Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leeds Records and the many labels that came the Talk-O-Phone Company 1904 - 1909

The Leeds Record made by the Talk - O - Phone Company. Also known as Leeds and Catlin. They are known to many in the recording collecting, research world. It is an uncommon label. It is one of the most  beautiful labels to grace a piece of hard rubber and shellac.

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.

Here we have an Oxford disc record using a Talk-O-Phone master. Oxford was a Sears and Roebuck Company label that like Busy Bee made none of their own recordings. They just used usually but not always older matrices from companies like Zonophone, Columbia, Talk-O-Phone, every now and then Victor and what ever else might find its way cheaply to them. It appears that the Oxford label was produced in a rather high quality way. Since a vast majority of its output was Zonophone masters. It makes sense to assume that Victor was involved in their making.

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.

The Sun Record was another short lived Talk-O-Phone record label that used some great talent and perhaps borrowed a little from here and there. Henry Burr (Harry McClaskey) one of the leading recording artists of the time is featured here. Having a singer like Burr would makes sales take off as he was one of the most popular singers on record at the time.

The Nassau label was another short lived label of the Talk-O-Phone Company. Made also in the Plant that seems to have made everything. I have heard that the pressings for most of these recordings were in Connecticut, but outside of that I can sadly not say much but say that these records are tremendously rare today.

Here is another quick and late label of the Talk-O-Phone Company. The Sir Henri label. This was a double sided disc made in the 1908-09 period. Right at the end of the companies life. I cannot say anything much about this label except it is also amazingly rare today. It is perhaps one of the last labels put out by the company. The company would be out of business by 1909 and its history and products would fall into total oblivion. But now as researchers dig and study. Our understandings and knowledge of these rare recordings will expand.

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.