Wednesday, December 12, 2012
They were around in the first decade of the 20th century and produced some interesting, although not the most well recorded pieces. They did not really have a vast powerhouse of patent support for what they did. They infringed on the many Victor and Columbia patents that existed and to these companies they were more an annoyance than a heavy competitor. But they did sell records. There was many a court battle with both companies and finally by 1909 the company had assumed room temp.
What is also interesting about this company is that they did not let a song that they wanted pass their grasp even if they could not get artists to record it. They were not above just dubbing recordings from other companies stock. I have listened to a number of these recordings and you can easily hear the dubbed recordings. These were often by bands, orchestras, singers and the like. I have also noticed that the records that were dubbed seemed to be shaped different. I have found that most of the Leeds that were directly recorded have a raised area on the outer rim of the record. Those that I have seen (that is not too many) that were dubbed did not have this? Also I found crude numbers written in reverse rather than stamped in reverse which was their practice. But the written number had nothing to do with the record number. So in many respects the label and company leaves more questions than answers.
There are perhaps more than ten labels that resulted from this company. Most were quick lived and used to divert attention perhaps from the courts, Victor or Columbia. Perhaps the most successful of the labels they put out was the Imperial label. It seems to have been the most successful and long lived of their short lived company. Many other labels by this company were put out for short periods of time and used the Imperial, Leeds, perhaps anyone's masters. I though I would share a few of these labels with you. I was looking around and pulled out a few examples of Talk-O-Phone records on other labels. I am not showing all of the labels, just a few to give you a taste. What is interesting is how widespread the use of Imperial masters were on other labels. Lastly, the Talk-O-Phone masters found their way to grace the labels of many other companies in the early part of the 20th century.
This Busy-Bee record uses a Talk-O-Phone master. There were many recordings on this label made from Imperial masters. The Busy-Bee records were unique in that they just used other companies masters under their own label. Most of the masters were of early and obsolete performances that had no real appeal to the large companies but to the buyers who bought records on a tight budget. Busy-Bee was a wonder for them.
Many of these companies would remove spoken announcements from the masters that they sold or leased to Oxford. This was for several reasons. First off, it would look rather awkward to have an Oxford record proudly proclaim it was a Columbia one. Secondly, it allowed many companies to used some of their ancient masters dating back to 1901 and give them a second life. There were many early Columbia masters around dating from 1901-02 making records for these secondary labels till the later part of the nineteen teens. The lack of an announcement would at least hide the fact that the new records were being made from masters that dated from a year or two of the McKinley assassination.
I write this on the date of 12/12/12. The last records of the company were made well over 103 years ago. I am sure as times goes on some diligent researcher will find out much more than those of us who have studied this from the 1970's. In the 1970's when I started collecting and researching no one knew much of anything about this company. Nor did we have the wonder of the age....The internet. New technology is helping old technology to be found, shared, and explored. I will look to see if I can add some more labels to this article. I am sure I have some put away somewhere.