The Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ 51st Annual Conference will be held next week in San Antonio, Texas, and promises to be one of the most interesting yet.
If you haven’t followed the group for a while, rest assured — it’s no longer Your Grandpa’s ARSC. The membership is becoming increasingly diverse, and this year’s conference includes presentations on such wide-ranging topics as Houston hip hop, the historic Texas recording scene, border radio, Motown, women in the recording industry, digital restoration and management of sound recordings, metadata management for sound archives, crowd-sourced cataloging of sound recordings via social media, and copyright issues. (The traditionalists among us will also find plenty of interest, including a collectors’ round-table, a Robert Johnson walking tour, and presentations on Papa Charlie Jackson, Olga Samaroff, Victor Herbert, musical rarities on radio transcriptions and film, discographical issues, and more.)
Classical collectors, be sure to check out A Classical Discography, another outstanding free online database. It’s compiled by Michael Gray (who was also a major contributor to CHARM) and focuses on major-label 78s and LPs from 1925 through 1950, domestic and foreign, using original company file data. As you’d expect with anything Michael does, the level of detail and quality of research and editing are first-rate.
The search engine offers numerous search fields and returns pinpoint results. The screen-shot below shows the first two of 165 entries returned for Feodor Chaliapin (in this case, sorted alphabetically by composer):
Not as widely known as the Discography of American Historical Recordings (although it certainly deserves to be), the UK-based CHARM website offers another outstanding online discography — in this case, of historical classical and operatic recordings. Hosted by the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, CHARM is partnership of Royal Holloway, University of London (host institution) with King’s College, London, and the University of Sheffield.
CHARM is the perfect complement to DAHR, offering hard-to-find data on foreign as well as domestic recordings, primarily from the 1920s onward. The database includes much of The Gramophone Company’s 78-rpm output (from original file data compiled by the late Alan Kelly), as well 78s and some LP series from numerous other US, UK, and European companies, including Columbia and Decca, from data supplied by Michael Gray. *
The CHARM site includes a very flexible search engine, and results can be downloaded as comma-delimited text (.csv) or Microsoft Excel files. Here’s a small part of the results from our search on Cesare Formichi’s Columbia recordings: .
In addition, almost 5000 streaming sound files are available via the Find Sound Files facility. Sound files are transferred from 78-rpm discs held by the King’s Sound Archive at King’s College London.
Like DAHR and the affiliated National Juke Box site from the Library of Congress, CHARM is an entirely free service, with no registration or log-in required.
* Dr. Alan Kelly compiled the monumental His Master’s Voice Discography for Greenwood Press during its glory days in the 1990s; when new owners pulled the plug, he completed the project on his own, self-publishing the entire run on a set of inexpensive CDs. In 2007 he was honored with the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael Gray — besides being one helluva nice guy — has had a distinguished career that includes a long run as director of the Voice of America’s Research Library and Digital Audio Archive projects. He served as series editor for Greenwood Press discographies, has written numerous books and articles, and is the recipient of ARSC’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Not the popular New York World columnist of the same name and period, but a now largely forgotten radio singer and actress. At the time these recordings were made, Helen Rowland was being featured with Don Voorhees’ Maxwell House Ensemble over station WJZ. In December 1932, she was hired to replace Rosalyn Silber in “The Rise of the Goldbergs” radio show, only to be unceremoniously dismissed after Silber reclaimed her spot several months later. A nasty legal scuffle ensued, spearheaded by Rowland’s mother, and in July 1933 she was called back to replace a reportedly ailing Silber. But it was a Pyrrhic victory at best, with word of the Rowlands’ strong-arm tactics quickly spreading among radio executives, and her career largely stalled in the later 1930s.
These selections are from 15¢ Hit of the Week records, the history of which is covered in detail in Recording the ‘Thirties, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.
ERNO RAPEE’S ORCHESTRA w/ HELEN ROWLAND: River, Stay ’Way from My Door & Some Of These Days
New York: c. December 1931
Hit of the Week M-5-A-1 (mx. 1135 – C)
PHIL SPITALNY’S MUSIC w/ HELEN ROWLAND: When It’s Sleepy Time
New York: c. December 1931
Hit of the Week A-1-2 (mx. 1186 – B) Note: This transfer deletes the second track (“Sailing”), on which Rowland is not present.
FREDDIE RICH’S RADIO BAND w/ HELEN ROWLAND: You Call It Madness
New York: c. November–December 1931
Hit of the Week M-2 (mx: see note) Note: This transfer deletes the second track (“Auld Lang Syne”), on which Rowland is not present. All copies we’ve seen show M-218 (which probably is just a control number) in the mx-number position; mxs. 336, 364, and 1237 have all been reported in various works!