Friday, August 31, 2012

Okeh Records: Wabash Cannonball

'Wabash Cannonball' is an American folk song about a fictional train, thought to have originated in the late ninteenth century. Its first documented appearance was on sheet music published in 1882 titled, "The Great Rock Island Route" and credited to J.A. Roff.

Now listen to the jingle and the rumble and the roar
As she dashes thro' the woodland and speeds along the shore
See the mighty rushing engine, hear her merry bell ring out
As they speed along in safety on the great Rock Island route
A rewritten version by Wiliam Kindt appeared in 1904 under the title, "Wabash Cannonball." The Carter Family made one of the first recordings of the song in 1929, though it was not released until 1932.
The most popular version, however, was recorded by Roy Acuff in 1936. The Acuff version is one of the fewer than thirty all-time singles to have sold 10-million (or more) copies worldwide.
In 1932, Dr. Hauer's Medicine Show, which toured the Southern Appalachian region, hired Roy Acuff, as one of its entertainers. Acuff left the medicine show circuit in 1934 and began playing at local shows with various musicians in the Knoxville area. That year, Acuff formed the Tennessee Crackerjacks, which performed regularly on Knoxville radio stations WROL and WNOX.
Within a year, the group had changed its name to the Crazy Tennesseeans. Acuff quickly became popular and, in 1936, was asked to record the song for Okeh Records, a division of the America Recording Company. So, Acuff headed north to Chicago for a recording session which resulted in 20 different songs, including 'Wabash Cannonball.' The recording featured Acuff imitating the sound of a train whistle, but not singing the lead. That part was sang by Sam 'Dynamite' Hatcher.
Acuff's original 1936 recording of Wabash Cannonball (Okeh 04466), is part of my collection of 78 r.p.m. records. 

Home of the Soul: The Whitney Brothers Quartet

Left to right: Alvin, Edwin, William and Yale Whitney.

Home of the Soul is a gospel song recorded by the Whitney Brothers Quartet from September 7 to September 9, 1909 at the Victor studio in Camden, New Jersey and released on Victor (16372).

Between October 1908 and September 1909, the Whitney Brothers Quartet recorded 25 songs for Victor: cSmiling Morn, The Cheerful Wanderer, Sally In Our Alley, Excelior and The Little Red Drum, How Can I Leave Thee?, Santa Lucia, Forsaken, Love's Old Sweet Song, The Hunter's Song, The Bluebells of Scotland, Jesus Savior Pilot Me, Dixie, Old Folks At Home, Galilee, Eternity, Home Of The Soul, Jesus Is Calling, Light Of Life, Nearer My God To Thee, The Light Of The World, Remember Me, O Mighty One, The Bugle Song, Grace Be Unto You and Kitty McGee.

The Whitney Brothers Quartet, who hailed from Rochester, New York, were the sons of Methodist minister, James Edwin Whitney. Alvin sang first tenor, Edwin second tenor, William sang first bass and Yale second bass. Edwin would also give recitations that would more than please every crowd.

One critic wrote, "It is rare to find in one family of four gifted brothers possessing the same gift and even rarer to find four brothers with voices so attuned that they could assume the several parts in a quartet. Rarest of all is to find four whose esprit de corps, close sympathy and magnificent team work enable them to give a program of such beauty, harmony, balance and high appeal. The Whitney's compel laughter or tears and delighted the ear, warm the heart, in an evening that is unique and artistic. Simply put, the Whitney's are irrestible and sure to please."

The Whitney's stopped touring at the end of 1908.

This historic record, Home of the Soul - which is a part of my 78 r.p.m. collection - celebrates its 103rd birthday next week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Andrew Jenkins: The Blind Newsboy Evangelist

Rev. Andrew Jenkins was born in 1885, just outside Atlanta. He was left partially blind by a mis-prescribed medication while still an infant. Early on, he exhibited remarkable musical talents and was able to play by ear almost any instrument he picked up. Jenkins, who also showed a proficiency for writing songs, saw his musical abilities as a gift from God.

Besides his musical talents, Andrew was skilled in other ways. At the age of nine, he began preaching to playmates from porches and tree stumps. He became a licensed Methodist preacher around the age of 21 and moved into the city, supplementing whatever he could earn from preaching and street performing by running a newspaper stand.

After his first wife's death, Jenkins married Francis Eskew in 1919. A young widow, his new wife had three musically talented children; Irene, Mary Lee and a son, T.P. Thus, was born the Jenkins Family, which became one of the most popular family acts of its day and considered to be the first family act to record country music.

In 1922, the Jenkins Family performed their first program on Atlanta radio station WSB, with Andrew Jenkins billed as "the blind newsboy evangelist." The station had a signal that reached coast-to-coast. Performing folk, country and light classical material, the Jenkins Family was an immediate success and remained with the station for nearly a decade. Their popularity, which reached to Canada and Mexico, also attracted the attention of the major record label, Okeh (pronounced OKAY) Records, for whom they made their debut recordings in 1924, three years before the Carter Family began recording.

The Jenkins Family's initial releases were not originals, but were successful enough to earn the group another recording session, where they recorded four of Rev. Jenkins' songs, including two gospel numbers. Jenkins was soon asked to write songs for the label's other artists, and his first effort, "The Death of Floyd Collins," took just 45 minutes to complete. While the song sold poorly for Okeh, it was picked up by Columbia Records, which hired Vernon Dalhart, one of the era's leading singers, to record it. The Dalhart version eventually sold more than 300,000 copies. Besides being one of the all-time best-selling country music 78's, the song set a sales record for Columbia that stood for many years.

Jenkins earned very little from the songs he wrote. The hit, "The Death of Floyd Collins," for example, brought him just $25, and under his agreement with the producer he was working with at Okeh, he also gave up all rights to the song.

After experiencing copyright problems, Jenkins began keeping meticulous records of his songs. The practice eventually paid off. Years later, after Mahalia Jackson recorded one of his gospel songs, "God Put A Rainbow In The Sky," his step-daughter, Irene, was able to prove the song was not in the public domain but rather Jenkins' composition.

Rev. Jenkins and the Jenkins Family continued to record with Okey into the mid-1930's under a variety of names, including The Jenkins Sacred Singers, Irene Spain Family, Gooby Jenkins and others. Jenkins cut his last record as Blind Andy, a name he often recorded under, on April 23, 1930, while the Jenkins Family's last recording session was Okeh was July 30, 1934.

The Jenkins Family popularity opened Rev. Jenkins' ministry to a wide audience, as they performed concerts and organized revival meetings throughout Georgia. Over time, Jenkins also served as pastor of several churches. In 1939, he lost his eyesight completely, yet he continued to preach up until the time of his death due to an automobile accident in 1957.

Rev. Andrew Jenkins is credited with writing more than 800 songs. He was, without a doubt, among the most important composers of his time.

I am proud to have several Jenkins Family records in my 78 r.p.m/ collection.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Victor Collection

The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901-1929) was one of the leading phonograph companies in the world during its years. Headquartered in Camden, New Jersey, it was THE leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. Here is my collection of Victor 78 r.p.m. records....

16372A Home of the Soul - Whitney Brothers Quartet
16372B I Am Praying For You - Stanley and Burr
17652A When You Wore A Tulip And I Wore A Big Red Rose - American Quartet
17652B The Red, White and Blue - Peerless Quartet
17774A Cunha Medley - Pale K. Lua and David Kaili
18710A Broadway Rose - Henry Burr and Peerless Quartet
18710B Mother's Lullaby - Sterling Trio
18439A Just A Baby's Prayer At Twilight - Henry Burr
18439B On The Road To Home Sweet Home - Percy Hemus
18545A Smile And The World Smiles With You - Lewis James and Peerless Quartet
18545B That Tumble-Down Shack In Athlone - Sterling Trio
18435A Are You From Heaven - Henry Burr
18435B Give Me The Right To Love You - Sterling Trio
18441A Send Me A Curl - Geoffrey O'Hara
18441B All Aboard For Home Sweet Home - Lewis James And Shannon Four
18641A Poor Little Butterfly Is A Fly Gal Now - All Star Trio
18641B Fluffy Ruffles - All Star Trio
19088A Bright Moon Waltz - Frank Ferera and Anthony Franchini
19088B Hawaiian Nights Waltz - Frank Ferera and Anthony Franchini
18700A Alice Blue Gown - Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra
18700B Tripoli Medley - Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra
18687A Tell Me Little Gypsy - John Steel
18687B The Girls Of My Dreams - John Steel
18524A That Wonderful Mother Of Mine - Henry Burr
18524B Salvation Lassie Of Mine - Charles Hart and Lewis James
18510A When Tony Goes Over The Top - Billy Murray
18510B Good Morning Mr. Zip-Zip-Zip! - Arthur Fields
18657A How Sorry You'll Be - Esther Walker
18657B He Went In Like A Lion And Came Out Like A Lamb - Billy Murray
18430A U.S. Field Artillery March - Sousa's Band
18430B Liberty Loan March - Sousa's Band
18633A Dardanella - Selvins Novelty Orchestra
18633B My Isle Of Golden Dreams - Selvins Novelty Orchestra
18590A You're Still An Old Sweetheart Of Mine - Elizabeth Spencer and Henry Burr
18590B The Gates Of Gladness - Lewis James and Shannon Four
V-40097A Sunlight And Shadows - Vaughan Quartet
V-40097B In Steps Of Light - Vaughan Quartet
20103A Hand Me Down My Walking Cane - Kelly Harrell
20103B My Horses Ain't Hungry - Kelly Harrell
24509A Star Dust - Wayne King and his Orchestra
24509B Speak Easy - Wayne King and his Orchestra
V-40048A I'll Rise When The Rooster Crows - Binkley Brothers Dixie Clodhoppers
V-40048B Give Me Back My Fifteen Cents - Binkley Brothers Dixie Clodhoppers
20877A The Poor Orphan Child - The Carter Family
20877B The Wandering Boy - The Carter Family
20937A Single Girl, Married Girl - The Carter Family
20937B The Storms Are On The Ocean - The Carter Family
V-40229A When The Roses Bloom In Dixieland - The Carter Family
V-40229B No Telephone In Heaven - The Carter Family

Victor Presents: Binkley Brothers Dixie Clodhoppers

The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901-1929) was one of the leading phonograph companies in the world. Headquartered in Camden, New Jersey, it was THE leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records. I have a few Victor discs in my 78 r.p.m. collection, including the artist featured here....

The Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers were an American old-time string band consisting of Amos Binkley on banjo, his brother Gale Binkley on fiddle, Tom Andrews on guitar, and Jack Jackson on guitar and vocals. The Binkley Brothers first performed on Nashville radio station WSM in 1926, and in 1928 became one of the first bands to record commercially in the city. The group performed regularly on the Grand Ole Opry until they disbanded in 1938.

Amos and Gale Binkley were born in Ashland City, Tennessee, and were working as jewelry repairmen before they started playing for WSM. Andrews was from Franklin, Tennessee. The group was given the name "Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers" by Opry founder George D. Hay, who preferred rural-sounding band names to fit the show's barn dance format.

In September 1928, the group attempted to record several sides for Victor Records at the YMCA building in Nashville, but Victor's A&R agent Ralph Peer decided the group's vocals were too rough. Peer added Lebanon, Tennessee singer Jack Jackson to the line-up, and on October 2, the band made its first recordings. The group continued performing on the Opry throughout the following decade, and by the early 1930s Jackson— who was known as the "Strolling Yodeler"— was one of the most popular singers on Nashville-area radio.

The band's repertoire included "I'll Rise When the Rooster Crows," which was derived from the 1881 song "Dem Golden Shoes," and the folk song "Give Me Back My Fifteen Cents." Both were recorded at their 1928 Victor sessions, and both are included in my collection. When the Binkley Brothers left the Opry in 1938, they were replaced by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

And now a word from Mr. Edison....

“The greatest shortcoming of the phonograph was its lack of Realism, and it is this shortcoming which I have sought to overcome. The result is a degree of Realism in our present phonograph which is baffling to even the most expert ears.
“I have been quoted as desiring to see a phonograph in every home. What I actually want to see in every American home is music, so realistic and so perfect in its rendition as to be an unending source of benefit and pleasure.”

The First Family Of Country Music

On the first day of August in 1927, A.P. Carter persuaded his wife, Sara, and his sister-in-law (and Sara's cousin), Maybelle, to drive to Bristol, Tennessee and audition for Ralph Peer of Victor Records, who was scouting for talent. They recorded six tracks in two days ($50 for each song they recorded), including The Poor Orphan Child, The Wandering Boy, Single Girl Married Girl and The Storms Are On The Ocean, all of which are in my record collection.

Immediately after that first recording session, Victor released a 78 r.p.m. record of The Carter Family performing Wandering Boy and Poor Orphan Child. A year later, another record was released with The Storms Are On The Ocean and Single Girl Married Girl.

On May 27, 1928, the group traveled to the Victor Camden, New Jersey studios, where they recorded many of what would become legendary signature songs, including Keep On The Sunny Side, Can The Circle Be Unbroken and Wildwood Flower.

A.P., Sara and Maybelle were all born and raised in southwestern Virginia, where they were immersed in the tight harmonies of mountain gospel music and shape note singing. Sara sang lead and Maybelle sang harmony and played guitar. On some songs, A.P. did not perform at all. At other times, he would sing harmony and occasionally, lead vocal.

The Carter Family's music had a profound impact on folk, bluegrass, country, southern gospel, pop and rock musicians. But, the family's repertoire of songs wasn't the only thing important to music at the time. So was Maybelle's guitar playing. She would play the melody line on the lower strings with her thumb, while at the same time, maintaining the rhythm of the song by brushing her other fingers across the higher strings.

By the end of the 1930's, the Carter Family had sold over 300,000 records. Their career predated any sort of best-selling chart of country music records. (Billboard did not have a country best-sellers chart until 1944.)

By 1936, A.P. and Sara's marriage had dissolved. The group officially disbanded in 1944, although they continued to make records through 1956.

Soon after the group disbanded, Maybelle began performing with her daughters; Helen, June and Anita, as the Carter Sisters and also the Carter Family. Maybelle became affectionately known as Mother Maybelle.

Maybelle and Sara briefly reunited, recorded a reunion album and toured in the 1960's during the height of folk music's popularity.

Today, The Carter Family is referred to as the First Family of Country Music.

Mr. Edison Proves It To Los Angeles

1,500 music-lovers cannot tell the difference between living voice and its re-creation by the New Edison (Phonograph).

Mr. Edison's tone-test was given on the evening of January 26, 1920 at Trinity Auditorium in Los Angeles. Marie Morrisey, a distinguished contralto, sang several selections in direct comparison with the New Edison's re-creation of her voice. Only by watching her lips could the audience tell when she was singing and when the New Edison was (playing a re-creation of her voice.)

Then came the 'dark scene' test in which the audience had to depend on ear alone. While Miss Morrisey was singing the lights went out. Densest black swallowed the stage, singer and phonograph.

Morrisey's rich contralto continued to fill the auditorium. Then the lights flashed on again. The audience gasped - rubbed its eyes.

Morrisey had left the stage. Only the phonograph was standing there. While the lights were out, the New Edison had taken up her song and no one in the audience had detected the substitution.

The Los Angeles newspapers of the following day, January 27th, said in part as follows:

"It was impossible to discern the change from the voice to the New Edison" - Los Angeles Record

"The object of the tone-test - to prove the fidelity of the New Edison in recreating the human voice - was a success." - Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles tone-test is not an isolated example. Approximately 4,000 similar tests have been given before 3,500,000 people in the United States and Canada. Representative newspapers have reported that these 4,000 tests were unqualified successes for the New Edison.

We do not believe there is any one who can listen, under proper test conditions, to a singer's voice (or instrumental performance), in comparison with the New Edison's re-creation and tell, with certainty, when he is listening to the (live performance) and when he is listening to the New Edison. We hereby assert, upon full information and belief, that the New Edison is positively, the only phonograph (or talking machine) capable of sustaining this test.

-- The Etude Music Magazine (February 1920)

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Fate of Dewey Lee

On May 8, 1935, the Carter Family recorded seven songs for American Record Company in New York City. Five of them were re-recordings of earlier hits: Wildwood Flower, Keep On The Sunnyside, Lonesome Valley, River of Jordan and Single Girl Married Girl. They also recorded two new songs: God Gave Noah The Rainbow Sign and The Fate of Dewey Lee.

The Fate of Dewey Lee was written by A.P. Carter about a shooting that had occured a few years earlier.

On January 31, 1931, Dewey Lee was shot at a party in the Wise County community of Ramsey. Joe Jenkins was eventually convicted for the slaying. Newspaper reports said Lee pulled a gun while arguing with another man, and as Jenkins fought to disarm Lee, the gun went off. Other accounts mentioned competition between Jenkins and Lee over a woman, and some local folks thought the party was a trap for Lee. In any case, Jenkins' claim of self-defense failed to sway the court and he was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Fate of Dewey Lee was released on Perfect Records as 13153-A, which had been purchased by the American Record Company and is part of my 78 r.p.m. collection.

Twas on one Saturday evening
About the hour of ten
In a little mining town
Where trouble did begin
Everybody there were drinking
There were whiskey everywhere
Dewey Lee got to thinking
He had no business there

He was so tall and handsome
His heart so true and brave
Joe Jenkins pulled his pistol
And sent him to his grave
He took the life of Dewey
When life had just began
And Dewey went to Heaven
While Joe went to the pen

He took the life of Dewey
Because he would not tell
We know he murdered Dewey
For Dewey's pistol fell
His mother sits now weepin'
She weeps and mourns all day
She prays to meet her boy
In a better world some day

So hearken to my story
And what I have to say
Get right with your Maker
We'll meet Him again some day
The clerk said, "Stand up, boy
And listen to your crime!"
They sent him down to Richmond
To serve out his time

Young men all take warning
For this you must outlive
Don't take the life of anyone
For life you cannot give
You may possess great riches
Put many beneath the sod
But money won't hire a lawyer
When you stand before your God

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...