The Edison Files: Lewis James

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.

Lewis James was a vocalist and among the most active of recording artists in the United States from 1917 through much of the 1930s. He was a member of the The Shannon Four, The Revelers and the Criterion Trio. He had many top ten hits during that time, including My Baby Boy, Till We Meet Again, What'll I Do and Pal of my Cradle Days, among others. He died in 1959.
Lewis James was born in Dexter, Michigan on July 29, 1892. He recorded extensively as a soloist,duet partner, and quartet lead singer. His first recording with the Shannon Four (aka the Shannon Quartet) was the World War I chestnut, "All Aboard For Home Sweet Home." Like many of his colleagues, he proved exceedingly versatile in recording love ballads, hymns, children's songs and the more sophisticated early jazz harmonies of the Revelers with whom he made several successful European tours. The Shannon Four, Revelers, Crescent Trio, and Merrymakers consisted mostly of the same singers, with occasional substitutes. His sweet melodic tenor is immortalized on Victor, Columbia, and Edison recordings, mostly from 1917 through 1927.

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


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