The Playlist • Klezmer and Other Ethnic Gems (1909–1924)



HARRY KANDEL’S ORCHESTRA: Kiever Bulgar (Dance from Kiev)

New York: May 6, 1921
Victor 73436 (mx. B 25255 – 1)



Constantinople: March 29, 1909
Victor 63512 (Gramophone Co. mx. 12578b)



New York: March 1918
Columbia E4190 (mx. 84187 – 1)


HOYER INSTRUMENTAL TRIO: Na Poskok (Jumping Polka)  [Slovenian]

Cleveland, OH: November 30, 1924
Victor 77915 (mx. B 31239 – 1)


Discographical data are from Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records (University of Illinois Press)




The Playlist • More Klezmer: Abe Schwartz, Harry Kandel, Art Shryer, Jacob Hoffman (1918–1925)


Doina and Hora

New York: January 25, 1923
Victor 77163 (mx. B 28671 – 1)


Mit der Kalle Tanzen

New York: April 1924
Vocalion 13012 (mx. 13038)



New York: October 1920
Columbia E4905 (mx. 86692 – 1)



Camden NJ: July 9, 1925
Victor 78613 (mx. BVE 33069 – 2)


Discographical data from Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records (Vol. 3), University of Illinois Press.

Five Mainspring Press Books Nominated for 2015 ARSC Awards

ARSC-logoWe’re pleased to announce that the following titles have been nominated for 2015 Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research by The Association for Recorded Sound Collections. The goal of the ARSC Awards Program is “to recognize and draw attention to the finest work now being published in the field of recorded-sound research.” The winners will be announced in September.


The Victor Discography: Special Labels, 1928–1941
John R. Bolig

The Pathé–Perfect Discography, Vol. 1
William R. Bryant, Allan Sutton & The Record Research Associates

Bell and Arto Records: A History and Discography, 1920–1928
William R. Bryant & The Record Research Associates,
edited and annotated by Allan Sutton

Eli Oberstein’s United States Record Corporation: A History and Discography
Allan Sutton & The Record Research Associates

Ajax Records: A History and Discography
William R. Bryant & The Record Research Associates

Hello, 2015!

Mainspring’s publication pipeline is full as we head into 2015, and we’re looking forward to bringing you some of our most exciting titles so far. We start off with a major project, John Bolig’s Bluebird Discography. The first of three volumes goes to press in a couple of weeks. Like all of the Victor Discography Series, Bluebird was compiled on-site at Sony Archives from the original recording ledgers and production files. No anecdotal or speculative material has been added, so you can tell exactly what is and isn’t in the original RCA files.


One of our most eagerly awaited projects, the combined American Record Company / Hawthorne & Sheble / International Record Company volume, finally goes to press in early spring. Aside from a wealth of rare discographical data (largely published here for the first time), the book features in-depth, fully documented, and richly illustrated histories of these three companies, which were persistent thorns in Victor’s and Columbia’s sides during the early 1900s.


Volume II in The Pathé–Perfect Discography also heads to press this spring. Volume I, covering the vocal, race-record, and classical-operatic series, is already getting rave reviews. Volume II, covering the “dance” series, promises to be even more exciting, clearly and accurately sorting out the multitude of joint recording sessions (there actually was some method behind the Pathé–Cameo–ARC madness, although you might not guess it from other works), transferred and renumbered masters, alternate and false takes, dubbings, control numbers, band and vocalist pseudonyms, mysterious stampings in the wax, and other complexities that have been dodged, fudged, guessed-at, and generally scrambled in other dance-band discographies.

One of our most complex projects — Edison Two-Minute Cyinders (1896–1912): A Provisional Cylinderography — is on-tap for this summer. Why “provisional”? Because despite the great mass of solid data that appears in this book (largely from original Edison documentation, along with reliable reports from many leading collectors and researchers), there are still fine details — primarily in the brown-wax era — that will take many more years to research, assuming actual specimens of the rare originals can even be located. In the meantime, we’re pleased to offer a substantial work that should prove accurate and useful for the vast majority of Edison’s two-minute American output.

We’ll also be launching a new series for phonograph collectors this year. The first title — American Phonograph Advertising, 1900–1910 — offers a mouth-watering assortment of rare ads for vintage American phonographs, phono–music box combinations, business and special-use machines, horns and accessories, cabinets, and coin-ops, with informative captions.

Best wishes to all our friends and customers (who are often one and the same — how great is that?) for a fine 2015!

Emerson Tries to Challenge the Red Seal (1919)

The Premier series was Emerson’s top-of-the-line, intended to challenge the Victor Red Seal and Columbia Symphony Series. Its roster included Max Bloch, Stanisalu Berini, Eva Leoni, and other operatic stars who had been passed over by the major labels, but also an odd mish-mash of studio performers and relative unknowns from the company’s ethnic series. The label chosen for this ad features Paul Bolognese, who at that time was Emerson’s house conductor for the ethnic-catalog session; he was later Grey Gull’s musical director, where he was responsible for grinding out pseudonyms, run-of-the-mill dance-band records.

Following Emerson’s bankruptcy, some of the Premier-series masters were leased to cheap labels like National Music Lovers, which issued them under pseudonyms. Details of the 10″ and 12″ Premier issues can be found in The Emerson Discography, Vol. 1, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.



Highlights from the September 1914 Victor Records Catalog

Courtesy of John Bolig, author of The Victor Discography Series



“Blue Indian” Records: The Tokyo Connection

A few years ago we mentioned a suspected connection between the blue-shellac American Record Company discs (often referred to informally by their producers as “Blue Indian records”) and Japanese Nipponophone discs. An early Nipponophone catalog — intended more for Western tourists and temporary residents than for the native population — listed many dozens of the same titles that had appeared on the Blue Indians. Although no artists were named, the records were categorized by type (vocals by voice range, spoken, banjo solo, etc.), which were a perfect match to the suspected corresponding American issues.

Our suspicions were confirmed recently, when we came across a 1994 letter to the late Bill Bryant from a West Coast collector, who had acquired a badly damaged Nipponophone disc showing an American Record Company (031000-series) master on one side, and a German Beka master on the reverse. The titles were in English, with no artist credits.

So — how did an American Record Company two-step end up on a Japanese disc? The missing link appears in the articles below, from the January 1911 issue of The Talking Machine World. It was none other than John O. Prescott, formerly of Hawthorne, Sheble & Prescott — the sales agents for the Blue Indian discs. The German Beka master on the reverse of the West Coast specimen offers still more evidence of a link. Beka was a product of the Berlin-based International Talking Machine Company, operated by John O.’s brother Frederick M. Prescott — the makers of Odeon records (on which numerous Blue Indian recordings were reissued in England), and an affiliate of the American Record Company.


The Symphony label and recording below are from the Japan-American Phonograph Company’s earliest days, before adopting the Nipponophone label. In all likelihood the recording was done by John O. himself, who several years earlier had been recording the likes of Billy Murray and Collins & Harlan in New York. As you can see from the second clipping, Japan was not to his liking, and he was soon back in the U.S. These weren’t his last recordings of indigenous music, however. In 1926, as Gennett’s chief engineer, he headed a team (with backing from the Smithsonian Institution) that was dispatched to the Grand Canyon to record Hopi Indian songs.



(Can any of our Japanese or Japanese-speaking followers translate?)

Symphony Record 17 (no visible mx. number)
Tokyo, Japan: c. 1910


All of the numerous American Record Company foreign reissues are listed in Bill Bryant’s American Record Discography, coming later this year from Mainspring Press:



“Princess Watahwaso” Obituary (1969)

“Princess Watahwaso” in real life was Lucy Nicola Poolaw, a Penobscot Indian from Maine. For many years she toured on the concert and Chautauqua circuits, often accompanied by pianist-composer Thurlow Lieurance of “By the Waters of Minnetonka” fame. She did a great deal to spread awareness of Native American music, even if her material was sometimes Europeanized nearly beyond recognition, as in the example posted here.

This obituary is from the Evening Express, Portland, Maine, March 20, 1969 (Bill Bryant papers). Poolaw was, of course, far from being “among the first” to record vocal music for Victor. Her Victor records were issued in the late ‘teens, in the “Educational” series.



Camden, NJ: October 30, 1917 — Released May 1918 (Educational Catalog)
Victor 18418  (mx. B 21015 – 1)


The Playlist • Records for the Mexican-American Market (1925–1938)



Los Angeles: c. June 1925
Sunset 1126  (mx. 777)
Enrique Espinoza, vocal; others unknown



Blue Bonnet Hotel, San Antonio: October 25, 1938
Montgomery Ward M-7982  (mx. BS–28629-1)
Lidya Mendoza, vocal and mandolin; others unknown



Texas Hotel, San Antonio: August 15, 1935
Montgomery Ward M-4870  (mx. BS-94591-1)
Melquiades Rodriguez, violin; Enrique Morales, guitar


Recording the ‘Thirties (available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries) includes a chapter on Depression-era recordings for the Mexican-American market.

The Playlist • Abe Schwartz’s Orchestra



Columbia E4905 (mx. 86692-1)
New York: October 1920


ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA (as Oriental Orchestra):
The Silver Wedding

New York: c. August 1918
Columbia E3618 (mx. 58541-1)


AARON LEBEDEFF: Ich Bin a Border Bei Mein Weib

New York: c. January 1923
Vocalion 14502 (mx. 10587)

Latest Arrival – In Stock: Bell and Arto Records (A History and Discography, 1920–1928)

The latest Bill Bryant / Record Research Associates discography has arrived, tackling two of the most complicated labels of the 1920s — Bell and its ill-fated parent, Arto. The Record Research group went so far as to employ synchronized dual turntables to determine true master sources and alternate takes. Their findings — many of which appear in print here for the first time — sometimes contradict what you might be used to seeing in some less-rigorously works.

BELL-ARTO-coverNewly updated and annotated by Allan Sutton, Bell and Arto Records includes an illustrated history of the two labels, and the people and companies behind them. It’s a 248-page softcover, retailing for $39, with free shipping to U.S. addresses. As with all Mainspring publication, we guarantee your satisfaction! For secure online ordering, or to order by mail, visit the Mainspring Press website.

“Victor Special Labels, 1928-1941″ Now In Stock


By John R. Bolig

388 total pages, illustrated / 7″ x 10″ quality softcover
$49.00 (free U.S. shipping)
In stock for immediate delivery

Secure online ordering on the Mainspring Press Website


An intriguing guide to some of the most collectible RCA and Victor products, compiled from the original company documentation in the Sony archives (New York), covering:

Client and Budget Labels*Aurora (Canada), Electradisk, 4-H Records, Fox Movietone, Sunrise, Timely Tunes, and Yorkville

Theater RecordsPict-Ur-Music, Special Effects, Theatre Records, Theremin specials

“Program Transcription” Long-Playing RecordsIncludes full discographical data on all masters (domestic and foreign) used for dubbing, as well as all original recordings

Picture DiscsAll series, including children’s and special long-playing issues

Talking BooksThe first RCA-produced issue

Advertising RecordsSpecials for the Sale Department, RCA Radio Advertising Spots, and more

From opera to the blues, this new volume has something of interest to every collector.


* Bluebird will be covered in a multi-volume set currently in development. Montgomery Ward is already covered on a Mainspring Press CD.

Some Real Irish Music for St. Patrick’s Day

The authentic stuff — Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


New York: 1927
Grey Gull 4016 [version 2] (mx. 2354-A)

Grey Gull 4016 exists in at least two versions and is known with dull pink, red, blue, or green labels, and in both orange- and black-shellac pressings. On the first version, Gagan’s Orchestra plays on both sides. On the version used here, only one Gagan recording is used; Gagan is still credited on the reverse side, but a different recording of the same title — by a group sounding suspiciously like members of the Grey Gull house band — has been substituted.


FRANK QUINN (piano by Ed Gagan): Old Swallow Reel

New York: March 17, 1927
Columbia 33155-F (mx. W-143672-2)


IRISH PIPERS’ BAND OF BOSTON: Connaught Man’s Ramble

New York: May 27, 1927
Yorkville K-502 (mx. BVE-38829-1)

John Bolig’s Victor Special Labels, 1928-1941 contains a complete discography of Yorkville records, compiled from the original RCA and Victor files — It’s arriving soon!


100 Years Ago at the Victor Talking Machine Company: Highlights from the January 1914 Victor Records Catalog



These highlights from Victor’s January 1914 offerings are courtesy of John Bolig, author of the Victor Discography Series. Especially noteworthy is the appearance of Alexander Maloof, who (in association with Gennett) went to on to produce several labels of his own devoted to Middle Eastern music. He was also the last artist to record in Gennett’s Long Island studio before it closed at the end of June 1932.


NOW IN STOCK: Pseudonyms on American Records, 1892–1942 — Third Revised & Expanded Edition

pseudos-coverLABELS CAN LIE. Since 1990, Pseudonyms has been helping dealers and advanced collectors spot the hidden treasures. Out of print since 2007, it’s finally back in the largest, best-documented edition yet — 496 total pages (including 62 additional pages in the main listing section), unmasking 6,200 pseudonyms on more than 17,000 cylinders, 78s, and transcriptions.

For full details and secure online ordering, vist us at the Mainspring Press website.