Mainspring Press Books: Going, Going (and Soon to Be Gone)

Just a reminder that Mainspring Press has discontinued production of CDs and books as it begins the transition to online data delivery, in affiliation with the Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR) at the University of California–Santa Barbara.

We recommend ordering any titles of interest as soon as possible. Several popular books (including Recording the ‘Thirties and The Pathé-Perfect Discography, Vol. 1) have already sold out, and others are in short supply. All CDs have also sold out.

We won’t be reprinting any titles once the current inventory is sold — and buying these books on the used-and-collectible market (if you can even find copies) is often a very pricey proposition. Don’t miss out!

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UPDATE: Mainspring’s long-awaited American Zonophone 7″ and 9″ discographical database has now been incorporated into DAHR (there will be no print edition of this material). It’s the most highly detailed data ever published on these rare recordings, including little-known information on remakes, altered masters, relabelings, reissues, catalog listing dates, artist pseudonyms, and other fine details you just won’t find anywhere else — plus an illustrated history. And it’s free.

 

Free Personal-Use Download: Brian Rust’s Complete “Jazz and Ragtime Records, 1897-1942” (6th and Final Edition)

Response to the initial Personal Use Edition of the late Brian Rust’s JR-6 (1917-1934) has been so positive that we’re now making the complete work (1897-1942) available free of charge for the benefit of the collecting and research communities, in keeping with Brian’s wishes.

This edition is in Adobe Acrobat only. (A plain-text file is not being provided, but text files can be created from Acrobat by various methods. Please note that we are unable to provide any technical assistance in this regard; information can be found in your Acrobat or word-processor documentation, or online.)

Be sure to open the Bookmarks sidebar, on the left side of the screen, for easy navigation through the entries. Abbreviation lists  will be found at the end of the file. Indexes are not included, nor are they needed any longer, thanks to Acrobat’s superior search-engine capabilities.

 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BRIAN RUST’S
JAZZ & RAGTIME RECORDS, 1897-1842

Free Complete 6th Edition, for Personal Use Only (~ 10mb)

 

LICENSE INFORMATION: By downloading this file, you signify your understanding of and agreement to the following terms:

All data in this work have been placed in the public domain (i.e., released from copyright) by Mainspring Press LLC, the sole copyright holder in this work by 2001 contractual assignment from Brian Rust.

You may copy, print out, distribute, alter, and/or incorporate this data in other works free of charge and without permission, for personal, non-commercial, non-profit use only, provided that you fully cite the source.

Mainspring Press retains the full and exclusive worldwide commercial publication rights (as distinguished from copyright) in this work. This work may not be published or otherwise distributed commercially, by any method (including but not limited to print, digital, and/or online media) without the prior written consent of Mainspring Press.

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Note: Please do not send additions and corrections to Mainspring Press; we are not producing any further editions of this work.

Some Corrections to Johnson & Shirley’s “American Dance Bands,” from Vic D’Ippolito’s Date Books

Horn-man Vic D’Ippolito’s 1920s date book is the sort of primary-source documentation (like Ed Kirkeby’s files) that causes discographers to salivate. The late Woody Backensto transcribed D’Ippolito’s original data in the late 1950s, a portion of which was published in a special (and now quite rare) October 1958 supplement to Record Research magazine. It’s since been largely overlooked — not least of all by Brian Rust and followers Johnson & Shirley, none of whose dance bands discographies include this information. So to set the records straight, here are a few nuggets we’ve uncovered in just our initial skim:

BLACK SWAN 2106
Brashear’s California Orchestra: Crinoline Days / Lady of the Evening

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Nathan Glantz’s Orchestra (c. late 10/ 1922)

IDENTITY AND ACTUAL DATE IN D’IPPOLITO LOG:
“Sam Lascabza” [sic? Mike LoScalzo?]  (11/28/1922)

A bit of a mystery here. Backensto interpreted  D’Ippolito’s entry to read “Lascabza,” which could easily be a misreading on his part, or a misspelling on D’Ippolito’s part, for LoScalszo. We’ve not found a Lascabza or a Sam LoScalzo making records at this time, but Mike LoScalzo’s band was recording for Olympic (masters from which were frequently issued on Black Swan under pseudonyms); thus, he seems the most likely suspect. At any rate, there’s nothing in D’Ippolito’s entry to suggest Glantz.

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BLACK SWAN 2110
Laurel Dance Orchestra: Burning Sands / You Remind Me of My Mother

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Listed as an actual orchestra (c. 12/ 1922)

IDENTITY AND ACTUAL DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
“Sam Lascabza” [sic? Mike Loscalzo?] (11/28/1922)

Same comments as above. The “Laurel Dance Orchestra” pseudonym also appears on other Black Swan issues confirmed as LoScalzo’s.

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CAMEO 289
Blue Bird Dance Orchestra: Whistling
CAMEO 290
Blue Bird Dance Orch: Teddy Bear Blues

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Possibly Arthur Lange (c. late 10/1922)

ACTUAL IDENTITY AND DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
Al Burt’s Orchestra (12/14/1922)

“Blue Bird Dance Orchestra” isn’t so much a pseudonym as an incomplete artist credit, probably used because Al Burt was an Edison artist at the time. Burt’s band was appearing at the Bluebird Dancing Palace, as confirmed by a check made out to Burt that was endorsed by the dance-hall, which survives at the Edison National Historic Site.

“Teddy Bear” is an under-appreciated little item (as one might expect of a record condemned to Arthur Lange Hell by the supposed experts), with D’Ippolito front-and-center:

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CAMEO 724
Mike Speciale’s Orchestra: Something’s Wrong

CAMEO 727
Mike Speciale’s Orchestra: Cross Words

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Orchestra identity is correct, but Vic D’Ippolito not shown in the undocumented personnel listing  (c. 4/20/1925)

ACTUAL IDENTITY AND DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
Vic D’Ippolito is present (4/21/1925)

 

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VOCALION 14475
Broadway Syncopators: Without You

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Ben Selvin’s Orchestra (c. 12/6/1922)

ACTUAL IDENTITY AND DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
Emil Coleman’s Montmartre Orchestra (12/4/1922)

__________

ACTUAL RECORDING DATES FROM THE D’IPPOLITO BOOK (ADB BAND IDENTITIES ARE CORRECT):

Cameo 256: 9/13/1922 (Apparently for the remake session [takes D-F], based on the master-number gap between these sides and those on the other two sides [takes A-C] from this session) (ADB: c. 7/1922)
Cameo 265 (both sides): 9/13/1922 (ABD: c. 8/20/1922)
Cameo 273 (both sides): 10/13/1922 (ADB: c. 9/20/1922)
Cameo 274 (both sides): 9/25/1922 (ADB: c. 9/19/1922)
Cameo 713 (both sides): 4/7/1925 (ADB: c. 4/6/1925)
Cameo 727 (both sides): 4/21/1925 (ADB: c. 4/20/1924)
Federal 5244 (both sides): 1/5/1923 (ADB: c. 1/1923)
Federal 5245 (Starlight Bay): 1/5/1923 (ADB: c. 1/1923)
To be continued….

 

An Important Online Classical Discography from Michael Gray

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):

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Like CHARM and UC-Santa Barbara’s Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR), this is a completely free service, with no registration or log-in required.

An Edison Tone Test Artist’s Contract (1920)

The Edison Tone Tests were highly popular marketing events at which invited guests were challenged to distinguish live performances from the “Re-Created” versions as performed by the Diamond Disc phonograph.

The events were rigged by various means, despite Edison’s vigorous denials, including the surreptitious substitution of special records and reproducers (the latter confirmed in some surviving correspondence between the company and singer Vernon Dalhart). Artists were also carefully coached to match their tone and volume to that of the recordings to which they would be compared. You can find a detailed history of the Tone Tests in A Phonograph in Every Home, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

Below is a copy of a typical 1920 artist’s Tone Test contract, for Cecil Arden, which we recently found among Ray Wile’s materials in the Bill Bryant papers. Many of Arden’s recordings were flagged “For Tone Test” in the Edison files, and several appear to have been made expressly for that purpose. In Arden’s case, payment probably was on the skimpy side, since she* earned  $36.25 to $40 per song for her studio work (per the studio cash books), without all the rigors of travel and rehearsal that the Tone Tests entailed.

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* Oops! We said “he” / “her” in the initial post. Many thanks to old friend George Sweeny for spotting the mistake, and sending along a photo to confirm. Obviously, we’ve never heard a Cecil Arden recording!
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The Playlist • Harlem Jazz on Dime-Store Labels (1928 – 1929)

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CHARLIE JOHNSON’S PARADISE ORCHESTRA (as Jackson & his Southern Stompers): Take Your Tomorrow (Give Me Today)

New York: c. September 1928
Marathon 227 (7″ Consolidated mx. 31340 – 2)

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JAZZOPATORS (Probable Porter Grainger group): Don’t Know and Don’t Care

New York: Late November 1929
Grey Gull 1803 (mx. 3741 – A)

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FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA (as Henderson’s Roseland Orchestra): Freeze and Melt

New York: April 1929
Cameo 9174 (Cameo mx. 3798 – B)

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LUIS RUSSELL & HIS ORCHESTRA (as Dixie Jazz Band): The Way He Loves Is Just Too Bad

New York: September 13, 1929
Oriole 1726 (ARC mx. 9007 – 1, assigned control 2533)

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DUKE ELLINGTON & HIS ORCHESTRA (as The Washingtonians): Move Over

New York: October 1928
Cameo 9025 (Pathe mx. 108448 – 1, assigned Cameo mx. 3529 –  )

A Sure Bet: Funding for the Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Is Not Going Away

We’ve received a number of e-mails in the wake of Trump’s fanciful budget proposal, asking what we’re going to do if funding for the arts and humanities is eliminated. It’s an odd question, since Mainspring Press does not (and has never) received taxpayer funding, and is only marginally associated with any organizations that do. But since the subject’s been raised, here’s our take:

Funding will not be going away for science, the humanities, and the arts. Congress, not the president, has the final say on funding levels, and Donald’s proposal is already facing stiff resistance from members of both parties, across a wide political spectrum. With elections less than two years away for many of them, even the dimmest bulbs in Congress will likely think twice before cutting popular, and relatively inexpensive, programs.

Consider the impact on the economy of eliminating millions of jobs in these fields, not to mention the countless billions of dollars that will be lost by providers of associated goods and services. Bringing back some dead-end assembly-line work (which is rapidly being automated out of existence anyway) and creating short-term, low-paying “infrastructure” jobs will not be nearly enough to offset those  losses.

What we have here is just more divide-and-conquer grandstanding by a president who did not win the majority of the popular vote, and who is already proving himself to be ineffectual at his job. Don’t panic.

The First Jazz Record Did Not Sell a Million Copies — Here’s the Evidence from the Production-History Cards for Victor 18255

Believe the old tale that the first jazz record (Victor 18255, by the Original Dixieland Jass Band) sold a million copies? Or more?

Not even close — and we finally have the evidence from the Victor Talking Machine Company itself.

We recently got the welcome news from record researcher and Phonostalgia host  Ryan Barna that microfilm copies of the “missing” blue production-history cards for Victor 18255 have been found in the Sony archives by Sam Brylawski — filed not under 18255, but under the catalog number of RCA’s 1967 LP reissue (LPV-547)! We then double-checked with Victor expert John Bolig, who was also able to locate his scans of the cards as well, and kindly forwarded them.

The most important news: The blue card states that 250,983 copies of Victor 18255 were pressed. Far short of the common million-seller claim, but more in line with what we’d expect for a best-seller of the period. Assuming this figure is correct, actual sales would have been a bit less (deducting free copies, breakage, dealer returns, leftover inventory destroyed when the record was deleted, etc.). In the interest of full disclosure, the blue-card figures could be off a bit, as John notes:

“Many years later somebody counted the pressings for a trial, and the company reported 250,983 copies had been pressed UP TO THAT TIME. I don’t know when that trial happened, but the record was deleted from the 1927 catalog. If the trial was earlier, more copies may have been pressed. If it was later, then the total is probably final and presumably accurate.”

It’s possible that this was the 1943 RCA–Decca trial, in which RCA submitted a tally of annual Victor record sales from 1901 through 1941. If so, 250,983 copies would likely have been the final tally; and presumably a reasonably accurate one, since the annual tally was formally entered into evidence at the trial.

Whatever the case, this is the only primary-source document  located in the Victor archives so far that relates to the sales of 18255  — and as such, we trust it far more than the claims of some aging ODJB band members, who didn’t produce any documentary evidence to back up their boast, or the countless pop-culture writers who have uncritically swallowed that tale.

    *     *     *     *     *

We don’t have permission from Sony to reproduce the card scans here. But the other key bits of information relating to Victor 18255, as relayed by both Ryan and John from the blue card and recording ledger information, are confirmation that these recordings were indeed originally made as trials, and were not accepted and assigned master numbers until March 1; that testing was not completed and approved until March 10 (eliminating any possibility of the March 5 release claimed by Rudi Blesh and others); and that the record was assigned to the May 1917 supplement (which would have been issued in late April). John suspects that the “March 1917 Special” notation might have been added to the card at a later date:

“The blue card for ‘Dixieland Jass Band, One Step’ (‘That Teasin’ Rag’) has handwriting on it that may have been added when the record was issued on LX-3007 [in 1954], and somebody using that pen and much darker ink seems to have added “Mar 1917 Special” above the “Date listed” cell that reads May 1917. That notation about a special release does not appear on the card for the other side. The writer penned the letter S twice in the same distinctive style on the word “Special” and on the words “Side 1” [the latter on a line referring to the 1954 LP reissue, which also gives the track number]. I doubt that employee was at Victor for the 1917 release and later for the LP release.

“I have dealt with these cards most of my life, and I seriously doubt that a record sent to the lab on March 9th could have been listed in a March special announcement. The absence of the notation on the other card supports my belief that a March announcement was almost impossible given the time required to design and print labels, press records and prepare them for distribution.”

 

Ryan has done some excellent sleuthing for ads and other materials confirming that Victor 18255 was on sale in some locations by late April (although apparently not before that) — in other words, a few weeks earlier than the “official” May 17 release date, but far later than Blesh’s logistically impossible March 5 date. He’ll be posting those ads and revealing the results of his investigation (which has turned up many interesting details regarding the initial release that we’ve not presented here) on the Phonostalgia site — be sure to pay him a visit.

— Allan Sutton

Not a Million-Seller: Myth-Busting the First Jazz Record (Victor 18255 • February 26, 1917) – With Updates

In observance of the first jazz recordings’ hundredth birthday, we dismantle some of the most persistent tall-tales surrounding it.

From a modern standpoint, these performances bear about as much resemblance to jazz as Velveeta does to real cheese. But there’s no denying that such raw energy had never before been heard on a phonograph record (excepting the brief drum barrage at the end of Jim Europe’s 1914 “Castle House Rag”), and that the record had a profound influence on American popular music.

Updates: MTR announcement and additional information added 2/20; Aeolian-Vocalion and English Columbia MP3 files added 2/21; pressing figures and other Victor ledger and blue-card data added 2/22.

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MSP_victor_18255b

The first edition: An “A”- / “A”-stamper copy of Victor 18255. The styling of the band’s name evolved during their first Victor period, progressing from ‘Jass’ (in quotes) to Jass (sans quotes), then finally to Jazz.

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On February 26 a century ago, a white quintet from New Orleans made the first recordings of something that is recognizably jazz, albeit of a crude sort. Gunther Schuller perhaps best summed up the band’s performance style and its place in jazz history:

“[The Original Dixieland Jazz Band] took a new idea, an innovation, and reduced it to the kind of compressed, rigid format that could appeal to a mass audience. As such, it had a number of sure-fire ingredients, the foremost being a rhythmic momentum that had a physical, even visceral, appeal. Moreover, this drive was cast in the most unsubtle terms, as was the ODJB’s melodic and harmonic language, with none of the flexibility and occasional subtlety shown by the best Negro bands of the period. But in its substitution of sheer energy for expressive power, the ODJB had found the key to mass appeal.” (Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968)

As momentous as this first jazz session seems today, attitudes in 1917 were quite different. Critics dismissed the ODJB’s music as little more than a noisy fad that would soon pass. It’s quite likely that the Victor executives saw the band as just another novelty act to be briefly exploited before record buyers moved on to the next new thing — after all, they sat on the masters for five days before even assigning them numbers, an indicator that they were less than enthusiastic. The company didn’t even bother to call the ODJB back following the initial release, allowing them to stray to competitors Columbia and Aeolian-Vocalion. It would be a full year before the ODJB was finally given an exclusive Victor contract.

The result of that milestone February 26 session, issued in May 1917 on Victor 18255, has been the victim of rampant  myth-making for decades. Here are four of our favorite tall-tales, most of them perpetuated by Rudi Blesh — an early pop-culture writer who was never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story — along with what we now know to be true as the result of more rigorous research:

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MYTH: “Monday the 29th [of January], Victor’s leading competitor [Columbia] signed the ODJB to a term contract and hustled them into the studio to wax two numbers for a single… Scared out of their wits by what they heard, the executives paid off the band, shelved the masters, and unilaterally tore up the pact.” — Rudi Blesh

FACT: None of that ever happened, but this did: On January 29, 1917, E. A. Donovan (the head of Columbia’s Personal Recording Department) wrote a letter inviting the band to contact him about “a matter which may prove of mutual benefit and interest” — presumably, a solicitation to make Columbia Personal Records. (The Personal division was a custom service for folks who wanted to make their own records. Clients paid all recording and manufacturing costs, took delivery of the finished pressings, and handled their own marketing and sales. Personal records were not used for commercial releases or listed in the Columbia catalogs.)

No evidence has been found in the Columbia files that the ODJB  took Donovan up on his offer, or that they made any recordings for the company prior to their single May 1917 Columbia date. Think about it: Had Columbia executives indeed been “scared out of their wits” and “unilaterally” torn up the supposed contract, is it likely that they would have invited the ODJB back in May (at which time Victor 18255 was a brand-new and still-unproven release that was far from becoming a hit), or that the band would have accepted their invitation?

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MYTH: “[Studio carpenters] were hammering away while we tried to play.” — Eddie Edwards, as reported by H. O. Brunn

FACT: This almost certainly never happened, although there could be some basis for the myth. Victor’s 38th Street studio had opened just a few weeks earlier, so it’s conceivable that some construction work was still under way while the band was on the premises. However, construction work never would have been allowed to continue within earshot of an actual recording session; noise at that level would have registered, rendering the masters unusable. As we know from trade-paper reports of the period, sound-proofing of studios was a serious consideration, even with the relatively insensitive acoustic recording process. There are references throughout the early Victor files to masters that had to be scrapped because extraneous noises were captured (Camden factory whistles being a frequent culprit).

Incidentally — despite tales of the epic struggles they went through to capture the band on wax — neither Harry nor Charles Sooy (Victor’s recording engineers) recalled anything out of the ordinary about the session in their memoirs. Harry made a passing reference to the session, noting that “the Victor Company made records of the real ‘Jazz’ and ‘Blues” type of music for dancing” on that day; Charles didn’t even mention the session in his memoirs. For such well-seasoned engineers (who had recorded everything from the Liberty Bell to twenty-five piece military bands and small symphonic orchestras), recording the ODJB probably did not require “patiently making test after test,” as Blesh alleged.

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MYTH: “Victor rushed the coupling out… [It] released on March 5, 1917.” — Rudi Blesh

FACT: Wrong on both counts, as the original Victor documentation confirms. In fact, production appears to have proceeded at Victor’s usual pace, suggesting no rush whatsoever on the company’s part.

The smoking gun: Master numbers were not even assigned until March 1 or 2. Victor documentation confirm that these recordings were originally made as un-numbered trials. Had the master numbers been assigned at time of recording, as was normally done, they would have been in the 19310 range. But instead, they fall between a Van & Schenck master recorded on March 1 (19330), and a Lyric Quartet master recorded on March 2 (19333). In this case, the delay in assigning numbers suggests that Victor management had reservations about the material’s suitability for release. It certainly does not suggest any great enthusiasm or desire to “rush” the records out. But more importantly, production could not have gotten under way until the master numbers were assigned.

Other tip-offs: According to the blue card, the records were submitted for testing on March 9, which was not completed until the following day. Records were not approved for release until testing was completed. And it wasn’t until March 29 that a staffer in Victor’s editorial department wrote to trombonist Eddie Edwards to inform him that a special catalog supplement listing the record was being prepared, with a guess that it might be issued to dealers “inside of a couple of weeks.”

The fact that testing wasn’t even completed until March 10 rules out any possibility of a March 5 release. When, then, were the records actually released? There are clues a-plenty, but one should be ignored: a “March 1917 Special” notation on one of the two blue cards. Based on his examination of the card, Victor expert John Bolig believes that “March Special” was added many years later, next to the original May 1917 supplement notation.

Given what we know of Victor’s production processes at this time, six to eight weeks from recording date to sales outlets was average; anything significantly less would  have been considered a “rush.” The supplement containing #18255 was indeed issued to dealers in mid-to-late April, as Victor’s cataloger had estimated, along with a promotional poster. This notice appeared in The Music Trade Review for April 21, 1917:
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msp-mtr_4-21-17.
Promotional materials of this type generally were distributed several weeks in advance of a record’s official release date (note that MTR does not report that the records have yet been released, only that the tunes are popular). Advance copies of the record would have been given to sales reps and distributors at around this time. Researcher Ryan Barna has located several ads confirming that the records were being sold in some locations by late April (which he will ne posting along with other details on his Phonostalgia site), but apparently not earlier. That’s a few weeks earlier than the “official” May 17 release date, but far later than Blesh’s March 5 gaffe.

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MYTH: “[Victor 18255] was the first million-sale disc.” — Rudi Blesh among many others (never with any verifiable primary-source documentation cited)

FACT: No one knows for certain what the first million-seller was; reliable, primary-source documentation simply has not survived. Which is a side-issue in this case, since Victor 18255 is now known not to have been a million seller.

Thanks to the discovery of a microfilm copy of the blue card, as reported by both Ryan Barna and John Bolig, we have a much more accurate idea of possible sales. The blue card shows 250,983 copies pressed. The blue-card pressing figures are not necessarily authoritative, since it’s unclear who entered them, and when. But assuming that figure is reasonably accurate, actual U.S. sales would have been less than 250,983 copies, deducting for free copies, breakage, dealer returns, and any copies discarded when the record was deleted from the catalog in 1926. There was only one foreign release (or actually half-release, the Indian issue of “Livery Stable”), which presumably did not account for the additional 750,000 copies needed to hit the million mark.

Some band members reportedly also made the million-seller claim, but as far as is known, none backed it up by supplying Victor documentation (such as the royalty statements they would have been issued) that could support their claims. The same “million-seller” claim has been made for earlier records, including Alma Gluck’s 1914 “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” (also not supported by the Victor files) and Columbia’s 1913 “25¢ Special Advertising Record” (as reported by Columbia’s marketing department, which later upped the figure to 3 million; not inconceivable for one the most common 78s, by far, of the period).

There’s no doubt that Victor 18255 eventually became a big seller, based on the high stamper codes and the fact that copies are still plentiful a century later (although not nearly as common as several later ODJB discs). But the million-seller claim, let alone the first million-seller is simply not supported by the surviving primary-source documentation.

— Allan Sutton

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ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JASS BAND: Livery Stable Blues

New York (46 West 38th Street, 12th floor): February 26, 1917
Victor 18255 (mx. B 19331 – 1; number assigned March 1–2, 1917)
Release — Official: May 17, 1917; Actual: c. Late April 1917
Deleted: 1926

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ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JASS BAND: Dixieland Jass Band One-Step *
* Interpolating Joe Jordan’s “That Teasin’ Rag” (uncredited)

New York (46 West 38th Street, 12th floor): February 26, 1917
Victor 18255 (mx. B 19332 – 3; number assigned March 1–2, 1917)
Release — Official: May 17, 1917; Actual: c. Late April 1917
Deleted: 1926

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For comparison, here are the later, very rare Aeolian-Vocalion vertical-cut release of “Livery Stable,” unfortunately from a badly worn copy; and the same selection as recorded in London two years later — both virtually note-for-note repeats of the Victor release, confirming that rather than truly improvising, the band was content to repeat the same well-rehearsed ruffles-and-flourishes that passed for improvisation at the time. (The slight variations in the London recording can be attributed mostly to changes in band personnel. The slower tempo on the Vocalion was probably an attempt to fill out the side; vertical-cut AV’s used very fine grooving that provided up to 4½ minutes playing time on a 10″ disc). The same phenomenon can be heard when comparing the other same-title releases on Victor, Vocalion, and English Columbia.

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ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JAZZ BAND: Barnyard Blues
(a.k.a. Livery Stable Blues)

New York: c. August 1917
Aeolian-Vocalion 1205 (no visible mx. number)

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ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JASS BAND: Barnyard Blues
(a.k.a. Livery Stable Blues)

London: April 16, 1919
Columbia (English) 735 (mx. 76418 – 3)

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Nick LaRocca (cornet and nominal director); Eddie Edwards (trombone, replaced by Emile Christian on the London session); Larry Shields (clarinet); Henry Ragas (piano, replaced by J. Russel Robinson on the London session); Tony Sbarbaro (percussion).

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Free Download: John Bolig’s Victor Black Label Discography, Vol. 5 (1935 – 1942)

msp_bolig-j_vbld

John Bolig’s many fans will be happy to hear that his new Victor Black Label Discography, Volume 5 is now available as a free download, courtesy of UC-Santa Barbara’s online Discography of American Historical Recordings (< click this link to get to the download site).

Volume 5 — the first in this important series for which there will be no printed edition — covers the 25000, 26000, and 27000 series, from 1935 to 1942. Like all previous volumes, it was compiled from the original RCA documentation and contains no speculative or anecdotal material — just the (non-alternative) facts.

The download is in searchable PDF format (Adobe Acrobat or Reader) and can be printed out for personal use. For book enthusiasts, Mainspring Press still has  copies of Volumes 1–4 available (which are not available as free downloads), but quantities are very limited, so order soon to avoid missing out — they’re sure to become collectors’ items.

Update • The Zonophone Records Victor Herbert Didn’t Make (1900 – 1904)

A preliminary version of this article appeared on the Mainspring Press website in April 2011. The events surrounding this case should already be familiar to well-read collectors [1], but until now, Universal Talking Machine’s actions following the decision have not been explored in a systematic manner.

In the time since the original article was posted, we’ve been fortunate in acquiring the late Bill Bryant and associates’ unpublished discography of seven- and nine-inch Zonophone records, which sheds new light on how the company handled the situation after being ordered to withdraw its bogus (but highly popular) “Victor Herbert’s Band” records in early 1904.

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msp_zono-1565

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A group advertised as “Victor Herbert’s Band” was prominently featured in the early Zonophone catalogs. The name was in regular use by late 1900; Zonophone’s October 1900 sales bulletin (the earliest we’ve located so far) listed twenty-three selections credited to the band, three of which were accompaniments to singer Bert Morphy. [2]

What buyers of those records didn’t realize — and many collectors still don’t realize today — is that neither Victor Herbert nor his band had anything to do with them.

Based upon testimony later presented at trial, the records were actually made by the 22nd Regiment Band of the New York National Guard, and this apparently was where the Victor Herbert claim — tenuous though it was — originated. Herbert had conducted this band during the 1890s, which for a time was billed as “Victor Herbert’s 22nd Regiment Band.” [3] But he left that position in 1898, before Zonophone commenced recording operations, to serve as principal conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. By the time the first “Herbert’s Band” Zonophones were advertised in 1900, Victor Herbert had left Pittsburgh and was touring (but not recording) with a new orchestra that bore his name.
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msp_zono-10-1901_herbert1

A portion of the Herbert listing from the October 1900 catalog.

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By early 1904, Zonophone was offering more than 120 bogus “Victor Herbert’s Band” titles in both seven- and nine-inch versions, occupying three-and-a-quarter catalog pages [4], and Herbert finally took action. In January, he applied to Judge Leventritt, of the New York Supreme Court, for an injunction restraining the Universal Talking Machine Company from using his name “for the purposes of trade.”

Herbert’s suit was based on a recently enacted New York state law that prohibited the use of a person’s name for advertising purposes without prior written consent. In addition, Herbert’s attorney argued, the records were not up to his client’s standards and “tended to lower the estimation in which his music has been held by the public.” Peter B. Olney, Universal’s counsel, opposed the injunction on the grounds that Herbert had long known that his name was being used on Zonophone records, but had not asked the company to discontinue the practice [5]. His argument was rejected.

Action was delayed while Herbert tended to business in the West [6], but on March 3, 1904, Judge Leventritt ruled in Herbert’s favor and granted an injunction [7]. In his ruling, the judge affirmed his belief that Herbert “never gave the claimed permission” for Zonophone to use his name, and also expressed his opinion that the matter could be settled “without controversy” pending a full trial [8]. The injunction was allowed to stand, and it appears that the matter of damages was resolved out of court.

The injunction left a gaping hole in Zonophone’s catalog that the company scrambled to fill. Its initial response was a frenzy of remake activity during the spring of 1904, employing the house band under Fred Hager’s direction. Many of these remakes bear master numbers in the 2300–2700 range, indicating approximate recording dates of April–June 1904. [9]

Remaking the “Herbert” titles would be immensely time-consuming (and in the case of the slower-selling titles, probably unprofitable), so in the interim the company adopted a second, stopgap strategy. The “Herbert’s Band” recordings were not illegal, per se; only the use of Herbert’s name presented any legal problem. Thus, the company resorted to printing new labels, minus the Herbert credit, for use on the existing “Herbert” recordings while the remake work proceeded. The changeover is easy to pinpoint in the Zonophone sales lists. The “Herbert’s Band” records were still proudly advertised in the February 1904 catalog. But in the May 1904 catalog, the same recordings were listed with no band credit. A short time later, a new name appeared that would permanently replace Herbert’s — the Zon-O-Phone Concert Band. [10]

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msp_zono_feb-may-04

Herbert is still credited in the February 1904 catalog (left). The
May 1904 catalog (right) lists the same recordings, but with
no band credit.

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Relabeling did not entirely solve the problem, since the relabeled records still had their original spoken announcements crediting Victor Herbert. Bill Bryant and his associates identified many specimens bearing the new Zon-O-Phone Concert Band labels, but retaining the incriminating “Herbert” announcements. And so, at some point, the company began tooling the announcements off the stampers. Pressings from 9” Zonophone mx. 87, for example, are known with and without the announcement but otherwise are aurally identical. [11]

By the time that Zonophone 7” and 9” pressings were discontinued in 1905, the last of the relabeled “Herbert” recordings had either been dropped from the catalog or been remade by the Zonophone house band, and the scandal soon faded from memory. Victor Herbert and his actual orchestra would go on to make many popular recordings beginning with Edison in 1909, which went to great lengths to assure customers that they were getting the real thing.

— Allan Sutton

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[1] Passing references to the case appear in various early writings on phonograph history. A more detailed account was published in 2010, in the author’s A Phonograph Home (Mainspring Press); and in 2016, Steve Smolian made an excellent ARSC presentation on the subject.

[2] “October Bulletin. Zonophone Records” (October 1900 catalog), unnumbered pp. 2–3.

[3] Gould, Neil. Victor Herbert: A Theatrical Life, p. 119. Fordham University Press (2011).

[4] “The New Universal Zonophone Records” (February 1904 catalog), pp. 3–6. Copy for this catalog would have been prepared in late 1903 or very early 1904.

[5] “Victor Herbert Brings Suit.” Music Trade Review (January 30, 1904), p.40.

[6] “That Zonophone Litigation.” Music Trade Review (February 20, 1904), p. 27.

[7] “Herbert Gets Injunction.” Music Trade Review (March 9, 1904), p. 4.

[8] Victor Herbert v. Universal Talking Machine Company. New York Law Journal (March 3, 1904).

[9] Recording-date ranges has been estimated based upon known recording dates from test pressings of the period.

[10] “Zon-O-Phone Records for May.” Music Trade Review (April 23, 1904), p. 29. Copy for this list would have been prepared in late March or very early April, after the injunction was upheld. The “Zon-O-Phone Concert Band” was simply the house ensemble under Fred Hager’s direction. This was the same Fred Hager who in 1920 gave the go-ahead for Mamie Smith to make what is generally regarded as the first blues record.

[11] Zonophone C 5057 (mx. 87), 9” paper-label issue. In this and similar cases, visual inspection coupled with synchronized aural comparison confirmed that the recordings are identical, aside from deletion of the announcement, and ruled out any possibility that the altered masters are dubbings (Bill Bryant data, Mainspring Press archive). The practice was not unique to Zonophone; Columbia tooled announcements off the stampers it used on its client labels.

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Bill Bryant’s Zonophone data (accumulated over several decades, and including submissions from Tim Brooks, Paul Charosh, Dick Spottswood, Jim Walsh, the Record Research associates, and many other reputable collectors and discographers) occupies several-thousand index cards, a large carton of contributor correspondence, and several iterations of Bill’s exhaustively detailed ledger. That information (much of it previously unpublished) has finally been collated and entered into a database in preparation for submission to the online Discography of American Historical Recordings later this year. A print edition is not planned.

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The Playlist • What a Difference a Take Makes (Fats Waller & Thomas Morris / Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Band)

Victor retained many alternate backup takes in its early years, designating them “H” [hold], “H30” [hold 30 days] or “HC” [hold conditional] in the files. They’re generally of little interest for pop and classical recordings, but with jazz it’s another story. Here are two of our favorites for comparison, exhibiting striking differences in each performance, along with some subtle engineering variations. We’re extra lucky with the Johnson title, since Victor took the relatively uncommon step of designating two “holds.” Normally, one of the three would have been singled out for destruction [“D”].

The custom vinyl pressings of the unissued takes used here appear to have been made in the 1950s, probably in conjunction with RCA’s “X” reissue program. Apparently a fair number were pressed; they turn up with some frequency in private collections, including ours, and they occasionally still surface on high-end auction lists.

 

msp_morris-vic-21127

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THOMAS [FATS] WALLER WITH THOMAS MORRIS & HIS HOT BABIES: Red Hot Dan

Camden NJ (Church studio): December 1, 1927
Victor mx. BVE 40096 – 1 (“Hold” — Unissued on 78)
From a c. 1950s custom vinyl pressing of the original stamper

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THOMAS [FATS] WALLER WITH THOMAS MORRIS & HIS HOT BABIES: Red Hot Dan

Camden NJ (Church studio): December 1, 1927
Victor mx. BVE 40096 – 2 (“Master” — Issued on Victor 21127)

Other than Waller and Morris, no personnel are listed in the Victor files. Brian Rust’s guess that Victor studio manager Eddie King played drums is incorrect. King was no longer employed by Victor at the time of this session, having moved to Columbia as an assistant A&R manager in late October 1927.

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msp_johnson-c_paradise-orch

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CHARLIE JOHNSON & HIS PARADISE BAND: Walk That Thing

New York: September 19, 1928
Victor mx. BVE 47532 – 1 (“Hold” — Unissued on 78)

From a c. 1950s custom vinyl pressing of the original stamper

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CHARLIE JOHNSON & HIS PARADISE BAND: Walk That Thing

New York: September 19, 1928
Victor mx. BVE 47532 – 2 (“Master” — Issued on Victor 21712)

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CHARLIE JOHNSON & HIS PARADISE BAND: Walk That Thing

New York: September 19, 1928
Victor mx. BVE 47532 – 3 (“Hold” — Issued May 1939 on Bluebird B-10248)

Personnel listed in the Victor files appear to have been added at a later date by an unknown party, from an unknown source, probably in connection with the 1939 Bluebird release.

Discographical data from the Victor Talking Machine Company files, via John Bolig and the Discography of American Historical Recordings.

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Dick Spottswood’s Columbia “C” Series Discography (1908 – 1923) • Free Download Now Available

We’re happy to announce that the next installment in Dick Spottswood’s Columbia ethnic-series discography is now available for free download. This section covers the C-prefixed series, which was intended for the Spanish-speaking markets — a tantalizing mixture of performances by Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and other Latino artists (most of them recorded in their native countries by traveling Columbia engineers), operatic arias and light classics from domestic and imported masters, and various odd-and-ends “repurposed” from other catalogs.
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msp_columbia-cuba_1915-4

msp_columbia-mexico-1

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Click here
to download the discography in PDF format (approximately 5 megabytes). As with the previous installment, this material may be copied or distributed for personal use, provided that the source is cited. Sale or other commercial use is prohibited.

Dick’s latest update of his Columbia “E” series discography will be posted soon.

The Playlist • “Hot Nuts” and Others 1930s Bluebird Favorites / New Year, New Dog

MSP_BB-6278a_tinsley-WRK.

TINSLEY’S WASHBOARD BAND (as WASHBOARD RHYTHM KINGS)
(Vocal by TED TINSLEY): Hot Nuts

Camden, NJ (Church Studio 2): September 12, 1933
Bluebird B-6278 (mx. BS 77815 – 1)
Released: February 26, 1936

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TEMPO KING & HIS KINGS OF TEMPO with QUEENIE ADA RUBIN
AT THE PIANO (Vocal by Tempo King): Papa Tree Top Tall

New York (Studio 3): August 21, 1936
Bluebird B-6535 (mx. BS 0232 – 1)
Released: September 9, 1936

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GID TANNER & HIS SKILLET LICKERS (featuring TED HAWKINS, mandolin): Hawkins Rag

San Antonio (Texas Hotel): March 1, 1937
Bluebird B-5435 (mx, BVE 82677 – 1)
Released: April 18, 1934

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MODERN MOUNTAINEERS (Vocal by SMOKEY WOOD):
Drifting Along

San Antonio (Texas Hotel): March 1, 1937
Bluebird B-6976 (mx. BS 07435 – 1)
Released: May 26, 1937

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CLIFF CARLISLE: That Nasty Swing

Charlotte, NC (Southern Radio Building): June 16, 1936
Bluebird B-6631 (mx. BS 102651 – 1)
Released: November 4, 1936
Accompanying personnel are not listed in the files or credited on the labels; published personnel listings are speculative.

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TOMMY McCLENNAN: Bottle It Up and Go

Chicago (Studio A): November 22, 1939
Bluebird B-8373 (mx. BS 044241 – 1)
Released: March 1, 1940

Discographical data from the RCA Victor files (Sony Music archives, NYC) by way of John Bolig’s Bluebird Discography, available from Mainspring Press.

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New Year, New Dog!

nick1

On New Year’s Eve we welcomed Nick to his new home in the U.S. He’d been picked up as a stray overseas and was flown to Colorado by a local rescue group in December, after receiving a clean bill of health and his official doggie passport. He doesn’t understand any English yet — but he has a huge heart (and a huge head to go with it) and is already turning out to be the perfect gentleman and office companion.