It is with enormous sadness that we announce the passing of Edward Mitchell. Eddie has been an important part of Radio Dismuke for many years. He was on the board of Early 1900s Music Preservation, the organization that now operates Radio Dismuke. Those who have listened to the New Year’s Eve and Texas Record Collectors’ Party broadcasts over the years will know him as “Eddie The Collector.” He was part of every such broadcast since our first one in December 2005. A good number of the selections heard on Radio Dismuke come from 78 rpms in Eddie’s collection that he made available for me to digitize and restore for the station. And, on a number of occasions, he made his home in Waco, Texas available as a place for us to record the broadcasts.
The broadcasts we recorded at Eddie’s house were just as much social occasions as they were about the mere practical task of recording a broadcast. Very often they were a reunion of fellow collectors who had not seen each other since the previous broadcast. I would always drive to Waco the evening before the broadcast to get all of the equipment set up and spend the night in Eddie’s guest room. The participants in the broadcast would arrive late morning and we usually went someplace in one of Eddie’s antique cars for lunch. But on some occasions, we didn’t get around to actually recording the broadcast until late afternoon and it would be late evening before we finished.
The Eddie that one heard on the broadcasts was very much the Eddie that one knew in person. Many of the records Eddie introduced on the broadcasts had a story behind them, if not about the musicians and the recording session, then about how he came to acquire the record. I believe Eddie started collecting 78 rpms sometime in the 1950s. He frequently spoke about one of his early collector friends, R. E. M Gottlieb, who began collecting 1920s records during the 1920s when they were brand new and, by the time Eddie knew him, had amassed a large and significant collection. Eddie knew a lot of collectors. Very often Eddie could tell about which old-time collector he had gotten a record from, what record he had to give up in exchange for it or he had some anecdote about where he found the record.
One of the reasons why we often got a late start on recording the broadcasts at Eddie’s house was because he would take us to see and visit various interesting historic buildings in Waco. Eddie grew up in Waco and moved back there from Dallas when he retired. Because he developed an interest in the 1920s at an early age, he could vividly remember the stories he heard from his parents and family members who lived during that era. Riding through Waco with Eddie was always fascinating. He would point out buildings along the way and tell stories about what had been in them decades earlier. There is a street in Waco lined with large, beautiful mansions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – and for a great many of them Eddie could talk about the families who had lived in them decades earlier. Spending time around Eddie was always enjoyable, not just because he was a very friendly person but because he could talk about so many different and interesting things. He also had, at times, a devilish sense of humor that I enjoyed. We will be doing a tribute to Eddie later this year during our New Years broadcast and I will share a couple of examples.
After we recorded the broadcasts I would usually stay a second night in Eddie’s guest room so that I wouldn’t have to pack up the equipment and drive back to Fort Worth at a very late hour. The next day, before I packed up the equipment, I would often spend a couple of hours making transfers of his records that I enjoyed on the broadcast as well as others that he would pull out for inclusion on the station. Eddie very much enjoyed sharing the music in his collection with others. I know that he would enjoy the fact that the treasures from his collection that let me transfer for Radio Dismuke will continue to enchant and delight new generations of listeners who discover the music for the first time. He also shared his collection through a YouTube channel in which he featured videos of his records playing on his vintage phonographs. You can find the bulk of them by doing a YouTube search for user name Victrolajazz. A couple of years ago, Eddie somehow lost access to his account and began uploading videos under a second user name, jazzvictrola7104
Finally, a bit about the photo I included. On one of the visits to Eddie’s place, he showed us a photo that had been taken of his father sometime during the early 1930s by an old-time street photographer in downtown Waco near the old Kress dimestore. Such photographers would take snapshots of people walking by in the hope that they would want to buy a copy. Eddie mentioned that the Kress building was still standing and its awning was still intact, though it had been shortened at some point. So we decided to try and reenact the photo with Eddie (wearing the yellow polo shirt) playing the role of his father and our fellow collector friend Christian playing the role of the other man in the vintage photo. We were able to get Eddie and Christian in the exact same spot as the historical photo but I had difficulty finding the same spot and angle as the original photographer. I have a lot of photos of Eddie. But I think this photo and the premise behind it captures his personality.
All of us here at Radio Dismuke/Early 1900s Music Preservation and the many vintage record collectors and vintage music fans who knew him are going to miss him enormously.