The Playlist • Early Comediennes (Victor Recordings, 1907–1922)

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Clarice Vance, from the November 1907 Victor supplement (top, courtesy of John Bolig); Elsie Janis and Fanny Brice (lower left and right; G.G. Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

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Performances by several leading comediennes of the early twentieth century, ranging from the sublime to a howlingly bad (but historically instructive) example of what white-folk thought the “blues” were in 1917. Like many records of the period, some of these contain derogatory racial and ethnic stereotypes, which do not reflect our views.

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CLARICE VANCE: I’m Wise

Probably Philadelphia: August 7, 1907
Victor 5253 (mx. B 4768 – 1)

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BLANCHE RING: Yip! I Adee, I Aye!

Camden, NJ: March 29, 1909
Victor 5692 (mx. B 6914 – 3)

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BLANCHE RING: The Billiken Man

Camden, NJ: June 24, 1909
Victor 5731 (mx. B 8073 – 2)

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ELSIE JANIS: Fascinating Baseball Slide

Camden, NJ: October 22, 1912
Victor 60090 (mx. B 12527 – 1)

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ELIDA MORRIS (with BILLY MURRAY): You’ll Come Back

Camden, NJ: May 16, 1910
Victor 16653 (mx. B 8572 – 4)

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MARIE CAHILL (CARL GRAY, piano): The Dallas Blues
(Preceded by Mose’s Baptism)

New York: January 2, 1917
Victor 55081 (mx. C 18652 – 3)

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FANNY BRICE: The Sheik of Avenue B

Camden, NJ: July 14, 1922
Victor 45323 (mx. B 26800 – 2)
Studio orchestra conducted by Rosario Bourdon

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Discographic data from the Victor Talking Machine Company files, courtesy of John Bolig. Except for the last selection, conductors are not listed in the Victor files.

 

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.

 

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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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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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The Playlist • “Some Of These Days,” Four Ways (1910–1930)

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Four very different treatments of Shelton Brooks’ 1910 hit, beginning with a Victor release by studio singer Billy Murray in auto-pilot mode. Given what we know of Victor’s musical assembly-line of the period, Murray’s first encounter with the song quite likely came when a company representative handed him the score and gave him a few days to prepare for the recording.

The song might have died on the spot, given such treatment, but Sophie Tucker made it her own. She brought audiences to their feet (and folks of the sort who carped about “white coon shouters” to near-apoplexy), and it would serve as her signature tune for the rest of her career. Here are two of Tucker’s many recorded versions — the original, and a mid-1920s reworking with the Ted Lewis band that incidentally marks one of the earliest fruits of the Columbia-Okeh merger. Lewis was exclusive to Columbia, Tucker to Okeh; the fact that Columbia got the release was perhaps a not-so-subtle reminder of who was boss in the new relationship.

And finally, a full jazz treatment by The Missourians, the sensationally hot band that Cab Calloway had recently taken over. Within a few months he would begin adjusting personnel and reducing them to glorified accompanists, but here we have them in their final, untampered-with glory.

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BILLY MURRAY & AMERICAN QUARTET: Some of These Days

Camden NJ: December 27, 1910 (Released March 1911)
Victor 16834 (mx. B 9740 – 3)

Personnel not listed in the Victor files. The American Quartet at this time normally included Murray (lead tenor),  John Bieling (tenor), Steve Porter (baritone), and William F. Hooley (bass).

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SOPHIE TUCKER: Some of These Days

New York: February or March 1911 (Released May 25, 1911)
Edison Amberol 691 (four-minute cylinder)

The Edison studio cash books list Tucker four-minute sessions on February 17 and 24, and March 2, but do not indicate the titles recorded at each.

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TED LEWIS & HIS BAND with SOPHIE TUCKER: Some of These Days

Chicago: November 23, 1926
Columbia 826-D (mx. W 142955 – 2)

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CAB CALLOWAY & HIS ORCHESTRA (Cab Calloway, vocal):
Some of These Days

New York: December 23, 1930
Brunswick 6020 (mx. E 35880 – A)

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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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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.

Mainspring Press 2.0

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Mainspring Press will be undergoing some big changes during 2017, as we make the transition from traditional printed discographies to digital distribution.

The most exciting news is that we will be shifting our discographical efforts to the online Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR), an initiative of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Packard Humanities Institute. You may already know DAHR from its outstanding work in digitizing Victor and other major-label data, but that’s just the beginning. We’ll be working with them on the minor-label material, including a large amount of previously unpublished data from our Bill Bryant / Record Research Associates holdings and other archives. More details to come as work gets under way.

Contrary to rumor, Mainspring Press is not going out of business, although it is being reorganized as we wind down the printed-discography portion of it. Although we won’t be printing any new discographies, we will continue to provide and license discographical data in other formats. We also hope to resume publishing new text and graphic works later this year, including the monumental Encyclopedia of American Record Companies and Producers, 1888–1950, which is fast  approaching the 850-page mark (and counting).

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

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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!

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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.

The Playlist • Highlights from La Scala’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” (1915)

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The Gramophone Company began producing “complete” operatic recordings in Italy in 1906. The earliest attempts were rag-tag productions, sometimes with different singers substituted if those originally scheduled couldn’t make a session; and in at least one case, a domestic Red Seal recording had to be substituted for a missing side in the U.S. There were no Carusos or Farrars or other Red Seal–class celebrities to be heard — even had their Victor contracts allowed them to record for The Gramophone Company, their astronomical royalty rates would have driven the price of these sets beyond the means of most customers — but the recordings caused a sensation nonetheless. There are reports of record stores staging “Victrola Opera Nights” using these records, with costumed locals lip-synching their parts. You can find much more about them in A Phonograph in Every Home, available from Mainspring Press.

Here are some highlights from a later, better-organized attempt, recorded in Milan in 1915 but not released in the U.S. until March 1919, on the lowly black-label series. These sets pre-date the “album” concept — i.e., the records were sold individually, and the big arias handily outsold the less-juicy portions — so assembling complete sets can be a daunting task. Our Cavalleria Rusticana set is growing steadily, but still has a ways to go.

 

CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA (Mascagni)

FRANCO TUMINELLO, GEORGINA ERMOLLI, LENA REVELLI and E. PERNA, with LA SCALA CHORUS & ORCHESTRA (CARLO SABAJNO, conductor)

Recorded in Milan by The Gramophone Company (F. W. Gaisberg, engineer)

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PARTS 1–4 (Victor 35680 / 35681)

Cavalleria Rusticana: Preludio e Siciliana (mx. 3022c; April 8, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Preludio – Part 2  (mx. 3021c; April 8, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Gli aranci (mx. 3017c; April 5, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Tempo e si mormori (mx. 3018c; April 6, 1915)

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PARTS 17–18 (Victor 35688)

Cavalleria Rusticana: A casa, a casa (mx. 3020c; April 7, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Brindisi (mx. 3019c; April 7, 1915)

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Discographic data from the Gramophone Company files, courtesy of the late Dr. Alan Kelly.

 

Be Sure to Get Your Free Downloads: Brian Rust’s “Jazz Records” and Dick Spottswood “Columbia E Series”

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Just a reminder — especially to the many new followers who’ve signed up in the past couple of months — to check out our free downloads of Brian Rust’s Jazz Records, 6th Edition (Personal-Use Version, 1917-1934), and Dick Spottswood’s Columbia “E” Series Discography.

The Personal-Use Edition of Jazz Records contains the complete entries for 1917–1934 from Brian’s 6th (and final) edition of Jazz & Ragtime Records, 1897–1942. It’s a completely free, no-strings-attached public-domain edition, in Abode Acrobat PDF format. (The full edition is out-of-print in book form, but it’s still available for purchase from Mainspring Press as a searchable CD-ROM.)

Dick’s Columbia E Series Discography will be updated early next year, and we hope to have his Columbia “C” series discog soon; in the meantime, be sure to enjoy the current version. It’s a must-have for collectors and fans of ethnic recordings (with some surprises sprinkled in).

For free downloads and information on permitted use of these files, click the Free Online Discographies link on the box at the left.

 

The Playlist: Roots of Western Swing (1936 – 1938)

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THE RANGE RIDERS: The Range Riders’ Stomp

Hot Springs, Arkansas: March 1, 1937
Vocalion 03579 (mx. HS 1 – 1)

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MODERN MOUNTAINEERS (SMOKY WOOD, vocal): Dirty Dog Blues

San Antonio, Texas (Texas Hotel): March 1, 1937
Bluebird B-6976 (mx. BS 07436 – 1)

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CLAUDE CASEY & HIS PINE STATE PLAYBOYS: Pine State
Honky Tonk

Rock Hill, South Carolina (Andrew Jackson Hotel): September 27, 1938
Montgomery Ward M-7707 (mx. BS 027737 – 1)

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BOB WILLS & HIS TEXAS PLAYBOYS: Playboy Stomp

Dallas, Texas: June 7, 1937
Vocalion 03854 (mx. DAL 215 – 1)

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WASHBOARD WONDERS (Harry Blair, vocal): And Still
No Luck with You

Charlotte, NC (Southern Radio Building): June 22, 1936
Bluebird B-6463  (mx. BS 102803 – 1)

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W. LEE O’DANIEL & HIS HILLBILLY BOYS: (Kitty Williamson as “Texas Rose,” vocal): I’ve Got the Blues

Dallas: May 15, 1938
Vocalion 04353 (mx. DAL 559 – 1)

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Quote of the Week:

“[We have] been betrayed by the so-called ‘mainstream media,’ who fawned for months over the clearly unqualified candidate, giving him billions of dollars of free media, betrayed by cynical executives more interested in a buck than the facts of the matter…and by politicians who spoke to their base and did not venture from safe venues, that is to say, they stayed far away from the genuine hurt and the mistrust and the economic dead ends that afflict so many of us.

We must try to remember that this level of vulgarity, of blatant lying, of demonizing whole groups of people, nearly always backfires, that real change will come when middle class whites, Hispanics and blacks realize they share more in common with each other than those in whose interest it is that they stay divided…

What to do, you ask? A million things, of course. But it begins only with the first step of awareness and commitment… Just go forward. Engage. Don’t despair. Find like-minded people — not from your social circle, but everywhere. Change the opinions of others, not with ridicule, but reason. Finally, remember too that Barack Obama himself has said that the highest office in the land is not president, but citizen.

Be one.”

Ken Burns (Washington Post)
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The Playlist • Adamo Didur (Fonotipia Recordings, 1907–1908)

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Didur in New York, 1915 (Bain News Service Collection,
Library of Congress).

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ADAMO DIDUR: Roberto il Diavolo — Suore che riposate

Milan: October 10, 1907
Fonotipia  92002  (mx. Xph 2670)

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ADAMO DIDUR: Gli Ugonotti — Signor, difesa e scudo

Milan: October 11, 1907
Fonotipia 92003  (mx. Xph 2671)

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ADAMO DIDUR: Mefistofele — Son il spirito che nega

Milan: April 23, 1908
Fonotipia 92226  (mx. Xph 3176)

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Quote of the Week:

The metaphor of the moment is that Donald Trump is the dog that caught up with the car… A more apt reference, especially after Trump’s inauguration, might be the Pottery Barn Rule: “You break it, you own it.”

Trump and the congressional Republicans who have chosen to make their bed with him are responsible for what happens from now on. There is now no one to blame if they can’t pass budgets, avoid shutdowns, deal with sequestration, replace Obamacare, destroy ISIS, or reverse the continuing loss of manufacturing jobs. If climate change gets worse, it’s on them. If Syria continues its downward spiral, it’s on them. If more countries acquire nuclear weapons, it’s on them.

James Hohmann (Washington Post)

 

The Playlist • Blue Kazoos (1924 – 1928)

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MOUND CITY BLUE BLOWERS: Blue Blues

Chicago: February 23, 1924
Brunswick 2581 (mx. Ch 78)

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CHARLIE (DAD) NELSON: Cleveland Stomp

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. April 1927
Paramount 12492 (mx. 4350 – )
From a tape dubbing supplied by the late Mike Stewart

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BLIND BLAKE & HIS KAZOO BAND [sic]: Buck-Town Blues

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. April 1927
Paramount 12464 (mx. 4359 – 1)

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JOHNNIE HEAD: Fare Thee Blues — Parts 1 & 2

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. January 1928
Paramount 12628 (mxs. 20274 – 2 / 20275 — 2)

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PINK ANDERSON & SIMMIE DOOLEY: Gonna Tip Out Tonight

Atlanta: April 14, 1928
Columbia 14336-D (mx. W 146067 – 1)

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Quote of the Week:

“Let them eat cake.

Specifically, let them eat Jean-Georges Warm Chocolate Cake. But let them start with Young Garlic Soup with Thyme and Sauteed Frog Legs. Let them follow that with Diver Scallops, Caramelized Cauliflower and Caper-Raisin Emulsion. And let them proceed to Niman Ranch Lamb Chops with Mushroom Bolognese and Pecorino… That’s what President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney ate when the billionaire met with Mr. Forty-Seven Percent to discuss a job in the incoming administration.

Remember Trump’s talk about taking on the elites and the well-connected? Well, you can stick a sterling-silver fork in it.

If you feared that Trump would destabilize markets and impose reckless protectionism, his early appointments are reassuring. If you wanted him to shake up the system and depose the coastal elites — well, early signs are you’ve been had.”

Dana Milbank (Washington Post)

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The Playlist • Christmas with Rev. Nix (1927 – 1930)

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REV. A. W. NIX & CONGREGATION: Death May Be Your
Christmas Present

Chicago: October 12, 1927
Vocalion 1143 (mx. C 1298)

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REV. A. W. NIX & CONGREGATION: How Will You Spend Christmas?

Chicago: October 1930
Vocalion 1553 (mx. C 6468 – )
From a tape dubbing supplied by the late Mike Stewart.

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REV. A. W. NIX & CONGREGATION: That Little Thing May Kill You Yet — Christmas Message

Chicago: August 24, 1929
Vocalion 1431 (mx. C 4161 – )

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Quote of the Week

“Far from being a global branding goliath, Trump Inc. is a small, middle-aged, and largely domestic property business. Were it [publicly] listed, it would be the 833rd largest firm in America by market value, and 1,925th by sales… Trump is a director of almost 500 legal entities, but the vast majority appear to be empty shells that make no money.”

— “Deconstructing Donald Trump” (The Economist, 11/26/2016)

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Wrapping Up (with Thanks to Garrison Keillor)

“The Trumpers never expected their guy to actually win the thing, and that’s their problem now. They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls. It was pleasure enough for them just to know that they were driving us wild with dismay — by “us,” I mean librarians, children’s authors, yoga practitioners, Unitarians, bird-watchers, people who make their own pasta, opera goers, the grammar police, people who keep books on their shelves, that bunch…

“Alas for the Trump voters, the disasters he will bring on this country will fall more heavily on them than anyone else. The uneducated white males who elected him are the vulnerable ones, and they will not like what happens next…

“We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long, brisk walk and smell the roses.”

Garrison Keillor (Washington Post, 11/9/2016)

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And so we shall — Adiós, for now.

 

The Playlist • William Howard Taft on Equal Rights (1908)

A sobering look at how far the Republican Party has fallen in recent years — Here’s their 1908 presidential candidate:

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WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT: Rights and Progress of the Negro

The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia: August 3, 1908
Edison 10007 (2-minute cylinder)

 

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Edison Phonograph Monthly, September 1908