The Edison Files: Walter Van Brunt

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.


Walter Van Brunt, said to have been Thomas Edison’s favorite tenor, began his recording career at the age of 17. Recording and performing with such giants of his era as Billy Murray,  Ada Jones, the American Quartet and John Bieling, Van Brunt had 40 hits on the pop charts including ‘When I Dream in the Gloaming of You’ (#3, 1909), ‘It’s Hard to Kiss Your Sweetheart (When the Last Kiss Means Good-Bye)’ (#2, 1910), ‘I’ve Got Your Number’ (#2, 1911), ‘Don’t Wake Me Up, I’m Dreaming’ (#3, 1911), ‘That Was Before I Met You’ (#3, 1911), ‘I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad’ (#2, 1911), ‘Ghost of the Violin’ (#3, 1913), ‘Sympathy' with Helen Clark, #1, 1913), ‘And the Green Grass Grew All Around’ (#4, 1913) and ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’ (#3, 1916). Van Brunt also appeared in vaudeville sketches and Broadway productions including Eileen and was featured in radio programs with Billy Murray from 1929 through 1933.

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

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