“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 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, with 496 total pages 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.


Columbia German Records (1921) • Max Bloch, Arthur Hall, et al.

Some highlights from the June 1921 edition of Columbia Deutsche Schallplatten. Among the members of the Manhattan Quartet are Arthur Hall — the singer on countless 1920s pop sides — who changed his name from Adolph J. Hahl during the anti-German hysteria of 1917. Max Bloch’s operatic arias on Emerson (some of which suffered the indignity of being reissued pseudonymously on cheap labels like National Music Lovers) are generally better-known to collectors than his E- series Columbias. (From the Bill Bryant papers)


100 Years Ago at the Victor Talking Machine Company

Highlights from the August 1913 supplement, courtesy of John Bolig. Note the record commemorating the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the Hebrew listing — nothing related to that tragedy ever appeared in Victor’s general catalog.




100 Years Ago at the Victor Talking Machine Co. • July 1913 Catalog Highlights

From the Victor Records supplement for July 1913, courtesy of John Bolig
(author of The Victor Discography Series)


The newest installment in the Victor Black Label Discography Series (Volume IV — 23000, 23000, 24000, V-38000, V-38500, and V-40000 Series) is heading to press in a few weeks and is scheduled to release in September.

Friday’s Re-Runs (June 21) • Victor South American Ethnic Recordings (1913–1917)



(Originally posted November 29, 2012)

The Victor Talking Machine Company mounted some marathon  “recording expeditions” to Mexico and Central and South America beginning in 1905.

The earliest, to Mexico City, included a seemingly unlikely member — Samuel H. Rous, who was better known to record buyers as the studio singer “S. H. Dudley” — not to be confused with the black stage star whose name Rous appropriated. Rous was also a Victor employee who eventually headed the Catalog Department, produced early editions of the Victor Book of the Opera, and later enjoyed a comfortable retirement in Europe.

Victor’s earliest documented South American expedition, to Buenos Aires under the direction of William H. Nafey, was dispatched in September 1907. Here are some very rare examples made on later Victor’s trips, with data from the Victor files:



Lima, Peru: September 20, 1913  (Frank S. Rambo & Charles Althouse, engineers)
Victor 65996  (mx. L-301-1)

This recording was from Victor’s first trip to the West Coast of South America. Rambo and Althouse sailed through the Panama Canal to Peru, then backtracked to Colombia to make additional recordings after finishing their work in Peru.


JORGE SCHULTZE (vocal) & MOISES ALURRALDA (vocal & guitar): Se vá y se vá!

La Paz, Bolivia: July 22, 1917
Victor 69846  (mx. G-2173-1)



Caracas, Venezuela: January 27, 1917
Victor 78682  (mx. G-1794-2)


For more on these early recording expeditions, including a harrowing brush with Mexican rebels in 1910, see A Phonograph in Every Home: The Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1900–1919, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

Lydia Mendoza Commemorative Stamp

Some welcome recognition for the mother of Tejano music, available from your local Post Office…

MENDOZA-stamps… And our favorite recording from her early years:



Blue Bonnet Hotel, San Antonio, TX: October 25, 1938
(Eli Oberstein, recording supervisor)
Montgomery Ward M-7982  (mx. BS–28629-1)

For the remarkable story of Lydia’s early years, and the evolution of recordings for the Mexican-American market, be sure to check out Recording the ‘Thirties, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

Friday’s Re-Runs (May 10) • Klezmer Classics (1913-1923)

With the blog going on two years old, getting to our the older material now takes a lot of searching — so beginning this week we’ll be re-running
some of our most popular posts from the past.


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


Doina and Hora

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



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


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

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


HARRY KANDEL’S ORCHESTRA: Rusiche Sher (Russian Dance), Part 1

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

Friday’s Playlist (May 10) • The Allen Brothers (1930)

ALLEN-BROSAustin Allen (banjo, vocal) & Lee Allen (guitar, kazoo)


Memphis: November 22, 1930
Bluebird B-5403  (mx. BVE-62997-2)
Advisory: Racist language


ALLEN BROTHERS: Price of Cotton Blues

Memphis: November 22, 1930
Victor 23507  (mx. BVE-62991-2)



Memphis: June 5, 1930
Montgomery Ward M-4281  (mx. BVE-62590-2)


Friday’s Playlist (Apr 26) • Fletcher Henderson & his Orchestra on Emerson Records

Emerson race records, Chicago Defender, 1924May 1924 ad for Emerson race records (Chicago Defender)



New York (206 Fifth Avenue): Released March 1924
Emerson 10713  (mx. 42524 -2)



New York (206 Fifth Avenue): Released March 1924
Emerson 10714  (mx. 42525 -2)


FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: (You May Be Fast But) Mama’s Gonna Slow You Down

New York (206 Fifth Avenue): Released March 1924
Emerson 10713  (mx. 42526 -2)


FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: Chattanooga (Down in Tennessee)

New York (206 Fifth Avenue): Released June 1924
Emerson 10744  (mx. 42586-3)


Watch for EMERSON RECORDS: A HISTORY & DISCOGRAPHY (Bill Bryant & Allan Sutton), coming in a few weeks from Mainspring Press!

The Story Behind the Emerson Discography

The first installment of EMERSON RECORDS: A HISTORY AND DISCOGRAPHY (Bill Bryant & Allan Sutton) is heading to press in a few days. This important project is finally coming to completion after decades of research — Here’s its remarkable story, excerpted from the Preface to the new volume:

EMERSON-cover-x5The Emerson discography traces its roots to the early 1950s, and a group of writers and collectors who were loosely associated with Record Changer magazine. Still in its infancy at the time, discography was generally regarded as a hobbyists’ leisure-time pursuit, and many works published during those years did little to improve that image.
In 1952 this group — which eventually came to include Walter C. Allen, Perry Armagnac, George Blacker, Carl Kendziora, and Len Kunstadt, among others — set out to change that. Applying the highest research standards, they began systematically compiling data on pre-1930 recordings for which the recording files no longer existed.
Used 78s were still cheap and abundant — a one-day NYC “junking expedition” in 1955, for example, netted a large cache of obscure Ajax and Black Swan discs, along with box-loads of lesser material. Such hauls were not unusual, and the holdings eventually expanded to fill three buildings. To help support all of this activity, Len Kunstadt auctioned off duplicates and unneeded items by the thousands in Record Research magazine (the Changer’s successor), listed in type so tiny that it was barely legible.
The label and wax data for new acquisitions were carefully typed onto multi-part carbon-copy forms that were circulated to all members (and eventually to other carefully chosen collectors outside the group) for review and comment. The approved data were later transferred to two sets of index cards — a catalog-number set, listing even the most minute details of individual issues; and a matrix-number set on which all confirmed issues from a given master were listed. These were also regularly circulated for review and updates.

The label and wax data were transcribed verbatim; speculation and anecdotal evidence might be noted, and commented upon, but never appeared in the final cards . Many acquisitions sheets were heavily marked-up with questions and (usually) polite disagreements to be resolved before the data were transferred to cards. The most minute details were noted, down to stamper codes, style and positioning of the matrix and take numbers, and minor variations in label design and typography on duplicate copies.
One member of the group owned a synchronized dual turntable (these were commonly used in radio stations in the days of 78-rpm transcriptions, to provide a seamless switch from one disc to the next). It was employed to investigate countless instances of suspected false master numbers, alternate takes, and the like. Members called this process “synchronized aural comparison” (SAC), and their findings were carefully logged over a span of nearly nearly three decades.
The cards, papers, and rights eventually were willed to George Blacker by Perry Armagnac, who had been their steward since the beginning. In turn,  George, as the group’s last-man-standing, willed them to Bill Bryant, who took possession of the materials in 1991. In a note dated September 13 of that year, Bill wrote, “When I was told by George’s executor to ‘come ‘n’ get it,’ I didn’t know how much of ‘it’ there was. We filled my car and [a friend’s] wagon to the gunwales.”
Bill continued the group’s work on Emerson and many other labels, organizing and making connections among the mass of raw data, while adding considerable new information from his own notes and those of the many collectors and archivists with whom he regularly corresponded. In his last letter to me, Bill mentioned that he was preparing to buy a computer to manage all of his projects. It never happened, but still he had managed to make significant headway on the Emerson and other minor-label data by the time of his sudden death in 1995. However, only bits of the material had seen publication at that point (mostly as contributions to others’ works), and much remained to be done to bring those many projects to a publishable state.
The materials sat in storage until 2011, when Tim Brooks and Kurt Nauck alerted me that the current owner needed to find a home for them. A deal was reached under which Mainspring Press acquired exclusive rights to the materials and agreed to complete and publish the many works that Bill had begun.
To preserve the integrity of this data, Mainspring’s existing master database was purged of most unverified information — the little that has been allowed to remain is indicated in the text as “reported, but not confirmed.” Clean data from the existing database was then merged with Bill’s in an entirely new relational database (which also holds the data for Grey Gull and other affiliated labels), from which this discography — and many more to come — was generated.
This work is necessarily a forensic reconstruction, since the original Emerson files have been lost. As with any first edition of a reconstructed discography, there are certain to be some errors and omissions, and readers are encouraged to submit additions and corrections, as long as proper supporting documentation (photographs, scans, audio files, etc.) is provided. I hope that this work provides a clearer understanding of Emerson and its relationship with other labels of the period, and that it will encourage further investigation of these long-neglected records.

— Allan Sutton

“Edison Amberol Cylinders, 1908-1913″ – New release now in stock

amberol_coverThe new Edison Amberol history and cylinderography has arrived!

This is the first complete, fully detailed, and properly documented study of Edison’s four-minute wax cylinders — compiled from the studio cash books and other internal documents, catalogs and supplements, and house publications, combined with careful examination of the original cylinders themselves.

Features include:

  • Primary-source details for U.S. and foreign-catalog issues
  • Listing dates, with corresponding release and catalog dates, and an explanation of the difference
  • Recording locations (and recording dates, when verifiable from surviving documentation)
  • Artist pseudonyms
  • Accompanists, conductors, and vocal backing-group personnel
  • Composer and show credits
  • Medley contents and interpolated numbers
  • Blue Amberol reissues
  • Significant comments from the Edison Phonograph Monthly
  • Illustrated and footnoted historical introduction, with user’s guide
  • Artist and title indexes

This is a 264-page 7″ x 10″ high-quality softcover edition. The introductory price (going up in June) is just $39, with free U.S. shipping. Visit the Mainspring Press website for secure online ordering; a mail-order form is also available on the site.




Friday’s Playlist (Nov. 9) • Edison in Mexico City

Some of our favorite Edison cylinders from the National Phonograph Company’s Mexico City recording expeditions.

Full details on the four-minute issues will appear in Edison Amberol Records: The Complete U.S., Foreign, and Special Issues, newly compiled from the original Edison source materials and heading to press early next year.



Mexico City; released 1905
Edison Gold Moulded (2M) 18767



Mexico City; released May 1910
Edison Amberol (4M) 6076



Mexico City; released 1909
Edison Amberol (4M) 6022


Other Mainspring Press books for cylinder fans: Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders — U.S., Foreign & Special Issues • Indestructible & U-S EVerlasting Cylinders — An Illustrated History & Cylinderography