In the Pipeline: Paramount’s Most Elusive Race-Record Artists / Marsh Laboratories History & Discography

Race Records is on its way to press (releasing in late April), and we’re now gearing up for our next 2016 titles.

A gentle reminder: The Playlist and other popular Mainspring Blog features are funded solely by the sale of Mainspring Press publications. By buying a book or two  (you’ll like ’em, we promise!), you help to keep the good stuff coming.



The New Paramount Book of the Blues:
The Most Elusive Recording Artists
on Paramount’s Race Records

By Alex Van Der Tuuk

Summer 2016

The author of Paramount’s Rise and Fall does some expert sleuthing to uncover the long-forgotten stories of Paramount’s most  elusive race-record artists — those performers who have proven to be, in Alex’s words, “the ultimate frustration” for many researchers.

This is an entirely new work, based upon an incredible amount of original research, and more than a little persistence in tracking down obscure leads. As you’d expect from Alex, the book is deeply detailed, meticulously documented, and richly illustrated. The opening portion of the manuscript is now in-house, and we’re preparing for a summer 2016 release.



Orlando R. Marsh: Chicago’s Pioneer of
Electrical Recording

An Illustrated History and Discography
by Richard Raichelson

Summer–Fall 2016

Although known to modern collectors mainly for his classic jazz recordings by the likes of King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, and his work for Paramount, there’s much more to Orlando Marsh’s story. Noted author and historian Richard Raichelson delves  deep to uncover that remarkable tale, while also exploring Chicago’s recording industry in general during the 1920s and early 1930s, as well as the technical aspects of Marsh’s work.

Included is the first fully detailed, professionally compiled and vetted discography of Marsh’s recordings. Based on extensive original research, Richard’s new book is a treasure-trove of fascinating data and rare illustrations, much of it published here for the first time.


New Mainspring Press Books Coming in 2016: Race Records 1919–1945, Paramount Blues Encyclopedia, and Marsh Laboratories

We’re happy to announce three forthcoming Mainspring Press books for the first half of 2016, reflecting our new focus on jazz and blues–related texts:


Race Records and the American Recording Industry (1919–1945):
An Illustrated History —
Allan Sutton
(Spring 2016)


Robert Johnson’s real devil was a record company, not some supernatural being he supposedly met at a crossroads. Black Swan failed not because of an imagined white conspiracy, but because Harry Pace was an inexpert businessman who got entangled with one of the recording industry’s chronic losers and regularly deceived his customers and investors. And as for those claims that “Crazy Blues” sold millions of copies, well….

Race Records offers a fresh, no-nonsense examination of recordings in all genres — not just the blues — that were intended for African-American record buyers in the pre-R&B years, focusing on the making, marketing, and consumption of those records within the context of the American recording and entertainment industries.  (Approx. 320 pages, 160 illustrations)



Paramount Book of Blues: The Elusive Recording Artists on Paramount’s
Race Records — Alex van der Tuuk

(Spring–Summer 2016)

Alex van der Tuuk returns with the first in-depth, properly documented  biographical encylcopedia of Paramount blues recording artists. Far surpassing the recycled anecdotal work we’re accustomed to seeing in blues histories, Alex has undertaken substantial original research for this volume, digging deep to find the missing pieces and sort out fact from fiction. (Page count TBA; illustrated)



Orlando Marsh and the Marsh Laboratories: An Illustrated History
and Discography (working title) — Richard Raichelson

(Summer 2016)

American music scholar Richard Raichelson goes beyond the ordinary discography to examine the individual recordings within their historical and musical contexts, and ties them to the remarkable story of Orlando Marsh and his legendary Chicago studio. (Page count TBA; illustrated)



ALLAN SUTTON is the founder of Mainspring Press and author or co-author of more than fifteen books on early sound recordings, including Recording the ‘Twenties and A Phonograph in Every Home. He is the the recipient of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections‘ 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

.ALEX VAN TUUK is the author of Paramount’s Rise and Fall (now in its second edition) and has contributed to many other important works, including Third Man – Revenant Records’ groundbreaking Paramount reissue project. A widely traveled expert on early blues artists and recordings, he resides in the Netherlands.

RICHARD RAICHELSON received a Ph.D. in folklore / anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Well known for his research into early blues traditions, and especially the music and social history of the Memphis area, he is the author of Beale Street Talks and Memphis Innovations, as well as a contributor to numerous other works.


The Playlist • Melquiades Rodríguez, the Blind Fiddler (San Antonio, 1935)

Two selections from Bluebird’s B-2400 Spanish-language series that would not have sounded out-of-place in the country-music list (a fact not lost on RCA, which also issued  them in Bluebird’s domestic B-6000 series, with label credits in English to “The Blind Fiddler.” Ethnic Music on Records shows English credits on the corresponding Montgomery Ward issues as well, but copies inspected thus far are in Spanish:



MELQUIADES RODRÍGUEZ (violin; probably with Enrique Morales, guitar): Paulita — Polka

Texas Hotel, San Antonio: August 15, 1935
..(Eli Oberstein, recording director)
Montgomery Ward M-4870 ( as “El Ciego Melqiuades”)
Mx. BS 94589 – 1 (reissue of Bluebird B-2411)


MELQUIADES RODRÍGUEZ (violin; probably with Enrique Morales, guitar): Delgadita — Polka

Texas Hotel, San Antonio: August 15, 1935
..(Eli Oberstein, recording director)
Montgomery Ward M-4870 ( as “El Ciego Melqiuades”)
Mx. BS 94591 – 1 (reissue of Bluebird B-2411)

Eli Oberstein is not credited in the RCA files, but photographs exist of him on the August 1935 San Antonio trip. Morales is not credited in the RCA files for these particular titles; however, the adjacent masters, recorded at the same session, are guitar duets by Rodríguez and Morales.


Now In Stock: Leeds & Catlin / American Record Co. – Hawthorne & Sheble – International Record Co. Discographies

Save When Your Order Both Books as a Set

HSP-Leeds-coversOur long-awaited “rogue record company” discographies are here. Each book features discographical details never before compiled in a modern work — along with illustrated, fully documented histories of these companies, and the people behind them, that are the most comprehensive accounts published to date.

List price is $45 per book, with free U.S. shipping — but for a limited time, we’re offering  $11 off* when you order the set of two. For more information and secure online or mail-in ordering, please visit the Mainspring Press website.

*On U.S. orders. Comparable discounts are also offered on foreign orders — see website for foreign pricing.

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


Ich Bin a Border Bei Mein Weib

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



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



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

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


Doina and Hora

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



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



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



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



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)

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)




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.



“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.

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.


Carter Family Flyer – Conqueror 78 Records (Sears Roebuck, 1935)

This scarce Sears flyer was issued for the Southern regional market in late 1935. RCA parted ways with the Carter Family at the end of 1934, although their records remained steady sellers on Bluebird and Montgomery Ward into the early 1940s. The Carters signed with the American Record Corporation (the makers of Conqueror) in the spring of 1935 and had their first ARC session on May 5 of that year. The unrelated Hank Warner number shown here was Warner’s only ARC release, recorded in New York on September 13, 1935.

There’s much more on country music recording during the Depression years in Recording the ‘Thirties, the latest title from Mainspring Press.