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.