Thursday, March 5, 2015

A recording session with J. W. Myers, 1898

Welsh baritone J. W. Myers(c.1864-c.1919)
and of course, his favourite pianist! 
"Freddy" Hylands

Fred Hylands was J. W. Myers' workhorse, or informally, my father would consider him "his bitch". 
an example of their relationship below:

J. W. Myers was a very demanding singer (as clearly seen above)when it came to the nit-picky music that he chose to record at Columbia. Very little of his repitoire consisted of comic songs and Rag-Time, even though he is mentioned in The Phonoscope to having very good minstrel song skills which is somewhat ironic. Myers loved Hylands' piano playing more than anyone else at Columbia, but when I say that, I mean his non-Ragtime piano playing. Mr. Spencer was reserved for the full control of Fred's Rag-Time playing. 
Sometimes I think that Hylands was just Len Spencer's and J. W. Myers' puppet on the piano, because none of them could play piano well enough themselves, so they used him to translate what they would play if they could play it. But Freddy Hylands never wanted to be a puppet to anyone! No! He was a free musician who demanded musical freedom in the recording studio, and just in general. Hylands expected a heap of things from his paymasters and his fellow working musicians, so in this strong feeling, he didn't want to get "knocked around" by the studio singers, even though he let it get to him many of times. Such as the one shown below: 
(From the September 1898 issue of you know what)

this getting "kicked around" nonsense did not get to him too often in the time he was at Columbia, it only really seemed to hit him hard when he got older. 
J. W. Myers was a great singer no doubt, but on many of his Columbia's in the late-1890's and early 1900's, you just have to listen to the absolutely wild piano accompaniment behind him, just hitting all kinds of outrageous notes and bass notes, you can just hear Fred's distress in his playing sometimes. You can almost see that look on his face when Myers "kicks him around" by telling him what he HAS to play on the next take. Myers must not have been a fan of Fred's wild improvisation, as he did not seem to do his usual on many of the records where he's accompanying Myers. That was an unusual notion to have on the Columbia staff, as most everyone trusted Hylands, even if they knew he was pretty tired or loaded(which he was most of the time...).
Even someone like Arthur Collins was tolerant of Fred's shenanigans. You hear Collins' early Columbia's and you can hear Fred just tickling away the ivories behind him while Collins does his less-than-sober renditions of the latest Rag-Time numbers. It's great that Hylands was such an accepting person, as he was hard-working, laid back, and comical all at once. Myers must have been a perfectionist when it came to non-Ragtime numbers, as he must have climbed up to the piano to show Fred very specific measures and what he wants to hear from him on them when they record a certain take. That must have pissed off Fred a few times here and there, as he was the type that wouldn't want to get bossed around whatsoever. But then again, it's good he didn't have a short fuse like Vess L. Ossman or Harry Spencer had...

I hope you enjoyed this! 

No comments:

Post a Comment