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.
"Lead Kindly Light," "Lord, I'm Coming Home" and "One Sweet Solemn Thought" are inspirational treasures. Thanks. Your transfers are superb.
There is something much more 'real', more authentic, to the music and recordings of these periods (pre-electronic) that has gotten lost in the maze of production 'values' and a lost set of ethics. Thanks for finding and posing these treasures. I truly value them.