Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The original spelling of the word Jazz...here are some examples..

Jazz has been a part of our world for near 100 years. It started from the dark alleys and houses of ill repute. I remember hearing Eubie Blake talk about his youth and playing in as he called them, houses of ill repute. A whore house to be more general. But it was in that environmental that much of this music got its start.  Once it got its claws on us, it has never let go.

 But the term Jass or getting Jassed had a decidedly sexual connotation. There is no set story to how it got its name but one can say it always was on a more deviant bend. The term originally offended people and finally by 1919 everyone was pretty much using Jazz as the name for this music, rather than its original JASS.

 I thought it would be fun to show two examples that today are rather rare of the use of the word JASS on record.  Today when you hear Jazz, remember it came from another word all together.  Back when everyone was trying to figure what this new and wonderful music was.

 The Original Dixieland Jass Band first made records for the Victor Company in 1917.  This was the usual and sad story. Most of Jass and Jazz has an African American heritage. Yet here we have a record of a batch of white performers trying to sound black.
The Funny Jas Band from Dixieland is another example of the spelling. This Edison cylinder record is mainly a vocal record with an orchestra trying to sound like a Jass Band. Which is rather funny to hear as they had no idea what a Jass Band sounded like.. So they created their own and unique sound that has fortunately not been repeated.  This recording is from 1916

Monday, February 25, 2013

Happy 140th birthday Enrico Caruso..

It has been a long time since I had first heard of Caruso. I discovered him on my own in 1971. In that year I found my first Caruso record. In fact, if I have said this before I am sorry, but I traded a 1935 Philco Cathedral Radio for my first Caruso record. I knew nothing  about the value of his records then. I thought as many do today that his records were amazingly valuable.  Well, they are not usually. Save for his early stuff of pre - 1906.  But I studied him a lot as a boy and marked my few Caruso's with lots of information on the smooth other side of the record.  I see these records and now laugh a little. But in 1971 what did I know.

Now I have a sizable Caruso collection of recordings made from 1902 to 1920.  And I do prize many of them for their artistic qualities. As for value only the very early as I mentioned before have that.  For the rest of his recordings from 1906 on, they have never been out of print. Be it shellac disc, cylinder, vinyl disc, 78, 45, 33,  or CD and now downloaded from the net.

I cannot think of any singer in our history who has had 111 years of success on record. I will imagine that when we in the very distant future land on Mars. The voice of Caruso will be there to be heard by a lover of fine singing.

So happy birthday Enrico, little did you know how much you would touch the world of the future.

Thank you

Friday, February 22, 2013

VAUDEVILLE....Just remembering and writing down some about a bunch of performers from the age of Vaudeville..Part 4

This last posting I want to do on this topic, at least for now. I wanted to talk about a few more people and events that were important to vaudeville.

Performers like Bob Hope and his brother who was often drunk were involved in vaudeville . I learned this from Eddie Bracken who told me that Bob Hope's brother  was the best man at his wedding. But he was drunk and did not make it. Bob Hope was popular monologist and he would make it into radio, TV, movies, and of course entertaining the troops.

But I learned something from Eddie Bracken when I interviewed him that during WW2,  Bob Hope and every other major performer was out and about entertaining the troops. When the war was over, the person who received the massive award as the greatest entertainer for the troops was Eddie Bracken. I saw the massive award. It was nearly 4 feet in length.

He told me that after he received this award, Bob Hope hated him.

Bracken was in vaudeville in his early days and became a major performer in radio, TV, movies and had issues during the McCarthy hearings, pretty much ending a lot of his career.  But when he was on radio he was delighted to learn that Al Jolson was a big fan, and that was rare for Jolson to say such things.

Milton Berle was in show business from womb practically. His mother was his biggest fan and promoter. He was in silent films, vaudeville, radio, a pioneer in TV and movies that talked. He was a major force in theater. He was one of the saviors of the Friars Club during its dark days. He would live and entertain till the dawn of the 21st century.  He had joined the Friars Club in 1920 and got to meet John L Sullivan, Enrico Caruso, George M Cohan, Victor Herbert, and countless others in the early days of the entertainment industry.

Victor Herbert wrote songs for the Friars and the Lambs. These clubs were a haven for the actor as he would be in the company of not just other actors, but agents as well.

It must have been interesting to be at a function at one of these clubs and see Victor Herbert, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin at a table. What stories have been lost to us.

Fanny Brice was also a big name in the industry. Her voice, comedic personality, and looks made her the perfect comedian. She would reign in vaudeville and the Ziegfeld Follies. In later years she was on radio and for a little bit on TV. But she never made it.

George Jessel was a friend of Al Jolson which was one of his problems. Jessel made his mark all over in vaudeville, movies (he was almost in the first talking picture), TV and radio. His last years were quite sad as he would perform anyplace they would take him. That was not many places. He was at one time one of the kings, but he lived longer than his popularity. He died the same day as another unique former vaudevillian. That was Rosa Ponselle.

  Rosa and her sister Carmela worked in vaudeville and sang slightly operatic duets. They were both excellent singers. One night Enrico Caruso heard her sing and met her with her afterwards.. He felt she had a great voice for opera. Then he gave her the frightening complement that she looked like him.

 He was right, not about that she looked like him, but that she was a great singer. In fact she would be one of the greatest sopranos in the operatic world in the 20th century. Her debut was opposite Caruso in Forza.  I used to listen to her on the radio when I was a boy as she would tell time and time again how she was discovered by the great Caruso.

Not too many opera singers did vaudeville, but many who were on the end of their careers sometimes were.

Many acts were just awful. Many animal acts were problematic. Cause often the animal would do it's act on stage and that was not exactly expected, but would bring down the curtain and often end the act.

There were a few acts that were so bad that they would perform behind a net, cause things were thrown at them. Not every act was golden, some were not much better than plated tin. But many a great vaudevillian would hone his craft after each theater they would be thrown out of. They would often change their name as they came to each theater.

It was an adventure I am sure. But knowing what it was like to tour with a show for 3 months, I can only imagine what it was like for 3 years. I did it for 3 months and was worn out. These people were troopers.

Another great vaudevillian and perhaps one of the greatest was Will Rogers. He was known as the Oklahoma Philosopher and would hold a high place in the circuit. He would often star in the Zeigfield Follies. he would also make phonograph records, do radio, movies and would have done more if he did not join Wiley Post, a one eyed aviator who crashed in Alaska with Rogers on board.

Now there was vocal quartets who would work in vaudeville and do comedy as well. Such as the Avon Comedy Four. Which did contain Smith and Dale as well. I remember when I spoke to Joe Smith, we went to his room and there he had a Victrola and we listened to some recordings that he and his friends had made.    I mentioned that he was in the Avon Comedy Four. He said to me, "Kid, no one has said that to me in 50 years".  He told me about many of his friends at the Victor Company, which was the company he mainly recorded for. He said they had to sing in the tube.

One group from the Victor talking Machine Company that toured with Vaudeville was "The Eight Great Victor Artists" which was a group of the leading performers at Victor. Performers like Monroe Silver, Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Albert Campbell, Frankie Banta, and few others who would change now and then.

I have mentioned Jack Benny here and there but he was a fellow who started by playing the violin, discovered he could be funny, dropped the violin, became the greatest comedian of the time, and in later life discovered he loved the violin and started playing again in his 60's. He would star in, radio, TV, movies, and of course in his later years playing solos he raised over 7 million dollars to help symphonic orchestras and was very helpful in raising money to save Carnegie Hall.

What started to kill vaudeville was first radio, then talking pictures, and finally the depression. By the later 1930's it was pretty much over. It was pretty dead.

Vaudeville was a wonderful period of time. Every town had their theater. Entertainment was always around. Today we do not have anything like it. It is too our loss I think.  Oh how I wish it never left us.

I need to write a lot more about this era, hopefully I will and add to this blog. Cause I have just touched the surface. There were so many performers and I will never talk about perhaps 99% of them. Cause you do have to remember that every vaudeville theater in the country was filled with acts. That would count in the 10's of thousands. Just like anything there were a few who really made it, others were there for a while and vanished. It was an age where theater flourished as it had never done before and will never again.

The age of Vaudeville......

VAUDEVILLE....Just remembering and writing down some about a bunch of performers from the age of Vaudeville....Part 3

One of the group of performers who really had an effect on the age of vaudeville were the musicians.  Music and what was considered music acts were always popular. One of the people who found and promoted singers and songwriters was Gus Edwards. He found singers like Eddie Cantor and wrote tons of music that would ring in the sounds of the new century. Edwards discovered others who were not singers or musicians. He discovered Walter Winchell, the Marx Brothers, and the hoofer Ray Bolger. These were major players who would influence vaudeville.

The Marx Brother's were part of a vaudeville family.  All were musical, all had talents beyond comedy. They had a mother, Minnie, who pushed hard to make her boys a success. The Marx Brothers had an uncle in the business, his name was Al Shean.

Shean had been a average and not too famous vaudevillian till he teamed up with Ed Gallagher. They performed a piece that became a national craze. A piece called "Absolutely Mr. Gallagher, positively Mr. Shean". This became so popular that is was redone several times, always to acclaim.

The Marx Brothers became a zoo on stage. They did just about everything and became very popular in the smaller theaters around the country. It is interesting that around 1913 while playing in a Waukegan, Illinois vaudeville house, Minnie Marx asked a violinist in the pit, who she found worked very well with her boys if he could join the act. Well, this young violinist named Benny Kulbelsky went home and asked his parents if he could. He mother totally forbid it, so the Marx Brothers never had this violinist join their act.

 But, act together they would in the future. For that young violinist would become Jack Benny.

One of the great performers and writers of music in those early days of vaudeville was Irving Berlin. He had a wonderful knack for just popping out songs that would become popular. Some of his early songs had influence on the era.

 Songs like Alexander's Ragtime Band became an international hit. So much of a hit that it was played on the RMS Titanic as it sank.

His music more than most became the sounds of that wonderful era of 1910 -1925.  Berlin was a prolific writer who also was a shrewd businessman. He renewed every one of his copy rites for his music when he was close to 100 years of age. His family will be getting revenue from his music till well past the middle of the 21st century.

One of the great comedy groups of vaudeville was Smith and Dale. This duo of comedians performed in vaudeville, movies, radio and TV, and are one of the few groups from that era who would be memorialized in a Broadway Play and later movie called "The Sunshine Boys" Smith and Dale were the basis for the show.

They did many acts, but perhaps no lines became part of the American like theirs...

Dr. Kronkite, it hurts when I do this. Well, says the doctor, don't do this!

I got a chance to interview this charming old man at the Englewood Actors Home many years ago.  He gave me lots of information about vaudeville. But oh how many questions I have now!  But will never know, cause  everyone is long dead.

One of the musical masters of this age was Jimmie Durante. He was much more involved in music than most people know. He was known in his youth as "Ragtime Jimmy". He played all over New York working at times with a very young Eddie Cantor and George Jessel,

He would in time become part of some very famous bands such as "The Original New Orleans Jazz Band" and the "Frisco Jazz Band". These were important bands that recorded for labels like Edison, Columbia, and Okeh.

Durante would become a fixture in vaudeville and would in time go from vaudeville, movies to radio and TV.

In this vain of thought lets remember the team of Burns and Allen . They were one of the few vaudeville acts who never needed to change their act. They used the same material from the 1920's to the 1950's.

George Burns starting in the 1960's and went alone. Sometimes having a guest play Gracie Allen, even a few times with Jack Benny in drag. What is most interesting was that George Burns would play a vaudevillian in "The Sunshine Boys" His career was perhaps one of the most successful post vaudeville. As it went on till the 1990's He ranks with Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Red Skelton .

Lastly in this post was the composer George Gershwin. His music became very important after Al Jolson used one of his songs in 1918 called Swanee. It was an instant hit and Gershwin was in the middle of vaudeville. its performers, developers, and the magic of Tin Pan Ally.

VAUDEVILLE....Just remembering and writing down some about a bunch of performers from the age of Vaudeville.... Part 2

One cannot think of the age of vaudeville without thinking of Al Jolson. While Jolson was not a vaudeville performer, he did have his roots in the golden days of the minstrels and was a star in just about everything he was involved with. While many were going from theater to theater in those days, Jolson was just in one, the Winter Garden Theater for years. The shows would change and he would star in each new one. There is nothing like that today. He was a king in his field. He would help and hurt many in the business. He also made phonograph records. By the time of about 1920, his records would start to proclaim on the label "The World's Greatest Entertainer".  George Burns put it best, "Al Jolson had a love affair with Al Jolson and he was always faithful".  Much of what Jolson had, died with him.

The man who was the headliner with the minstrels before Jolson was Eddie Leonard. It is sad Leonard is pretty much forgotten today. He was a star of great renown and was always a headliner. He wrote the song Liza, which Eddie Cantor used as his theme song. Sadly Leonard did not make records, or film (save for a short moment in 1940) and would die pretty much forgotten in NYC in 1942. But few were as popular as he. But as you can see fame is fleeting.

Another of the greats of early vaudeville were Weber and Fields. These guys were wildly popular, had their own vaudeville houses and productions. They were also smart enough to make phonograph recordings. Also a number of the productions put on by them were made as covers by many other performers. They would live long enough to make sound films of some of their acts.

Another of the greats of this time who was really not of vaudeville but was very much a part of the scene in his past was George M Cohan. He had grown up in the theater and of course in the 1880's till the early part of the 20th century, the Four Cohan's were a popular troupe that travel from town to town.

 By the beginnings of the century George had gone out on his own and partnered with Sam Harris to win international acclaim for his shows and songs. Many of his songs are still sung today and most people who do sing them have no idea of their author.

 Few actors have been so decorated as Cohan. His is the only statue on Broadway, near 46th Street. The statue was put up by and pushed for by Oscar Hammerstein the second.  Who was expecting I am sure that the next would be his.There are only two actors so honored in NYC.  The other was Edwin Booth, the great Shakespearean actor and brother of Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Edwin Booth would form a theatrical and business group called "The Players Club". Which still is a factor in the New York scene. This writer has been there countless times over the last 20 some odd years.

George M Cohan's father, Jerry Cohan  was a terrible and nasty drunk. He would mess up the bar at the Lambs club and repeatedly be expelled. This led George M to create another theatrical club that would allow his father in. This club was called the Friars. The Friars are still very active today and it has been my pleasure to go there a few times and have dinner with some dear old actor friends who have sadly passed away. The Lambs club that was once the largest and most powerful has been down sized some.

 I was there once at their new headquarters and it was great to see the place. It was on the day of the funeral of John Cardinal O'Connor and the funeral was right by the Lambs as Saint Patrick's Cathedral is right across the street from the Lambs.

 But it was the lambs that were the greatest of these clubs in the age of vaudeville. They had a massive club on 44th Street. There were shows, dinners, bars that Jerry Cohan and later John Barrymore would mess up. Also it was a place to stay or hide. It had rooms to rent for fellow Lambs.  I mentioned before that Nat M Wills used to stay there.

It was there they had something called a "Lambs Frolic" Staring everyone from Enrico Caruso, Victor Herbert, Nat M. Wills, Weber and Fields, George M. Cohan, DeWolf Hopper and countless others. It was a wonderful period of time for entertainment.

 I do need to tell the story about John Barrymore. He was a dreadful drunk as well, but a great actor. I always remember Tony Randall telling me that the drunks were always the best actors.  However,  Barrymore was suspended from the Lambs club for tearing up the bar in a very drunk frenzy. Once he was reinstated,  he was asked while sitting in the bar why he was kicked out before. Barrymore replied "For doing this!" and proceeded to tear up the bar again!

The last person I will mention in this 2nd part of this group of articles that are just memories and thoughts in my mind, is Victor Herbert. He was very much a part of the music scene in the early days of vaudeville. He usually wrote operettas, operas, symphonic pieces and when the mood hit him, fun little ditties. His music was a part of the scene and it was his disagreeable moment listening to his music at dinner that led to the forming of ASCAP. He was the champion of that organisation.   It is also interesting that the last meal Herbert would ever have was at the Lambs club in 1924. I will talk more about Herbert in our next installment.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

VAUDEVILLE....Just remembering and writing down some about a bunch of performers from the age of Vaudeville. Part 1

When one thinks of the first 30 years of the 20th century. It is very much a part of the age of vaudeville. There was a theater in nearly every town. It was at these theaters you would get to see all kinds of acts from around the country and at times from around the world.  Some of these old timers made careers that would last till the end of the 20th century and in a few cases, into the 21st!

I was born long after vaudeville, but through TV was able to see many of the old timers, doing acts they had done for well over a half century. There was a great thing about Vaudeville. You never needed to change your act for years. Cause you would travel all over the country and play in every little hamlet, town or city. It was not an easy life.

Vaudeville did not just inhabit the stage, it also made its ways in restaurants, amusement parks, phonograph records, and of course in time radio and TV.

Some of the great actors or music hall performers found their way into early movies and were also doing a vaudeville tour advertising themselves.

The great days of vaudeville made their ways from the minstrel shows of the 19th century. In the first 20 years or so of vaudeville, the minstrel was still a power to be reckoned with.   Great performers and minstrel troupe creators like Lew Dockstader were very popular and even made phonograph recordings in the first ten years of the 20th century.

But vaudeville would have a very different pull on society and it grew up with motion pictures, or flickers as they called them. Another industry was the recording industry and that was also where many a vaudevillian would leave their mark.

I think of the some of the more unknown vaudevillians like Archie Leach.  He was a stilt walker, acrobat and hoofer who worked mainly in Coney Island. On a side line he also painted ties. He was given a break by Fatty Arbuckle, who was a king in the world of motion pictures and sadly today is remembered just for a phony scandal in the early 1920's. But he gave a Archie a break and soon that stilt walker was performing on stage and soon the movies. But with another name, Cary Grant.

Some of the other acts were not so remembered. One of the biggest performers of the day in 1913 was Nat M. Wills. He was known as the Hobo comedian and did great comedy and songs. He was so popular many of the recordings he made were big sellers. The combined sales of his records were well over a million. But who knows of Wills? He is forgotten save for a few who still recall his wonderful story called "No news. or what killed the dog ?"   That bit was performed on stages, dinner speeches, and recorded several times on record.  Wills was so popular he played the Palace in NYC for a few weeks. In fact he was only the second person given the honor. Remember the old saying, "You haven't made it, till you play the Palace" The great Palace theater was the high altar of vaudeville.

Many performers spend a good deal of their lives hoping to play the Palace. It opened in 1913 and the person who was the first to appear was Ed Wynn. Followed by Nat M. Wills. Two major names in theater in those days. Wynn would survive to appear in film, radio, and TV. In fact 50 years after he was headlining at the Palace in 1913, he was filming for Disney a role in Mary Poppin's. He would play the old crazy uncle who would fly when he laughed. His song called "I love to laugh" is pretty much what his career was. Save for a few dark years in the 1950's.

Sadly for Wills it was not the same. He was wildly popular on stage and record. But had a dark personal life of several marriages, divorces, and through them massive financial difficulties. He was living for a while in a rented room in the Lamb's Club on 44th Street. Soon he remarried again and seemed happy. But one day in 1917, he went into his garage with his Ford model T, closed the door and started the car.  He was found dead a few hours later at the door of the garage. Sadly, no one knows for sure what he was trying to do. But it seems that this great clown was ready to make an exit.

There are so many in vaudeville that only a few I can talk about. But just think of the dog acts, seal acts, penguin acts, donkey acts, horse acts, spinning dishes acts, operatic acts, monologist acts, patter song acts, dramatic acts, bad acts, local acts that would always remain so, and of course the stars now and then.

But think of the stars who would travel the country. Entertainers like Eddie Cantor would was not a great dancer or singer. But he would do it all so fast and in such a wild style you could never tell. He would have a career for 50 years and do it all from vaudeville to TV, radio and movies. He found his home in comedy and would stay there for all those years.

Sophie Tucker who to the older among us will recall the name. She was known as the "Last of the red hot momas" She had a voice that would carry into another state when she sang. She spent a lifetime singing a song called "Some of these days" and would play the role that she was least likely to play. A sexy powerful woman who would in later years influence Bette Midler.  Midler would use many of the jokes of Tucker to a new audience and they took on a new life of their own.

 In Tuckers early days she was looked on as shocking and vulgar in some circles. But no one sang like she did. In the early days of her recording career for Edison starting around 1906, she was referred to as a "coon shouter"  She was still making recordings fifty years later.

Blanch Ring was a popular performer in early vaudeville and in theater. Her song "I've got rings on my fingers and bells on my toes" was a hit in many musical reviews and in vaudeville. Today that song is lost in the memory of but a few.

William Claude Dunkerfield was a wonderful and well trained juggler. He shortened his name to W. C. Fields and worked all over the country. later he would do movies and one would never know that he was a remarkable juggler. but he also had a great ability in comedy.  He had that sense right to the end. When he was dying in 1946, he was found looking at a bible. When asked why he replied..." Looking for loopholes" ..

Nora Bayes and her partner Jack Norworth made many an appearance in vaudeville houses around the country. In later years she would even have as a partner, Jack Benny. In later years she lost pretty much career and health and today rests in an unmarked grave in NY.

One more person to mention in this first installment of vaudeville was the counter tenor, Will Oakland. He was very famous and made many recordings. He was not very famous in his later days. He used to hang out in Livingston, New Jersey at a bar called English's. In fact he was on his way to Livingston, when he died on a bus en route. Perhaps the poem, " the face on the bar room floor" would fit for Oakland in his later years.

End of part 1

Friday, February 15, 2013

A very unique find in a Mark Twain book.

I was sitting in my Library, in my Lincoln rocker that I just wrote about the other day.  I was going through some books. Behind the chair is some Dickens and Twain. I have not read all of the books in the sets. I will, I hope before I  assume room temp.   But I was sitting in the chair and pulled out one of the books and was running my hands through it and a bill flew out of the book. A 2 dollar bill!

On closer inspection I saw it was a Philippians 2 Pesos bill.  It was a VICTORY bill. These were the currency made in the United States and brought in when MacArthur came back in 1944. I was so shocked I checked every other book in the set.......Nothing!  One can dream huh?

 But what an odd find.  So I figured I would share with you what a Victory Bill looks like. Obviously put in that book many years ago by perhaps someone who was fighting there in 1944-45.

Surprises come in all sizes and kinds.. this was truly one of them

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is a singer today? Do they really have to have singing talent? Let's give a lot of credit to the acoustic recording artists

I watched a concert on Youtube recently in which the singer really did not have much of a voice. However, she was able to use an autotune system and sing perfectly on key and give a splendid performance. Of course she was helped by pre recorded tracks she had done before and a vast amount of mixing. So if she danced she really did not have to sing at all, as it was already pre recorded.

It was a remarkable display of technology, but not talent. 

I for one am really starting to get tired of this mantra of hearing about great singers today.  If you can walk into a room without a mic, sing a song, sing on key, sing with a piano, guitar or ah capella and not need assistance to do so. Then and only then.... you are singer.

For all the rest who use this Autotune/computer enhanced/ 64 channels mixes/ tons of takes/ and have it doctored to sound like you can really do it..Then in my mind you are really not much of a singer.  You are doctored and altered singer. Not having the ability to actually do it with out help.

Sadly this is pretty much what we have today. A vast army of performers who could never perform without assistance.  It is in many ways like an athlete who takes performance enhancing drugs to improve. A fake, phony and a fraud.

For all of these people I would like to have you look at the vast array of great performers who made recordings in the early days of the industry.

In the early days of performance, you needed to be able to sing with your own talent. You needed to be able to sing on key. Sing from start to finish and not make major mistakes. I doubt 85% of our great singers today could do this.

I was once asked to compare the voices through the recordings of Mario Lanza, Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, and a few others and say who made better recordings.

I said I could not, cause Lanza, and well as Pavarotti had the use of technology to help them. "Be my Love" the massive hit by Lanza was made with mixing of 21 takes. Pavarotti's recordings are also mixed with the best takes. Caruso was recorded from start to finish on one take. More often than not, better than those who used massive takes to sound more perfect.

Look at all the old acoustic recording artists. They knew what they were doing and did not need a recording engineer to make them sound like they did.

So if you get the chance, listen to Caruso, or Henry Burr, Billy Murray, Fanny Brice, Louisa Tetrazzini, and 100's of others who had talent. Who did not need to be assisted to be able to sing , entertain, and to please. I certainly hope that autotune crap goes away and some real singers can come come back to the world of entertainment. Cause they are around, just over shadowed by those who use performance enhancing devices.  

I kind of prefer the real thing......Talent!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My wonderful Lincoln rocking chair.

My Lincoln rocking chair in my library with a Gramophone behind it..

I was with a dear friend, Chris Lee,  at an auction house a few years ago. The main auction was over and there were a few bits and pieces left. I saw a lovely old Lincoln rocker and inquired about it. It was not sold in the auction so they had lowered the price to $39.00. I felt that was fair and I bought it. It now has a nice place in my library and I use it often.  The reason this style of chair is called a Lincoln rocker is that it is somewhat the same style as the one he was assassinated in 1865.  This chair is somewhat like that, but not at all the exact same type of one.

 But there are a lot of similarities. Note the cut outs of the wood in the arms. They are exactly the same throughout the chair. The frame of the chair is nearly exactly the same. However in the case of Lincoln's rocker, the decorative molding is on the top, rather on mine it is on the bottom. The top of my rocker is plain, as in Lincoln's chair the bottom is plain . My rocker also has the area for padded arms, but at some point someone removed them. So while it is not exactly like the original chair, it is really quite close. Of course I am not speaking of the fabric, as mine was redone at some point of time and probably that original fabric and design was more like the rocker Lincoln used as well.

So I think it was one of the best uses of 39 dollars I have found.

The chair Lincoln was sitting when he was shot.  See how close the design is.

A memento from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.... Bought on February 14, 1970.

After a really awful period of my life in which my father left us and my mother and us three kids were pretty much alone in the world. We finally got enough money together to leave Florida. We had been living with another family and we slept in their living room. Everything that we owned at that time was pretty well lost or confiscated. I did manage to save three things that today are very special to me. Everything else from my past are from other sources as everything we had was lost.

The family we lived with were Elton and Bertha Shoemaker. Elton bought this for me as we waited for our plane to start a new life in New Jersey.  It was a time before there was a Disney. Funny today Disney dominates everything about Florida. But here is a sad, but historic piece from my past.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Early disc recordings from the 1900-1925 period of recorded sound. What were the playing speeds?

By 1926 it had finally happened. There was a consistent speed to records... almost.

But before this time and from the very start of the disc recording  industry, there was a really great sense of confusion. Much of this dealt with the question..... what speed do I play my records at?

The standard answer was 78 RPM.

I have seen in my many years of collecting records discs (that we call 78's) running at speeds from 64 RPM to about 84.

Starting with Berliners it is thought that 70 RPM  is a good average for them. But, there you will find many that are not too close to that speed.  From the mid 60's to 72 or so RPM

Climax Records (Columbia 1901-02)  are also around the speed of 72 to 80 RPM's. Give or take a bit. Also you will find on many of the early Climax and silver labeled Columbia discs of 1902 a bit of a problem in keeping a steady speed to the recording. I have found this in a number of early Climax and Columbia recordings.

 By 1903-04 it seems to have been rectified.  The problem with many of the recordings for the first Columbia records was this. They were trying to build up a massive catalog of recordings in the year of 1902. They had discontinued the Climax label and many of the Climax's had an announcement saying it was a Climax record.  All of the Climax records without an announcement were just changed over to the Columbia label. However, there was a massive recording program to as quickly as possible, replace all the Climax records.

Therefore, I am thinking that there may have been a bit of "recording engineer" burn out and exhaustion.

Perhaps several recordings made were sub par, but used for a short while till it could be replaced again. I find that many of the Columbia records from 1902 - 1910 are in the ball park of 78-82 RPM's. Not all of course, but a vast majority.

Consolidated, Improved, Monarch, and Victor records from 1900 to 1902 fall in the 73-82 RPM area as far as I have found.

Post 1902 Victor Talking Machine records run from about 71 to 82. This is where it was a problem for Victor. Many recording engineers had a set speed for some singers. Others did not. There seems to not be any agreement. Case in point with Enrico Caruso's Victor records the speeds vary going as low as 74 RPM and some reaching as high as 81.  There are other singers in which the speeds are quite varied as well.  Some of the early recordings were marked as to the key in which they were recorded. But this practice stopped shortly after it started.

The early days of the Gramophone and Typewriter company in Europe made some wide speed changes in recordings.  The speeds vary from 64 to perhaps 80.

Caruso's  1902 G&T recordings play at the speed of 67 RPM. His 1904 G&T recordings are around 73 RPM.  So as you can see there is a massive gap.

 I have found that most of the very early G&T's are slower than 78 RPM. In many cases much, much slower. Also a large number of the early G&T operatic recordings were recorded quite slow and I have found a number of recordings where 65 to 68 RPM's seems to make sense.

The famous operatic tenor Tamagno's  recordings made for G&T in 1903 and 04 are not only recorded quite slow. Seems 66-68 RPM, but were also pitched down!  RCA reissued some of his recordings on LP and recorded them being played at 78! It made him sound ridiculous.
The famous soprano Patti also falls under this situation. Her recordings made in 1905 and 06 are slower, around 72 RPM, and in her case as well the music was pitched down.

But what this shows a total lack of consistency in the industry. There was no set rule, just a general idea.

If one wishes to try to find the right speeds you have to remember several things. Many recordings were made with a pitch change. Older singers pulled from retirement often opted for changes in the pitch of the music in which they would record. If that is not known, many people will try to play the recording to pitch and find that their singer sounds very much like the hinges of Hell.

So often research and thought have to go into this. Also a sonic memory of what the voice sounds like when played at a proper speed. If you do not have that it will make it harder. But let's try to give a few basics of speed.  Most people will probably have recordings made later than this in their old 78 collection.

So I will just give an idea of the speed in which they should be played at. Remember, there will always be exceptions.  I am not listing all labels of that time, just some.  I am just listing a bit of information, not the whole story.

Columbia Records   80 RPM  By the late 1920's it is also 78.

Victor       78 RPM

Edison Diamond Discs  80 RPM
(Last year of production many DD records were recorded at 78 RPM)

Pathe Lateral  75-80 RPM
Pathe Vertical  60-90 RPM

American Record Company  75-80 RPM

Zonophone (American 1903-1912) 75 -80 RPM

Leeds, Cort, Busy Bee, Harvard, Star, Imperial, Oxford, and more. Almost all of these and many other quick lived labels whose records were made from other companies stampers. Therefore 75-80 RPM would be the rule. The only exception was Leeds and Imperial. They did make some of there own recordings. However in the case of the early Leeds records, some were illegal dubbings.

After electrical recording becomes the norm and calibrated turntables are used for recording.  The standard speed for the records by 1926 is 78.26 RPM.

But the first quarter century left many only to only guess. In some cases we still are.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What became of the Republican Party of Lincoln? Why is it stuck with religion and other crazy ideas that have nothing to do with the founding of this government.

I often enjoy watching the political side show called the Presidential election. It has been an interesting thing to watch and the 2012 election was no exception. But what I found, specially on the Republican side was nothing short of scary. because religion was a far more important issue in many cases than what I would think would be more important issues.

Since Jefferson penned that letter as President to a religious Baptist sect, a sect that wanted government protection from another religious sect. In his answer he stated quite clearly that there was a wall of separation between religion and government. I am sure he wrote that letter after talking it over with his Secretary of State, James Madison. Madison who is known as the Father of the Constitution. Madison was Jefferson's intellectual support. He was a man of amazing intellectual properties. To which Jefferson made full use of.

In the election of 2012, which started in 2010 I saw something I had never seen before. There were three candidates running on the republican side who made it difficult to tell if they running for President for their party or they were barnstorming, preaching, religious leaders trying to start a new Billy Sunday crusade.

This was Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry.

I understand some people have strong convictions for their religion. I respect that. But let's remember that religion has NOTHING to do with government.

 If that is not understood, go visit the Middle East. There you will see religion in charge of many governments and see how truly dreadful that is. Can you imagine how screwed up this country would be with some religious gang in charge here?

The United States Constitution was written without religion in mind. The founders knew that religion would spoil the water. It always does. People will do and say stupid and wicked things when they are under the spell of religion.  They can also do dreadful things in the name of religion.  Marriage has nothing to do with religion, abortion has nothing to do with religion either. It is a issue with the government. The madness that is the Christian group who says that God hates fags, and they go and act like madmen at military funerals. Or nutcases like Jerry Falwell who said that the 9-11 attacks were because of and I will quote this windbag......"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

This is why you do not want to have religion in charge or a part of government. 

The founders of this country were too smart to allow such foolishness. Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and many others at that time were Deists at best. Therefore their work and understanding of life, government and religion were looked at from that point of view.

The Constitution was written with the direct influence of all of these men and many others. Jefferson and Adams were not even there. But, their influence was very strong indeed.  But what was their influence? We will shortly see.

The Constitution allowed anyone to worship or not as they like, but it was beyond the control of government to control it either way. One thing was very plain and clear. Religion had nothing to do with the United States Government.

Therefore religion took a very back seat in the formation of the United States. They would not even allow a morning prayer to be said. But there were many debates in which religion was used as a strong tool.

Now what is very important, is the fact that each of these men  involved in the formation of the country were political. They also knew that they needed to use religion to reach the less intelligent.

 It worked well for Washington. People still believe he was religious. Even that notorious notion of him praying at Valley Forge.  Remember that was another fairy tale from Parson Weems. He is also the guy who made up the  cherry tree story.

Madison was not at all religious.

Jefferson hated religion and felt it was foolish. He even rewrote the New Testament and took out all he felt useless, foolish and lastly just unbelievable.  It is called the Jefferson Bible.  Lincoln was an ardent follower of this part of Jefferson's ideals.

Hamilton was a little religious. But he never let that stop the many affairs he had and the blackmailing he was doing. He was also on the receiving end of blackmail as well cause he couldn't keep his pants on.. Martha Washington, when ever she saw a tom cat roaming around would call it Alexander Hamilton. His reputation was that bad.   But he was a Christian.

Religion did get involved in government a little in the 1820's through the early part 1861. It was the God given right as stated in the Bible to have slaves.

 So most of the religious of the south and many in the north too, stepped up to the plate to fight for the religious freedom that was theirs, to enslave others.

See what I mean when I say that religion could make people say and do wicked and very stupid things.  This would be learned also with women, minorities, and gays.  For you see the founders were not perfect. They were not at all concerned with who was sleeping with who. Or for that matter who married who. They were concerned to start a new country with a new slant and idea. One that would work like the great republics of history. To put it bluntly, they were not hampered by narrow thinking and foolish ancient  fairy tales. They started the ball rolling. They expected like minded people to continue to improve the process.

If you think for a moment a civilization as advanced as ancient Greece was concerned with the narrow minded things that these religious folks are upset about. You need to study more.

Abraham Lincoln was not at all religious. But, being keenly intelligent, he understood the power of religious prose. Through his writings he would always quote biblical text. This is how he could reach the common man and the not too intelligent. Besides how can he be a bad guy, he knows the bible.
 He was a master of this. There are times Lincoln comes across sounding like a  Biblical Prophet. But he knew what he was doing and what he did.........worked.

 One has to remember that he did a similar thing to Jefferson and made a whole comedic satire of the Bible. However, advisers said burn it. It is a pity it did not survive as it would have driven those who think Lincoln was divinely inspired, absolutely crazy.

But now what has happened to the poor Republican party? It is under attack by some really bizarre people who are under the spell of this or that religion. Mainly the born again crowd which is frightening.  The sad part is that religion will finally kill the republican party. For religion requires you not to think,  or to even dare question it. That will sadly create a legion of the obedient, and clueless.

What is more bizarre is they are against most of what the founders were for.  Odd huh?

 In fact if by some amazing chance the people who seem to be in control of the Republican party had the chance to meet Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Adams, and just for fun, Lincoln....

 They probably would not like them and I would think the feeling would be mutual.

Because the founders hated the problems caused by religion and would first off say so.

They would tell them they have no rights to inflict religious views on people, that people have rights to do as they wish without religious guidelines. That their lives were their own. That they were endowed by their creator with these rights. One of them was to just not to deal with religion. If they so chose. But those who favored religion could enjoy it, but not force their morals on those who thought it was stupid. Therefore they would say that there is no reason to have any religious exercise in a school. Why force someone there to deal with that, if they think it is just ancient Egyptian  fairy tales.  That is what the founders would think and say.

 That they have no power to inflict their narrow views on who is good and who is bad. It is not right to judge others on religious grounds, it is on legal grounds and only legal grounds in which they can be judged.. While the religious believe only God can judge, the founders said only the government can.

Lastly, the founders were very well versed on Greek and Roman and many Eastern philosophies.    Much of that, was the basis of the the work on the United States Government and it's governing documents.

 But the group from the past would be amazed how uneducated the people were. Specially those who would be in charge. That they would rally round their bibles but have hardly an understanding of major Greek philosophers that were the moral basis for man's understanding.  Long before their texts of the New Testament were written.  The code of goodness and civility comes from that philosophy, not the religious texts.
 But sadly these people do not know this. They will blindly quote from their books what morality is. They are like circus elephants holding on to the tail of the other and go round and round in clueless religious circles. Always thinking they are right, and being rather snobbish about their point of view. Like it is pre-ordained. That reason does not work with religion. That they see only what they wish to see.  But the founders would take one more try to convince them to drop off this air of religion and use common sense..

 And the founders would find out and learn as we have......

It would fall on deaf ears.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Arthur Field's Melody Record. One rare and odd record label.

In studying what little there is about this label. It is generally quite rare and was sold on a limited basis and sold for only a short while. It was interesting reading what Allen Sutton wrote for the Mainspring Press and also what Ryan Barna wrote about the records and including the location of the shop in which these records were sold.

 This was a record that lasted for less than a year and had very limited distribution.  I am very proud to have one copy of this rare label. I wish it was in better shape, but it is none the less, that label.

I was not at all aware of this label when I found it in 1981.  Things were different then and research on recordings relied mainly on the Fabulous Phonograph and Tin foil to Stereo. Well, I saw this record in a bin under a table at a record show. I knew who Arthur Fields was, but I did not know of this label. Well neither did a lot of other people who I asked... I found a mention in Brian Rust's book but that did not help me much and I was resigned to just wait till I could. 

I also actively started looking for another copy in perhaps better condition. I was not able to find another. This does not mean they were not around but that I did not see one.  I was thinking I would wait till I found another one in better shape and replace this one.

 Well 32 years has gone by and I have yet to see one staring at me. I have seen a few on the internet, but that is all. So this I guess ranks as one of the more elusive records from the 1920's. Not the rarest I am sure, but certainly on page one of list of the rarest records.  For those who have read about this record or have one themselves I thought I would share this one that has been with me for 32 years now. It would be interesting to see who else has these and find out how many are still around.  



These two sites will give lots of info on this label.

The Columbia Phonograph, later Graphophone Company advertising records.

The Columbia Phonograph Company were the first to issue on a large scale in the United States Double Disc records. With this new development they put out several advertising records to educate a hungry public.

The first of these recordings was made in 1908-09. It was a well recorded advertising piece read with great vigor by the American singer and bass Frank C. Stanley. (His real name was William Stanley Grimsted ) Stanley's recording was a massively reproduced as it was free. It was a pure and simple advertising record. I am sure it sold a lot of Columbia Double Disc Records.

Stanley's record of 1908-09

While this recording was doing it's job in the United States, there was a massive push in Canada to sell Double Disc Records. There was a special Canadian advertising record made and narrated by Canadian born Henry Burr ( His real name was Harry McClaskey ) This record worked on sales in Canada and did a good job at that.

Burr's Canadian record of 1913-14

Henry Burr did such a good job on the Canadian advertising record he would make a new and improved  Double Disc advertising record. It would be different from the previous one made by Stanley. It would be more involved in the sound and instruments than the first one.

But since Stanley had died in 1910, Burr now became the voice of the Columbia Graphophone Company.

The name changed in 1913, and reflected what they selling, which was the Graphophone and Graphophone records. Edison was selling Phonographs and Victor was selling Victrolas. So Burr would be the spokesman on the final Double Disc advertising record.  Many people I have read have tried to figure out who was making this last record. It was no other than Henry Burr.

Burr's unique 1913-14 advertising record in the United States. It was different from the first one issued as it sold for twenty five cents. But was still a massive seller for the company.

These were the first advertising records for Columbia Disc Records. A unique and special time in the history of the recording industry.

Friday, February 01, 2013

What it used to say on our dollar bills. It's not like this anymore.

Here is a Silver Certificate from 1957. Not that long ago, but how the world and our  money system has changed since then. This bill was redeemable for it's value in silver. Today that would be an impossibility as even a dime from 1957 is worth several dollars. But it was another time when the value of the American currency was higher and all of the coins used in our currency over the five cent piece were 90% silver.

I doubt we would ever see those days again. I wish my parents had decided to exchange these bills for silver.  What a difference that would have made. But like anything else, who knew.

But wanted to show you what dollar bills used to look like.