78 Online Discographical Projects • An Introduction to the Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR)

By now, many of you are familiar with the free online Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR) at the University of California-Santa Barbara, the largest and most exciting online discographical project to date. For newcomers, here’s a quick overview:

DAHR is an entirely free service, with no registration or log-in required. The database currently includes the following content, comprising more than 150,000 entries:

  • Victor Talking Machine Company recordings made in the United States through 1942, in Central and South America up to 1935, releases derived from masters recorded in Europe by the Gramophone Company, and trial recordings of new artists and sessions from which no discs were issued
  • Columbia Records 10″ domestic masters recorded between 1901 and 1934
  • Columbia Records 12″ domestic masters recorded between 1906 and 1931
  • Berliner Gramophone Co. domestic recordings from 1892 to 1900
  • OKeh masters recorded between 1918 and 1926
  • US Zonophone 10″ and 12″ masters recorded between 1904 and 1912 (In progress: 7″, 9″, and 11″ masters recorded between 1899 and 1905)

In the offing are Brunswick-Vocalion and (on Mainspring’s part) the complete American Record Corporation output, among many other projects. Data are obtained from original company documentation, material licensed from Greenwood Press and Mainspring Press (including our extensive William R. Bryant / Record Research Associates archive), and other trusted sources, and they undergo careful proofing and fact-checking by DAHR’s expert staff.

You can search by artist, title, catalog or matrix number, date, etc. Below are two results screens for a search on the U.S. Marine Band’s “Maple Leaf” rag, the first showing the details of the issued discs, and the second, all matrix details:
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With DAHR, you can also instantly generate full listings by artist, composer, etc.:
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Another nice touch — The listings contain links to the Library of Congress’ “National Jukebox” sound and label-scan files, when available. The library has already digitized more than 10,000 early Victor records, which can be heard in streaming format.

Clearly, this is the future of discography, and Mainspring is pleased to be a contributor. We hope you’ll visit the site often!

 

 

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.

Now In Stock: “Race Records and the American Recording Industry, 1919–1945: An Illustrated History”

IN STOCK — ORDER DIRECTLY FROM MAINSPRING PRESS

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RACE RECORDS AND THE AMERICAN RECORDING INDUSTRY, 1919–1945: An Illustrated History
By Allan Sutton

388 Pages / 208 Illustrations
6″ x 9″ Quality Paperback

$39 US (Free Shipping)
$59 All Foreign (w/ Insured Airmail)

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From the Preface:

Race Records and the American Recording Industry is the story of those remarkable companies and individuals who gambled on a new and often unpredictable market in the face of racial prejudice and entrenched business practices, and in doing so made the American recording industry more inclusive, and far more interesting, than it once had been.

This work takes a broad view of what were once termed “race records” — recordings intended primarily for the African-American market, which often were segregated in specially numbered series and not listed in the record companies’ main catalogs. Many modern writers associate race records solely with blues and gospel, the equivalent of assuming that rural whites bought only records of mountaineer tunes, or that Italian immigrants bought only opera. While blues and gospel made up a large portion of race-record offerings, they were only part of a broad spectrum that also included religious material of all sorts, jazz and dance music, mainstream pop, comedy and novelty selections, concert and classical material, and even the occasional country-music offering, all of which are explored in this work

Because the music itself has been amply covered elsewhere, this work instead focuses on the making, marketing, and distribution of race records prior to the late 1940s, exploring the ways in which those activities affected, and were affected by, conditions within the nation and within the recording industry as a whole. That is why (to respond in advance to inevitable criticism by Robert Johnson’s legions of fans) an entire chapter is devoted to Mamie Smith, whereas Johnson is covered in several pages. Were this a musical rather than a business and social history, the ratio, of course, would be reversed.

But Mamie Smith’s early records, whatever their musical shortcomings, had a profound impact on the recording industry, revealing a huge untapped market, opening the way for many other black artists to make records, and encouraging aspiring black entrepreneurs to get involved with record production, which until then had been completely controlled by whites. On the other hand, although Robert Johnson is now revered by mass-media rock stars and the pop-culture establishment (as much for the hoary legends surrounding him as for his music), in the 1930s he was just another talented but obscure local artist whose records went largely unnoticed outside of his home region, and who had no significant impact on the recording industry or American musical culture at the time his records were issued. Johnson receives as much coverage as he does mainly  because his story provides an excellent example of how the record companies handled, or mishandled, their race artists.

The book also debunks many common myths and misconceptions that stubbornly refuse to die, having been perpetuated for decades by writers who are content to parrot anecdotal material from questionable secondary sources. Some long-standing discographical errors have been corrected as well, based upon examination of primary-source materials that have been missed by earlier researchers…

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