The record-data cards we recently acquired are yielding some outstanding discoveries. These cards were maintained as a collaborative project from 1952 into the 1980s by a group of well-known collectors, dealers, and researchers. They were based entirely on first-hand observation of the original discs and were scrupulously updated and cross-checked — No speculative, anecdotal, or secondary-source material was allowed.
One of the most significant finds so far is the true identity of “Georgia Gorham” on Black Swan 2017, which eluded even the expert compilers of both Blues and Gospel Records, 1890-1943 and Black Swan, The Record Label of the Harlem Renaissance.
The recordings have now been traced to Jones Recording Laboratories S-prefixed masters by white comedienne Aileen Stanley, which were issued on Mandel 4005 (and no doubt on other related labels that should turn up as we progress through the 70,000+ cards). We have also just received preliminary confirmation from one reliable collector that it is indeed Stanley on both sides of the disc, based on the aural evidence.
This discovery is especially significant because it is the earliest confirmed issue by a pseudonymous white performer on Black Swan. This was a common practice later, of course, and is often blamed on John Fletcher, Harry Pace’s white business partner. BS 2017, however, was issued during the summer of 1921, approximately ten months before Pace partnered with Fletcher. Thus, it’s now the first known instance of Pace breaking his pledge to use only black performers on his label. The record is conspicuously absent from Black Swan’s summer 1921 Talking Machine World ads, for reasons unknown.
UPDATE (JUNE 28): Russ Shor, co-author of Black Swan, The Record Label of the Harlem Renaissance (one of the truly great discographies), has alerted us that there was a black stage performer named Georgia Gorham during this period. That suggests a possible explanation for Pace’s anomalous use of Jones masters — Perhaps Gorham was originally scheduled to record these titles, labels were printed, and then something went awry, forcing Pace to substitute whatever he could get at the last minute? That’s speculation on our part, but many thanks to Russ for confirming that there was indeed a real Georgia Gorham, even if she’s not the singer heard on Black Swan 2017.
The “Georgia Gorham” Black Swan, and more than 13,600 other pseudonymous 78s and cylinders, is identified in the revised and greatly expanded edition of Pseudonyms on American Records, 1892-1942 (with more than 60 pages of new material), coming from Mainspring Press later this year.