Sunday, September 10, 2006

 

More from the Acoustic Project

Crud.

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.

Comments:
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 havee 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 - http://www.archive.org/audio/collection.php?collection=78rpm 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 - 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.

Thanks for all your time and great music.
 
Weelll, Zenman stole my thunder, so all I can say is that he pretty much summed it up - Post 'Em!

Thank you for all that you've done - great job!
BTW, your photo's remind me of my own shop area, only alot more neat :-)

Dan
 
Before anyone condemns posting these songs they should remember stars that lasted through the 20th century,such as Bing Crosby,were doing what would be considered racist material. Check out the original versions of "Mississippi Mud" and "Let's Do It(Let's Fall In Love)". In 1931 a Rodgers & Hart tune from a Broadway show was recorded by Bunny Berigan,vocal by Ford Rainey,"All Dark People Are Light On Their Feet." It was included on an RCA Bluebird two-fer released in the 70's or 80's. Listen to the lyrics of today's avergae rap song and then tell me about progress in sensitivity.
By posting this material you're presenting history,not reviving it and there's nothing wrong with that.
One quick note about TV's Amos 'N' Andy..The actor who played Lightning ran an acting school and a year or so before he died released 72 episodes of the show on DVD and VHS. That's an arguement for another day but he felt the shows should be seen before being maligned.
 
If properly curated, I believe anyone with a pulse should hear minstrel music from the shellac era. Why? Because if you look carefully, you can still see and hear its echoes today.

For many white Americans of that time, it was their only exposure to people of color--or even the idea of blackness. I know that's an odd take, but pretend you live in a lily-white community (probably north of the Mason-Dixon line) and rarely saw an African-American.

As for more racist recordings, they are a bitter pill. But why "white wash" the past? Weren't these inappropriate expressions part of the larger culture––and we study that, right?

Like I said, it's important to remember the context of these works, the way they kept minorities down and the way they limited a person's viewpoint––or, oddly, created one in a vacuum.

Thank you so much. As many of you probably already know, there's a great disc'n'cylinder show on wfmu.org. They have a marvelous discussion of minstrelry in their archives.
 
I have no strong objections to having records of this type posted. I vaguely recall a small Jazz recording group from the 1920's called "Three Happy Darkies" and that Phil Schaap played their records over WKCR sometime in the 1980's so they must have been good. Any chance you can post some of their records?
 
I say post away. We should be aware of our past, or we are doomed to repeat it.
 
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