Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Christmas related post(and new found items of interest!)

Well, It seems to be that time of the year anyhow, and I just had a Christmas party last evening, so I think it's about time that I did a post dedicated to the holiday time that it is now. I know of a few holidays related cylinders/discs, and the one I am thinking of at the moment is the classic rendition of  "The Sleigh Ride Party" by the Greater New York Quartette. You can hear the cylinder here. I am not exactly sure of the personnel on this one, but I hear Steve Porter, Roger Harding, and maybe Len Spencer, but I don't think it's early installment of the quartette. It doesn't really seem like it's 1897 to me, it seems like the second installment of the quartette, with Harding, Porter, Jones and Hargrave, rather than Spencer, Jones, Porter, and Harding. I could be wrong. If it was recorded in later 1897(as suggested in the video), than Spencer would be on the cylinder, if it was from mid-1898, then the second installment of the group would be on it. I hate that this group was so confusing, as Len Spencer couldn't stay with a single group for very long, and he was making too many solo records to make time for singing in the Greater Quartette regularly. 

But of course, I have to say, listen to Fred Hylands on the piano behind them! You know he was loving this round, because it was such a fun selection anyhow! 
It must have been so much fun at Columbia in the late 1890's around Christmas time, as all the exhibitions must have been all decorated for the holidays, and they must have all had a good time(like they always did!), popping open champagne and such. Anything they did at Columbia around Christmas must have been really fun! Even if it must have been freezing cold in late 1897, 1898, and 1899, it still must have been enjoyable despite that. They'd all just have to show up to the studio all bundled up in their furs and capes.  One can just see some of them come in through the front doors of their studio(on the second floor of an office building mind you), dusted with powdered snow on the collars and shoulders of their sealskin coats, and shivering from the snow and cold. It can also be imagined the few studio workers who went down to the basement to fire up the furnace. I can see Hylands and Spencer going to to that, with Spencer trying to get a damn match lit in the wet cold air. It must have been a great sight, everyone all dressed up, awaiting anxiously for the furnace to get the place warm, and for all the artists to thaw their frost-bitten fingers and toes.
Edison's studio must have been a similar story, even if it wasn't as welcoming and warm-atmosphered(if you know what I'm saying!). There, you get Walter Miller with his foggy glasses, Frank Banta almost freezing himself to death behind the piano, before each take trying to get his hands warm. Edison's studio was colder for a longer time in the days, as the furnace was only certain areas of the whole plant, and it was not very close to the main studio. At least at Columbia the whole space wasn't very big, so the studio rooms themselves would get warm. 

Anyhow, enough about the visual of Columbia around Christmas time, which I hope was a good description for all of this, I think you get the point. Back to some records! 
This next one is actually another take of the last one, but by a different quartet, and this time, it's the Invincible Quartet. This group consisted of Arthur Collins, Byron Harlan, George Seymour Lennox, and Frank Stanley. Here is their rendition of Steve Porter's "Sleigh Ride Party". This one is from 1902, and it again has Fred Hylands on the piano behind them. That must have also been a fun session! Those quartet sessions when they did those sketches must have been a riot, with all sorts of things going on at once. This must have been the case with many of Porter's sketches for quartets. 

For this next record that is Christmas/winter related, it is time to listen to something by Silas Leachman
The title of the song is not really Christmas related, but the song itself is about riding in a sleigh in the falling snow, in the winter. It just seems like one of those holiday songs for some reason. Anyhow, here is Leachman and Banta's(?) "Whoa Dar Mule" from 1901. The jingle bells paired with "Hear Dem Bells" is really great, and the piano accompaniment is fantastic! I am unsure who the pianist is, I am really on the fence about this one, it's more likely Hylands though. Just somehow, that record seems like it works for the holidays, I don't know why, but it does for some reason. 

Here is another fun Christmas record by Burt Shepard
Yes indeed, the mysterious Burt Shepard. Anyhow, here is his wonderful rendition of "The Robin", with all his annunciations clear as a bell. Not much needs to be said here, as everything is said to the fullest by Shepard. 

Now to get a little off-subject, I found some interesting pictures in this last week, that I must share. Just to-day, I found another picture of Burt Green! 
Here you go:

Sorry it's so small. But that's it! There's a clearer image of Green from about 1910. He was a real good-looking guy! Seeing him more clearly makes the image of him and Hylands going out and drinking even more hilarious! Here's a small image of Hylands to get that image:
Yes, I can imagine it now... And how funny it is! 

Anyhow, here's the next picture I found this week:
(found from this stunningly informative website here!)

I bet some of you might be able to guess who this is. If you do know, that is awesome! If not, it's Russell Hunting. There's a million things that came into my head when I first saw this picture, I first saw the reminiscence of his Shakespearean days in his stare, and his tired and worn eyes. The next important thing that struck me is that there's a stamp on the left side of the picture, so that indicates that this was most likely his passport photo. That gives more of a focused date somewhat, indicating the early 1910's. Either way, I absolutely love this picture, and is pretty much sums up Russell Hunting. Not much needs to be said, as that look on his face says everything. He wasn't ashamed of his criminal past, and you can tell. 

Anyhow, these next two pictures go together, as they are both of Columbia's high official/paymaster Frank Dorian(also from the website listed in the link above!):
in 1892

and in 1894
Ahh yes, Frank Dorian, that man from Columbia when they began in 1889, who was their first paymaster and studio manager. He looked very stereotypical Victorian, and it almost made me laugh at how Victorian he looks! His facial hair says all of the Victorian jargon, and him recalling the old studio days as an older man. He later had a moustache though, which was also very Victorian-looking. He was the man who set up the Paris office for Columbia in August/September of 1897, which was a big thing for them, as this is why at one point in later 1897, we record nerds hear "For the Columbia Phonograph company of New York and Paris" as the announcement closer. Frank Dorian recalled much of his early recording days in the 1930's, when he was still working with Columbia vaguely, and giving advice to all of those new-fangled electric era recording engineers. I still want to see all of the interviews that Jim Walsh had with Dorian, as I have read only sections of them, and they're all great! If anyone knows how to find those in full, please contact me! 

And to close off, here are two of Burt Green and Irene Franklin's record from 1912(with Burt on piano! Sounding just like Hylands as always!):

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! And happy holidays to all, no matter what it is you celebrate! Stay warm ;-D (because it's terribly cold out here in California right now!)

1 comment:

  1. I hope you had a great holiday season listening to all these old records! I'm a jehovah's witness so don't do Christmas, but my gift to myself was a large lot of black wax cylinders with some very interesting british titles in there!

    I enjoyed your description of columbia records at Christmas. I never realised edison's studeo would havebeen colder, and it's these little details that make record collecting what it is for me.