The Edison Files: Byron Harlan

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. No one knows for sure who the very first recording artist was. Here is a look at the early recording artists I have in my collection.


While tenor Byron Harlan enjoyed an extremely successful solo career with over 50 top ten recordings from 1899 through 1919, he became hugely famous as one half of the “Half-ton duo” with baritone Arthur Collins.

As a solo artist, Harlan specialized in sentimental ballads including the #1 hits ‘Tell Me, Pretty Maiden’ (1901), ‘Hello Central, Give Me Heaven’ (1901), ‘The Mansion of Aching Hearts’ (1902), ‘Blue Bell’ (1904), ‘All Aboard for Dreamland’ (1904), ‘Where the Morning Glories Twine Around the Door’ (1905), ‘Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie’ (1906), ‘The Good Old U.S.A’ (1906), ‘My Gal Sal’ (1907), ‘School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)’ (1907), ‘Nobody’s Little Girl’ (1907) and ‘Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!’ (1910).

In contrast to Harlan’s sentimental ballad style, the Collins-Harlan duo’s emphasis was on ragtime and minstrel humor. Cited as the most popular comedy team in the early 1900’s, Collins-Harlan had #1 hits with ‘Down Where the Wurzburger Flows’ (1902), ‘Hurrah For Baffin’s Bay’ (1903), ‘Camp Meetin’ Time’ (1906), ‘The Right Church, But the Wrong Pew’ (1909), ‘Under the Yum Yum Tree’ (1911), ‘Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey’ (1911), ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ (1911), ‘When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam’’ (1913), ‘I Love the Ladies’ (1914), ‘The Aba Dada Honeymoon’ (1914), ‘Oh How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wachi Woo (That’s Love in Honolulu)’ (1916) and ‘Dark Town Strutters Hall’ (1918).

Byron G. Harlan died on September 11, 1936.


To listen to recordings by Byron Harlan, or other early recording artists, visit the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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