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.
Tenor John Young, also known as Harry Anthony, recording a cylinder in the early 1900s, showing the cramped conditions and other concessions necessitated by the acoustic recording process at the Edison recording studio. Eugene Jaudas is conducting the studio orchestra. Using the name, Harry Anthony, Young had numerous recordings of hymns with partner Frederick J. Wheeler that reportedly led comedian Billy Murray to dub them the 'Come-To-Jesus Twins.'
In mid-1915, Young replaced Robert D. Armour with the American Quartet. He also sang in, and managed, the Criterion Quartet. The new edition of the American Quartet enjoyed great success, beginning with its first Victor release, "War Song Medley." The American Quartet recorded for several companies--not only Victor and Edison but Columbia, Okeh, Emerson, Pathe, and Vocalion.
To listen to recordings by John Young, or other early recording artists, visit the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara.