The Louisville Jug Band Gets Arrested (1914), and Other Earl McDonald Snippets

The earliest known personnel listing for the Louisville Jug Band, 1914. “Colvin” presumably is a typo for Ben Calvin, who worked on-and-off with McDonald for many years; could “John Smith” be a typo for Cal Smith, a long-time McDonald associate? (Louisville Courier-Journal, October 20, 1914)

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A 1918 iteration of the Louisville Jug Band, interrupting their Chicago engagement for a week’s appearance at the Antler cabaret in Dayton, Ohio. Can anyone identify the members? (Dayton Daily News, April 14, 1918)

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McDonald and company fared far better than most race-record artists during the early Depression years, thanks to their popular “Ballard Chefs” broadcasts. Originating in Louisville, the program aired in many major cities. (What’s on the Air, April 1930)

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Earl McDonald entertains at the University Kentucky. (Louisville Courier-Journal, February 15, 1948)

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(Louisville Courier-Journal, April 29, 1949)

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SARA MARTIN & HER JUG BAND: I’m Gonna Be a Lovin’ Old Soul

New York: September 1924
Okeh 8211 (mx. S 72837-b)

Clifford Hayes, violin; Curtis Hayes, banjo; Earl McDonald, jug

 

Highlights from the Pathe Records Catalog (August 1916)

From the Bill Bryant papers at Mainspring Press. Note the issue by Rector’s New York Dance Orchestra (Leopold Kohls, director), which is missing from American Dance Bands on Records and Film. A bit of trivia for the organ fans out there, from a page not pictured: Pathé’s “exclusive” studio organ was a Mason & Hamlin (a popular line of reed organs), model not mentioned.

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Collectors’ Corner • Some March Finds (Fletcher Henderson, Sammy Stewart, William Haid, Wendell Hall, Bob Deikman)

After a sluggish start that included plowing through more red-label Columbias, etc., than anyone should ever have to, March ended with some nice finds from a collector who’s downsizing. If you’re doing the same, and have material of similar quality to dispose of, let us know (top prices paid for top records, if needed for the collection; true E- or better, on the VJM scale, with strong V+ the minimum acceptable grade except in rare cases). Here are a few favorites from the new batch:
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FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: You’ve Got to Get Hot  [EE-]

New York: October 1923
Vocalion 14726 (mx. 12199)

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FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: Charleston Crazy  [E]

New York: November 1923
Vocalion 14726 (mx. 12376)

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SAMMY STEWART & HIS ORCHESTRA: Copenhagen  [E-]

Chicago: September 1924
Paramout 20359 (mx. 1891-1)

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WILLIAM HAID: Shim-Sha-Wabble [sic] & I’ll See You in My Dreams  [V+]

Marsh Laboratories, Chicago: c. January 1925
Autograph unnumbered (mx. 701)

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WENDELL HALL: Hot Feet  [E-]

New York: March 29, 1927
Champion 15295 (Gennett mx. GEX-561)

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BOB DEIKMAN’S ORCHESTRA (as Grandview Inn Orchestra): Roll Up the Carpets  [E]

Richmond, IN: December 25, 1927
Champion 15401 (Gennett mx. GEX-991)

Antique Phonograph Ephemera • 1904 Zonophone Gatefold Card

From the 1904 transitional period, soon after the Universal Talking Machine had been purchased by Victor’s Eldridge R. Johnson but was still marketing its own (pre-Victor) phonographs. The “Zonophone Company” name on the inner panel was used only briefly, dating this piece to fairly early in the year. (Many thanks, Jorge – I owe you a finder’s fee!)

Mainspring’s American Zonophone discographical data — now including all general-catalog 7″, 9″, 10″, 11″, and 12″ pressings — can be found on the free Discography of American Historical Recordings website, hosted by the University of California–Santa Barbara. If you prefer books, Bill Bryant’s 10″ / 12″ American Zonophone discography is still available on the  Mainspring Press website at special close-out pricing (but quantities are very limited).

Collector’s Corner • Some February Finds (Stracciari, Szkilondz, Lizzie Miles, Fletcher Henderson, Jelly Roll Morton, Harry Hudson, Coon Sanders Night Hawks

Lots of immigrant 78s turned up this month, and Denver being a sanctuary city, I just had to offer them a safe home (don’t tell Captain Tweetie & the ICE Patrol) — Most notably, a big cache of tasty jazz and hot-dance items on British labels, plus a few scarce-label operatics, to add to the collection; and several crates of nice stuff for the next auction (some of it—gasp—Mexican), whenever that may be. Here are a few new favorites from the February haul (sorry, the arias haven’t been checked for proper pitch)…
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RICCARDO STRACCIARI: Tannhauser – Romanza di Volframo (E-)

Societa Italiana di Fonotipia 278 [92459]
Milan: February 12, 1909

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ADELAIDE ANDREJEWA SZKILONDZ: Lakme – Glöckchen Arie (EE-)

Parlophon P.275
Berlin: 1910s
In response to a listener’s question: Yes, this is the complete side; the unusual “cold start” is exactly as recorded

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LIZZIE MILES (Clarence Johnson, piano): You’re Always Messin’ ’Round with My Man (EE-)

His Master’s Voice B 1703
New York: May 23, 1923

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FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: Alabamy Bound [take 3]  (E-)

Imperial (British) 1420
New York: January 1925

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JELLY ROLL MORTON & HIS RED HOT PEPPERS: That’ll Never Do (E)

His Master’s Voice B 4836
New York: March 5, 1930

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HARRY HUDSON’S MELODY MEN (Hudson, vocal): It Don’t Do Nothin’ But Rain (E-)

Edison Bell Radio 849
London: April 1928

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HARRY HUDSON’S MELODY MEN (Hudson, vocal): How Long Has This Been Goin’ On? (E-)

Edison Bell Radio 849
London: April 1928

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COON SANDERS NIGHT HAWKS ORCHESTRA (Carlton Coon, vocal): That’s All There Is, There Ain’t No More (EE-, with label damage)

Zonophone (British) 3946
Camden, NJ; August 7, 1925

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“American Idol,” 1916 Style

“American Idol,“ 1916 Style
By Allan Sutton

 

Long before The Voice, American Idol, Horace Heidt, or even Major Bowes, there was the Colorado Scholarship Fund contest of June 1916 — possibly the first amateur-talent contest for which the reward was a record deal (of sorts). The contest was widely publicized in the Colorado newspapers, and even The Talking Machine World (the major trade-paper of the day) covered it in detail:

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The record still turns up often in Colorado, generally to the dismay of collectors, since aside from the interesting-looking label, it’s pretty dreadful (so much so, that we won’t post the sound-file, out of respect to two artists caught at an awkward stage in their development). In defense of Ms. Forsyth and Mr. Parsons, both were truly amateurs at the time, and Forsyth had recently suffered throat problems, according to a local paper.

For all its shortcomings, the record appears to have sold very well. It didn’t lead to a Columbia contract for either singer (and was numbered in Columbia’s Personal Record series, ensuring it would never be listed in a Columbia catalog), but apparently the experience encouraged them to pursue professional careers. Both took up vocal studies at Denver’s Wilcox Studios shortly after the record’s release.

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Forsyth remained in Denver until late 1919, when she joined the All-American Opera Company on tour, as an understudy to Anna Fitziu. By the early 1920s she had married and settled in Los Angeles, where she became a fixture on the local concert circuit and taught at Davis Musical College.

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Alice Forsyth in Los Angeles, 1923

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Parsons joined the Jambon Players, a group that entertained the troops overseas during World War I, then settled in Pittsburgh. In addition to regular concert and church work, he was a radio pioneer, broadcasting regularly over station KDKA beginning in 1921. During 1927–1928 he appeared on Broadway in Artists and Models, which ran for 151 performances at the Winter Garden. In the later 1920s he had his own program on KDKA and was a featured star on NBC’s Yeast Foamers program during 1929–1930.

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Chauncey Parsons at Loew’s Aldine Theater (Pittsburgh), 1924

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The Colorado contest was so successful that it was later repeated in other cities.

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Mainspring Press Updates (Feb-March 2018): Leeds & Catlin Online Database / American Records Companies & Producers 1888-1950

Leeds & Catlin Database Going to DAHR in March

Our Leeds & Catlin database is going to the University of California Barbara–Santa Barbara in March, to be incorporated in their free online Discography of Historical American Recordings. It includes all the latest updates to Leeds Records: A History and Discography (now out of print). Watch for the online release later this year.

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Nearing Completion:

American Record Companies and Producers, 1888–1950: An Encyclopedic History

Approx. 780 pages (hardcover)
Release date, imprint, and price to be announced

 

American Record Companies and Producers 1888–1950 covers all producers of original recordings for the retail, subscription, and jukebox markets in detail — from the dawn of the wax-cylinder era through the advent of the LP, from the behemoths to the smallest and most obscure. (Not covered are companies that produced only reissues, children’s records, or pressings from imported masters; personal recordings; promo and one-off labels, etc).

The book is based on reliable primary-source materials (100% Wikipedia-free), including company and legal documents, original recording and production files, trade-press and newspaper reports, accounts of the persons involved, etc. — all fully cited. Anecdotal accounts, when they appears at all, are clearly identified as such.

The work differs from our earlier American Record Labels and Companies in that it is organized by companies or producers rather than by label names. So, for example, you will still find all the information you need on the Black Swan label under the Pace Phonograph Corporation entry, or on the Phono-Cut and Colonial labels under the Boston Talking Machine Company entry. There will be a label index (in addition to general topic and song title indexes) to help you navigate.

Being primarily a business history, the book does not have label illustrations; however, we are looking into the possibility of having a label DVD produced as a stand-alone product at some point, if there is sufficient interest.

 

The following 1,000+ entries are now complete; the remainder (not listed here) are in final fact-checking and editing:

 

A:  •  A-1 Records of America  •  Abbey Record Corporation / Abbey Records, Inc. / Peter Doraine, Inc.  •  Ace Record Company  •  Acme Radio & Record Corporation, et al.  •  Admiral Records, Inc. / Adam Records, Inc.  •  Advance Records  •  Adventure Record Company / Adventure Records, Inc.  •  Advertiser Publishing Company, Ltd.  •  Advertisers Recording Service, Inc.  •  Aeolian Company, The  •  Aetna Music Corporation  •  Aguila Record Manufacturing Company  •  Alabama Phonograph Company  •  Aladdin Records  •  Alben Record Company  •  Alco Recording Company  •  Alco Research & Engineering Company  •  Alert Records, Inc.  •  Alegene Sound & Radio Company / Algene Recording Studios  •  Allegro Records  •  Allender Record Distributors  •  Allied (Phonograph and) Record Manufacturing Company  •  Allied Recording Company  •  Alpha Records, Inc.  •  Alvin Records  •  Am Records / American Music  •  Ambassador Records / Ambassador-Enterprise Records, Inc.  •  American Elite, Inc.  •  American Graphophone Company  •  American Institute of Music–Arts & Drama  •  American Jazz, Inc.  •  American Odeon Corporation  •  American Phonograph Company  •  American Phonograph Record Company  •  American Record Company [I]  •  American Record Company [II]  •  American Record Corporation  •  American Record Manufacturing Company [I]  •  American Recording & Transcription Service  •  American Recording Artists / ARA Records  •  American Recording Company  •  American Recording Laboratories  •  American Talking Machine Company [I]  •  American Talking Machine Company [II]  •  American Vitaphone Company  •  Americana Records  •  Americana Records Company  •  Amigo Music Publishing Company / Ansa Records  •  Ammor Record Corporation / Ammor Record Company  •  Amuke Record Company  •  Angelico Company / Angelophone Records  •  Apex Recording Laboratory  •  Apex Recording Studios  •  Apollo Record Company  •  Apollo Music Enterprises / Apollo Records, Inc. / Rainbow Record Shop  •  Appliances Company, The  •  Arcadia Records & Transcription Company, Inc.  •  Arco Records [I]  •  Arco Records [II]  •  Arden Recording Company  •  Ardene Record Company  •  Arista Record Corporation  •  Aristocrat Record Corporation  •  Arrow Phonograph Corporation  •  Art Service Music  •  Artist Records, Inc.  •  Artistic Records  •  Artists Music Corporation  •  Arto Company, The  •  Arvid Records, Inc.  •  Asa Records  •  Asch Recording Studios / Asch Records  •  Associated Cinema Studios  •  Associated Studios Broadcasting & Recording  •  Atlas Record Company  •  Atlantic Records  •  Atomic Record Company / Atomic, Inc.  •  Atwood–Herscher Publications / Harry G. Atwood Enterprises  •  Auburn Button Works  •  Audeon Corporation  •  Audience Records, Inc.  •  Audio Company of America / ACA Recording Studios, Inc.  •  Austin, Gene, Record Company  •  Autograph Records  •  Avalon Record Company  •  Ayo Records

B:   B. J. Exploitation Company  •  Bacchanal Recordings, Inc.  •  Bachman Studio  •  Bacigalupi, Peter (& Son)  •  Baldwin Recording Studios, Inc.  •  Balkan Record Company  •  Ballen Record Company / Gotham Record Corporation  •  Bandwagon Records, Inc. / Bennett Records  •  Banner Records, Inc.  •  Barthel Records / Barthel, Inc.  •  Bartlett, Ray  •  Batt Masian Company  •  Bee Bee Bee Records  •  Belgian Conservatory of Music, Inc.  •  Bell Record Company / Bell Record Corporation  •  Bell Record Company, Ltd.  •  Bell Recording Corporation  •  Bell Records, Inc.  •  Bel-Tone Recording Corporation  •  Beltone Recording Corporation  •  Berliner, Emile: American Gramophone Company / United States Gramophone Company / Berliner Gramophone Company  •  Besa Records  •  Bethlehem Music Company / Bethlehem Recording Laboratory  •  Bettini Phonograph Laboratory  •  Bibletone  •  Big Nickel Records  •  Black & White Records / Black & White Recording Company  •  Blue Chip Records  •  Blue Danube Records  •  Blu-Disc Record Company  •  Blue Bonnet Music Company  •  Blue Label Records  •  Blue Note Records  •  Blue Record Company  •  Blue Ribbon Music Company / Blue Ribbon Records  •  Blue Star Records  •  Blu-White Record Company, Ltd.  •  Boney Records  •  Bongo Record Company  •  Bop Records  •  Bornand Music Box Record Company  •  Bost Records Company  •  Boston Talking Machine Company  •  Boswell, D. E. & Company  •  Bourne, C. H.,  Recording Company  •  Bradley, Richard, & Associates  •  Bridgeport Die & Machine Company  •  Brinckerhoff & Company, Inc. / Brinckerhoff Studios, Inc.–Time Abroad / General Sound Corporation  •  Broadcast Recorders, Inc.  •  Broadcast Recording Studios / Broadcast Records  •  Broadway Records  •  Bronze Recording Studio / Bronze Record & Recording Company  •  Broome, George  •  Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company  •  Brunswick Radio Corporation  •  Brunswick Record Corporation     •  Bullet Recording & Transcription Company / Bullet Plastics / Bulleit Enterprises, Inc.  •  Burke & Rous  •  Burt (Manufacturing) Company

C:  C & S Phonograph Record Company  •  Cadet Record Company  •  Cadillac Record Company [I]  •  Cadillac Record Company [II]  •  California Record (Manufacturing) Company  •  California Recording Company  •  Cameo Record Corporation  •  Canzonet Record Company  •  Capital Sound Studios  •  Capitol Records, Inc.  •  Capitol Roll & Record Company  •  Capri Records  •  Cardinal Records, Inc  .  •  Ca-Song Record Corporation / Auto-Photo Record Company  •  Case Recording Company  •  Castle Record Company  •  Castle Records, Inc. [I]  •  Castle Records, Inc. [II]  •  Cavalcade Music Company  •  Cavalier Recording Company  •  Celesta Records Company  •  Celps Record (& Supply) Company  •  Celtic Record Company, Inc.  •  Central Nebraska Phonograph Company  •  Champion Record Company  •  Champion Recording Corporation  •  Chance Record Company  •  Changer Publications, Inc.  •  Charm Records, Inc.  •  Charles Eckart Company, The  •  Cherokee Record Company  •  Chicago Central Phonograph Company  •  Chicago Gramophone Society  •  Chicago Record Company  •  Chicago Recording Studios, Inc.  •  Chicago Talking Machine Company  •  Chief Record Company  •  Cincinnati Record Manufacturing Company  •  Circle Records / Circle Sound, Inc.  •  Clano, J. & J. / Verdi Music Shops (E. E. Verdi)  •  Clark Phonograph Record Company  •  Clarion Record Company  •  Clarion Record Manufacturing Company, Inc. / Clarion Records, Inc.  •  Classic Record Company  •  Claude Record Company  •  Clef Records, Inc.  •  Clipper Records  •  Clover Records Company, Ltd.  •  Club Records  •  Co-Art Records Company  •  Coast Record (Manufacturing) Company / Charles E. Washburn Company  •  Cobra Records  •  Coleman Recording Company / Coleman Records, Inc.  •  Collectors Items, Inc.  •  Colorado Phonograph Company / Colorado & Utah Phonograph Company  •  Columbia Phonograph Company & Related Companies: American Graphophone Company / Columbia Phonograph Company, General / Columbia Graphophone Company / Columbia Graphophone Manufacturing Company / Columbia Phonograph Company, Inc. •  Columbia Recording Corporation / Columbia Records, Inc. [CBS]  •  Comar Records  •  Comet, Inc.  •  Commodore Music Shop / Commodore Record Co., Inc.  •  Compo Company, Ltd. / H. S. Berliner Recording Laboratories (New York)  •  Command Records  •  Compass Record Company  •  Concert Hall Society, Inc.  •  Concert Music Shop, Inc.  •  Concert Phonograph Record Company, Inc.  •  Consolidated Film Industries  •  Consolidated Phonograph Companies, Ltd.  •  Consolidated Record(ing) Corporation / Consolidated Recording Laboratories  •  Continental Phonograph & Record Company  •  Continental Record Company, Inc.  •  Cook Laboratories  •  Cormac Records  •  Corona Records  •  Coronet Records  [I]  •  Coronet Records (Inc.)  [II]  •  Cosmo Records, Inc.  •  Courtney Records  •  Cova Recording Corporation  •  Covered Wagon Records, Inc.  •  Cowboy Record Company  •  Cozy Records  •  Crescent Record Company  •  Criterion Laboratories / Criterion Records, Inc.  •  Crown Record Company  •  Crown Record Corporation [I]  •  Crown Records [I]  •  Crown Records [ II ] / Crown Recording Corporation  •  Crystal Recording Studio  •  Crystal-Tone Record Company  •  Crystalette Records of California / Crystalette Records, Inc.  •  Cudahy Recording Corporation  •  Cyclone Records, Inc.

D:   Damon Recording Studios, Inc. / Damon Transcription Laboratory & Sound Service  •  Dana Records, Inc. / Dana Music Company  •  Danceland Record Company  •  Dance-Tone Record Company / Dance-Tone Records, Inc.  •  Dansrite Record Company  •  Davis, Joe: Beacon Record Company / Celebrity Records / Joe Davis Record Company / Davis Record Corporation / Jay-Dee Records  •  DC Records  •  De Luxe Record Company, Inc.  •  Decca Records, Inc.  •  Delmac Record Company  •  Delray Recording Company / Paradise Recording Company  •  Delvar Recording Company  •  Derby Records Corporation  •  D-H Recording Company  •  Dial Records  •  Diamond Record Company, Inc.  •  Diamond Record Corporation  •  Disco Recording Company, Inc.  •  Disco Recording Studios / Disco Recordings  •  Discos Azteca  •  Discovery Records, Inc.  •  Dixie Records  •  Dolphin, John: Dolphin’s of Hollywood / Recorded in Hollywood, et al.  •  Dome Records (Inc.)  •  Domestic Talking Machine Corporation  •  Domino Phonograph Corporation  •  Domino Records  •  Donett Hit Record Company  •  Dot Records  •  Down Home Corporation  •  Down Home Record Company  •  Down River Records  •  Dudley Records  •  Duke Record Company  •  Duplex Phonograph Company  •  Durium Products Corporation / Durium Products, Inc.

E:   Eagle Record Company / ABC-Eagle Records  •  Early American Dances  •  Eastern Pennsylvania Phonograph Company  •  Ebony Records  •  Echo Recording Company  •  Echo Records  [I]  •  Eddie’s Records  •  Edison Phonograph Company / Edison Phonograph Works  •  Edison Phonograph Company of Ohio  •  Eily, E. A. Record Company  •  Ekko Recording Corporation  •  Electric Phonograph Corporation  •  Electric Recording Laboratories  •  Electro Broadcasters  •  Electro-Vox Recording Studios  •  Emanon Record Company  •  Embassy Record Company  •  Emerald Record Company  •  Emerson Phonograph Company, Inc.  •  Emerson Recording Laboratories, Inc.  •  Empey Records, Inc.  •  Empire Broadcasting Corporation  •  Empire Record & Music Company  •  Empire Record Company / Empire Record Corporation  •  Empire Recording Studios  •  Encore Record Company  •  Englewood Records  •  Enterprise Records (Inc.)  •  Eslava Recording Company  •  Etna Recording Company, Inc.  •  Everstate Records  •  Everybodys Record, Inc.  •  Excellent Record Corporation  •  Excelsior Phonograph Company / Excelsior & Musical Phonograph Record Company  •  Excelsior Records  •  Exclusive Records  •  Exner Record Company / F. B. Exner

F:   F & P Records  •   Faith Records  •  Famous Record Company  •  Famous Records, Inc.  •  Famous Singers Records, Inc.  •  Fanfare Records  •  Fantasy Records  •  Fargo Records  •  Favorite Recording Company  •  FBC Distributing Company  •  Federal Record Corporation  •  Fentone Enterprises  •  Fine Arts Recording Company  •  Fine Recording Company / Fine Recording Studios  •  Fletcher Record Company, Inc.  •  Flint Records, Inc.  •  Flora Records  •  Florida Phonograph Company  •  Florida Records  •  FM Records / FM Recording Company  •  Folkraft Records  •  Folkways Records & Service Corporation  •  Fortune Records  •  Fox Record Company  •  49th State Hawaii Record Company  •  Frank’s Folk Tune Record Company  •  Fran-Tone Records  •  Freedom Recording Company  •  Franwil Record Company  •  Fraternity Record Company  •  Friends of Recorded Music, The  •  Frontier Records

G:  •  Gaelic (Phonograph) Record Company, Inc.  •  Gala Record Company / Gala Record Corporation  •  Gamut Records  •  Garten, Mauricio (Maurice): Aguila Recording Company / Tri-Color Recording Company  •  Gee Bee Records  •  Geddins, Robert L. (Bob): Big Town Recordings / Down Town Recording, Inc. / Cava-Tone Recording  •  Gem Records, Inc.  •  General Phonograph Corporation  •  Gennett Recording Laboratories / Gennett Records  •  Georgia Phonograph Company  •  G. I. Records, Inc.  •  Gilt-Edge Record Company / 4 Star Record Company, Inc  •  Glenn Wallichs Recording Studios  •  Globe Distributors  •  Globe Phonograph Record Company  •  Globe Record Company [I]  •  Globe Record Company [II]  •  Glo Tone Records  •  Gold Medal Records, Inc.  •  Gold-Rain Recording Company  •  Gold Seal Record Company  •  Gold Tone Record Company  •  Goldband Record Company / Goldband Recording Studio  •  Golden Gate Record Company, Inc.  •  Golden Record Company, Inc.  •  Good Time Jazz  •  Goody Record Corporation / Gotham Record Company  •  Gospel Trumpet Company  •  Gramophone Shop, The  •  Grand Record Company  •  Greater New York Phonograph Company  •  Greek Record Company  •  Green Recording Studios  •  Grecol Enterprises, Inc.  •  Gregory Record Company / Bobby Gregory Records / Cathy–Bobby Gregory Records  •  Grey Gull Records, Inc.  •  Grimes Music Publishers / Clef Publications  •  Guild Records, Inc.  •  Groovy Records  •

H:   H & M Laboratories  •  H. K. S. Publishing Company  •  Hamp-Tone Records, Inc.  •  Handy Record Company  •  Happiness Records  •  Harding, Roger  •  Hardman Record Company  •  Hargail Records  •  Harmonia Record Corporation  •  Harmony Record Company  •  Harmony Recording Laboratories  •  Harmony Records  •  Harms, Kaiser & Hagen  •  Harris Record Company / Harris Recording Laboratories  •  Harry Lim Recordings  •  Harry Smith Recordings  •  Hart-Van Record Recording Company  •  Hatch, Thomas W., Publisher  •  Haven Records, Inc.  •  Hawthorne & Sheble [Manufacturing] Company  •  Headline Record Corporation of New York  •   Herzog, E. T., Recording Company  •  High Time Records  •  Hi-Lite Recording Company  •  Holiday Record Company  •  Holiday Records (of Hollywood)  •  Hollywood Records  •  Hollywood (Phonograph) Record Company  •  Hollywood Recording Company  •  Hollywood Rhythms Record Company  •  Hollywood Star Records  •  Holmes Royal Records Company  •  Hot Record Society / H. R. S. Recordings  •  Houston Records  •  Howard, Mary, Recordings  /  Mary Howard Studios  •    Howard Records, Inc.  •  Hub Records  •  Hucksters Recording Company, Inc.  •  Hunting, Russell  •  Hy-Tone Recording Company / Hy-Tone Manufacturing & Distributing Company

I:   Ideal Record Company, Inc.  •  Ideal Records  •  Idessa Malone Distributors / Idessa Malone Enterprises / Staff Record Company  •  Imperial Record Company [I]  •  Imperial Record Company, Inc.  [II]  •  Imperial Records, Inc.  •  Imperial Talking Machine Company  •  Impresario Records  •  Indestructible Phonographic Record Company  •  Independent Recording Laboratory, Inc.  •  Indigo Recordings, Inc.  •  International Phonograph & Record Company  •  International Record Collectors Club  •  International Record Company [I]  •  International Record Company [II]  •  International Recording Studio  •  International Records  •  International Records Agency  •  Iowa Phonograph Company  •  Island Music & Recording Company  •  Israel Record Company  •  Ivory Recording Company / Ivory Records

J:  J. O. B. Records  •  Jamboree Records, Inc.  •  Jazz Disc  •  Jazz Information Records  •  Jazz Ltd.  •  Jazz Man Record Shop  •  Jazzology Records  •  Jewel Record Company [I]  •  Jewel Record Company [II]  •  Joco Records  •  John Currie Enterprises  •  Jones (Recording) Laboratories / Jones Research Sound Products  •  Jubilee Records Company, Inc. / Jay-Gee Record Company, Inc.  •  Jugoslavia Jewelry & Phonograph Company  •  Juke Box Record Company  •  Jump Records  •  Jupiter Records

K:  •  Kansas City Talking Machine Company  •  Kansas Phonograph Company  •  Kappa Records, Inc.  •  Keen-O-Phone Company, Inc.  •  Keltic Record Corporation  •  Kem Records, Inc.  •  Kentucky Phonograph Company  •  Keynote Records  •  Keystone Records  •  Khoury’s Recordings  •  King Jazz, Inc.  •  King Record Company  •  Kismet Record Company  •  Krantz Records  •  Ku Klux Klan–Affiliated Companies

L:  •  La Bonita Records  •  La Marr Record Company  •  Laborator Ed. Jedlicka  •  Laboratory Association, The  •  Lamb’s Recording Studios  •  Lambert Company, The  •  Lamplighter Records  •  Lark Record Company  •  Lasso Record Company  •  Latin American Records  •  Lauderdale, Jack: Downbeat Recording Company / Swing Beat Records / Swing Time Record Company  •  Laurent Records, Ltd.  •  Lee & Roth Enterprises  •  Lee Sales Company, Inc.  •  Leda Records Company  •  Leeds & Catlin Company  •  Leeds & Company  •  Leslie Records, Inc.  •  Liberty Music Shop(s)  •  Liberty Phonograph Company  •  Liberty Record Company [I] / Blazon Records  •  Liberty Record Company [II]  •  Liberty Recording Company  •  Library of Congress–Division of Music  •  Life Record Company  •  Life Records  •  Lina Records  •  Lincoln, Benjamin  •  Lincoln Record Corporation  •  Lincoln Records, Inc.  •  Linden Recordings / Linden Records  •  Lindwood Recording Company  •  Little Wonder Record Company  •  Lissen Records, Inc.  •  Lloyd’s Novelty & Curio Shop  •  London Gramophone Corporation  •  Lone Star Music Publishers  •  Lone Star Publishing & Recording Company  •  Louisiana Phonograph Company, Ltd.  •  Lucky 7 Recording Company  •  Lyraphone Company of America  •  Lyric Phonograph Company

M:  •  M & S Distributing Company  •  Macy’s Recording Company  •  MacGregor, C. P.: MacGregor & Sollie, Inc. / MacGregor & Ingram Recording Laboratories / MacGregor Transcriptions Studios  •  Maestro Music Company / Maestro Record Company  •  Macksoud, A. J.  •  Magnolia Recording Company  •  Magnolia Records Company, Inc.  •  Main Stem Music Shop  •  Main Street Records  •  Majestic Phonograph Company, Inc. / Majestic Record Corporation  •  Majestic Records, Inc.  •  Major Records  •  Maloof Phonograph Company  •  Manhattan Music Corporation  •  Manhattan Recording Laboratories  •  Manor Record Company  •  Margo Record Company  •  Mar-Kee Records  •  Mars Records  •  Marsh Laboratories, Inc.  •  Marshall, Charles  •  Marshall Record Company  •  Marvel Record Company  •  Marvel Records  •  Master Records, Inc. [I]  •  Master Records [II]  •  Mastertone Record Company, Inc.  •  Maunay Records  •  Mayfair Record & Recording Corporation  •  Melben Records  •  Melford Record Company  •  Mello-Strain Records, Ltd.  •  Mellow Music Shop / Mellow Record Company  •  Mel-Mar Records  •  Melmore, Inc.  •  Melodisc Recording Company  •  Melody Lane Recording Company  •  Melody Moderne, Inc. / Memo Records Corporation  •  Melody Records, Inc.  •  Melody Trail Records  •  Melrose Records  •  Meltzer, Sam  •  Memphis Recording Service / Phillips Recording Service  •  Mercer Records  •  Mercury Record Corporation  •  Merit Records  •  Mertone Recording Company  •  Metro Records (Inc.) [II] / Mero Records, Inc.  •  Metropolitan Phonograph Company  •  Metropolitan Record Company  •  Metrotone Record Company  •  Miller, J. D.  •  Milton, Roy, Record Company  •  M-G-M Records, Inc. / Loew’s, Inc.  •  Michigan Phonograph Company  •  Mida Record Company  •  Midget Music, Inc. / Midget Music Productions / Fidelity Records [I]  •  Miller Publications, Inc.  •  Minnesota Phonograph Company  •  Miracle Record Company  •  Mirror Recordings  •  Missouri Phonograph Company  •  Modern Music Records / Modern Records  •  Modern Record Company  •  Modern Recording Studio  •  Monarch Records, Inc.  •  Monroe, John  •  Montana Phonograph Company  •  Mood Records  •  Morrison Music Company  •  Motif Record Manufacturing Company  •  Movietone Music Corporation  •  Murray Singer Records  •  Music Art Records  •  Music Enterprises, Inc.  •  Music For Society Record Company  •  Music, Inc.  •  Music-Mart Records  •  Music on Parade Records  •  Music You Enjoy, Inc.  •  Musical Phonograph Record Company  •  Musicraft Records / Musicraft (Recording) Corporation  •  Mutual Records  •  Muzak (Transcriptions), Inc. / Muzak Corporation / Associated Music Publishers Recording Studios  •  Myers, J. W.,  Standard Phonograph Record Company

N:   National Phonograph Company  •  National Record Company  •  National Records Company  •  National Vocarium, The  •  Nation’s Forum  •  Natural Hit Record Company, A  •  Nebraska Phonograph Company  •  New England Phonograph Company  •  New Jazz Record Company / Prestige Records  •  New Jersey Phonograph Company  •  New Music Quarterly Recordings  •  New Orleans Bandwagon  •  New Orleans Record Shop  •  New York Phonograph Company  •  New York Phonograph Recording Company  •  New York Recording Laboratories  •  Newark Recording Laboratories  •  Night Music Recording Company  •  Norcross Phonograph Company  •  Nordskog Phonograph Recording Company  •  North American Phonograph Company  •  North American Recording Company  •  Notary Records, Inc.  •  Numelody Records  •  Nutmeg Record Corporation

O:   O’Byrne De Witt, E. (& Son[s]) / O’Byrne Dewitt, James, Inc.  •  O’Dowd, Thomas  •  Ohio Phonograph Company  •  Ohio Talking Machine Company  •  Okeh Phonograph Corporation  •  Oklahoma Tornado Recording Company  •  Old Dominion Phonograph Company  •  Oliver Record Company  •  Olympic Disc Record Corporation  •  Opera Record Company / Opera Recording Company  •  Opera Records  •  Operaphone Company, Inc. / Operaphone Manufacturing Corporation  •  Opus Records  •  Ora Nelle Record Company  •  Orchid Record Corporation  •  Orchid Records & Publications  •  Oriole Records Corporation  •  Orpheum Record Company  •  Orpheus Record & Transcription Company  •  Otto Heineman Phonograph Supply Company, Inc.

P:   Pace Phonograph Corporation  •  Pacemaker Record & Transcription Company  •  Pacific Record Company  •  Pacific Phonograph Agency / Pacific Phonograph Company  •  Page Recording Company  •  Palda Record Company  •  Pan-American Publications / Pan-Am Transcriptions  •  Pan-American Record Company / Birwell Corporation  •  Panhellenion Phonograph Record Company, Inc. / Panhellenic Record Company  •  Parade Record Company  •  Paradox Industries, Inc.  •  Paragon Records, Inc.  •  Paramount Record Manufacturing (& Recording) Company  •  Paramount Records  •  Parsekian, M. G.  •  Parkway Records  •  Parody Records  •  Paroquette Record Manufacturing Company, Inc.  •  Party Record Company  •  Pathé Frères Phonograph Company  •  Pathé Phonograph & Radio Corporation  •  Paull, E. T. Music Company  •  Pavilon Recording Company  •  Peacock Recording Company  •  Peak Records, Inc.  •  Pearl Records  •  Pearson’s Productions, Inc.  •  Penguin Recording Corporation  •  People’s Artists, Inc.  •  People’s Songs  •  Perfect Record Company  •  Phamous Records  •  Pharos Record Company  •  Philadelphia Recording Laboratories  •  Philmos Recording Company  •  Philo Recordings  •  Phoenix Publications & Recordings  •  Phonograph Record & Supply Company  •  Phonograph Recording Company  •  Photo & Sound, Inc.  •  Phototone Records  •  Pilot Radio Company / Pilot Radio Corporation  •  Pioneer Recording Company  •  Pix Records  •  Planet Record Company  •  Plaza Music Company  •  Pleasant Records  •  Plymouth Recording Company  •  Polo Record Corporation  •  Polonia Phonograph Company  •  Poloron Records  •  Polotone Music Corporation  •  Polyphone Company, The / Talking Machine Company, The  •  Popular Record Company  •  Premier Radio Enterprises, Inc. / Premier Records  •  Premier Record Company  •  Premium Record Corporation  •  President Records  •  Preview Records  •  Process Record Company  •  Prudentia Records  •  Public Records, Inc.  •  Pyramid Record Company / Pyramid Records

Q:   Q. R. S. Company  •  Quaker Music Company  •  Quality Records, Inc.  •  Quinn Recording Company / Gold Star Records Records

R:   Rabson’s  •  Radio Corporation of America–RCA Victor Division  •  Radio Recorders, Inc.  •  Radio-Rundfunk Corporation / Europa Import Company  •  Radio Transcription Company of America, Ltd.  •  Ragtime Records  •  Rainbow Records, Inc. / Rainbow Recording Corporation  •  Rancho Records  •  Rapoport, Maurice A.: Metro Records [I] / Rex Records / Rem Records  •  Raven Recording Company  •  Raymor–McCollister Music / Raymor Record Company  •  Rebelle Records  •  Rec-Art Recordings / Rec-Art Studios  •  Record Manufacturing Company  •  Record Syndicate Trust  •  Red Jay Recording Company  •  Red Bird Recordings  •  Redskin Records  •  Reed & Dawson / Reed, Dawson & Company  •  Reeves Sound Studios / Reeves Soundcraft Corporation  •  Regal Record Company, Inc.  •  Regal Record Corporation  •  Regal Records  •  Regent Records  •  Regis Record Company / Regis Records, Inc.  •  Rego Records  •  Relax Records  •  Religious Recordings  •  Remington Records, Inc.  •  Relax Records  •  Republic Records / Cecille Music Company  •  Rex Talking Machine Corporation  •  Reynard, James Kent  •  Rhapsody Records  [I]  •  Rhapsody Records  [II]  •  Rhumboogie Recording Company  •  Rhythm Records Company  •  Rhythm Recordings, Inc.  •  Rich Recordings  •  Rich Publications / Rich-Art Enterprises, Inc. / Rich-Art Records  •  Rich-R’-Tone Record Company  •  Richmond Records  •  Richtone Record Company  •  Ringle, David (Dave): Heart Records / Belmont Records, et al. •  RKO Pathe Studios  •  Rivoli Records  •  Rodeheaver, Homer: Rainbow Record Company / Rodeheaver Record Company / Rodeheaver Recording Laboratories  •  Robin Records Company  •  Rocket Record Company  •  Rocket / Rockette Recording Company  •  Rodeo Records  •  Roland Records  •  Rondo Records, Inc.  •  Roost Records, Inc.  •  Rosas Records  •  Rouge Records  •  Roy Records  •  Royal Record Company / Sepia Records, Inc.  •  Royal Records  •  Roycrofters, The  •  ’R-Tist Record Company  •  Rumpus Record Company

S:   S & G Records  •  S. B. W. Recording Company / Carl Sobie Publishing  •  Sacred Records, Inc.  •  Saks Records  •  San Antonio Phonograph Company  •  San Antonio Records, Inc.  •  Sapphire Record & Talking Machine Company  •  Sapphire Record Company  •  Sarco Record Company  •  Savoy Record Company  •  Scandinavian Music Company  •  Scandinavian Music House, Inc.  •  Schirmer Records  •  Schooler Record Company  •  Schooner Records  •  Scoop Record Company [I]  •  Scoop Record Company [II]  •  Scoop Records  •  Scott Record Company  •  Scranton Button Company / Scranton Record Company  •  Sears, Roebuck & Company–Silvertone Record Club  •  Security Records  •  Seeco Records, Inc.  •  Select Records, Inc.  •  Selective Record Company  •  Sellers, Inc. / Sellers Company, The  •  Sensation Record Company  •  Sequoia Record Company  •  Serenade Recording Corporation  •  Session Records, Inc.  •  Seva Record Corporation  •  Seymour Records  •  Sharp Record Company  •  Siemon Hard Rubber Company  •  Signature Record Company / Signature Recording Corporation  •  Silver Records  •  Silver Spur Records  •  Silver Star Record Company  •  Silver Star Recording Company  •  Sittin’ In With Records, Inc.  •  Skyscraper Recording Company  •  Slate Enterprises, Inc.  •  Society Recordings  •  Sokhag Record Company  •  Solo Art Recordings  •  Sonart Record Corporation  •  Songcraft, Inc.  •  Song-of-the-Month Club  •  Sonora Phonograph Company, Inc. / Sonora Phonograph Corporation  •  Sonora Radio & Television Corporation / Sonora Record Company  •  Sonorous Music Company, Inc.  •  Sorority Fraternity Records & Publications / Mayhams & Co-Ed Records  •  South Dakota Phonograph Company  •  Souvenair Records Company  •  Spanish Music Center / Coda Record Company  •  Specialty Record Company, Inc. / Famous Record Company, Inc., of New York  •  Specialty Records  •  Spikes Brothers Phonograph Company  •  Spin Records, Inc.  •  Spire Records Company, Inc.  •  Spire Records, Ltd.  •  Spiro Record Corporation  •  Spokane Phonograph Company  •  Spotlight Records, Inc.  •  Spotlite Record Company  •  Square Deal Recording Company  •  Stanchel Record Company  •  Standard Phonograph Company, Inc. [I]  •  Standard Phono / Phonograph Company, Inc. [II]  •  Stanley Recording Company of America, Inc.  •  Stapleton Industries  •  Star Melodies Music Publishers & Record Producers  •  Star Records  •  Starland Records  •  Starlite Recorders, Inc.  •  Starr Piano Company – Gennett Records Division  •  Starr Record Company  •  State Phonograph Company of Illinois  •  Steiner, John  •  Stellar Records, Inc.  •  Sterling Records, Inc.  •  Stinson Records / Stinson Trading Company  •  Stork Record Company  •  Strong Record Company, Inc.  •  Sullivan Records  •  Sultan Recording Company  •  Sunbeam Recording Company  •  Sunrise Record Corporation  •  Sunset Record Company  •  Sunset Recording Company  •  Sunshine Recording Company / Sunshine Productions & Records  •  Sunstone Record Company  •  Super Discs  •  Superb Record Company  •  Superior Recording Company  •  Supreme Records, Inc.  •  Swan Recording Company, Inc.  •  Sweet-Tone Record Company  •  Swing Record Manufacturing Company  •  Swing with the Stars  •  Sylvan  •  Symphony Records  •  Syrena Recording Company

T:   Talent Records / Star Talent Records  •  Talking Photo Corporation  •  Talk-O-Phone Company, The  •  Tanner Manufacturing & Distributing Company  •  Tara Irish Records  •  Taxco Recording Company  •  Taylor-Lee Recording Company  •  Tech-Art Recordings  •  Technicord Records  •  Tele-Records, Inc.  •  Tempo-Tone Recordings  •  Texstar Records  •  Tempo Record Company of America  •  Tennessee Phonograph Company  •  Tennessee Records  •  Texas Phonograph Company  •  Theme Records  •  Thomas A. Edison, Inc. – Phonograph Division  •  Three Minute Record, Inc.  •  Thrillwood Records  •  Time Abroad, Ltd.  •  Timely Recording Company  •  Tin Pan Alley Records Company  •  Token Records  •  Tone Records  •  Top Record Company / Top Records, Inc.  •  Top Tune Records  •  Tops Music Enterprises / Tops Records  •  Town & Country Record Company, Inc.  •  Trell Records  •  Trilon Record Manufacturing Company  •  Trident Records Corporation  •  Tri-State Recording Company  •  Triumph Records  •  Trope Records  •  Trophy Record Company  •  Tropical Records  •  Tru-Blue Record Company  •  Tru Tone Productions, Inc. / Tru Tone Records, Inc.  •  Trumpis-Collar & Associates  •  Tune-Disk Record Corporation  •  Turntable, The

U:   Ultra Record Company  •  Union of Irish Industries, Inc.  •  Unique Music Publishers & Recording Company  •  Unison Records  •  United Artist Records  •  United Broadcasting Company / Master Record Company  •  United Hebrew Disk & Cylinder Company / United Hebrew Record Company  •  United Masters, Inc.  •  United Sound Studios / United Sound Systems  •  United States Phonograph Company [I]  •  United States Phonograph Company [II]  •  United States Record Corporation  •  United States Record Manufacturing Corporation  •  Unity School of Christianity  •  Universal Phonograph Company  •  Universal Recording Company, Inc.  •  Universal Recording Laboratories / Universal Recording Corporation / Universal Records  •  Universal Recording Studios / Universal Record Company  •  Universal Talking Machine (Manufacturing) Company  •  University Recording Company, Inc.  •  University Records Corporation  •  Uptown Records  •  Urab Recording Studio / United Recording Artists Bureau  •  Urban Record Company

V:   Van-Es Recording Company  •  Vanguard Records  •  Vargo, Inc. / Vargo Record Company  •  Variety Records, Inc.  •  Vaughan, James D., Publisher  •  Vega Records  •  Velvet Record Company  •  Velvet Tone Record Company  •  Verne Recording Corporation of America  •  Victor and Victor Predecessor Companies: Johnson Sound Recording Company / Consolidated Talking Machine Company / Victor Talking Machine Company  •  Victory Records  •  Viking Record Company  •  Vitacoustic Record Company / Vitacoustic Records, Inc  •  Vitanola Talking Machine Company  •  Vocalion Records, Inc.  •  Vogue Recordings, Inc.  •  Von Battle Recording Company  •  Vox Corporation of America  •  Vox Productions, Inc.  •  Vulcan Record Corporation  •  Vulcan Records

W:   W & W Recordings & Distributors  •  Walcutt, Miller & Company / Walcutt & Leeds / The Walcutt & Leeds Ltd.  •  Wallin’s Music Shop  •  Wallis Original Record Company  • Warner, Jesse J.: Flexo Record Company / New Flexo Record Company / Pacific Coast Record Company / Titan Productions, et al.  •  Watch Tower Bible &  Tract Society  •  Webster Records  •  West Coast Phonograph Company  •  West Coast Recordings  •  Western Pennsylvania Phonograph Company  •  Western Records / Western Recording Company  •  Western Recording Company / Constellation Record & Distributing Company  •  Western Recording Studios  •  Wheeling Recording Company  •  Williams & Rankin  •  Williams, J. Mayo: Chicago Records / Ebony Records / Harlem Records / “Ink,” Inc., et al.  •  Whirling Disc  •  White Church Recording Company  •  Willow Walk Industries  •  Winchester Sound  •  Winsett Recording Laboratory  •  Winston Holmes Music Company  •  Wisconsin Phonograph Company  •  Wonder Records  •  WOR Electrical Recording &  Transcription Services / WOR Recording Studios  •  World Broadcasting System, Inc. / World Transcription Studios  •  World Records, Inc.  •  World’s Greatest Music  •  Wright Record Corporation  •  Wrightman, Neale: Neale Wrightman Publishers / Wrightman Music, Inc. / Wrightman Record Company / Wrimus Company  •  Wyoming Phonograph Company

Y:   Yaddo Recordings  •  Yale Record Company  •  Yerkes Recording Laboratories  •  Your Record Company

Z:   Zarvah Art Record Company  •  Zomar, Karl, Library / Columbine Records  •  Zora Recording Studios

 

Collector’s Corner • Some January Finds (Arcadian Serenaders, Bennie Moten, The Missourians, William McCoy, Fleming & Townsend)

Pretty good pickings in January – Here are a few favorites from this month’s additions to the collection:

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ARCADIAN SERENADERS [WINGY MANNONE]: San Sue Strut  (E-)

St. Louis: November 1924
Okeh 40378

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BENNIE MOTEN’S KANSAS CITY ORCHESTRA: Get Low-Down Blues  (E)

Camden, NJ: September 7, 1928
Victor 21693

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BENNIE MOTEN’S KANSAS CITY ORCHESTRA: Kansas City Breakdown  (E)

Camden, NJ: September 7, 1928
Victor 21693

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THE MISSOURIANS: Missouri Moan  (E)

New York: June 3, 1929
Victor V-38067

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THE MISSOURIANS: Market Street Stomp  (E)

New York: June 3, 1929
Victor V-38067

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WILLIAM McCOY: Mama Blues  (EE-)

Dallas: December 6, 1927
Columbia 15269-D

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WILLIAM McCOY: Train Imitation and The Fox Chase  (EE-)

Dallas: December 6, 1927
Columbia 15269-D

An unusual example of a record issued in both the race  (14290-D) and country series (15269-D, which is missing from Brian Rust’s Columbia Master Book Discography [Greenwood Press]). The artist is African-American.

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REECE FLEMING & RESPERS TOWNSEND: She’s Just That Kind  (V+)

Memphis: June 6, 1930
Victor V-40297

 

Some Early Record-Pressing Plants

AUBURN BUTTON WORKS (Auburn, NY) — Founded in 1876  by John Hermon Woodruff, as Woodruff’s Button Factory, this  company was renamed Auburn Button Works in the late 1880s. It moved into the Washington Street buildings shown here in 1900. Auburn pressed the 7″ and 9″ brown-shellac Zonophone discs at an auxiliary plant in New York City.

The relationship was severed after Zonophone switched to Duranoid pressings in 1904, and the pressing equipment was moved to Auburn, where the International Record Company (producers of Excelsior, Lyric, et al.) was set up as a recording subsidiary. The company was forced to suspend production of its own records after losing a 1907 patent-infringement suit to Columbia. In the early 1920s the pressing plant was leased to Brunswick, then was sold to the Scranton Record Company in November 1924.

Auburn continued to manufacture other goods after spinning off the pressing business. Its final incarnation was as Auburn Plastics, Inc., which was incorporated on July 1, 1957, and dissolved (after many years of inactivity) on March 24, 1993.

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COLUMBIA PHONOGRAPH COMPANY (Bridgeport, CT) — Columbia’s sprawling Bridgeport complex housed most production operations other than recording. Acquired by the American Record Corporation in 1934, it continued to produce high-quality laminated pressings for ARC’s more expensive labels (Brunswick, Columbia, Liberty Music Shops, et al.), while pressing of ARC’s budget labels remained in Scranton. Conditions in the Bridgeport pressing plant were so bad by the mid-1930s that record producer John Hammond published a scathing exposé and attempted to unionize the workforce.

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VICTOR TALKING MACHINE COMPANY (Camden, NJ) — The largest record-production facility in the United States at the time, the Victor complex was a city unto itself, with its own printing plant, fire department, infirmary, auditorium, police force, docks, and rail line. The view above is from 1916; just twenty years earlier, future Victor founder Eldridge Johnson was building motors for Emile Berliner in a rented shack. The sole surviving structure now houses luxury apartments.

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LEEDS & CATLIN COMPANY (Middletown, CT) — In September 1905, Leeds & Catlin opened this pressing plant in the former Worcester Cycle Company factory, replacing its New York City plant. The move coincided with Leeds’ phase-out of its foil-labeled discs. Three months later, the company announced it had installed fifty additional presses to accommodate the ever-increasing demand for its new paper-labeled Imperial records. By the end of 1905, the Middletown plant was said to have an annual capacity of 150 million discs. This view appeared in a 1906 ad for Radium cylinders, Leeds’ short-lived attempt to re-enter the cylinder market.

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AMERICAN RECORD COMPANY / DOMESTIC / OKEH  (Springfield, MA) — The American Record Company (Hawthorne, Sheble & Prescott) pressed their blue-shellac discs in this building during 1904–1906. Horace Sheble later pressed his Domestic discs here, using the same sort of blue shellac.

Following the demise of Domestic, Otto Heineman took over the plant in early 1918 for his newly launched Okeh label. Unable to keep up with orders for the first several years, Heineman contracted his overflow pressing to at least two outside plants.

In this view, Okeh is sharing space with the International Insulating Corporation, one of Heineman’s many other business ventures. This pressing plant was closed after Heineman opened a more modern facility in Newark, NJ, in 1921.

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BRUNSWICK-BALKE-COLLENDER COMPANY (Jersey City, NJ) — This was Brunswick’s second pressing plant; initially, it used a facility in Long Island City, NY. Brunswick also used the Auburn Button Works facility as an auxiliary pressing plant until November 1924, when the Scranton Button Company acquired Auburn’s pressing plant. Brunswick’s main pressing plant, in Muskegon, MI, opened in 1922. Vocalion’s masters were transferred there in March 1925. The Muskegon pressing plant was closed after the Brunswick and Vocalion labels were licensed to American Record Corporation, and in 1934 Decca Records purchased the largely obsolete equipment, much to its regret.

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STANDARD MUSIC ROLL COMPANY / THE ARTO COMPANY (Orange, NJ) — Employees assemble for a company photo in 1918 at the Standard Music Roll plant, before production of Arto records began (above). The photo was presented to president George Howlett Davis as a Christmas gift.

The Arto pressing plant was housed in a new structure, shown here in a 1919 architect’s sketch (below). Only the two-story structure on the right was actually built. In addition to the pressing plant, it housed Standard’s piano-roll flange factory. Although Arto claimed to operate its own studio, the vast majority of its masters were commissioned from outside sources, including Jones Recording Laboratories, Independent Recording Laboratories, New York Recording Laboratories, and Harry Marker’s H&M Laboratories (see Bell and Arto Records: A History and Discography, 1920–1928, available from Mainspring Press).

SCRANTON BUTTON COMPANY (Scranton, PA) — The largest independent American pressing plant for several decades, Scranton was closely affiliated with the Plaza Music Company / Regal Record Company group beginning in the early 1920s. Some accounts refer to this company in error as the Scranton Button Works.

Scranton sometimes invested in its clients (including National Music Lovers, in which it held a 49% stake) as a means of ensuring their continued business. At the time this view was published in 1924, the company has just acquired the Emerson recording division, which had been split from the radio division (the latter being the ancestor of the present-day Emerson corporation).

The plant was included in the 1929 merger that created the American Record Corporation. It continued to press budget labels for ARC until that company was sold to CBS, which had no use for the facility. Reorganized as the Scranton Record Company in 1939, it barely survived an entanglement with Eli Oberstein’s failed United States Record Corporation before re-emerging as a major independent plant. Capitol Records began purchasing  Scranton stock in 1944, and on March 26, 1946, it bought the company outright.

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NEW YORK RECORDING LABORATORIES (Grafton, Wisconsin) — Owned by the Wisconsin Chair Company (Port Washington, WI), this converted knitting mill on the Milwaukee River housed the pressing plant for Paramount and its many associated labels. It was a relatively primitive operation, and its pressings tend to reflect that. The pressing plant occupied the large structure on the left. Paramount’s now-legendary (and equally primitive) recording studio opened in late 1929, in the smaller building on the right. The studio building was demolished in 1938, the pressing-plant building in the mid-1940s.

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The Kaufman Brothers: Highlights from Jack Kaufman’s Scrapbooks (1910 – 1927)

A few years ago, Phil (“Road Mangler”) Kaufman kindly loaned us his grand-dad Jack’s scrapbooks, a treasure-trove of clippings and memorabilia relating to the Kaufman brothers’ time in vaudeville, as well as Jack’s family life. Here are some highlights, along with a few additional nuggets we recently found among Bill Bryant’s papers.

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Kaufman Brothers banner from the scrapbook’s inside back cover, c. 1910. The original act comprised Jack and Phil; Irving came in after the latter’s death in the late ‘teens.

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The Kaufman Brothers on the road (1910)

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Telegram sent to Jack Kaufman while appearing in Toronto, announcing the birth of his son. (1910)

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(Left, seated above arrow) Jack Kaufman’s wife, Rosina Carson Kaufman (a.k.a. Olive York), as an English showgirl. (Right) Jack Kaufman’s son Jules, c. late 1910.

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In the early days of their act, the Kaufmans regularly toured from coast to coast, but as the itinerary on the left shows, they later stayed close to home. Both pieces probably date to 1914, based on their position in the scrapbook. The misspelling “Kauffman” was not uncommon in newspapers.

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A telegram to the “Kuffman” brothers, November 1911. Bender, Coombs, Morgan, Pearl & Robinson was a vaudeville act comprising three Boston Athletics pitchers, the Pearl Sisters (Kathryn & Violet), and theatrical manager John Robinson. They toured together briefly after the 1911 World Series.

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An early ad for the Kaufman Brothers picturing Jack (left) and Phil (right), c. 1910. Before signing with Orpheum, they toured on the Pantages circuit.

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The Kaufmans were a favorite of newspaper caricaturists. These examples date from c. 1912–1914, when they sometimes  performed in blackface. “Palestine” refers to the town in Texas where the brothers claimed they picked up their “Southern” accents.

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Phil and Jack Kaufman in blackface with unidentified others, c. 1912. This unfortunate component of the act was mostly mothballed after Irving replaced Phil in the late ‘teens.

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After Phil’s death, Jack teamed with younger brother Irving, who had recently left the Avon Comedy Four. Irving and Jack were in  high demand by the recording studios. They worked cheap, weren’t picky about repertoire, and cranked out recordings by the hundreds, using so many aliases that new ones are still be discovered. Their cover of Gallagher & Shean’s Victor hit (“Absolutely, Mr. Gallagher?” “Positively, Mr. Shean!”) appeared on many minor labels. Regal’s ad pictured the actual Gallagher and Shean. (1923)

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Work is where you find it — in this case as an “added attraction” at a Philadelphia movie house. (1922)

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A hodge-podge of a concert at the Chicago Theatre, with selections ranging from a pipe-organ transcription of Wagner’s Rienzi Overture to a selection of current Tin Pan Alley hits by the Kaufmans.

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This Chicago handbill probably dates from 1923–1924. Note the mention of Jimmy Wade, a popular black Chicago band leader who recorded some fine sides for Paramount at about this time.

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The Kaufmans in a Vitaphone short (1927)

Russian Interference, Part 2 • Boris Morros Recalls His Time at ARA Records (1944 – 1945)

Russian Interference, Part 2: Boris Morros Recalls His Time at
ARA Records (1944 – 1945)

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In May 1934, Boris Morros, a musical director for Paramount Pictures, was secretly contacted by a member of the Russian NKVD in an attempt to plant Russian operatives throughout Hollywood. Vasily M. Zubilin was assigned to be his handler.

A decade later, Zubilin arranged for Soviet sympathizers Alfred K. and Martha Dodd Stern to buy into Morros’ music-publishing operation. With $130,000 from the Sterns, Morros launched the American Recording Artists (ARA) label, which (in addition to producing some fairly decent records) served as a cover for an extensive Soviet spy ring. The Russian’s involvement with ARA went undetected, and label was a success—at least briefly.

Morros redeemed himself on July 14, 1947, when he came clean to the FBI. In return for a promise from the Justice Department not to prosecute, he agreed to serve as a double agent, reporting on Soviet intelligence efforts for the next ten years. Here are his  recollections of the ARA operation, from his 1959 memoir, My Ten Years as a Counterspy (New York: Viking Press).

For the full story, see Russian Interference – Part 1: Boris Morris and ARA Records (1944 – 1957).

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That summer [1944]  it became known all over the music trade that I had latched on to an angel with a wide-open checkbook. I was even approached with offers to buy Muzak, the company that supplies “canned music” to restaurants and hotels all over the coun­try. We visited ex-Senator William E. Benton of Connecticut, who was then an official of the Muzak corporation, but Stern, who was the one who would put up the money, decided that the price of $600,000 asked for the properties was too high. He would go no higher than $400,000…

During August, Stern visited Hollywood, and I made the aston­ishing discovery that he already knew more about music, both artistically and commercially, than Paul Whiteman, myself, and Stravinsky combined. Meanwhile, I had surmounted many of our difficulties, and records were being produced. That fall we had a hit recording by Joe Reichman’s band. This was “Nobody’s Home on the Range,” a travesty of the song “Home on the Range,” which had boomed into renewed popularity because it was President Roosevelt’s favorite.

But Stern disapproved of almost everything we were doing. He disliked my office staff, including my sales manager. He wanted the man discharged, and wished me to switch control of the sales department to his office. Above all, he thought that we should con­centrate on songs of a more cultural type. For example, he disap­proved of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” as a vulgar title, and pre­dicted it would never be popular. He asked a million questions such as “Why don’t we sign up Bing Crosby instead of his brother Bob?” It was tiresome to have to point out that someone had had the same idea years before.

This was the man to whom I had to explain a few months before what a bar of music was, what the refrain was, the man who asked the usual foolish question, “What is written first—the words or the music?”

All that fall Stern showered me with daily letters of five to eight pages each. On hearing that we needed record-pressing equip­ment, he rushed out and bought $17,000 worth of second-hand presses that were so outmoded they could not be used.

I am afraid I was not very patient with my vice-president. By this time I had three shifts working in our little plant. They were turning out thirty thousand platters a day. They had to. Our “No­body’s Home on the Range” record was headed for the hit class.

Shortly after the partnership arrangement started, both Soble and Stern began pressing me to open a branch in Mexico City. They were still at it, though I had stalled that deal with the argu­ment that before we could do any such thing we must have enough numbers to distribute to Justify a catalogue. However, I was getting more infuriated every day with Stern’s silly letters of abuse and criticism. By now he was disapproving not only of the songs but of the arrangements.

At the end of the year I decided that life was too short to bother with this money man, and so informed Soble. But it was not until March—this was in 1945—that Jack decided he must do something to calm down both of us. He came with Stern to California to settle our differences. They arrived toward the end of the month and visited the plant.

“He is a musical ignoramus on all levels,” I told Soble. “I feel it is impossible to go along with him. The only thing we can do now is to break up this ridiculous partnership.”

“Artistic temperament!” clucked Jack Soble.

The next day they came back to the plant. When the angry words started to fly all over again, Soble suggested that we go to my home in Beverly Hills. I suppose he did not want our employ­ees to hear the dispute. My visitors stayed in Hollywood about a week. Soble, trying to act as peacemaker, kept repeating that the Cause was the one thing that counted, not my petty grievances or Alfred’s. We Just had to get along.

I have never pretended to be an even-tempered man. During that stormy week I called Stern every foul name I could think of in all the languages I knew—and I know profanity as it is spoken and spluttered around the world. Stern, the Harvard man, just sat there and took it with the uncomprehending look of a hurt child.

When the week was over with the issue unresolved, Soble said he had to get back to New York. But he was sure that some way to reconcile our differences would occur to him. He asked me to go with them on their trip East so that we would have further talks while traveling. I got a compartment that connected with the drawing room they shared.

En route Soble came up with what he considered the sure-fire solution: if I would agree to continue working with Stern he would invest another $100,000 in the company.

I refused this, telling Soble, “I don’t want any more of his money. In fact I would be happy to buy back his twenty-five-per­cent share of the business for what he paid for it.”

“This is going to make Vasya Zubilin very, very angry,” Soble said. “I’m afraid that he will be very hard on your family in Russia —unless you cooperate.”

“You said you were going to investigate this whole matter,” I reminded him. “You have not been impartial. What I want is a simple thing: to be left alone to do my job, unbothered by nincom­poops.” I glared at Stern.

On reaching New York, we had a final meeting at the Tavern-on-the-Green Restaurant. When it ended, we were as far apart as ever.

A couple of nights later Martha Dodd Stern visited me in my hotel room at the Sherry-Netherland. She was all sweetness and light. Martha blamed herself for neglecting to take a more active part in the business. “If I had, Boris,” she said, “there would have been no such misunderstandings between you two tried and true Communists.” She kept pounding at the point Soble had: the wel­fare of the Party should be our only consideration.

“Sorry, Martha, my dear,” I said, “you are being very charming and sweet, wistful and feminine—but too many wrong things have been done, too many said.”

My lawyers began drawing up the papers for dissolving the partnership in April. I paid Stern $100,000 for his one-quarter interest in the Boris Morros Company and its record-making sub­sidiary, American Recording Artists.

He rendered an account of how the $30,000 allotted him had been spent. I was amazed to see that he had given Zubilin $5,000 cash and charged it to the company. He had also charged petty items, including the purchase of a record player and two dozen tennis balls for Zubilin, as well as the full cost of his and Soble’s trip to Hollywood.

But I was glad to get rid of him. I thought I was also extricating myself from Jack Soble’s spy ring. To put it mildly, I was being naively optimistic.

I had been willing to pay a high price for the privilege of disas­sociating myself. To raise the $100,000 in cash to pay off Stern, I was forced to sell my share of a film property. But they still wished me to engage in a new venture with Alfred K. Stern.

Jack Soble kept coming to see me. “What can I do, Boris?” he said. “You have put me in the difficult position of having to write a bad report on you to Moscow. I am holding it back. I am afraid that Zubilin will be unable to control himself when he hears that you have split up with Alfred. I’d hate to feel responsible for the extermination of your relatives in Russia. Wouldn’t you?”

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Thank You, Alabama

THANK YOU, ALABAMA

From the Washington Post Editorial Board
December 13, 2017

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“In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alabama, seemingly confirming every negative stereotype about the Deep South state, the shame would have been national. Instead, Alabama voters chose Democrat Doug Jones to represent them until 2021.

“Mr. Jones is an honorable man with an admirable record of public service who ran a respectful campaign. His behavior suggests he will serve with decency and care in the Senate. He should make his state proud. None of these fine things could have been said of Mr. Moore. It is beyond heartening that Alabamians refused to overlook or forgive Mr. Moore’s misshapen character…

“If Americans should feel grateful to Alabama voters, so should the Republican Party, much of which debased itself by following President Trump into the gutter of support for Mr. Moore…

“Thanks to Alabama, Americans can wake up Wednesday morning feeling hopeful about the decency and dignity of their democracy.”

Washington Post (December 13, 2017)

 

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WILL TRUMP’S LOWS EVER HIT ROCK BOTTOM?

From the USA Today Editorial Board
December 12, 2017

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“A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.

“This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt.

“Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed….

“If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office…

“The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.”

— USA Today (December 12, 2017)

 

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“Pre-Ledger” Starr / Gennett Recording Dates and Locations (1915 – 1922)

“Pre-Ledger” Starr / Gennett Recording Dates and Locations
(1915 – 1922)
By Allan Sutton

 

Much of the Starr Piano Company’s original documentation of Gennett records has survived, beginning with some 1921 sessions. What happened to the earlier materials is anyone’s guess; they’ve been missing for as long as anyone can remember.

In the absence of primary-source documentation, discographers have naturally guessed at recording dates and locations for the “pre-ledger” masters — some quite accurately, many others not even in the ballpark. Good or bad, those guesses have become entrenched as “fact,” and the picture gets increasingly muddled as others take a stab at things. Happily, it’s not a particularly difficult situation to sort out, given the amount of solid information on these records that exists in Mainspring’s archives.

This article is based upon the extensive data relating to Gennett’s 1915–1922 output that was compiled by members of the Record Research group (Walter C. Allen, Len Kunstadt, Carl Kendziora, et al.) and other trusted sources over many decades. The information that appears here comes from their first-hand inspection of the original records, coupled with corollary evidence gathered from release lists and trade-paper reports of the period, plus the occasional dated test pressing. Anecdotal accounts and most published discographies were disregarded, a wise decision that eliminated much unnecessary confusion and misinformation from the outset.

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VERTICAL-CUT MASTER SERIES

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(Left) The original Starr label design. Masters on this issue were recorded in the Richmond studio by Weber’s Prize Band, a Cincinnati group. (Right) A late Starr issue, redesigned to match the new Gennett label, using masters from the New York studio. (From American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia, 1891–1943, by Allan Sutton & Kurt Nauck)

 
100 SERIES – New York (c. Mid 1915 – Early 1916)

The earliest known Starr master series, from a New York studio. This was not necessarily Gennett’s own facility. Harry Gennett reported in October 1915 that a studio had not yet been opened in Richmond, and he made no reference to a New York studio, which probably explains the series’ abrupt abandonment in early 1916, when Gennett opened his own studio. (Gennett is known to have purchased the Phono-Cut masters, raising the possibility that these recordings might have been made on old Boston Talking Machine Company equipment — an intriguing area for future research.) Popular-song titles in the series are early 1915 – early 1916 publications. The highest numbers identified thus far are 172 (by Byron G. Harlan) and 173 (by an unidentified vocalist), both of which survive as test pressings. An unrelated lateral-cut 100 series was used in the early 1920s for some personal recordings.)

 

5000 SERIES – New York and Richmond, Indiana
(May 1916 – Early 1917)

Introduction of this series corresponds to the opening of Starr Piano’s Richmond studio in early 1916 and the expansion of its recording operation under the management of R. C. Mayer. It marks the first appearance of Richmond-studio masters, which are intermixed with New York recordings. The first (#5000, “Smiles and Caresses,” by the Starr Trio) exists as a test pressing, dated May 16, 1916. The lower-numbered masters were recorded in Richmond by regional artists, including John W. Dodd and Elizabeth Schiller (Indianapolis); John C. Weber’s Prize Band of America (Cincinnati); and Harry Maxwell, Roy Parks, and Harry Frankel (Richmond). Frankel (a.k.a. “Singin’ Sam” in later years) was a Starr Piano Company employee at the time, and he continued to be associated with the company in various roles into the 1930s.

At approximately #5180, the usual New York studio free-lancers begin to appear in this series (including Vernon Dalhart, Arthur Collins, Byron G. Harlan, and Sybil Sanderson Fagan), along with the Richmond-studio artists. The highest-numbered masters for which data is confirmed feature late-1916 song titles. The 5000s were replaced by a new 1000 series in early 1917.

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(Left) The first Gennett label design, introduced in October 1917. The Gennett and Starr labels were produced simultaneously for a short time before the latter was discontinued. (Right) The familiar scroll design initially was reserved exclusively for the expensive Gennett Art Tone series. (ARLAC)

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1000 SERIES – New York (Mid-1917 – Late 1918)

The Richmond studio appears to have been mothballed at this point. Aside from Strickland Gillilan and Weber’s Prize Band (who are known to have performed in New York), the Richmond-studio artists no longer appear in this series. (Commercial recording resumed in Richmond in the summer of 1921; see Special and 11000 series, below.) The first confirmed example of a Starr master being used on a client label appears in this series, on the anomalous Rishell 1509 (a label normally supplied by Pathé, Rex, and Okeh).

The earliest 1000-series masters were released in July 1917, suggesting they were recorded from late April to late May. The Gennett label was introduced in October 1917 and soon supplanted Starr, but the original Starr master series remained in use. Popular-song titles on the highest-numbered 1000-series masters are late 1918 publications, which corresponds with the beginning of Gennett’s conversion to the lateral cut.

PHONO-CUT MASTERS (~ 500 – 1000 Range) – New York (1911 – 1912)

Phono-Cut masters from the defunct Boston Talking Machine Company were reissued on Starr’s early vertical-cut Remington discs. Confirmed examples range from #634 (“Maritana Overture” by Fred Hager’s Band, which was credited to the Colonial Military Band on the original Phono-Cut labels) to #1081 (Massenet’s “Elegie,” by violinist Sylvain Noack). Thus far, we’ve received no reports from reliable sources of Phono-Cut masters having appeared on the Starr label. Starr test pressings exist of several 500-series vertical-cut masters, which are suspected Phono-Cut recordings but thus far have not been confirmed as such.

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EARLY LATERAL-CUT MASTER SERIES

 

(Left) An early lateral-cut pressing from imported Edison Bell masters. (Right) The second incarnation of Starr’s Remington label (apparently a custom product) used masters from a lateral-cut 100 series that was used briefly for personal recordings. The earlier, vertical-cut Remington label used some old Phono-Cut masters. (ARLAC)

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6000 / 6500 and 7000 SERIES – New York  (1919 – 1922)

Gennett’s first lateral-cut master series (6000s and 7000s for 10”, 6500s for 12”), allocated to the New York studio. The earliest were listed in March 1919 for April release, suggesting January–February 1919 (or perhaps very late 1918) as the start of lateral recording.

Gennett ledgers survive for the New York masters beginning with # 7736, which was received in Richmond on January 25, 1922. This series remained in use by Gennett’s New York studio through March 1, 1926, ending at #9999. At that point, a new series was begun at X-1. The X- prefix was changed to GEX- in the autumn of 1926 (with occasional variations, including BEX-, EX-, HAX-, and WEX- that are beyond the scope of this article).

SPECIAL SERIES — Richmond (1921)

A test series, made in conjunction with the reopening of Gennett’s Richmond studio for commercial recording. Confirmed master numbers range from 1 (July 21, 1921) through 16 (September 3, 1921) and include recordings by Harry Gennett, Fred Gennett Jr., Fred G. Mayer, and Harry Frankel, all Starr Piano Company  employees. None are known to have been issued, but a test pressing exists of Fred Gennett Jr’s “Dickey Bean Soup” (which was not assigned a master number).

11000 SERIES — Richmond (From August 1921)

Commercial recording resumed in Richmond on August 20, 1921, at which time a separate 11000 master series was allocated to the studio. The first commercial session was by Homer Rodeheaver and Virginia Asher on August 20, followed on August 24 by the omnipresent Harry Frankel. Gennett documentation survives for all 11000-series masters, although the earliest is rather sketchy.

The Richmond master series (which also covered recordings made in Chicago, Cincinnati, Birmingham, the Grand Canyon, and other locations) continued unbroken to #19997, in January 1939, by which time the company was producing mainly sound-effects and special-use recordings.

Other documented Richmond master series include the K- prefixed series of 1924 (containing a mixture of Ku Klux Klan material; tests for the Vaughan label,and unissued private recordings by Fred Gennett Jr. and other locals); an 11B00 series (not a mistaken entry for 11800) allocated to Vaughan in the mid-1920s; and a 61000 series used for radio transcriptions and other special-use recordings beginning in 1934.

100 SERIES — Richmond (Early 1920s)

Not to be confused with the earlier vertical-cut 100s, this series was used briefly for personal recordings.

85000 CONTROL SERIES — Assigned in Richmond (Mid 1920s)

Not true master numbers, these were “control” numbers assigned to masters obtained from outside sources, including Rodeheaver Laboratories, Marsh Laboratories, and the New York Recording Laboratories. Data on these recordings does not appear in the surviving Gennett documentation.

LICENSED FOREIGN MASTERS (Early 1920s)

Gennett leased foreign masters from Edison Bell in the early 1920s, including recordings by Billy Whitlock, Pamby Dick, Olly Oakley, H.M. Scots Guard Band, and other popular British artists. Most recordings are from the mid-to-late ‘teens, with master numbers ranging from the 100s to 1700s (with a few outliers that might be from other sources), and they usually show an “X” in the wax. Data on these recordings does not appear in the surviving Gennett documentation.

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© 2017 by Allan R. Sutton. All rights are reserved.

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Speed Bump: LPs, 45s, and the Slow Demise of the 78 (1939 – 1951)

Speed Bump: LPs, 45s, and the Slow Demise of the 78
(1939 – 1951)
By Allan Sutton

 

The following is an abridged excerpt from the author’s Recording the ’Forties, which is in development for 2018 publication.

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In early 1939, Columbia Records’ Edward Wallerstein authorized research into a long-playing disc, with the backing of CBS management. CBS has just acquired the moribund label from the American Record Corporation, and Wallerstein was determined to restore it to its former glory.

Wallerstein assembled a first-rate research-and-development group that reported to Peter Goldmark, who attributed his early interest in longer-playing discs to a “sincere hatred” of the phonograph in its current form. Goldmark’s team included Columbia Records’ Jim Hunter, [1] Ike Rodman, Vin Liebler, and Bill Savory; Rene Snepvangers, who was transferred from CBS and charged with developing a suitable lightweight pickup; and Bill Bachman, who was poached from General Electric.

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There was nothing new about 33 1/3-rpm discs (the chosen format), which had been used for sound-track discs and radio transcriptions for a decade. Nor was a fine-groove disc anything revolutionary; Edison had introduced them in 1926, and in the mid-1930’s Wallerstein had witnessed RCA’s testing of the ultra-fine 0.001” (1-mil) microgroove that was to employed. Vinyl, the pressing medium selected by Hunter, was not new either, although it was not yet being used in commercial pressings. What was new was the bundling of those features into a consumer package.

Exhibiting remarkable foresight, Wallerstein ordered that Columbia’s new studios be equipped to record simultaneously on standard 78-rpm masters and 33 1/3-rpm 16″ acetate blanks. The latter were to be held in reserve as a stockpile of masters from which the long-playing discs could be transcribed when the time came.

Development of Columbia’s microgroove disc was well under way when the U.S.’s entry into World War II forced CBS to put the project on hold. Work did not resume in earnest until 1946. Late in the year, engineers demonstrated a long-playing record that unfortunately fell far short of Wallerstein’s expectations.

As costs mounted, CBS president William Paley became increasingly impatient for a launch and ordered Wallerstein, Hunter, and members of the engineering team to meet with him every two months. Every detail was carefully researched, from cutting angles to heated cutting styli, in the seemingly contradictory quest for higher fidelity and longer playing time. After considerable experimentation, which at one point involved recording live gunfire in the studio, the American-made   microphones were scrapped in favor of German models.

Columbia took another important step toward LP conversion in mid-1947, when it abandoned direct-to-disc mastering in favor of tape, using EMI and Ampex equipment. A seventeen-minute 33 1/3-rpm prototype disc, now referred to internally simply as the “LP,” [2] was rejected in the fall of 1947, with orders being given to extend the playing time to twenty minutes or longer.

The playing-time issue was soon resolved, but the LP was facing a more serious impediment in its journey to market. There were not yet any consumer-grade phonographs capable of playing the records. Although the recording technology had been largely perfected by the end of 1947, the development of affordable players had lagged, the same problem that had plagued RCA’s long-playing discs in the early 1930s. In addition to a 33 1/3-rpm turntable, a high-quality permanent stylus and lightweight tone-arm would be required to play the records properly.

After concluding that Columbia’s engineers had neither the time nor the expertise to create such a device, Wallerstein contracted with radio manufacturer Philco to develop and produce the first models. Working closely with the CBS team, Philco’s engineers quickly delivered an inexpensive, single-speed turntable that could be easily attached to the owner’s existing radio or phonograph.

In January 1948, Wallerstein was elected chairman of the board of Columbia Records, the presidency of which then passed to CBS vice-president Frank K. White. By that time, the microgroove LP was approaching its final form, with playing time now extended to twenty-two minutes on a 12″ side. After having kept the project under wraps for so long, Paley and Wallerstein began demonstrating the new records to others within the industry, in an attempt to garner licensing deals. Wallerstein demonstrated the LP to RCA president David Sarnoff in April 1948, in a meeting that did not go well and reportedly left Sarnoff seething. Demonstrations to Decca, and to the Electric and Musical Industries in England, were no more successful.

At the end of May 1948, Billboard reported that CBS executives were still “maintaining complete silence on the entire project” as far as the general public was concerned. That silence was finally broken on June 18, when Columbia hosted a preview of the new records and player for recording-industry executives, during which full technical details were publicly disclosed for the first time. Two days later, the press was given its first glimpse of the LP when Wallerstein demonstrated it to fifty reporters at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Columbia’s initial LP catalog, consisting of 101 records, was unveiled on the same day. Columbia then took its LP show on the road, demonstrating the new records to dealers on nationwide tour that wrapped up in Utah a month later. [3] The records were on sale to the general public by early September.

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Columbia’s LP were pressed in 10″ and 12″ formats (the latter reserved primarily for extended classical works) and retailed from $2.85 for standard 10″ releases to $4.85 for the 12″ Masterworks series. A 7″ LP, retailing for 60¢ and devoted largely to pop material, was introduced in January 1949.

The company had long been stockpiling classical masters in anticipation of the LP’s launch, at first on long-playing acetate transcriptions and later on tape, eliminating the need to piece together extended works from multiple 78-rpm discs. With the recording industry still in the grips of the second American Federation of Musicians recording ban, no new pop material was released. Instead, the pop LPs were cobbled together from pre-ban recordings that had previously been issued on 78s.

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Realizing that there was little patentable about the LP, and that it could succeed commercially only if the format was universally adopted, CBS executives rethought their licensing plans. In June 1948, the company made the LP format freely available to other companies, some of whom returned the favor by giving Columbia their LP pressing business, at least until they were able to retool their own plants. The result was an explosion of interest in the new format by major and minor labels alike. Legal, financial, and logistical issues would crop up, including the need to recalculate artists’ royalty (requiring negotiations with the AFM’s notoriously uncooperative James Caesar Petrillo), a demand by Standard Transcription that Columbia pay double recording rates for material taken from its masters, and the need to quickly supply radio stations with microgroove-capable equipment) but they did nothing to impede development. [4]

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The conversion to LP pressings was a fairly straightforward process. Vinyl and other plastic products were already  supplanting shellac as the favored pressing medium, and many  plants had experience working with the materials. The conversion to high-fidelity microgroove recording appeared to be more daunting, but Audio Record magazine assured its readers (comprising mainly independent-studio owners and engineers) that the transition would be “an easy one from the equipment point of view.” C. J. LeBel outlined the basic steps for recording engineers:

The most important [step] is provision for cutting at micro pitch — in the range of 224 to 260 lines per inch. Probably 224 to 240 lines is the most desirable for most applications. Some equipment already made has provisions for this without change… In other apparatus some change is necessary. An overhead feed mechanism relies on a change of lead-screw for change of pitch. To make this shift, then, it is only necessary to purchase and insert a new lead-screw.

The electrical characteristics are even simpler to achieve… we would use normal transcription recording characteristics. This would be either the NAB standard 16-db boost at 10,000 cycles, or the standard 10-db boost which many studios have found to be their usable limit. Columbia microgroove characteristic is the same as NAB, except that the response is slightly higher below 100 cycles. A simple equalizer will take care of this. For a great deal of the work the difference is negligible, and standard transcription equalization can be used. [5]

As eager as many companies were to adopt the new format, they  were quite ready to forsake the 78 entirely. London, which had added LPs to its line-up in 1949 and 45s in January 1950, took a step back  in April 1950 with its “Shellac Is Not Dead” campaign. Twelve new 78-rpm album sets and twenty new 78-rpm singles were announced, compared with only two 45s and one LP. The campaign was soon abandoned. [6]

Some dealers actively opposed the transition, seeing it as a form of price-cutting and fearing they would be left with a glut of unsalable 78s. Among them was David Krantz, president of the Philadelphia Retail Record Dealers’ Association, and producer of the minuscule Krantz Records label. In early 1949 he launched a campaign against the LP that succeeded only in losing business for his store and antagonizing some Columbia sales executives. His campaign ended abruptly in June 1950, when he and seven other Philadelphia record-store owners were arrested and charged by the Justice Department with conspiracy to fix record prices. [7]

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Krantz and his kind, however, were the exceptions. Despite some initial trepidation, the LP format was quickly embraced by record companies and dealers, in no small part because of its potential for wringing additional profits out of material that had otherwise run its course in terms of sales. The vast majority of early LPs (and slightly later, extended-play 45s) were simply cobbled together from material that had been previously issued on 78s. Sales boomed as customers rushed to replace their old shellac pressings with the quieter, trendier long-playing editions.

Companies’ announcements of their impending LP launches were appearing regularly in the trade papers by late 1948. Some were premature, and there were some false starts. Savoy announced its first LP release in December 1948, dubbed from previously released Errol Garner recordings, then but retreated, not issuing LPs on a regular basis until March 1950. The Bihari brothers announced that Modern Records was about to launch LPs in the summer of 1949, but they did not begin to appear until October 1950. [8] Some record companies undertook the conversion piecemeal, testing the waters with the less-important segments of their catalogs before committing to large-scale LP output. Allegro, which Paul Puner had launched after leaving Musicraft, began by test-marketing LPs for the children’s market; Dial, which was predominantly a jazz label, began with a small group of LP classical albums using leased foreign masters.

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Atlantic, Mercury, and M-G-M took the LP plunge in early 1949, followed by Tempo in May, Decca in August, and a host of smaller labels as the year came to a close. The independent classical labels, in particular, were quick to embrace the LP. Among the earliest to do so was Vox, which began releasing LPs in early May 1949. [9] The albums were produced in two series, retailing for $4.85 for domestic recordings, or $5.85 for foreign recordings licensed from Polydor, its various affiliates, and Discophile Francais. Billboard reported that Columbia Records was giving the company its full cooperation in making the conversion. (Columbia was not being entirely altruistic, having gained Vox’s pressing business in the process.) In November, Vox announced that it was abandoning 78-rpm production entirely. [10] The prestigious Concert Hall Society began with a single “experimental” LP in January 1949, [11] and by the early 1950s it had followed Vox’s lead to become an LP-only line. Several new entrants in the classical field during 1949–1950, including Period and Renaissance, skipped 78s and went directly to LP production.

In response to all of this activity, phonograph manufacturers began turning out multi-speed changers as fast as they could retool their production lines. A February 1949 Billboard article listed dozens of new changers that could play both 78s and 33s. At the entry level were turntable attachments like Philco’s. For buyers flush with post-war cash, there were changers with built-in AM-FM radios, and Westinghouse even offered changer-television combinations that retailed from $625 to $725. [12]

RCA officials offered no public comment on the LP until early 1949, when they countered with what they hinted would be a revolutionary new format. RCA made much of the project’s top-secret status, which it code-named “Madame X,” but leaked enough information to keep the public intrigued. By early January, it was already known that “Madame X” was a small-diameter, 45-rpm disc with matching changer. [13] In February, Audio Record magazine reported,

No technical information has yet been released, but we have collected the available data… X is a thin 7” pressing of pure vinyl. The center hole is large — about 1½ inches in diameter. Maximum playing time is 5½ minutes. Fine grooves are employed, and the playback stylus is 1 mil… So far as we can tell, the recording characteristic is the same as that used on standard Victor records…

The point which has aroused the widest controversy is the speed: 45 rpm. It is rumored that 33 1/3 rpm was tried and discarded… A moment’s consideration will show that for a given diameter, 45 rpm will give 35% higher linear groove velocity than will 33 1/3 rpm. It would be possible to get the same linear groove velocity at 33 1/3 rpm by increasing the outside diameter to 9 ½ inches, which would increase the vinyl cost 82% over the 7 inch size. [14]

A month later, in the same publication, RCA engineer D. D. Cole came forth with a detailed description of the new records and matching phonograph, along with his company’s rationale for introducing them. [15] RCA’s contention was that the myriad problems inherent in recorded-sound reproduction could be solved only with an integrated system. Much attention was lavished on development of the compact changers that would be required to play the new records. Recalling the old premium-scheme phonographs of the early 1900s, [16] they were designed to foil the use of any record other than the 45, although Cole promised that multi-purpose changers were in development. The new record-and-changer combination was touted as the “first in history of the industry to be designed specifically to complement each other” — conveniently overlooking Columbia’s new LP player and RCA’s Program Transcription disc-and-player combination of the early 1930s. [17]

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RCA’s new records and players were introduced to the public with considerable fanfare in April 1949. Cole assured customers that 78-rpm records were in no imminent danger of disappearing, but his wording hinted that they were already becoming an after-thought: “RCA Victor,” Cole declared, “will continue to serve the standard market by making all selections recorded for the 45-rpm system also available on 78-rpm records.” [18] He announced a novel plan to allocate different colors of vinyl to each series: red for Red Seals, black for standard popular, green for country-and-western, yellow for children’s, cerise for rhythm-and-blues, light blue for international, and dark blue for what he termed “popular classics.” Marketing was undertaken on an international scale. Even before the records were placed on sale, RCA Victor sales manager Frank McCall was dispatched to Cuba on the first leg of a seven-week trip to promote the new format to Latin American distributors.

RCA executives had predicted that other record manufacturers would rush to adopt the new format, as they had with Columbia’s LP. But unlike the LP, the 45 embodied some patented features, and RCA initially demanded a licensing fee its use. In addition, the unusually thin pressings, thick raised label area, and oversized spindle holes required the purchase of new presses, or major retooling of existing ones. Both issues were seen as impediments by companies that were already heavily invested in the conversion to LPs.

Despite RCA’s hype, consumers were slow to warm to the 45, citing the lack of selection and other companies’ failure to adopt the format. Many who might otherwise have embraced the new format had already purchased LP players, which could not yet handle 45s.

In response, RCA began offering support to other producers in the form of technical advice or custom-pressing services, and it soon dropped the licensing requirement. Nevertheless, the rapid adoption of the 45 that RCA executives had anticipated failed to materialize. Capitol Records was the only major label to immediately test the new format. [19] By turning the pressing over to RCA, Capitol managed to get a small  selection of 45s to market by April 1949. [20] M-G-M followed several months later.

The smaller producers remained aloof. One of the few to attempt the conversion in 1949 was Gabor Szabo, who had managed RCA Victor’s foreign-record division until 1941,when he left to launch Standard Phono, and had since maintained an on-again off-again relationship with his old employer. In the summer of 1949, he briefly test-marketed an inexpensive 45-rpm disc, pressed in inferior “Websterlite” plastic rather than vinyl, then jettisoned  the idea. Thus, Chicago-based Rondo Records became the first small producer to reach the market with 45s, barely nudging out the even more minuscule Discovery Records for the honor in January 1950. [21]

In December 1949, Billboard reported a “major metamorphosis” in RCA’s approach to the 45 that hinted of sour grapes:

The company is now distinctly cool to the idea or necessity of persuading other diskeries to adopt 45. The reason for the attitude is two-fold. Firstly, RCA has had to go it alone; secondly, the company now figures it has carved out a sizable market for itself in 45, and any diskery venturing into this market would mean a lessening of RCA’s profit therein. [22]

In the same story, it was reported that Decca executives had begun “gauging and checking” the 45-rpm market. Columbia was planning to launch 45s as well. Edward Wallerstein, despite his openly expressed  disdain for the format, gave the go-ahead for Columbia to start producing  45s in late 1949, reassuring customers that his company would make “any record the public wanted.” [23]  London began offering 45s in January 1950, along with the tiny Goldband and Folkstar labels. Decca, having finally completed its gauging and checking, signed on in July, and the 45 finally began to gain some traction in the marketplace. By the mid-1950s, the 45 would become the preferred format for pop singles.

Classical enthusiasts, however, were decidedly cool toward yet another format that required side-changes every five minutes. Columbia executive Edward Wallerstein recalled,

RCA especially spent huge sums of advertising money trying unsuccessfully to convince the public that the 45 was really a good thing for classics. Our policy for advertising was not to compare the products. We were pushing LPs, and there was no comparison… Actually the introduction of 45s didn’t touch the sales of LPs at all. Columbia quickly began to issue single pops records on 45s, which were and indeed still are, the accepted medium for singles. I was amazed when I learned that during the period in which RCA held out against the LP-that is, from June 1948 to January 1950, it lost $4.5 million. [24]

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Trade-paper reports of the period confirmed that Columbia’s classical Masterworks LPs were outselling RCA’s 45-rpm Red Seal sets by a substantial margin. Sales of the 45-rpm Red Seal sets, already hobbled by consumer resistance, were further undermined by RCA’s ill-conceived decision, in June 1949, to place portions of its 78-rpm catalog on “clearance sale,” with discounts ranging from forty to fifty percent. Dealers reported that the largest sellers by far were 78-rpm Red Seal album sets, undercutting  demand for the more expensive, albeit far less bulky, 45-rpm versions.

After taking a loss on record sales in 1949, RCA finally capitulated and began preparing to produce its own LPs, becoming the last major label to do so. The impending arrival of a three-speed RCA changer was announced in early December 1949. On January 4, 1950, the company announced that it was making its classical library available in LP format; pop LPs followed several months later. Pressed in better material than the Columbia LPs, and featuring attractive album-cover artwork in place of Columbia’s boilerplate “tombstone” design, they were an immediate hit with dealers and customers alike.

The proliferation of new formats and adoption of the microgroove standard had been unsettling for many small producers. With standard 78s still selling in large numbers, and no clear winner yet in battle between LPs and 45s, prevailing wisdom was that it was essential to release recordings in all three formats, an expense that many smaller producers could not afford. As early as November 1948, Allegro president Paul Puner had written the Department of Commerce, requesting their intervention in an increasingly chaotic situation. His request for standardization was flatly declined by Assistant Secretary Thomas Blaidesell, who advised, “We can appreciate the present difficulties facing your industry, but do not feel, operating under a free economy as we do, that this department could intervene in situations of this kind unless directed to so do by law.” [25]

The same uncertainty plagued the jukebox industry. J. P. Seeburg’s vice-president, after conducting an extensive study of the situation, observed,

“The Battle of the Speeds,” a highly controversial subject with the public, has, apparently, been equally confusing to the record manufacturers themselves and it, therefore, becomes a very delicate and speculative issue for those of us who are on the outside observing the internal turmoil within the record industry.” [26]

He concluded that the LP was not suitable for jukebox use, but he was enthusiastic about the 45, praising its quality as “so far superior [to 78s]  that it is really amazing.” In addition to the 45’s obvious strengths, he liked the increased playing time over the standard 10” 78, which would he thought would encourage  jukebox operators to stock short classical pieces — a market he foresaw (quite incorrectly, it turned out) as potentially lucrative. Nevertheless, Seeburg announced that it had no immediate plans to introduce a 45-rpm machine.

Others in the jukebox industry shared Seeburg’s wait-and-see attitude. At the end of 1949, executives at Wurlitzer, AMI, and other jukebox manufacturers were still expressing concerns over whether the format would be widely adopted by other companies. Lester C. Rieck, sales manager of H. C. Evans & Company (the manufacturer of Constellation jukeboxes) told Billboard,

If this record is universally accepted by the record-playing public, then without a doubt a large library of selections will be made available. When this time comes, and only then, will the 45-rpm record prove to be a money-maker for music-machine operators… It is going to take time, possibly years, to completely outmode the playing of 78-rpm record. [27]

A Rock-Ola executive cited difficulties in adapting its mechanisms to the new discs. “We have run into so many difficulties in adapting them to our phonograph,”  he reported, “that we have just about shelved the idea for the present.” An Aereon official, although enthusiastic about the new discs and their potential, admitted that his company was not actively engaged in designing a machine to play them. [28].

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But when multi-speed jukeboxes finally began reaching the market in 1950–1951, the 45 was vindicated as a medium for popular music. Jukeboxes proved to be ideal demonstrators and salesmen for the little records, and demand for 45s soared. By the early 1950s, all of the major labels, and a rapidly growing number of smaller ones, were offering pop releases in both 78- and 45-rpm form. The tipping point would come in mid-decade, when 45s outsold 78s for the first time.

 

References

 

[1] Hunter had been part of the RCA team that developed Victrolac plastic pressings in the early 1930s, which originally were intended as movie soundtrack discs. RCA engineer F. C. Barton first publicly disclosed the details at the Spring 1931 meeting of the Society of Motion Picture Editors.

[2] CBS trademarked the LP name but failed to aggressively protect it. Eventually, it was dtermined that the term had slipped into generic usage, and CBS lost claim to it.

[3] “Firm Sets Exhibit of New Records.” Salt Lake Tribune (July 11, 1948), p. 10.

[4] “Standard Yelps When Col. Cuts LPs from Ordinary Disks Sans Double Rate.” Billboard (October 9, 1948), p. 19.

[5] LeBel, C. J. “Microgroove in Your Studio. Part 2, Equipment Requirements.” Audio Record (February 1949), p. 3. Le Bel was vice-president of Audio Devices, Inc., a major supplier of blank recording discs and tape.

[6] “London Insists Shellac Is Live.” Billboard (May 6, 1950), p. 22.

[7] “U.S. Dragnet Snares Eight Philly Firms.” Billboard (Jun 10, 1950), p. 11.

[8] “Modern Adds 33 to LP Disk Line.” Billboard (Oct 28, 1950), p. 16.

[9] “Vox Waxery Hits LPs Heavy Next Mo.; 8–10 Disk Starter.” Billboard (Apr 30, 1949), p. 18.

[10] “Vox to Drop 78s, Use LP Exclusively.” Billboard (Nov 12, 1949), p. 18.

[11] “Concert Hall 1st Indie with LP.” Billboard (Jan 8, 1949), p. 14.

[12] “Mfrs. Hustle to Produce Combos Handling Different Speeds; Much Blueprinting.” Billboard (February 26, 1949), pp. 18, 115.

[13] “RCA’s New Phono System.” Billboard (January 3, 1949), p. 13.

[14] “Report on ‘Madame X,’ RCA Victor’s New 45 RPM Record.” Audio Record (February 4, 1949), p. 4.

[15] Cole, D. D. “The How and Why of RCA Victor’s New Record Player.” Audio Record (March 1949), pp. 1–3. Cole was chief engineer of the RCA Victor Home Instrument Department.

[16] These were phonographs that were equipped with special features (usually oversized spindles) that prevented their use with standard records. Dealers sold them very cheaply, or even gave them away, knowing they would make their profit on the matching records. Details of these operations came be found in the author’s A Phonograph in Every Home (Mainspring Press).

[17] Program Transcriptions were the first commercially produced 33 1/3-rpm discs and could be played only on specially equipped RCA machines. One of Edward Wallerstein’s first orders, upon his arrival at RCA, was that these money-losing products be discontinued.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “Capitol Records Out with 45 R.P.M. Music System in April.” Cash Box (Feb 19, 1949), p. 4.

[20] Capitol’s initial 45-rpm offerings were classical, using material licensed from Telefunken in Germany. Pop 45s were added later in the year, making Capitol the first company to offer the same material in all three speeds.

[21] “45’s for Rondo, Discovery Firm.” Billboard (Jan 7, 1950), pp. 11, 35.

[22] “RCA Sets 3-Speed Plans.” Billboard (December 10, 1949), pp. 14, 41.

[23] Ibid., p. 41.

[24] Wallerstein, Edward. “The Development of the LP.” High Fidelity (April 1976).

[25] “Commerce Dept. Passes Buck on LP Plea to FTC.” The Billboard (December 4, 1948), p. 23.

[26] “Seeburg Analyzes ‘45’ Disks — Believes Subject Vital to Industry’s Future.” Billboard (December 10, 1949), p. 15.

[27] Weiser, Norm. “Juke Makers Eye ‘45’ Wax; Availability Is Chief Factor.” Billboard (December 17, 1949), p. 17.

[28] Ibid.

 

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© 2017 by Allan R. Sutton. All rights are reserved.