Skip to main content

The Edison Files: Fred J. Bacon

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

Fred J. Bacon was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1871. He studied five-string classic-style banjo under Alfred A. Farland and by the late 1890's, he had established himself as a celebrity for his banjo performances. He made numerous recordings for different record companies, such as Edison and Victor.

Bacon started the Bacon Banjo Company in 1906 in Forest Dale, Vermont, where Bacon lived. “The banjo is the greatest of musical instruments when it is played well,” he said. “In tone quality it is very much like the harp, and its flexibility of playing is unexcelled, for in the hands of a skilled player it is as good for classical music as for dance tunes. It is the only original American instrument, and is coming into its own as the greatest of them all.”

The Bacon Banjo Company was widely regarded as one of greatest of the classic pre-war banjo manufacturers. At first, the company sold banjos made in Bacons own workshop at Forest Dale. In 1920 the company moved to Groton, Connecticut. Later, the company changed name to The Bacon Co., Inc.
In 1922 David L. Day joined the company and after that several of the banjo models were sold under the Bacon & Day or B & D brand names. In 1938 the Bacon factory was destroyed in a fire and production was taken over by Gretsch who bought the company two years later. Gretsch kept making banjos under the Bacon brand until mid-1960s. Today Gretsch is owned by Fender who presumably still owns the rights to the Bacon brand name although no instruments have been sold under it since 1970.


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


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Tornado at Beaty Swamps

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 1933, Beatty Swamps, TN ( also known as Bethsaida), a small rural community located in Overton County, Tennessee, approximately 6.7 miles from Livingston, was struck by an F4 tornado that completely devastated the community. The funnel, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every single resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.

There have been tornadoes that have gained greater notoriety, such as the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, but never has a tornado affected a community as completely as the one that struck Beatty Swamps.

According to the National Weather Service, it had been a humid evening in the rural Cumberland Plateau community. In nearby Allardt, the temperature that Tuesday afternoon had climaxed at 82 degrees, a warmer-than-normal reading for early May. …

Ode To A Mule

James Arness died today. Gunsmoke was every one's favorite TV show back when I was a kid. For years, at my house, we watched every single episode that came on the TV. There's isn't any need to explain the show because I am sure that most of you have seen an episode of Gunsmoke at one time or another.

When I heard that Mr. Arness has passed away, I went online, because I wanted to read some quotes from the TV show - more specifically, I wanted to read some dialogue between Festus, played by singer Ken Curtis (Sons of the Pioneers), and the rest of the cast. Festus had a way of speaking, but he always spoke the truth and what he said always made sense, well in a Festus-sort-of way, I guess.

So, I went online to do that, and well, one click led to another click, and then another and another, and before I knew it, I found myself on YouTube, and that's when I heard, for the first time in many years, this beautiful story that I want to share with you.

If you paid close atte…

Long Live The Goat Man

(This photo was made in the 1950's as the Goat Man passed through my town)
Charles McCartney was born on July 6, 1901. In 1915, at age 14, he ran away from his family's Iowa farm. He eventually wound up in New York, and was soon married to a Spanish knife-thrower. When she got pregnant they tried to make it as farmers, but bad weather and the Great Depression wiped them out. About the same time, he experienced a religious awakening. A man on a mission, he hitched up his team of goats to a wagon and took to the open road with his wife and son. His wife made goatskin clothes for him and his son to wear as a gimmick during their travels, but she quickly grew tired of the road and returned to Iowa, taking their son with her.

Charles McCartney looked like a goat. He smelled like one, too because he rarely took a bath. You take a fellow who looks like a goat, travels around with goats, eats with goats, lies down among goats and smells like a goat and it won't be long before peop…