Sunday, November 15, 2015

Character Studies-- Steve Porter(1864-1936)

"You're all invited! Whether Senorita Chiquita wins or loses!" 
that was Porter's attitude toward his yacht races of the late-1890's.

Porter was always a wealthy man, for reasons unknown. He had expensive habits, and was a friend of the frivolous and financially irresponsible Fred Hylands. This profitable and risky business didn't help that fact. Porter was a very innovative and creative man in the early recording business, as he was one of those non-Edison film-makers who tried to blend sound and film together as one. He made many new gadgets for the recording business, and much later after his recording career, he had the first commercial hearing aid patented.

Porter was the best risk-taker Columbia ever had. He would try things that literally had three quarters of possibility that they would fail, but he had the means and money to take these terrible gambles. Other than Len Spencer, Porter helped along Fred Hylands in his publishing firms, and in general as well, as Hylands was oftentimes in need of extra dough. Porter had first gotten into the recording business from knowing Russ Hunting. Like all the other friends of Liberal Hunting, Porter found Hunting's "smut" cylinders a terrible idea, and was bound to bust. After Hunting got out of prison, he and Porter reunited, and began an experimental film business. This quickly failed, and a month or so later, Hunting began the magazine The Phonoscope. This was where Porter began to actually make records. In early 1897, Porter became one of the Columbia crowd, though he was more conservative than some of his fellows. He wasn't a "Rag Time'' singer, nor was he a true Irish Tenor, he was similar in many ways to the already popular S. H. Dudley. Porter was a singer of all the sacred songs, quartette material, and popular songs. He wasn't something too special when he sang solo, but when he was in a quartette, he was a perfect blending voice. How Porter decided to work with Fred Hylands is lost, but it must be the nature of Hylands being risky with his money, and that Porter wanted to help out Fred who was always short of cash. Porter had gotten into Yacht races in 1897 and 1898, which was a big thing for the Columbia staff, as when a race came up, everyone on the talent staff would be out of work that day for the race. It was a big thing for Porter, even if his boat wasn't in the best of luck. Everyone would throw in some money for bets, some more than others, and they would either lose or win, just like the horse races the Spencer's went off and played at(also Porter not surprisingly...). His schooner was The Chiquita, and she was a pretty successful boat, winning several big tournaments in 1898 and 1899, which made Porter even richer by 1899, which is probably where Hylands took an interest to Porter. In march of 1899, Porter finally joined Hylands and Roger Harding in his "Knickerbocker Publishing" firm, which didn't last too long under that name. This later became "Hylands, Spencer and Yeager", in which Porter was still involved greatly, under the lording leadership of Fred Hylands. Porter was out of this firm a little bit before it collapsed, and before all of Fred's stock was sold in 1902, it left Fred almost broke for a little while, but Porter was going on to better things that pitying Fred Hylands' sorrow. Porter was off to Europe, where he must have run into his old friend Russ Hunting. Porter was  a recording manager for Nicole records in 1902 to 1906, which was a London based record company. In this time away from western shores, Porter went all over India, and Burma as well, running record affairs in those companies. He returned to his old friends refreshed, and ready to record quick. He began making records with Len Spencer right away, as he was still going strong in the recording business. He saw who was still recording and who wasn't, pitied those who weren't, but was right back to making records. This was the time that began making those really popular and numerous "Flannigan" records, much to the likeness of his friend Russ Hunting's "Casey" records of the 1890's. He was not working nearly as much with Spencer after he and Ada Jones began to collaborate again(notice I said again...). Porter was making popular Irish sketch records before 1910, and after he met up with Byron Harlan again, they started making records like mad. Porter was a kind and amiable man, short, dark blond, always well-dressed, this way after learning of the true sins of the music business from working with Len Spencer and Fred Hylands. He really truly enjoyed working in the studios, and always had a passion for making records, and creating new things. His patents of the late-1890's can truly show for it. He still invented, and made records into the 20's, when most of his old friends had either died, or were almost dead. It's surprising really, that the yacht racing sacred song singer of the 1890's made the first commercially sold hearing aid, in 1926. His sales were broken by the crash of 1929, and he lived terribly for the next few years after that, dying in the same year and under the same despair that Byron Harlan did.

 I hope you enjoyed this! 

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