and normal wholesale rates were 50% of list price, Black Swan’s 1921 sales probably amounted to between a quarter- and a half-million records, depending upon the ratio of wholesale to direct retail sales. In the same year, Victor sold nearly fifty-five million records.

Enter John Fletcher

On March 25, 1922, assets of John Fletcher’s bankrupt Olympic Disc Record Corporation were auctioned by order of the company’s receiver. The purchaser was Fletcher himself, in partnership with Harry Pace and Michael Naughton. For their winning bid, they acquired ownership of Olympic’s trademarks and masters, but more importantly for Pace, the company’s Long Island City studio and pressing plant.

The Fletcher Record Company was incorporated in New York on May 26, 1922. Fletcher, Pace, and Naughton were listed as directors of the new company, which was chartered simply to “deal in merchandise.” With Fletcher serving as president, and Pace as vice-president and treasurer, the Fletcher Record Company was the first American record company to have a racially integrated executive team, although there appears to have been only minimal interaction between Pace and Fletcher.

The Fletcher Record Company initially served only as a supplier to Pace, providing Black Swan masters and pressings to order; its name never appeared on a Black Swan label. The Pace Phonograph Corporation continued to function as an autonomous entity, with a separate board of directors, and with Harry Pace still largely in control of who and what appeared on Black Swan. It would not be long however, before disguised Olympic recordings began turning up in the Black Swan catalog.

Initially, at least, the arrangement eliminated the production bottlenecks that has plagued Black Swan from the start. Pace was soon able to report, “We are now issuing ten numbers a month instead of three…. We do our own recording, plating, pressing, as well as printing of every description, in the above plant.” However, the operation soon proved to be unprofitable.

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Fletcher-era Black Swan pressings; note the return of the sunken ring surrounding the spindle hole, which is absent on the New York Record Laboratories’ and Bridgeport Die & Machine Company’s Black Swan pressings. Black Swan 60006 is a reissue from Fletcher’s mostly all-white Olympic catalog, with xylophonist George Hamilton Green disguised as “Raymond Green.”

Pace Breaks his Pledge to Use Only Black Artists

Fletcher revived his Olympic label later that year, with an all-white artist roster. Pace had already reissued some older Olympic recordings on Black Swan, under pseudonyms, breaking his pledge to use only black artists.

By July 1922, so much outside material was being released under the Black Swan label that the catalog was split into ten separately numbered series. Of those, only the 14000 race series (replacing the original 2000s) and 7100 operatic series remained purely Pace productions, employing only black artists. The remainder (which included Hawaiian, novelty, sacred, novelty, and classical series) were made up almost entirely of pseudonymous reissues from Fletcher’s Olympic catalog. In an ironic twist, the nation’s first successful race-record label was now producing its own racially segregated catalog, while continuing to falsely claim that it employed only black talent.

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Pace broke his pledge to use only black artists even before going into partnership with John Fletcher. By the time this ad appeared in The Crisis in late 1922, the Black Swan catalog contained many pseudonymous reissues from Fletcher’s all-white Olympic catalog, including the “Xmas records” advertised here.

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The aliases employed by Black Swan for Olympics’ white artists were obviously contrived to suggest black performers. Various Harry Yerkes groups became “Joe Brown’s Alabama Band” or “Sammy Swift’s Jazz Band,” Rudy Wiedeoft’s Californians became “Haynes’ Harlem Syncopators,” and novelty whistler Margaret McKee was renamed “Bessie Johnson.” Recordings
by Irving Weiss’ Ritz-Carlton Orchestra, Fred Van Eps’ Quartet, and Wiedoeft’s Palace Trio were released as “Ethel Waters’ Jazz Masters” while Waters was on tour and likely unaware of the use of her name on records with which she nothing to do. Some Olympic recordings by conventional white dance bands were credited to “Henderson’s Dance Orchestra” or “Henderson’s Novelty Orchestra,” with no first name given but obviously meant to imply Fletcher Henderson’s involvement, even after Henderson had left the company.

At least one newspaper was taken in by the bogus artist credits. A reporter for The Chicago Defender praised the Baltimore Blues Orchestra, “a new musical organization…doing exclusive recording for Black Swan records,” unaware that name was simply a disguise for several white dance bands from the Olympic roster. Whether record buyers were more savvy than that reporter is unknown, but Black Swan sales began to stall.

Black Swan in Decline

Pace reported sales of only 256,202 Black Swan records for fiscal year 1922. In his November 1922 financial statement, he disclosed that Black Swan had experienced “the greatest slump since we began business” during July.

The slump persisted into early October, by which time Pace seemed resigned to average monthly sales of only 25,000 records. “I am trying to devise some sales plan whereby this figure can be greatly increased,” he wrote to Du Bois, “but regret to say that I have not yet hit upon it.” In the same month, Pace set up a dummy collection agency to handle delinquent accounts. Although the operation netted only $544 in its first month, Pace seemed pleased with that figure and reported that the operation was “still pulling them in.”

Pace advertised a new stock issue in October 1922, promising a “certain” 6% return in three years, plus 6% dividends.” But the stock would soon be virtually worthless, and no dividends were forthcoming.

Exit John Fletcher

By late 1922, it was clear to Harry Pace that he needed to disentangle himself from John Fletcher’s pressing plant. Pace Phonograph’s financial report of November 8, 1922, noted, “The factory has been a severe drain on our cash.” On January 20, 1923, he reorganized the Pace Phonograph Corporation as the Black Swan Record Company, ending what had become an unprofitable relationship with John Fletcher. Fletcher carried on alone, but his revived Olympic label failed to attract much attention.

With the Fletcher connection severed, Pace returned to the New York Recording Laboratories for pressings, using the affiliated Bridgeport Die & Machine Company in Connecticut as a secondary supplier. A new three-color label design and the release of a new catalog in May 1923 apparently did little to boost sales.

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Letterheads for the original Pace Phonograph Corporation (above) and the Black Swan Phonograph Company (below), a 1923 reorganization of the original corporation following Pace’s split with John Fletcher.

Artist Exodus

The problems at Black Swan had not gone unnoticed by Pace’s artists. Alberta Hunter was the first star of any magnitude to leave the label. Reportedly unhappy with Pace’s lackluster marketing efforts, she left to sign with Paramount in July 1922. Fletcher Henderson departed that autumn. His replacement was William Grant Still, who took over as Black Swan’s new recording director on November 13. Pace, who later stated that he had not been satisfied with Henderson’s work, predicted that “Still will bring wider experience and more technical musical knowledge than Henderson has had, and I believe will greatly improve the work of the records.” Preoccupied with his theatrical work and growing stature as a serious composer, Still brought about no apparent improvement in Black Swan’s recorded output.

The company’s reorganization and declining fortunes spurred a second and far more damaging artist exodus that began with Trixie Smith’s defection to Paramount in March 1923. Smith was followed in short order by Josie Miles, Julia Moody, Lena Wilson, and others. Many subsequently signed on as free-lance recording artists with music publisher and booking agent Joe Davis, who shopped them around to whatever labels would have them.

In the meantime, Ethel Waters had foregone membership in the Black Swan Troubadours and was now touring independently, in what could only be seen as an ominous sign for Black Swan. When the Troubadours embarked on their 1923 tour, Josie Miles took her place. Waters quit the label in June, after returning from a transcontinental tour to discover that Black Swan was barely operating.

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Ethel Waters returned from her 1923 Black Swan tour to find the company barely operating. She left the label a short time later.

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The Black Swan office hosted a second-anniversary celebration during the first week of June 1923, with little to celebrate. In or around early August, Fae Barnes filled what is believed to have been the last Black Swan recording session.

Only a handful of new Black Swan releases would be forthcoming after July, and some that were advertised are not known to have been released. The label’s final release (Ethel Waters’ “Sweet Man Blues” / “Ethel Sings ‘Em,” recorded in June at her final Black Swan session) was advertised in The Chicago Defender on  December 22, 1923. Black Swan advertised in the Defender for the last time on February 23, 1924. Even then, Pace was still soliciting “agents in every community.”

“Every Effort Should Be Made to Dispose of the Assets”

By the autumn of 1923, Du Bois was looking to cash out of the failing operation. On October 1, he wrote to Pace,

Is there any market for Black Swan stock? I have got to be out of the country attending the Pan-African Conference for three months and I want to finance my house payments while I am gone. If you think of any way I can help myself by the sale or a hypothecation of any part of my stock, kindly let me know.

Pace offered no aid, noting that “summer has been very dull for us.” By then the company had gone dormant for all practical purposes, and its stock was virtually worthless. Its debts, which reportedly included a substantial sum due the New York Recording Laboratories for pressing services, were accumulating at an alarming rate. At year’s end, Black Swan’s board of directors approved a resolution that read, in part,

To make the corporation successful..will require not simply time, but the uninterrupted and undivided services of all the executive officers. We believe that any division of time or of interest will be fatal to the interest of this corporation. If, however, the president and other officials feel that the present condition of the corporation does not warrant them in giving their full services, we think that every effort should be made to dispose of the assets of the organization… .

Paramount Takes Over

In January 1924, Maurice Supper traveled to New York from Paramount’s Wisconsin headquarters to negotiate a buyout of Black Swan. On April 2, The Port Washington Herald reported that Pace had agreed to sell. With Pace’s abandonment of Black Swan, the race-record business was now entirely in the hands of white-owned record companies.

Under terms of the agreement with Paramount, the Black Swan Record Company was to remain in existence, but only on paper, to serve as a holding company for the protection of its shareholders. It would have no further involvement in recording or production. NYRL would take over the Black Swan trade name, trademark,  and goodwill, and it would continue to manufacture and distribute the existing Black Swan recordings. The Black Swan masters would be leased to NYRL, rather than being sold outright, in return for which Pace would be paid a monthly royalty on sales.

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A redesigned Black Swan label appeared in early 1923 (left), following Pace’s split with John Fletcher. Pressings bearing this label were produced by both the New York Recording Laboratories and the Bridgeport Die & Machine Company (the example pictured here came from the latter). The ill-fated Paramount – Black Swan reissue label was introduced in June 1924 by NYRL, which leased Pace’s masters.

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Consumers saw the first evidence of the new arrangement in May 1924, when Paramount’s advertising logo was changed to read “Paramount Records (Combined with Black Swan).” A hybrid Paramount – Black Swan label, combining both companies’ trademarks, was introduced with some fanfare a month later, but it never developed into anything more than a reissue vehicle for previously released Black Swan recordings. Having failed to attract much interest after ninety-nine releases, the Paramount – Black Swan label stalled. The licensing agreement was finally terminated in January 1926, by which time the Paramount – Black Swan label had already been discontinued.

Winding Down Black Swan

Pace spent the next several years attempting to liquidate Black Swan’s remaining debt of $18,006, at one point asking stockholders to contribute $10 for each share they owned. He recalled, “I did not get even the courtesy of a reply from one percent  of the stockholders, and not a dollar were they willing to risk to safeguard $100 invested.”

Pace contributed a few thousand dollars of his own money and made vague allusions to engaging in “other activities” with the potential to raise some funds. The company’s only other significant revue was coming from the heavily mortgaged Seventh Avenue building, which was netting just $2,500 annually in rent.The masters were deemed worthless; a message to stockholders noted “it is doubtful if anything is going to be realized” from their sale.

In a final January 1927 appeal to Du Bois and other investors, Pace characterized his efforts as a “worry for me and punishing effort which appears to be wholly unappreciated by some.” He then turned his back on the recording industry, went on earn a law degree from the University of Chicago, and in later years operated an insurance business.

 

Selected References

“A Consolidation.” Chicago Defender (Apr 19, 1924), p. 6.

“A New York Incorporation.” Talking Machine World (Feb 15, 1921), p. 157.

Allen, Walter C. “Report on Black Swan.” Unpublished manuscript (Jun 12, 1961). William R. Bryant Papers, Mainspring Press Collection.

“Black Swan Artists Broadcast.” Talking Machine World (May 15, 1922), p. 43.

“Black Swan Takes Over Company.” Chicago Defender (Apr 1922).

“Black Swan Records—New Firm Announces First List of Productions.” Chicago Defender (May 4, 1921), p. 8.

“C. Udell Turpin Takes Charge.” Talking Machine World (Oct 15, 1921), p. 46.

“Demand for Ethel Waters Record.” Talking Machine World (Aug 15, 1921), p. 89.

“Distribution System of Black Swan Phonograph Records.” The Crisis (Mar 1922), p 221.

Du Bois, W. E. B. Letter to Roland Hayes (New York, Nov 24, 1922), re: Invitation to record for Black Swan. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries).

— . Letter to Harry Pace (New York, Oct 1, 1923), re: sale of stock.

Du Bois, W. E. B., et al. “To the Stockholders of the Black Swan Phonograph Company” (New York, Jan 2, 1926). Du Bois Papers.

“Gives Jack Pickford Black Swan Records as Wedding Present.” Dallas Express (Nov 11, 1922), p. 1.

Handy, W. C. (Arna Bomtemps, editor). Father of the Blues—An Autobiography, pp. 202–203. New York: Macmillan (1941).

“New Incorporations.” New York Times (May 26, 1922), p. 34.

“New Incorporations—Capital Increases.” New York Times (Feb 1, 1923), p. 28

“New Incorporations—Delaware Charters.” New York Times (Feb 5, 1921), p. 22

“New York Charters—Name Changes.” New York Times (Jan 30, 1923), p. 27

“New Incorporations—New York Charters.” New York Times (Jun 25, 1921), p. 13.

“Now the Fletcher Record Company—Plant of Olympic Disc Record Corp. Purchased by Harry Pace and John Fletcher and Will Be Operated by a New ­Corporation.” Talking Machine World (Jul 15, 1922), p. 57.

Pace, Harry H. Letter to W. E. B. Du Bois (New York, Dec 27, 1920), re: Company launch and Du Bois’ proposal of the Black Swan name. Du Bois Papers.

— . Letter to W. E. B. Du Bois (New York, Mar 21, 1922), re: Financial statement through Dec 31, 1921.

 — . Letter to W. E. B. Du Bois (New York, Dec 23, 1922), re: Roland Hayes, and proposal to press imported Caruso masters. Du Bois Papers.

 — . Letter to Du Bois, et al. (New York, Jan 19, 1927), re: Ongoing attempts to liquidate Black Swan debt.

— . Postcard to W. E. B. Du Bois (Port Washington, WI, Jun 24, 1921), re: Preparations for increased record production. Du Bois Papers.

— . Stockholder Notice (New York, Jan 1, 1923), re: Organization of Black Swan Phonograph Company. Du Bois Papers.

Pace Phonograph Corp. “Black Swan Records.” U.S. trademark filing #149,558 (Jun 23, 1921).

“Pace Phonograph Corp. Changes Name.” Talking Machine World (Feb 15, 1923), p. 124.

“Phonograph Company Making Rapid Progress.” New York Age (Jun 18, 1921), p. 6.

“Purchase Black Swan Business.” Talking Machine World (Apr 15, 1924), p. 168.

“Report of Pace Phonograph Corporation” (Nov 8, 1922). Du Bois Papers.

“Robeson Casts His Chances with Pace Phonograph Co.” Chicago Defender (Jun 18, 1921), p. 9.

“Sales by Class of Record and Total Sales of Records by Units,
Years 1901 and 1941 Inclusive” (Exhibit: Victor record sales). U.S. District Court, S.D. of N.Y., Jan. 26 1943

“The Horizon” (re: First-month Black Swan record sales). The Crisis (Aug 1921), p. 176.

“The Horizon” (re: Black Swan distribution and record sales). The Crisis (Mar 1922), p. 220.

“The Swanola—A New Phonograph” (ad). The Crisis (Oct 1921), p. 284.

Thygesen, Helge, et al. Black Swan: The Record Label of the Harlem Renaissance. Nottingham, UK: VJM Publications (1996).

“To the Investing Public.” The Crisis (Nov 1922), p. 282.

“White Phonograph Record Companies Object to Colored Men Making Phonograph Records.” Dallas Express (Feb 26, 1921), p. 3.

 

Of Related Interest

This new addition to the Mainspring Press Online Reference Library includes listings for all Black Swan records using Olympic masters. It is free to download for personal, non-commercial use.

 

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© 2023 by Allan R. Sutton. All rights are reserved. Please contact  Mainspring Press for information on reproducing of any portion of this work in excess of customary fair-use standards.

 

The Playlist (Streaming MP3): Some New Arrivals for January 2023 (Part 1)

The Playlist: Some January Arrivals – Part 1

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Reposting or commercial use of these sound files is prohibited.
Please report violations to: publisher@mainspringpress.com.

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HITCH’S HAPPY HARMONISTS: Ethiopian Nightmare  (EE–)

Richmond, IN: February 23, 1924
Gennett 5402  (mx. 11764 – A)

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THE SOUTHERNERS: Suite “16”  (E–)

New York: May 2, 1925
Gennett 3061  (mx. 9507 – A)

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CALIFORNIA RAMBLERS (small unit, as Goofus Five): Sweet Man  (E)

New York: September 9, 1925
Okeh 40474  (mx. 73599 – B)

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RED NICHOLS & HIS FIVE PENNIES (vcl. Arthur Fields): Poor Papa  (EE–)

New York: February 1926
Salabert (French) 262  (U.S. Pathé mx. 106602)

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RED NICHOLS & HIS FIVE PENNIES: Boneyard Shuffle  (EE+)

New York: December 20, 1926
Brunswick 3477  (mx. E 21597 [renumbering of Vocalion mx. E 4260] )

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FESS WILLIAMS’ ROYAL FLUSH ORCHESTRA (as Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders): Heebie Jeebies  (V+)

New York: October 1, 1926
Brunswick 3351 (mx. E 20401 [renumbering of Vocalion mx. E 3887] )

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THE MISSOURIANS: Ozark Mountain Blues  (EE+)

New York: June 3, 1929
Victor V-38071  (mx. BVE 53803 – 2)
     J. E. Smith, manager (per Victor files)

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FRANK TANNER & HIS RHYTHM KINGS: Texas Teaser  (E–)

San Antonio (Texas Hotel): October 24, 1936
Bluebird B-6750  (mx. BS 02902 – 1)

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Upcoming Revisions to the Online Discographies

Several discographies in Mainspring’s free Online Reference Library are temporarily offline while undergoing revision for new editions. These include:

  • Ajax
  • Emerson
  • International Record Company
  • Keenophone – Rex – Imperial
  • Leeds & Catlin
  • Phono-Cut
  • Ragtime on Records, 1894-1950
  • Vocalion,  Vol. 1 (14000 Series)

We will post notifications here as each new edition becomes available.

 

William R. Bryant and Record Research Associates Archives Donated to the University of California

William R. Bryant and Record Research Associates Archives Donated to the University of California

 

Len Kunstadt and William R. Bryant

 

I am pleased to announce that the William R. Bryant and Record Research Associates archives have been donated to the Davidson Library at the University of California–Santa Barbara. The library’s Discography of American Historical Recordings project has been at the forefront of discographical research for nearly two decades, beginning with its posting of the Victor file data, and expanding rapidly from there.

Having worked with David Seubert, Sam Brylawski, and the Davidson Library staff on several projects in the past, I have no doubt that UCSB is the best choice as a permanent new home for this important collection, which was acquired by Mainspring Press in 2011 — and from which so many Mainspring discographies have sprung. Rights to several unfinished Mainspring Press discographies based on this material, including Plaza-ARC and Grey Gull, have also been assigned to UCSB.

The initial lot, dispatched to UCSB earlier this week, comprises all of the discographical data compiled over a span of five decades, from first-hand aural and visual inspection of countless thousands of 78s, by the Record Research group (Walter C. Allen, Len Kunstadt, Perry Armagnac, Carl Kendziora, George Blacker, et al.) and Bill Bryant. Bill acquired and continued to work on the RR archive, as well as his own projects, before his untimely death in 1995.

As with any collection of this sort, it will take considerable time to process and organize the materials, and to set parameters for access; so please do not contact UCSB concerning access or requesting data for now — it’s simply far too early. Updates will be posted here as they become available.

—Allan Sutton / Mainspring Press

The Pathe – Perfect Discography (1922 – 1930), Second Edition • Free Online Version

THE PATHE – PERFECT DISCOGRAPHY (1922 – 1930)
Second Edition (Digital Version 1.0)

By Allan Sutton

Data Compiled by William R. Bryant,
The Record Research Associates, et al.

 

Free to Download for Personal Use *

 

The newest addition to the free Mainspring Press Online Reference Library covers all concurrent Pathé–Perfect domestic-catalog issues, from the introduction of Perfect in 1922 to the discontinuation of the American Pathé label in early 1930. Totaling more than 750 pages, this newly revised and expanded edition includes highly detailed discographical data for all U.S. releases on Pathé, Perfect, and their many affiliated labels.

The work also includes an illustrated, well-documented history of the American Pathé operation, label illustrations, and guidance on two particularly vexing problems that have tripped-up some discographers in the past — the difference between dubbing numbers and true take designations on acoustic recordings; and the assignment of false master numbers and take designations during the Pathé-Cameo and American Record Corporation merger periods (there was a method to that seeming madness, as determined by first-hand aural and visual comparison of many thousands of original pressingsd).  

 

DOWNLOAD THE PATHE-PERFECT DISCOGRAPHY
(~4.6 mb / Abode Acrobat or Reader Required)

  • As with all titles in the Mainspring Press Reference Library, you are welcome to download this file for your personal use only. Mainspring Press holds the copyright and exclusive publication rights to this work. Commercial use, or any unauthorized reposting, publication, or distribution in any form, whether or not for monetary gain, is prohibited. 

Please report violations to: publisher@mainspringpress.com.

 

The Playlist: Five Harmaniacs, 1926–1927 (Streaming MP3)

THE PLAYLIST: FIVE HARMANIACS (1926 – 1927)

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Original recordings from the Mainspring Press Collection
Commercial use of these sound files is prohibited. Please report violations to: publisher@mainspringpress.com

 

Headed by Texas entertainer Claude Shugart, the Five Harmaniacs defy easy categorization. Originally the Four Harmaniacs, they started out singing cowboy ballads in a vaudeville act titled “Round-Up Tunes.”  But in 1926 they headed off in a new direction that caught the attention of the record companies.

Now calling billing themselves as  “A Genuine Musical Novelty,” they began featuring  jazz- and blues-inflected tunes in a style inspired by southern  jug and skiffle bands (Brunswick even released two of their titles in its race-record series). But they continued to wear their cowboy outfits on national tours, and reverted to their old “Round-Up Tunes” act while playing in some regions.

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HARMANIAC FIVE: Harmaniac Blues
Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. June 1926

Broadway 1034  (mx. 1079 / ctl. 371)

 

FIVE HARMANIACS: Coney Island Washboard
New York: September 17, 1926
Victor 20293  (mx. BVE 36327 – 2)

 

FIVE HARMANIACS (Walter Howard, speaking):What Makes My Baby Cry?
New York: February 8, 1927
RCA archive test pressing  (mx. BVE 37750 – 1, unissued on 78)

 

FIVE HARMANIACS (Walter Howard, speaking): What Makes My Baby Cry?  
New York: February 8, 1927
Victor 20507  (mx. BVE 37750 – 2)

 

FIVE HARMANIACS: It Takes a Good Woman (To Keep a Good Man at Home)
New York: February 8, 1927
RCA archive test pressing  (mx. BVE 37750 – 1, unissued on 78)

 

FIVE HARMANIACS: It Takes a Good Woman (To Keep a Good Man at Home)
New York: February 8, 1927
Victor 20507  (mx. BVE 37750 – 2)

 

FIVE HARMANIACS (uncredited vocalist): Sleepy Blues
New York: February 24, 1927
Brunswick 7002  (mx. E-4587 [E-22013])
The Brunswick recording sheet is headed “Test Masters — Special Race Recordings.” Rust’s Jazz Records shows the recording date as February 4, in error; February 24 is confirmed on the recording sheet.

American Recording Pioneers: Abe Schwartz (Streaming MP3)

American Recording Pioneers: Abe Schwartz
(Streaming MP3)

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Abe Schwartz accompanied by his twelve-year-old daughter, Sylvia (November 1920)

 

Original recordings from the Mainspring Press Collection.
Commercial use of these sound files is prohibited.
Please report violations to: publisher@mainspringpress.com.

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ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA
Sher — Part 2
New York: c. October 1920
Columbia E4905 (mx. 86692 – 1)

 

ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA (as Yiddisher Orchester)
Biem Reben’s Sideh

New York: c. November 1917
Columbia E3671 (mx. 58785 – 1)

 

ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA (as Jewish-Russian Orchestra)
Tantzt, Tantzt, Yiddelach

New York: c. ­November 1917
Columbia E4133 (mx. 58784 – 2)

 

ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA (as Yiddisher Orchester)
Sadegurer Chasd’l

New York: c. November 1917
Columbia E3671 (mx. 58782 – 1)

 

ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA (as Yiddisher Orchester)
Noch der Havdoleh
New York: c. February 1918
Columbia E3839 (mx. 84011 – 1)

 

AARON LEBEDEFF (acc. by ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA)
Ich Bin a Border Bei Mein Weib
New York: c. January 1923
Vocalion 14502 (mx. 10588)

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The original recording files for most of the Columbia “E” series and early Vocalion masters have been lost. Estimated recording dates are from from Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records (University of Illinois Press).

 

A Midsummer Night’s Playlist • Some New Additions to the Collection (Free MP3 Downloads)

A Midsummer Night’s Playlist • Some June–August Additions to the Collection (Free MP3 Downloads)

 

New MP3 transfers from some recent additions to the 78 collection, for your enjoyment. We’re always looking to purchase similar material (strong E– minimum, except in the case of true rarities). Let us know what you have in the way of disposables.

Reposting or commercial use of these sound files is prohibited.
Please report violations to: publisher@mainspringpress.com.

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LUCILLE HEGAMIN & HER BLUE FLAME SYNCOPATORS: Lonesome Monday Morning Blues  (E–)

New York: c. June 1921 (released August 1921)
Arto 9074  (mx: 18086 – )
No master or take number appears on this pressing, but mx. 18086 is confirmed on some client-label pressings.

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DOUGLAS WILLIAMS FOUR: Kind Daddy  (E)

Memphis (Auditorium): September 4, 1928
Victor 21695  (mx. BVE 45476 – 1)
Personnel per Victor recording ledger: Nathaniel Williams (cornet), Douglas Williams (clarinet), Elaine Elliott (piano), Sam Sims (percussion).

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DOC COOK & HIS FOURTEEN DOCTORS OF SYNCOPATION: Brainstorm  (E)

Chicago: June 15, 1927  (John Gloetzner, recording engineer)
Columbia 1298-D  (mx. W 144334 – 3)
Session logged as Dock Cook & his Dance Orchestra, but changed to Doc Cook & his Fourteen Doctors of Syncopation prior to release. No personnel are listed in the Columbia files.

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KING OLIVER & HIS DIXIE SYNCOPATORS: Slow and Steady  (E+)

New York: November 14, 1928
Brunswick 4469  (mx. E 28757 – )
“Joseph Oliver,” arranger, per the Brunswick ledger; no other personnel are listed in the Brunswick files.

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KING OLIVER & HIS DIXIE SYNCOPATORS: I’m Watching the Clock  (E+)

New York: September 12, 1928
Brunswick 4469  (mx. E – 28203 – )
Brunswick ledger states only “8 men” (unnamed), plus Oliver as an “extra.” 

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CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ ORCHESTRA: Watchin’ the Clock  (EE+)

New York: December 19, 1928
Okeh 8663  (mx. W 401466 – C)
No personnel listed in the Okeh files.

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HENRY (RED) ALLEN & HIS ORCHESTRA (vocal by Victoria Spivey): Funny Feathers Blues  (E+)

New York: September 24, 1929
Victor V-38088  (mx. BVE 55853 – 2)
No personnel other than Spivey listed in the Victor files.

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CLARENCE WILLIAMS & HIS ORCHESTRA (vocal by Ed Allen and Floyd Casey): Mama Stayed Out  (EE-)

New York: July 14, 1933
Brunswick X-25009  (mx. 13545 – 1)
Brunswick issue is unlisted in Jazz Records and derivative works. The catalog number is that of the corresponding Vocalion release, with the addition of an X- prefix. No personnel are listed in the American Record Corporation files.

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ALLEN BROTHERS: New Deal Blues  (EE+)

New York: October 3, 1934
Vocalion 02890  (mx. 16098 – 2)
Austin Allen (vocal, banjo); Lee Allen (guitar)

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W. K. (OLD MAN) HENDERSON: Hello World  (E+)

Shreveport, LA: February 18, 1930
Hello World 001  (Okeh mx. W  403810 – A)
The lengthy, very faintly recorded chime introduction has been deleted in this transfer.

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BLIND ANDY JENKINS: Hello World Song (Don’t You Go ’Way)  (E+)

Shreveport, LA: February 18, 1930
Hello World  001  (Okeh mx. W  403814 – B)

Special issue for independent radio station KWKH (Shreveport), on which “Old Man” Henderson rails against the new radio networks, the federal government, and — a little too late — Wall Street. On the reverse side, Blind Andy Jenkins (one of the most prolific writers of “death-and-disaster” ballads for the country market) goes after the same targets, tossing in chain stores for good measure, all set to the tune of his “Death of Floyd Collins.” From the Okeh matrix cards, it’s clear that talent scout / furniture dealer Polk Brockman had a hand in this venture, taking the publisher credits and collecting royalties on sales of the record. It retailed for 75¢, “postpaid anywhere.”

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i78s.org Is Now Hosting American Record Companies and Producers (1888 – 1950)

i78s.org Is Now Hosting American Record Companies and Producers (1888 – 1950)

 

We’re pleased to announce that entries from American Record Companies and Producers, 1888 – 1950 (Allan Sutton, Mainspring Press) are now available for free onscreen viewing on the i78s website. If you’re not familiar with the site, click here for a quick overview.

You will need a password with i78s.org to access this material (see below). Registration is free and easy, with no personal data  required, and no nasty spyware. Once you’re logged-in, simply click the “factory” icon at the upper-right of the screen to open the list of individual entries:

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Entries can also be accessed from the search window, by clicking the “Company Information” tag (in this example, it will open the entry for the American Record Company, the selected record’s producer):

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The selected entry will open as a PDF (Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader) file.

Out of consideration for those who purchased the book, the files are configured for onscreen viewing only, and cannot be downloaded or printed-out. Only individual entries can be viewed here — in other words, you cannot access the entire work as a single file.

(For those of you still wanting a copy of the book — and we’ve had a surprising number of requests lately — Mainspring Press has a few choice copies on hand that it’s currently offering on eBay. These were unsealed for random quality-control inspections, but otherwise are like-new. Once those are gone, we have no others, nor do any of our former distributors).

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This is the first phase of an ongoing project (Phase 2 will involve the addition of label-specific files for labels that drew on multiple suppliers). Additions and correction are always welcome, provided that they are properly documented, and should be e-mailed to:

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Enjoy More than 45,000 Vintage Recordings and 8,000 Early Sheet Music Covers for Free, at i78s.org

 

Vintage-record enthusiasts have cause to celebrate with the recent launch of i78s.org, created and hosted by David Giovannoni. Many of you know David for his role in recovering the Scott Phonoautograms (which pre-date Edison’s first recording by nearly two decades) and other important work in the field of early recorded sound.

At the moment there are more than 45,000 digitized discs and cylinders on the site, from David’s own eclectic collection and those of other advanced collectors, and that number will no doubt increase as others come onboard. You’ll find some exceedingly rare, unusual, and even one-of-a-kind recordings here. Offerings run the gamut from popular mainstream hits to the virtually unknown and just-plain-weird.

Recent upgrades include the addition of more than 8,000 high-quality scans from sheet music covers of the late 1890s through late 1920s, and all of the entries from the award-winning American Record Companies and Producers, 1888–1950 in PDF format.

Registration is simple, requiring only a valid e-mail address and a password. No personal information is required, and there are no third-party cookies, trackers, spyware, ads, or other such nastiness. Plus, it’s free.

If you’re not already registered, by all means visit i78s ASAP, and start enjoying all the features this remarkable resource has to offer.

 

Mainspring Press Is No Longer Hosting Brian Rust’s “Jazz Records,” As It Does Not Meet Our Current Standards for Discographical Research

JAZZ AND RAGTIME RECORDS (1897 – 1942)
The Complete 6th (and Final) Edition
Brian Rust

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Mainspring Press is no longer hosting this work, as it fails to our current minimum standards for discographical research, including its failure to cite credible sources, and to clearly label anecdotal, conjectural, and/or fabricated data as such.

The PDF files has been deleted from the Mainspring Press website and blog.

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Legal Notice re. Rights to Rust’s “Jazz Records”

 

Perhaps understandably, there appears to be some confusion over rights to Brian Rust’s Jazz Records since its removal from the Mainspring Press sites.

In particular, we have reports of misinformation circulating on Facebook and other sites. We do not follow social media, so if you have questions, concerns, or anything substantive to say, please do the professional, adult thing and contact us directly.

For those of you not familiar with publishing and intellectual property law, there are two basic components in play here: (1) copyright, and (2) publication rights. They are not the same, and understanding the difference is key to avoiding some legal headaches.

To clarify:

COPYRIGHT: The contents of Jazz Records-6 were placed in the public domain in 2016 by Mainspring Press. This was done as a favor to the collecting community, particularly a number of collectors who made the case that doing so would allow them to incorporate that material into a new, original Jazz Records-7. (Tellingly enough, that’s never happened, but the opportunity is still there, since the data are now free for anyone to use in a new work.)

PUBLICATION RIGHTS: Mainspring Press retains the publication rights to Jazz Records-6 and all previous editions under our 2001 contract with Brian Rust, which remains in force. That means you cannot reprint those actual books, as some reportedly are recommending. Bear in mind that Mainspring Press is still very much in business (and in fact is planning to re-enter the book business in early 2023). We retain the services of an intellectual-property attorney in the U.S., and a licensed registered agent overseas, to whom any infringement of our rights will be referred for appropriate legal action.

WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT DO, LEGALLY:

  • You can incorporate the data from Rust’s Jazz Records-6, and any previous edition of that work, into a new, original work.
  • You can publish and sell a new, original work incorporating that data. Mainspring Press will make no legal claim in such a work (nor are we interested in publishing it).
  • You can continue to distribute copies of the Jazz Records-6 PDF file for personal, non-commercial use only.
  • You cannot sell, cause to be sold, or facilitate the selling of copies of that file in any format — print, e-book, digital, or otherwise — whether or not for financial profit.
  • You cannot reprint Jazz Records-6, or any previous editions of that work — for example, by printing from the PDF or scanned page files — or sell or cause to be sold such reprints, whether or not for financial profit. Mainspring Press retains the sole right to publish and sell those works in their present form, in any and all formats, and violations will result in legal action.

If you are interested in purchasing the printer-ready files and publication rights to JR-6 for reprint purposes, we are happy to consider offers.

Again, if you have questions or concerns, please contact us  directly. We do not follow or conduct business on social media.

— Allan Sutton / Owner, Mainspring Press

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The Playlist • Around the World on Victor Records — Some “Ethnic” Favorites, 1905 – 1923 (MP3)

The Playlist • Around the World on Victor Records:
Some Ethnic Favorites, 1905 – 1923

Original Recordings from the Mainspring Press Collection

(Discographical data from the Victor Talking Machine Co.
and Gramophone Co. files)

 

A sampling of Victor’s extensive Foreign Catalog offerings from the acoustic era. Being  intended primarily for the export or domestic immigrant markets, most of these records were pressed in small runs and segregated in special catalogs that the average American record buyer never saw. As such, many are quite scarce today, especially in anything approaching decent condition.

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ANONYMOUS: Andikristo

Constantinople: March 20, 1909
Victor 63512  (Gramophone Co. mx. 12578b)
Artists are uncredited in the Gramophone Co. files and on the labels.

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GREEK MANDOLINATA OF THE STEAMSHIP KING ALEXANDER: Diavolopedo

New York: January 19, 1923
Victor 77380  (mx. B 27418 – 2)

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ALEXANDER MALOOF: A Trip to Syria — Original Syrian Dance

New York: September 16, 1913
Victor 65830  (mx. B 13868 – 2)
Concurrent issue on Victor 17443 (domestic catalog).

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ELENKRIEG’S ORCHESTRA: Die Zilberne Chasene

New York: December 2, 1915
Victor 67569  (mx. B 16843 – 1)

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FRANCISCO LOPEZ & SALVADOR FLORES: Flores de Pascuas

Caracas, Venezuela: January 27, 1917
Victor 72682  (mx. G 1794 – 1)
Recording expedition headed by George K. Cheney and Charles S. Althouse.

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MARIANO ESCOBEDO & DOMINGO NUÑEZ (Emilio Sirvas, guitar): Tu Seperación

Lima, Peru: September 20, 1913
Victor 65996  (mx. L 277 – 1)
Recording expedition headed by Frank L. Rambo and Charles S. Althouse.

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JESÚS ABREGO & LEOPOLO PICAZO: Amigo, Amigo

Mexico City: July 18, 1905
Victor 98084  (mx. 23 Z – )
Recording expedition headed by William Nafey and Samuel H. Rous (who, in addition to recording prolifically under the name of “S. H. Dudley,” was a Victor manager and later wrote the early editions of The Victor Book of the Opera).

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