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The Edison Files: Ernest L. Stevens Trio

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.

Ernest L. Stevens Trio. Ernest Stevens was Thomas Edison's personal pianist-arranger from 1922 to 1924 when Edison was experimenting with recording sounds and making recordings on wax cylinders. Stevens, born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on December 15, 1894, was involved with music until his death in Montclair, New Jersey on April 6, 1981. His basic musical training was in Plainfield, New Jersey, with Howard Case. A study of the pipe organ was with the well-known Mark Andrews (who made many pipe organ recordings) in Montclair, New Jersey. From 1917 to 1919 he made piano rolls for Aeolian, Piano Style, Gulbransen and Rose Valley companies. In 1919 he began making test records for the Edison Studios in West Orange. Mr. Edison hired Ernest to be his personal pianist in testing for the proper procedure to record on cylinders. His test records were used to evaluate placement of instruments relative to the recording horn. He was a prolific Edison recording artist, appearing on the Edison label as solo pianist, a member of his own trio and dance quartet and was the leader of his own dance orchestra. Records for Edison were under pseudonyms.

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


  1. I recently acquired a record with the same label with the Ernest L. Stevens Trio but the songs are: Red Moon Waltz and If I had my Way, Pretty Baby Fox Trot. I would like to know what this record is worth. My email is I had acquired a huge collection of 10 inch vinyls, some of the collections are stored in RCA Victor binder books. I have no idea of their worth. Can you suggest a website where I could find out by title? Thank you in advance for your response.

  2. My Grandfather Archie Slater was the Saxophone player with the Earnest L. Stevens Trio. I have a picture of him from the Edison National Museum site. I don't know much about him, other than he also played with Paul Whitman for a while, and cut a record with a saxophone solo on it that I saw in the now defunct Knoxville Music Museum. I never met him because he and my grandmother divorced before my father was born. My mom, Sister and I have searched for information on him but there isn't anything out there. I did come across a Ruth Slater who was a contralto with the Chicago Opera, who I think was his sister, and also worked for Edison. Any Information about him would be appreciated.


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