Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Who was J. W. Myers? A great recording artist of whom we know just about nothing.

                           John (?) W. Myers   1864 - 1919

So I will repeat this question, who was J.W. Myers? We recon he was born in Wales where many great singers have come from.  Maybe he was a coal miner in his earliest days. But he had a really powerful voice.  He found his way to the United States in the 1880's and was from the start very much involved in the phonograph industry. In fact he had his own company making wax cylinders in the 1890's.  Some of the cylinder boxes which it would say "Personally tested by JW Myers". He made a number of early cylinders in the 1890's and was one of the early recording artists on the new disc records by Berliner. His records for Berliner are seen and may have started in 1895 or 96  I have seen his records from 1896. But I am not sure if he recorded for Berliner in 1895.

He was a very popular recording artist as seen by the large numbers of recordings made by him on disc and cylinder. By 1900 he has been recording for Columbia Cylinders for years as well as Berliner for four plus years and in that year started recording for the new Consolidated Gramophone and  Seaman's Zonophone

The Consolidated Gramophone Company changed its name later in 1900 to the Improved Records manufactured by Eldridge Reeves Johnson. By early 1901 the name of the records were Victor Records still manufactured by Johnson and at the end of the year officially becoming the Victor Talking Machine. During all of this time Myers was making a large number of records for Johnson.

By 1901 Myers started recording for the Globe Record Company which was located in the same location as the Zonophone. These records made for Globe would soon be called Climax Records and not so secretly recorded for the Columbia Graphophone Company. Since the same recording Engineer, a Mr English was recording both Zonophone and now Climax sessions I am sure Myers was asked to record for this new and rather illegal concern.

By the end of 1901 Columbia no longer needed to hide as it had the Jones patent. Therefore the Climax label was allowed to die in 1902.  After a lot of confusion on what name and company was on each record. Plus the added insult of having VTM placed on their stampers in a midnight raid in January 1902. A new label was made and it was the Columbia Disc Record. But in 1902  if you had a Columbia disc it would sometimes proudly tell you in its announcement that is was a Climax Record!  But through all of this Myers was recording for all of these companies and more. Even making some Edison cylinders.

But Columbia and Victor would be Myers home base for recording although he would venture out and record for small companies here and there.

Between 1901 and 1903 it seems Myers was practically living in the recording studios. His output was remarkable and greatly varied.  But by 1905 it was very apparent that his career was on a downward turn. he pretty much stopped recording, save for a few times here and there after 1908.

His was one of the great careers in the dawn of the recording industry. But this is all I know of him. The pioneer recording artist historian Jim Walsh said he believed that Myers died in 1919. But the major problem is, was that his real name? Did he die in 1919 or go back to the United Kingdom? Or did he live here longer with his real name of which none of us know.  Asking Jim Walsh these questions was not easy in his later years. I did get to meet Walsh once in his later years and was treated to a rather unusual rendition of him singing the Star Spangled Banner in cat!  No joke!

All I can say is that from the 1890's to 1905 J. W. Myers was one of the most prolific recording artists ever. Recording well over 150 titles and perhaps a lot more.that is not known or listed anonymously on some labels. Since we know so little about him as a person, we are missing a lot of other things about his life and his remarkable career. Maybe we might learn more someday on this remarkable and multi-talented singer.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A quick and chance meeting with Gov. Ann Richards in Washington DC.

I was in Washington DC to make recordings of the former Senator and Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate Bob Dole. We were bringing in some early equipment in to play recordings of Theodore Roosevelt for him. It took a while to get all of the machine and equipment in. Had to bring the horn, the crane, the box of cylinders, the machine and the cameras and the like.  It was near lunch time when we arrived and had all of this. Ann Richards by this time was working at a law firm in Washington in this same building that Dole was in. She had just entered the lobby as I had it all together and was carrying a large horn in my hand.

So as I got all of this together and it needed to be checked by security. It was not much of a check to be honest, this was before 9/11.

Ann Richards came by and knew what the equipment was. She asked why it was there and I explained we were going to record Bob Dole on wax. She said I would love to see this machine in operation.. So in the lobby of this most fancy building I set up the Edison machine and played a cylinder of President Theodore Roosevelt.

 It was originally just a few listening including Governor Richards and this crowd grew to about 100 people while Theodore Roosevelt spoke from the horn . As soon as it was over the crowd broke into applause for the 26th president. Richards came to me and said "That was great, love to see more of this"  Soon she and her partners were on their way to lunch and the lobby was quiet. It was one of those most interesting moments you could never plan.

No pictures were taken, no video, it was just a moment that came crashing together without any plans. But it was pleasure to meet Gov. Ann Richards that day.

What happened with the Senator I will write about in a later post

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why do we collect old records?

Having recently gone to a phonograph and record show in Lincoln Park, New Jersey. I had a friend who was there for the 1st time and made a very interesting observation.

1. Why do we collect these old records and machines?

2. Who is into collecting the same?

3. Why do I see a very wide grouping of people. All sorts of temperaments.

4. Whats the attraction?

When faced with these four questions I had to think why people collected records or machines.

I could say that there are machine people and record people. The machine people will play a 1947 Tommy Dorsey record on a Victor V.  To them that is fine. However, to a record person it is sacrilege. So these two camps rarely clash as each is on their own quest .. One for machines, the other for records. For the machine collectors it is often the thrill of seeing the machine run. To make a sound or play a record. What the record is, is really not of great concern. But the action and the operation of the machine is paramount.

I said that there are some record collectors who are purists and will play the records on no other machine than what they were made for. The Victor Victrola will play the Victor records , Columbia's on a Graphonola, and Edison's on what will play them. etc.

There are some record collectors who are condition minded. Who will only play a record from 1905 with a light armed turntable. The idea of playing an early record on one of those machines makes them shake their heads with amazement.

There are also those who are parts of both camps.   The moon is the limit with this group as they have all kinds of opinions. But this the largest group. They love the history. They love to see the machine play. They love to hear the records.

But in ending my answer for this person I said basically it is a fun hobby, educational for many, and it brings one back to a time so long gone. There is something secure in listening to a record made in 1900. We know the history, we know the piece and the so called idealistic life back them.  It is good to be reassured from the past that tomorrow might not be as bad as we think.

So all different types of collectors exist and I have not covered all of them either. But all of them get together and although they all have various opinions and likes, they have a lot of fun together with their hobby.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why hate Aaron Burr? He was no worse than Jefferson or Hamilton. In many ways far better than both.

Aaron Burr was one of the greats who was destroyed by many of the greats. Why?  Because he was too honest. Honesty and integrity will often not get you far in politics.

 Jefferson was a political animal who cared not a damn about a friend or family member when it came to politics. The more you learn about Jefferson the man, not the myth, the less you will like him. He was a cruel backbiting man who did not lose any sleep destroying the careers of others. Had no problems with keeping slaves, having an affair with a person he owned and producing a number of children who would remain slaves till Jefferson's death!

 He felt that women were not worthy of educating. I am just touching the surface here. It gets more vile as you dig. His comments on those who are Africans were frightening. He compared them to baboons and other lowly animals. This is the man who wrote "All men are created equal". I could dig further, but I think you get the point of who this was...

Hamilton in his later years was just a disaster and a fool who not only destroyed his own party, but his own career. Burr saved Hamilton from complete ruin by shooting him in a duel. Otherwise, Hamilton would have been looked at as the mess he truly was.
 It should be remembered that Hamilton's career was long finished by 1804. He had disgraced himself in his political actions, his sexual affairs, and his basic dishonesty. Yes he was brilliant with the Federalist Papers and his actions in early finance. But, his actions after 1792 are really nothing grand. He was such a philanderer that when ever Martha Washington saw a tomcat on the prowl. She would refer to it as Alexander Hamilton!

Aaron Burr was no angel either. But he was more moral than either of the others mentioned. He was a strong supporter of women's rights and the education of women.  He was the first to push for the abolition of slaves. This was long before Hamilton, who did own a few slaves at one point. But found and changed sides when it was politically good for him to do so.
Many still say Hamilton was the first to do this in New York. But that is just not true!

Hamilton was never the intellectual equal of Burr's and this frustrated Hamilton to no end. For each time Hamilton tried to destroy Burr's advances in politics, Burr would outwit him. Driving Hamilton crazy with envy and vitriol. Of which he would utter to the press, communicate to others in letters and in his public conversations.

Burr also created the first water system in New York City, created the Manhattan Bank, was a strong supporter for the less fortunate. Creating basically the modern political system. Lastly, he honorably stepped back and allowed Jefferson to be President when they were tied for the election. With the understanding that Burr would follow the older Jefferson. However, Jefferson had no intention of allowing Burr to follow him into office and spent the rest of his administration trying to destroy Burr after that. Doing a rather good job of it as well.

The sad fact is that many of Burr's papers were lost and what we get often is the slanted statements of Jefferson and Hamilton. With friends like that who needed enemies, as John Adams would find out.

I want people to study, learn about Burr. You will find a jewel surrounded by fakes.

Time for people to really learn our history rather than the crap that has been written by the defenders of Jefferson and Hamilton.. Study and you will in time, see who was the honest one.

The big statement is that Burr was trying to go to Mexico to start a new Kingdom. Well it was interesting for him , but Hamilton had already tried that. Burr knew this as he was far more intelligent than Hamilton and saw the folly of it.

You see Hamilton looked into Mexico as a place he could reign in and control long before Burr even looked there.   But all we hear about is Burr.  Lastly, Burr was out west on the request of President Jefferson.  This was part of Jefferson's attempt to finish off Burr. It was during this time that Jefferson started his totally fake treason charges. Which were not pushed by the US government, but the White House.

Hamilton and Jefferson deserved each other. The nation sadly missed having Burr as President. I think it would have been a great period of time and an advancement in the countries history.

We always hear of the great intellect that was Thomas Jefferson. He was a man of the enlightenment, who had no sense of humor, was cold, spoiled, and never played the game fairly.

 He had a brain trust, that was James Madison. Madison was Jefferson's attack dog at times and was also keenly intelligent and vicious as Jefferson was. These two would ruin the careers of those who they did not approve.

Outside of Burr, perhaps one of the greatest examples of this was President John Adams. Of whom Jefferson hired people to slander the President and destroy his career. This was the Jefferson no one likes to remember. But that was the real Jefferson. Cold, heartless, and intoxicated with his own brilliance. As John Adams said of Jefferson.
"Jefferson has many qualities, but one of them is not integrity".

 Just as Hamilton tried to bring the the United States into war with France.  He wanted to be a commander in the field. But he was not of the metal. He was pushing poor George Washington to do as he liked. He used Washington as a puppet. He tried to destroy the administration of John Adams as well, and with his actions could have destroyed the entire country. He was as I originally said a fool! His death in the duel with Burr is what saved him. For he was deeply disliked by many, and to be honest Burr's actions were quietly applauded behind closed doors. Perhaps John Adams help is needed again to describe Hamilton best. He called him " The bastard brat of a Scottish sea peddler".

It is interesting to note that the only one of this bunch that Adams truly respected was Burr. Of course he and Jefferson would write to each other as old men only after Adams took the pains to do so. Even then, it was a careful dialog. Jefferson would never truly admit to his actions and cruelty, and Adams would never push the issue. They talked of things that would not involve each others actions and do a careful dance to keep it that way.

Hamilton was blackmailed by his sexual actions, forced to pay out a large sum of hush money and was pretty much in ruin by 1804. After his death, his family was supported by a massive trust fun created on their behalf. Then with careful skill the Hamilton family purchased as many of the original letters and papers of Hamilton and destroyed all that were not fitting for his image. Which means a lot of papers were destroyed.

Hamilton was challenged to many duels, for he was one of those people who could not keep his mouth shut. He would slander you publicly, and recant to you privately. Therefore the sting of the attack would always stay. Burr was attacked non stop by Hamilton. Finally, Burr had had enough.

The duel at Wehawken was even affected by Hamilton's dishonesty. He used trick pistols that had a hidden hair trigger that would be to his advantage. It seems he just touched the trigger and his gun went off. Burr who was never known as a good shot was successful that day. Sadly he died that day too... Politically. But lingered on till 1836. A shell of his former self.

Jefferson who would live on till 1826 carefully altered his diaries and destroyed letters that would make him look like he really did. In fact, even after Jefferson died James Madison continued the work. Even going so far as to learn to write like Jefferson to change, correct, or totally alter the history, by writing new letters.

The only one who did not do this was Burr. Many of his papers were lost at sea. He did not try to alter history. He accepted his fate. He regretted the duel, forever hated Thomas Jefferson for his loathsome tactics. He lived out his life till the 1830's. By this time he was rather poor and most probably losing it. But he did some foolish things, made some great mistakes. But always accepted his fate, and never tried to change the history.  I am saying he was dishonest at times as well, but once again compared to the other two. He was almost saintly.

Hamilton and Jefferson are known as great leaders of the revolution. Hamilton was never a great leader in battle, but was adored by George Washington. who just kept advancing him. Jefferson wrote much of the Declaration and when the British were near, unlike most of the signers of that document, he ran away. When duty called, he ran like hell.

 Little is known of Burr in the battles of Long Island and Harlem in which is was he would save Washington's troops with his actions of removing them from harms way. An action that forever made Washington dislike him. But there should be a statue of Burr in Manhattan. His partner in this was a Mrs. Murray. Hence Murray Hill in New York City. But Burr is forgotten and brushed over with several coats of historic re visionary paint. Had he not done what he did, Washington would have been trapped with his troops in lower Manhattan.

Every one who is honest about history will know the greatness of Burr's actions. But in New York City Alexander Hamilton is regarded as a saint. His descendants were very keenly in involved in preserving his history and legacy in the city. When I was recently in the New York Historic Society I asked what is there about Burr. There was very little, it was very strongly Hamilton based. Sad to see indeed.

 For his actions saved the American Revolution. But we never hear of it. Just Hamilton and Jefferson. Knowing those two as I do...........

Burr comes out smelling like a rose......honestly.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The HMV portable Gramophones 88, 101 and 102. The best sounding of the batch.

The idea of a portable phonograph or Gramophone was in the works from the earliest days of the new invention. The earliest cylinder machines with horns could be portable to a degree but you still needed to carry the horn with you. Not to mention the cylinders. The first portable disc machines were available around the time of the start of WWI. During this time Decca had a great machine that was used in the trenches. 

After WWI the world was very different and Jazz was in the air. Plus everyone wanted a Phonograph, Victrola, Graphonola or even Amberola. The Amberola was for cylinders and the Amberola 30 was smaller but not that easy to get around. While you no longer needed to carry a horn around, you still had the bulky cylinders. 

The Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey came up with the first really good portable in the United States. It was called the Victor Victrola 50. It was followed by the VV 35 and others. Columbia came up with some shortly after, followed by Brunswick and other smaller companies. By the later 1920's there was a massive amount of portables on the market. Many were of dubious quality and many were trying to be cute. Small phonographs like Cameraphones were cute but hardly gave any quality of sound. 

His Masters Voice in the United Kingdom started to make some serious portables and soon were major players in the field. From here on I will just use HMV.  This was the Gramophone Company that had been born from Emile Berliner and was the leading company in England dealing with gramophones or what is called in the USA, phonographs.

 By 1926 HMV really started to corner the world market with portable gramophones. Also while the Victor and Columbia companies in the USA were doing a good deal of sales on portables they would lag behind HMV.

  HMV ruled the market in this field for decades. Producing a large number of portable and some not too portable gramophones. In tonal quality the Gramophone portables were the best on the market. And while the Columbia and Victor companies made some good portable Graphophones and Victrolas respectively. They were never quite as good as the HMV's. Although there are a few that were near equal to them.

What was important about the HMV's was that they were mathematically figured to produce the best quality and sound. Of coure all of this was influenced by what had been the Orthophonic Victrola and electrical recording. The Orthophonic Victrola had been scientifically and mathematically designed by Bell Labs to produce the best possible acoustic reproduction of recordings and it did very well. In the design of the HMV's after 1925 this would always be a factor. To make the machines sound as good as possible using this principle. Most other portables save for a few at Victor and Columbia did not follow this guide and sound rather weak when compared to the HMV's . 

I am going to show you 3 different models that were the best available over the times of 1926 to 1950. Now there were a few models that were larger and portable, but, they were bordering on being a little too large.  So these are the perfect examples. Quite lite to carry, great sound, and lastly good quality that would allow it to work for years without mishap.

These three models were the best produced by HMV One thing that is interesting is that each machine has a special quality the others do not have. Be it bass, or highs, or great mid range. .

The HMV 88A Gramophone Portable. This late machine from the late 1940's is a bit more uncommon than the other two. But what it has is amazing sound. I find this machine to be one of the finest playing Gramophones I have ever heard. It was made mainly for the export market and is a copy of a Columbia portable. Even down to the sound box. The sound box is called a HMV 23. This is a late copy of  Columbia Viva-Tonal reproducer. It was one of the more inexpensive machines. But it had amazing sound for a smaller price. I have listed this machine as #2 in sound of the three. This machine has better bass than the 102

The HMV 101 Gramophone portable was introduced in 1926 and was designed mathematically to play recordings better than any other portable of the time. It packs a loud and powerful punch. It had a #4 reproducer that when restored properly gives some amazing  performance. As good as this machine is I have to say that the HMV 88A sounds better. But this is #3 on sound in this batch. Nothing to be ashamed of as it left many a large machine in the dust. One thing the HMV 101 has over the other two is more bass. Since the #4 reproducer did not have the aluminum diaphragm it gave off more bass through it very long horn than either of the other two.  

The HMV 102 Gramophone portable. This style of machine was introduced in 1931 and was looked at as a replacement for the 101 that really did not have the sound and reproduction that was needed. It was designed with an amazingly long horn that gave superb sound.  The HMV 102 was called and marketed as "The World's Greatest Portable".  It has some amazing sound for a machine of its size and clearly blows away the 101.  But, it is not that much better than the 88A. In fact I think the 88A could give the 102 a run for its money in the way of sound. But the 102 is a little better so it gets named #1 in sound of these three machines.

All of these machines except the 88A were greatly popular and were sold all over the planet. I have been to Asia and I see them, I see them in Europe and of course also in the USA. They were great players in their day and still highly prized by collectors. Specially if they can be found in various colors. Those are more rare.

Friday, April 05, 2013

North Korea, a land of mystery, power and fanaticism. The world of the Dear Leaders?

When one talks of Korea, it is almost always in the thought of South Korea. North Korea is not a country one wants to see, even if you want to it is very hard to get there. It is the north part, hence the more mountainous part of the two parts. It is under the control of a dead man.

For right now the grandson of the founder of the entire ideal of North Korea is the Dear Leader. But that does not mean he is totally in charge. For in many ways like the Christian belief, The Father is in heaven and his son and grandson have been representatives of the grandfather. The Grandfather is still the head of government there, assisted by the Dear Leaders.

This bizarre relationship has been going on for well over 20 years. Since the Grandfather assumed room Temp.

The country is a communist stronghold that is unlike most before it. For the people have to make the Dear Leader happy. If there is mourning like the death of Kim Jung Il. You have to mourn with gusto! If not you will be facing hard labor. If there is a celebration the same is true. you need to show your happiness. If nor hard labor.

As I write North Korea had in its own bizarre way declared war on the United States and South Korea. Now their declaration of war is by little insults here and there. There has been no formal start to hostilities. I think that maybe something may happen in South Korea.

 But it would be lunacy to start a war with the United States. This is a country that is so poor it's children are 2 inches shorter than South Koreans. Due to malnutrition. If I was the leader I would make sure my people were well fed.

For if you want an army in the future, you had better start feeding the young. Otherwise the fat Dear Leader will be leading a much shorter army than he ever dreamed.

I am not sure what will happen, but I am not thinking that war will take place. North Korea has put its cards on the table and is saying it has four aces. My thought is that this will hurt North Korea and may even lead to the overthrow of the more recent Dear Leader Kim Jung Un. Who by the way was fattened up to a massive degree to look more like his grandfather.

It will be interesting to see what happens, for now as I write the world is a not sure what tomorrow may bring.

I for one do not think anything may happen except the launch of a missile  Cause much of this is to prove Kim Jung Un is of leadership quality. He is proving himself before his generals and his aunt..

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The political and personal mystery that was Abraham Lincoln

I like countless people have looked on both sides of Lincoln. His personal life and his political one. I am often baffled by what little we really know about him.

Much was destroyed by Robert Lincoln who held a vice grip on his father's image and legacy. When Hay and Nicolay wrote the official biography of Lincoln. Much of his life with his wife was not included. The private letters between them were not as well.

Robert Lincoln destroyed all of this. What we are left with is a sketch rather than a portrait.

The information provided by Hay and Nicolay had to be approved by Robert. Also they just didn't bother adding stuff that would annoy Robert, as he was providing materials for the books. But only materials that he approved of could be put in the book.

So we have a very clean portrait of Lincoln.  The official biography had to be done this way. For if Robert got annoyed he would close off all access.

It would be amazing to see what he originally had, our history would be far more understood. Specially when it comes to Lincoln. Cause we really do not know him. We know what others thought of him, but we rarely get to understand what he was thinking.

I have a feeling that Abe Lincoln's letters to his wife were full of personal thoughts and tender words might make us think different of him. Perhaps see him far more passionate than we view him now.

Mary Lincoln always talked about the letters from her husband that she kept together. Sadly Robert's view was to make his father saintly and remove anything that made him seem mortal.

Mary Lincoln was a great political thinker and a great adviser to her husband. What we are often left with is a hollow image of her. For most of her letters have been lost, most probably burned also by Robert.

Robert Lincoln knew everything, but wrote nothing. He let it vanish and now we really do not know who Lincoln was.

 Lincoln's law partner Herndon, wrote a wonderful book about Lincoln, but it made Lincoln a little too human so it hardly made a dent in the history of Lincoln.

 Elizabeth Keckley wrote a long forgotten book called, "Behind the Scenes". It was said that Robert tried to get it removed, but it sold so pitifully it did not matter.

These two books show Lincoln more as he was, but it was not what others wanted to make him into.  Lincoln was tossed into the historical washing machine with too much bleach. So he lost a great deal of what he was.

We will never know what Lincoln thought or shared with many people. He kept no diary, had no close friends in which he would share many of his thoughts. He had friends and intimates, but kept them at arms length. They saw him, heard him, laughed with him, but truly did not know him.

His close friend David Davis said that as soon as Lincoln was finished with someone he needed, he tossed them away like a used chess piece.

Lincoln was not always nice, he could be nasty, he could lie through his teeth to get what he wanted, was not religious, but knew he could move people by using religious texts.

So each of us has our own personal Lincoln. What we think he was, or hope he was. Cause no matter what, no one will ever know him.  To figure what made him tick will forever be a great mystery