Here is a sampling of some of the audio restorations being added to Radio Dismuke’s playlist this week.
Among the recordings being added to Radio Dismuke’s playlist this week are these extremely rare recordings that I had intended to add a few years ago but, instead, were overlooked on a hard drive!
All of these recordings are from rare Edison Needle Type Electric discs that were part of a remarkable vintage record collection donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation a few years back. Because of the records’ rarity, I immediately transferred all of the Edison discs to a hard drive so that the records themselves could go into secure storage as quickly as possible and minimize the need to physically handle them. I then did the audio restoration work on the transferred recordings whenever I had an opportunity to do so over a period of multiple months. Somehow, a handful of the transfers ended up getting overlooked and were never added to the station! (Fortunately, since that time, I have modified the filing system I use when I do audio restorations so that I can more easily see which transfers have and have not been restored).
When I discovered that there were still a few Needle Type Electric transfers I had not yet restored, it was, on one hand, exciting as it isn’t very often one gets to work with such records. Being able to digitize and restore so many historic yet outstanding recordings was an amazing experience. I had been under the impression that there were no more left in the queue for me to restore so finding that there were, in fact, a few more felt wonderful. On the other hand, because of both their rarity and quality, my original intention was to add them to the station as quickly as possible so that they could be enjoyed by the audience.
Edison Needle Type Electric records were a last-ditch effort by the Thomas Edison company to save its record business after years of declining sales. Unlike the quarter-inch-thick Edison Diamond Discs that required special playback equipment and, by the late 1920s, were increasingly perceived as being old-fashioned, the new Needle Type Electric discs were conventional 78 rpm records that could be played on standard steel needle phonographs.
Unfortunately, for Edison, the effort was too little too late. The new records were introduced to record stores in July 1929 and were only issued through October 1929 when Thomas Edison, over fifty years after he had invented the phonograph, made the decision to close his record and phonograph business just a few days before the stock market crashed.
All of the songs presented here were quite popular in 1929 and one can hear various versions of them performed by other artists in Radio Dismuke. Edison’s records were well-engineered and their fidelity was usually quite good for their era. All of the bands on these recordings are outstanding and do a great job of capturing the spirit of the closing months of the “Roaring Twenties.”
Sadly, due to the marketplace misfortunes of the Edison company, very few people at the time had the opportunity to enjoy these performances. Thanks to the 21st-century technology and the generosity of Early 1900s Music Preservation’s donor they will get to enjoy a far greater audience through Radio Dismuke than they did 93 years ago when they were new.
“The Flippity Flop” by B. A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra was part of the very first shipment of the new Needle Type Electric records that shipped out to dealers in early July, 1929. The song was originally introduced in the 1929 film The Dance of Life. B. A. Rolfe was a film producer turned bandleader. At the time of this recording his New York City-based band had its own network radio program The Lucky Strike Dance Hour sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarette brand. The vocal on the recording is performed by a recording pioneer, Billy Murray, who began making records back in the late 1890s. During the 1900s and 1910s he was very much in demand for his ability to project his voice loud enough to be picked up by the acoustic recording horns of the pre-microphone era while doing so in a conversational style. With the advent of electrical recording in 1925 Murray’s popularity began to wane in favor of the new style “crooners.” Nevertheless, he continued to make records into the early 1940s.
“Piccolo Pete” by Arthur Fields And His Assassinators was one of the issues that shipped out to dealers on October 22, 1929 – the very last shipment of Edison records to go out before the company suspended operations of its record and phonograph division. Arthur Fields was a prolific vocalist on records from the 1910s through the 1930s. “Piccolo Pete” is a novelty song that was a huge 1929 hit for the Ted Weems Orchestra. If the band on this recording sounds like recordings you might have heard by the Fred Hall band, the reason is that it mostly consists of musicians from that band, including Hall himself on piano. Fields was a close associate of Fred Hall and was the vocalist on many of Hall’s recordings – including a recording of “Piccolo Pete” by Fred Hall And His Sugar Babies on the Okeh label. Fields also performed with Hall’s band under the pseudonym of The Home Towners on Cameo, Banner and other dime store labels.
The California Ramblers featured some of the era’s to jazz musicians and recorded hundreds of sides under its own name for multiple record labels. Its director, Ed Kirkeby, who can be heard as the vocalist on “Huggable Kissable You,” also arranged for the band to appear on hundreds of more records under various pseudonyms. If this version of “Huggable Kissable You” sounds somewhat familiar to regular Radio Dismuke listeners, it is probably because the band also made a recording on Columbia that is featured on the station under the pseudonym of Ted Wallace and His Campus Boys with a vocal by Smith Ballew. Of the two, the Edison version presented here is a bit jazzier.
The California Ramblers’ recording of “When You’re Counting The Stars Alone” was also part of the October 22, 1929 shipment to dealers that ended up being the final shipment of records by Thomas Edison’s record company.
“Waiting At The End of the Road” comes from the 1929 King Vidor film Hallalujah. Russian-born Phil Spitalny is best remembered for his “All-Girl Orchestra” which he formed in 1934. But in the 1920s he had a top-notch dance band that issued records on both Victor and Edison. After Edison shut down, Spitalny, along with the Paull Sisters featured on the recording here, made records for Hit of the Week, a label that attempted to reignite record sales during the very worst period of the Great Depression by issuing low-priced single-sided cardboard discs that were sold through newsstands.
If you enjoyed these recordings, you might want to check out previous postings here and here about a couple of other extremely rare Needle Type Electric records that were part of the same donation. Regular listeners to Radio Dismuke are likely to recognize the recordings but might not be aware of their fascinating history.