Heading to Press This Week: Leeds & Catlin / American Record Co. / Hawthorne & Sheble (Star) / International Record Co.

LEEDS & CATLIN RECORDS: A History and Discography

AMERICAN RECORD COMPANY, HAWTHORNE & SHEBLE, and INTERNATIONAL RECORD COMPANY: Histories and Discographies, 1904–1909

Data Compiled by William R. Bryant / Edited and Annotated by Allan Sutton

Two of Mainspring’s most interesting discographies are heading to press this week and will release in mid-October. These companies were persistent thorns in the side of Victor and Columbia, infringing their patents and often undercutting their prices. Ultimately they were defeated in the courts, but not before producing many intriguing (and often quite rare) records that are favorites with modern collectors.

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These unique volumes are the first systematic, professionally produced studies of these companies and their recorded output. They have been compiled from careful first-hand inspection of the original discs, catalogs, and other primary-source materials, involving input from more than one-hundred trusted collectors, dealers, and archivists over the course of many decades, all newly updated and annotated. Listings include all confirmed subsidiary and client-label issues (U.S. and foreign), composer and show credits, identification of anonymous performers, confirmed listing dates, alternate versions and remakes, and other significant data.

The Leeds & Catlin volume also includes detailed discographical data for the imported Favorite recordings that were used on Leeds’ Imperial Grand Opera Records, as well as a provisional listing of Leeds & Catlin and Radium cylinders. The Star Records (Hawthorne & Sheble) listing includes data on the source Columbia recordings.

In addition to the extensive discographies, each volume features illustrated histories of the people and companies behind these labels — the most detailed and objective accounts yet, far surpassing what appears in any previously published work. Full documentation is included, with more than 110 primary-source citations in the Leeds history alone. Other features include individual user’s guides and title and artist indexes for each company.

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Concurrent Release: Mid-October 2015
Format: 7″ x 10″ quality paperback
Pages: Approximately 280 each
Projected Price (U.S): $45 each (ordered individually) / $85 for both (ordered as set)
Shipping (U.S.): Free

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The Playlist • Yiddish Vocal and Klezmer Favorites (1913 – 1923)

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AARON LEBEDEFF (vocal with ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA):
Ich Bin a Border Bei Mein Weib

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

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ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA: Sher — Part 2

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

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HARRY KANDEL’S ORCHESTRA: Rusiche Shaer (Russian Dance) —  Part 1

New York: June 25, 1918
Victor 72102  (mx. B 21666 – 4)

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JACOB HOFFMAN (xylophone) with HARRY KANDEL’S ORCHESTRA:
Doina and Hora

Camden, NJ: January 25, 1923Camden, NJ: January 25, 1923
Victor 77163  (mx. B 28671 – 1)

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MORDECAI HERSHMAN (vocal): Mikita

New York: June 14, 1923
Victor 68625  (mx. C 28084 – 2)
Nathaniel Shilkret, arranger / conductor

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PINCHOS JASSINOWSKY (vocal): Burekes

New York: October 10, 1919
Victor 72308  (mx. B 22352 – 3)
Nathaniel Shilkret, organ

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ABE ELENKRIG’S ORCHESTRA: Fon der Choope

New York: c. April 4, 1913
Columbia E1393  (mx. 38756 – 1)

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ABRAHAM ELENKRIG’S ORCHESTRA: Machotonim zum Tisch

New York: c. April 4, 1913
Columbia E1394  (mx. 38758 – 1)

 

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

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

Columbia Discography Notes • The 194000 Mx. Series Dubbings

Columbia’s 194000 master series (which isn’t covered in The Columbia Master Book Discography and derivative works) was begun in the late 1920s for new electrical transfers from existing masters.

The series was used largely for new Western Electric dubbings from acoustic masters in the ethnic catalogs — a cheaper solution that making new recordings of numbers that had minuscule sales potential at best (note the pressing figures on the sheet below). The examples we’ve heard are not “flat” transfers; the high and low ends have been beefed up just a bit, introducing a little rumble on the low end. The absence of other transferred surface noise suggests that the engineers worked from the metal parts rather than shellac pressings.

Below is a typical Columbia label-copy sheet for a 1930 reissue using 194000-series dubbed masters. The transferred masters are  two venerable sides by Charles Prince’s studio band that were first issued in late 1909. The original catalog number has been retained, with the addition of a hyphen following the prefix. Why Columbia took the trouble to update material like this is a mystery, especially since they would have owed Western Electric royalties on sales of the  re-recordings, as indicated by the “W Recording” notation. However, a substantial number of antiquated ethnic-series masters received the same treatment around 1930.

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MSP_COL_labelcopy-cards_C61(William R. Bryant papers, Mainspring Press collection)
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More interesting to blues and country-music collectors is the fact that 194000-series dubbings were also made to correct technical deficiencies in current recordings, such as those from Blind Willie Johnson’s Atlanta session of April 20, 1930. This occurs most often in field-trip recordings. Technical problems generally weren’t discovered until the masters had been processed back in Bridgeport, often several weeks after a problematic session, by which time the engineers had moved on to other locations.

Bottom line: If you have a pressing from a 194000-series master, you have a dubbing, not an original. And while an original is obviously preferable in collecting (if not necessarily listening)  terms, dubbings could be your only choice in the case of the late 1920s–early 1930s location recordings. Most of the original masters from the Johnson session mentioned above, for example, were transferred to new 194000-series masters shortly after their arrival in Bridgeport, well in advance of release; the corresponding original masters never saw the light of day, commercially.

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The Playlist • Mandolin Masterpieces, 1910-1930


TRIO INSTRUMENTAL ARRIAGA (Joaquín J. Arriaga, mandolin): El novio de tacha

Mexico City (US release: May 1910)
Edison Amberol 22076  (four-minute cylinder)

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NAP HAYES & MATTHEW PRATER: Nothin’ Doin’

Memphis, Tennessee: February 15, 1928
Okeh 45231  (mx. W-400243-B)

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MISSISSIPPI SHEIKS (as MISSISSIPPI MUD STEPPERS): Vicksburg Stomp

Jackson, Mississippi (King Edward Hotel): December 15, 1930
Okeh 45519  (mx. W-404716-B)

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

 

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

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

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ANONYMOUS ACCORDION AND GUITAR DUET: Andikristo  [Greek]

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

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SERBIAN TAMBOURITZA QUARTET: Aj, Haj, Boze Daj

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

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

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

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

 

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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.

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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


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.

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Highlights from the September 1914 Victor Records Catalog

Courtesy of John Bolig, author of The Victor Discography Series

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“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.
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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.

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UNKNOWN PERFORMERS and SELECTION
(Can any of our Japanese or Japanese-speaking followers translate?)

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

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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:

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“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.

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PRINCESS WATAHWASO (LUCY POOLAW), with THURLOW LIEURANCE (piano) and HERBERT SMALL (flute): Aooah / Her Blanket

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

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

SUNSET-1126.

ENRIQUE ESPINOZA: El Borrachito

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

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LIDYA MENDOZA: Una Cruz

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

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EL CIEGO MELQUIADES: Paulita

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

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

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

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THE VICTOR DISCOGRAPHY: SPECIAL LABELS, 1928–1941
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

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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.

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* 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!

ED GAGAN [GEOGHEGAN] & HIS ORCHESTRA: Irish Jigs and Reels

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.

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

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

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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

BEST WISHES TO ALL FOR A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS 2014!

 

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.

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