Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Continuation of the Turn-of-the-Century Party Project
I have a 1920s vintage Silvertone portable phonograph, one that sounds really really good (I think). I got it for $20 at an anteeky store in SE Washington because there was some burn marks on the corner, but the darn thing played kinda good... so, I rebuilt the reproducer. That's when I found out it was kind of an orthophonic reproducer! (Google 'Orthophonic' and you'll see why those reproducers were VASTLY superior to the technology of 10 years beforehand).
Here's the unit, as you can see, in darn nice shape inside. The felt is original as far as I can tell... full size pic is here
Here's the unit in action... (full size pic here)...
And... here is a Demonstration of what it sounds like... with narration by Yours Truly! The audio is a little tinny, probably because I had the stereo speakers still on while running the mic through the board (which you can see in the corner kind of). I was mucking with getting board audio back into the production computer for a future project, so I figured why not try it with a little demo...
I was upset because I had lost the crank to the Silvertone, but a plea for help on 78-L and Ron L'Herault to the rescue! So, now I can take the portable to the party, along with some playable discs.
The record I used for the demo is this one, In The Land of Beginning Again, performed by the Columbia Band, under the direction of none other than Charles A. Prince! Obviously, a 12" Columbia, the songs contained within are: Some Lonely Night (Meyer), and Take Me Back To That Rose Covered Shack (Jentes-Ager). This was recorded under the supervision of G. Hepburn Wilson, as is the other side of the disc, entitled The Madelon. Madelon contains the following songs: Comprenez-vous Papa (Lawrence), and Cotton Hollow Harmony (Whiting). Incidental vocals are by the Peerless Quartette. These sides were recorded in October and November of 1918, respectively
We move smartly along to a waltz, done by the Blue Ribbon Trio (Wiedoeft, Briers, and Green), Sweet Anabel, written by Alice Nadine Morrison. Typical trio instrumentation, including the marimbist on way too much caffeine. But still a nice waltz number, nonetheless. This one was recorded acoustically for OKeh during July in 1923. I'll ahve the other side ready for the next posting.
Next up, a bit of an oddity. This version of Hi-Le-Hi-Lo was recorded in 1905, and is a German yodel feature. The singer, George P. Watson does it quite nicely with the orchestral backing. This is from a single-sided Victor Grand Prize label 10-inch. I say this version, because Billy Murray does a rather racist version, changing the title to "Hi-Lee-Hi-Lo" and parodying the Chinese in a rather stereotypical slam. I don't have a good version of it handy, else I would have included it here. If I find it, I'll slip it in, though.
Continuing on in the vein of stereotypical views of the non-white races, here are a couple more examples of what passed for the white vision of the black man and black society. The Hayden Quartet sings there version of I'se Gwine Back to Dixie. This is on another single-sided Victor Grand Prize label, although I can only guess at the recording date, somewhere between 1905 and 1908. The other disc is Arthur Collins and his routine of I'm Getting Sleepy. This is labelled as a "comedy routine", and is basically your basic 'darky sketch'. only it doesn't say so on the label. Again, a guess at the recording date would put it about the latter part of 1905. It's a shame how the more times change, the more things stay the same, and only the greasepaint is changed to 'protect' the ignorant.
I guess that somewhere in Victor Land, they felt that songs about being closer to one's god would even it out, I don't know... but there were some very sentimental and sacred-sounding choir pieces recorded during the same period of time. Here's one of them, Lead Kindly Light (Dykes), performed by the Trinity Choir, again on single-sided Victor, with a recording date of between 1906 and 1908. A later example of the Stirring Spiritual Solo, this time from 1907 (yet released later on the Victor 'patents' label on a double-sided disc) is this one by Frederic C. Freemantel, Lord, I'm Coming Home (Ackley). The other side has Frank Stanley singing the inspirational number One Sweet Solemn Thought (Ambrose). Frank Stanley was a member of several of the Victor vocal groups, along with Arthur Collins, Frank Pryor, Byron Harlan, and Billy Murray. These voices also appeared as the Peerless Quartet (not all at the same time) and in the Victor Minstrel Company.
How to get a grasp on the juxtaposition of the titles recorded in the early 1900s? Best way to do it would be this: very few white people had seen anyone other than white people, so this was a way of visualizing what other races were like. Of course, the stereotypes weren't very pretty or complimetary, but there were still a lot of people with the Caucasian 'Manifest Destiny' idea in their heads, so I guess they rationalized their prejudices that way... I wasn't there, so I couldn't tell you... I'm only bringing you a little history.
I have a few more sides to do up, and hopefully there'll be more fox-trots and one-steps in that pile.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Minstrel & "Darky" records
Posting what we now think of as racist material? I would vote yes, actually.
I think that it's very important, especially for listeners of the types of music you so graciously present, to [have] a genuine understanding of the cultural differences between Then and Now. Nothing can present this better than the most popular of media from that earlier period, the 78 RPM record.
There are several other sites that already make this type of material available - the Archive.org 78rpm collection is quite full.
The first time you hear this 'Minstrel Show' material your jaw drops. Listen to more and you find that there are brutal racial stereotypes being presented of not only Blacks, but of Italians, Jews, Poles, the Dutch and Germans, and so on. This was an accepted fact of life in those times. Blackface is anathema now but a given in vaudeville then.
You don't see 'Amos and Andy' on television any more for good reasons. And unless you search them out, you also won't be seeing cartoons with these racial stereotypes, nor will you, wthout a bit of looking, se Irving Belin's 'This Is The Army' (from WW2), which features several blackface numbers. And so it should be, as we have grown, somewhat, out of these cruel stereotypes that genuinely offend and hurt so many people who frankly deserve much better from this country and this culture.
By posting this material -with the proper caveats- [emphasis added] you do the world a favor. I think it's very important to show how ingrained such thoughless cruelty was at one time, and how we have grown - albeit slowly, and with resistance from many - out of this. It's especially important for mainstream whites to hear this, as many of them are blissfully unaware of how common this was only a few decades ago.
But most people don't know anything about history anyway. Maybe this could shake up their brains and make them think about it a little.
Wow. I could not have said it any better myself.
Now, on to the discs. These came out in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and, as stated by zenman, contain RAMPANT racial slurs and stereotyping.
The Victor Minstrel Company always had the one line in their recordings, at least the ones that I have heard... "Gentlemen, be seated!" at which point the 'show' would begin. The first one, Mississippi Minstrels, according to the label, contains the following songs: "I Guess I'll Have to Telegraph My Baby", I Want to go Back to the Land of Cotton", and Remus Takes the Cake". You may hear some of the then-current Victor recording artists in here, I think Campbell & Burr, Billy Murray, and members (if not the entireity) of the Peerelss Quartet had done some of the minstrel recordings. You have the songs, interspersed with anecdotal humourous segues, and the the players march off the stage.
Minstrel records like this were actually one of the ways that a lot of sheet music was sold during the period... people heard the snippet of the tune, then went to go get the sheet music so they could play it on the i=piano in their parlors.
Speaking of the Peerless Quartet, they are on the other side of this record, with a "Descriptive Negro Medley", Down on the Levee. Songs included are "Sunshine", No Use Awaitin' Till To-morrow", "Oh, Ma Yaller Gal", "On the Mississippi", "Hallelujah", "Checkerboard Suit", and "Take Your Feet Out of the Sand".
Again, I MUST CAVEAT... these guys dropped the Ni**er-bomb more times than I would care to count. These are presented for HISTORICAL REFERENCE as well as a view of the times, which is vastly different than what we have now. And for that, I thank the Gods.
Next up is Golden & Hughes' "Darky" Specialty number, Unlucky Mose. The duo tell the story about a man who thinks himself the luckiest man in the world because he has a hat on his head, shoes on his feet, bacon in his pan, etc. and then is told by a compatriot otherwise. Something like that. Again, heavily stereotyped, just like the blackface artists did on the vaudeville stage (and on shows like Amos and Andy, etc.). This is a sketch number as opposed to purely musical.
The other side of the Victor disc gives up another VIctor Minstrel Company number, New Orleans Minstrels. Are we noticing a bit of a regional theme here? Remember, these were concocted and recorded by men in New York City that had probably never been to the Deep South, and this is how they characterized that region to the rest of the country, and the world. Anyway, the songs here include "At A Georgia Campmeeting", "All I Wants is My Black Baby Back", and "On Emancipation Day".
If you're offended by these, I apologize. But, they're a piece of American history, whether we like it or not. History cannot, and SHOULD not, be revised just because it makes some people uncomfortable.
I have more of these, along with some other period pieces, which I may bring out on a later posting. Some of them are quite musical, actually...
Ah well, enough history for a while.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
More from the Acoustic Project
I was in the middle of doing this post, and something went and started to attack BlackIce through Internet Exploder... but I don't run BlackIce. So...........
Where were we.... I was gonna share some more of these 12 inch discs from the period of 1910-1918 or so, as I'm doing up a project for a friend's wedding anniversary. They love to do theme parties, and this time around the theme is ca. 1901, the closing years of the Victorian Era. I told them that the music would be from a few years later, and they said that they didn't mind, so here I am, digging through the shelves, looking for something closely approaching period stuff, without having to resort to the Dreaded Whitburn book. Those of you who are into historical recorded music know about that book. I'll save my opinions on it for another time...
We'll start with Vess Ossman... One of the premier banjo artists of the period. He did some solo recordings, but he also had his own orchestra, aptly named Vess Ossman's Banjo Orchestra. We have 2 selections from Vess, My Hawaiian Sunshine, a Fox-trot written by the songwriting team of Gilbert and Morgan, and You'll Always Be the Same Sweet Baby written by a Mr. Brown. These are labelled as "Dance Music" on the Columbia 12 inch record. It had once been said that a gentleman knows how to play the banjo, and when NOT to play it... but these were different times, and good banjo playing was valued... especially when it was something that COULD be recorded with the equipment of the day, that being November of 1916.
Next up, we have a side by Yerkes' Jazzarimba Orchestra, Mammy O'Mine. Again, a Columbia 12 inch record, a Medley Fox-trot, featuring "In Soudan" by Pinkard and Osborne, and "Don't Cry, Little Girl, Don't Cry" by Maceo Pinkard. Incidental vocals are done by the Premier American Quartette. Recording date on this one was March of 1919. I tried to get the other side of this one to record, but there is an unrecoverable needle gouge on that one, unfortunately.
Continuing on, since we're kind of in the Parlour Music mode here, we have a pair by Earl Fuller's Rector Novelty Orchestra, recorded in May of 1917. First up is an adaptation of Dvorak's Castle Valse Classique, adapted by Dabney. The reverse side is a catchy little number entitled One Fleeting Hour, which introduces the song "My Dreams" in there somewhere, written by a Mr. Lee. One thing to note about the Rector Novelty Orchestra is the marimba player... he is all over the place, but in a tasteful manner... sometimes it distracts from the melodious musicality, but sometimes it can also hide a multitude of musical sins, too. Your call....
Now we move on to those venerable and prolific recording artists, Prince's Band. Not only did they do marches, they did fox trots, one-steps, and waltzes as well. We'll start out though with a pair of patriotic marches, the National Emblem March by Bagley, and J P Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever March, both recorded in August of 1916. Stirring renditions, both.
We move now to a Turkey Trot Dance Medley, in two parts, recorded by Prince's Band, Part One consisting of "Bobbin' Up and Down" and "Texico", written by Theodore Morse, and Part Two, consisting of "Hitchy Koo", "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee", and "Ragtime Cowboy Joe", written by the trio of Gilbert, Muir, and Abrahams. These were recorded in January of 1913, again, for Columbia.
Moving on to the third disc in this session by Prince's Band, this time under the direction of G. Hepburn Wilson, we have a medley of tunes by Remick, entitled the Remick Melody. The tunes here include "She's Good Enough to be Your Baby's Mother", "Save Your Kisses 'Till The Boys Come Home", and "Loading Up the Mandy Lee". The other side of the record gives us what is called a one-step (and labelled as "Dance Music"), but is actually an adaptation by Zimmerman of the Anchors Aweigh March. Considering that this was recorded in January of 1916, it may have been a bit confusing...
I leave you now with a quandry... In this batch of discs, I have encoded up a couple of Minstrel records, as well as what are referred to on the label as a "Darky Specialty" and a "Descriptive Negro Medley". I put it to you, dear readers, should I post these? Or should I let them remain unposted, because these records today would DEFINATELY be considered HIGHLY racist in nature. racist enough to be offensive. I don't have dates for these, but I suspect that they would have been recorded sometime in the early 1920s, but I am still looking for discography info on them.
Tell you what... I'll hang on to them, and if there is enough of a request for them, I'll post them, but BE WARNED, they may probably offend, even when taken into historical context.
Instead of those tracks, I'll leave you with a nice scan of the back of a Victor sleeve of the period...
...the full size scan can be seen here.
Please leave feedback if you do or do not want me to post up the minstrel and/or 'darky' material, I'll abide by your wishes on those.
Coming up, more acoustic stuff, and a few odds & ends from later on in the 78 era.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Harry Lauder revisited
Here's the list of what's on there, from the early purple label recordings to the later electricals:
Queen Among the Heather
It's Nice to Get Up in the Mornin' But it's Nicer to Lie in Bed
From the North South East and West
I Think I'll Get Wed in the Summer
There Is Somebody Waiting For Me
The Bounding Bounder
I've Something in the Bottle
Same as His Father Was Before Him
Roamin' in the Gloamin'
Wee Hoose 'Mang the Heather
Bella the Belle o' Dunoon
The Sunshine of a Bonnie Lassie's Smile
It's A Fine Thing to Sing
Roamin' In The Gloamin' (Electrical)
I Love A Lassie (Electrical)
Loch Lomond (Electrical)
Scotch Memories (Electrical)
These are sorted (no track numbers) by catalog number on the disc, so you can kind of follow the historical flow of the works. All are from 12" VIctor 78s except for "Queen Among the Heather" which is from a 10" disc. I know I have more 10" Harry Lauder discs, so I'll add them in when I find them...
So, while I labor away at this project, enjoy this compilation of Sir Harry Lauder.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
New Pix of the MESS
I had to get the reel tapes out of the boxes they were in for the last 6 years, and get them onto some kind of shelving... so here's what I built out of scrap lumber for them...
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Here's some of the new re-arrangement... looking from the garage main door back towards the operating position... the file cabinet holds VCR tapes and 5" reels, on top of it is a Johnson Viking-II Amateur Radio transmitter. Sad story on that, UPS destroyed it in shipping. The long cardboard boxes are all cassettes, and in the rack you see a Sherwood 4-channel receiver I need to go through and check out. Got it dumpster diving. Above the cassette boxes is a 5-channel Sparta remote event mixer. It works. Another dumpster dive.
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This is the new(er) desk where the sattelite monitors now sit. To the right is the rack of records that have to be re-filed in the big racks... as you can see I been a busy Impaler. On top of the record shelf are the three in-use sattelite receivers, and another black & white tuning monitor. The red chair is for in-studio guests... when I don't have LPs piled on it.
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Now we're getting to the mess. All those cables running out the window are for sattelite rigs, scanners, transceivers, and other RF that goes out to the roof or the side yard where the sattelite dishes are.
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Looking towards the operating position now, the computers, the TEAC 2300, the Marantz 2252, the Pioneer PL-71 turntable, and hidden behind the cables are some of the amateur radio stuff and the scanners. And the JUNK I absolutely need to get cleaned up. The reel deck on the floor kinda is a Sony SC-230 tabletop reel deck, with inputs for a phono cartridge, line-level inputs, and actual speaker outputs. I plan to get this one running for 1 7/8 ips reels, so I don't have to re-speed them off the TEAC. The Chair of the Impaler is hiding the 12 channel Sony mixer that I use for production. Yes, I know it needs to go on a shelf... just gotta BUILD it, to hang under the main shelf where the decks are... one with a slifing dealie so I can get to the back without killing myself. Also, you can see the Mustek tabloid size scanner directly behind the chair.
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Looking a little more to the left, you can get a little better view of the bench where all the transcription takes place. The turntable on the right is the ELAC Miracord, which is what I use for 78 encoding. Cartridges on the ELAC and the Pioneer are Stanton E500s, cheap but durable. You can see more crap underneath the bench that needs to be cleaned, too. And, yes, that's a Vac-O-Rec off to the right. It works, too!
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That's it for the picture tour, more when I make some improvements!
Acoustic Records for a Project & a Couple of Spoken Word Discs
Before we get to those, however, I landed a couple of Spoken Word discs (which are somewhat rare), and, pursuant to a topic thread in the 78-L list, I decided that I would encode them and post them.
The large label one I believe to be an acoustic pressing, both sides are combined here into one file. The Ancient Mariner is read here by E. J. Ballantine, and read quite well. As you can hear, these discs were pretty worn when I got them, and it took a lot to get what you hear out of the grooves.
The smaller label disc is a later, electrical recording (at least it SOUNDS like an electrical recording...), and we hear two selections, the first, read by Cecil Yapp, is the Frost poem, Mending Wall, and the other side, a recitation of the Biblical story of The Prodigal Son, as read by Walter Hampden.
(I am told by Mike Biel that there were only 13 disc titles issued by Spoken Word discs...)
Now, on to the project discs... we'll start out with some light classical recordings, recorded in Germany, but pressed and released in the US on the Odeon label. The band, whose only credit given is that of "Blasorchester", gives us first a Potpourri aus Offenbach'schen Operetten, as arranged by a gentlemen named Fedras. The printing on this disc is in the German font of the day (I should scan this so you will know what the heck I am talking about...), which is not surprising, since the second language in the US was German before World War One. We went through the propoganda a few posts ago, so I won't re-hash THAT issue... The reverse side is a waltz, labelled as Waltz aus Die Glocken von Corneville, written by a Mr. Planquette.
(Thanks to my German correspondent friend who helped witht he corrections of the titles...)
Oh my, here's a scan of the label of the disc so you can see what the font business is all about...
Remember the Romberg Sousa record that sounded like a film score reject? Well, I have a recording of Sousa's Band here for you, while we are in the Waltz Mode... written by Johann Strauss, we have the My Treasure Waltz. Recorded on the Victor label (on a one-sided 12-inch disc, no less!), this one came out quite nicely.
A bit of the light classical for you now, courtesy of Arthur Pryor's Band. You may know of them from Lee's MY(P)WAE blog (see sidebar for link), for their popular (for the time) music, but we have a couple of what I call 'Parlour Classics'. THese weren't 'classical' enough for the Red Seal label from VIctor, but still, they're more in the classical vein... perhaps the Mantovani or Frank Chacksfield of that era... the two pieces I have for you are the Felsenmuhle Overture by Reissinger, and something that may make you want to remember the Spike JOnes version (but please don't, Spike wasn't born yet...) of the Intermezzo from "Glow Worm", by Lincke. Yes, THAT Glow Worm. A couple of good-condition discs and nice tunes for the parlor.
We'll close out this edition with a couple of one-steps, as recorded by Prince's Band (under the direction of G. Hepburn Wilson), the Shapiro Medley, including the songs "Played By A Military Band" and "Down In Bom-Bombay". These were recorded by the Columbia Graphophone Company (a Columbia Record), in their usual style, which was quite good for the period. The other side gives us the Gilbert and Friedland one-step My Little Dream Girl. Goodness knows I have NO idea how to do a one-step, and these sound somewhat more like marches than dance numbers, but I guess they had that in them there days...
I'll be better about getting stuff going over here, because I need to get this project done (an afternoons' worth of music to encode!), and I'll be down a couple of days due to some oral surgery (only a couple of bad pre-molars this time...), so if you see any really off the wall posts, that'll be why.
Next up, I have some more acoustic stuff for you, including ANOTHER version of a Sousa march, played by, none other than, Prince's Band!