Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Burt" Shepard

(This picture of Mr. Shepard was taken in c.1889-92)

        Most of my record collector friends will fully recognize this name suggested in the title. "Burt" Shepard as he was called, though I'm sure that "Burt" was shorter for something else, but to this date is unknown. He refused to release the information of his birth, so the date that is usually sourced is only a guess, and that year is said to be 1853 or 1854(though most sources say 1854). He may have been from the mid-west or the south, as he began his long performance career in New Orleans in 1874, which upon hearing that, I became a little suspicious... Anyhow, Shepard started off as a female impersonator as his first standing role in the 1870's. He seemed to carry that queer talent into his days in recording for Victor. if you want to hear some of his fantastic records, here you go:
          He made several other records, not just for Victor, but it's preceding company as well, Berliner. Starting as early as 1898. He began recording for Berliner on his London tour in 1898. It is said that he toured in minstrel companies to Paris, South Africa and even Australia. He joined several minstrel companies in the 1880's, and in 1892, he had one of his own. He was already well known by the time Victor decided to record him in 1901, both as a pianist, and parody singer. It is believed that Mr. Shepard may be playing his own piano accompaniment on at least a few of the Victors he recorded, which to what has been documented about him, is indeed very likely. 
            After his Victor years were done by 1906, not much has been documented about what he did from there, but it's likely that he performed for at least a few more years afterward. All that has really been said is that he died in 1913, and that year HAS been confirmed. 
            His relatively few records are highly desirable to early record collectors, and even alternate takes of the same records by Shepard are also highly collected. I haven't any of my own, but I have friends that have almost all of his records, even the issued alternate takes of each. 

I hope you all enjoyed this!

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