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Antique Phonograph Mix

June 2011

Listen to a selection of tracks by Mac, presenter of WFMU's Antique Phonograph Music Program, broadcast every Tuesday evening 8–9pm (EST).

Mac says: "Here is a short sampler I put together to introduce you to some records from the acoustic era of music that I feature on my radio show. This is a time when electricity and microphones were not used for the recording or playback process, circa 1890–1925. These were all recorded, like my show, with a microphone placed into the horn of the crank up phonograph."

Irene Gibbons and her Jazz Band
"That Da Da Strain"

(Columbia, 1923)
Jazz and Blues recordings took off in the early 20’s and soon America was jazz crazy. Curiously, it was the ladies that led the charge with such greats as Bessie Smith trailblazing the way. Here is a more obscure artist, but one of my favourite jazzy, bluesy records of the period.

Bently Ball
"The Gallow’s Tree"

(Columbia, 1920)
I grew up on a diet of pop and rock music. I was very surprised when I found this recording I had known from Led Zeppelin in such a primitive form. From what I read, Bently Ball was an itinerant typewriter salesman and song collector who forayed into recording. Is this the first recorded version of this song?

Collins and Harlan
"My Gal Irene"

(Edison 2 minute cylinder, 1906)
Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan were a prolific and popular duet that charmed audiences for the first quarter of the 20th century. They recorded every style of music from ragtime to child ballads to coon songs for Victor and Edison, the two leading record companies of the day.

Vernon Dalhart
"The Song of The Shut In"

(Velvet Tone, 1925)
Vernon Dalhart started out as a light opera singer but soon found his niche and defined the “death/disaster genre” of early country music that is now typical of the style. The "Prisoner Song" is widely considered the first “country” record to achieve respectable sales. He sung about train wrecks, murders, floods and other maudlin ballads.

Victor Orchestra
"Wild Cherries Rag"

(Victor, 1910)
First came ragtime and then came jazz. But in along the way were songs that melted the walls between them. I certainly can hear strains of jazz in the Victor house band recording of this number. They were simply reflecting back on the public interest for faster, more syncopated music for dancing and made many great records.

Harry Champion
"A Little Bit Of Cucumber"

(Columbia, 1914)
Here the British music hall artist Harry Champion entertains us with one of his best records from his golden age. Was it as suggestive, as I think it is today, for him to sing “with a little bit of “cum, cum, I cum, you cum, little bit of cucumber” in 1914?

Oberammergauer Zither Trio
"Josephine Polka"

(Edison BA, 1916)
I love to discover dead genres of music during this period, and this zither trio made a handful of cylinder records for Edison in the mid-teens. I just love the sound and feel of their recordings. Not much is known about them, so all one can do is listen to the music and take it at listening value.

Fred Van Eps
"Red Pepper"

(Victor, 1911)
Fred was one of the premier banjoists of the acoustic era and here his style shines brightly on this Victor record. The banjo was one of the instruments that recorded really well using the limited recording technology of the period and is so evocative of this era.

Madame Rollini
"La Chercheuse de Clair de Lune"

(Victor, 192?)
Rollini is another artist that I have found very little information about. I did find a picture of her recently, so information does leak out over the years sometimes which makes me re-research artists. This one combines my love of yodeling and scantily clad ladies of The Folies-Bergère. C’est Magnifique!

"The OKeh Laughing Record"

(Okeh, 1922)
Purportedly recorded in post First World War ravaged Berlin, this anonymous recording was originally available in Europe and made its way to America a few years later where it became a big novelty hit. This recording made a great impression on me as a child via a short cartoon featuring it as a soundtrack. It continues to be a favorite of mine and I have now collected many laughing records along with two crying records and a side with only coughing.

End Groove Medley
Get up and take the tone arm off the record or you are going to have to listen to this until the spring winds down.

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