I did a post a long while back about Russell Hunting's wonderfully crass sense of humor, which was very clear to understand by all of those smut cylinders that he recorded from 1892 to 1896, but I was digging through some of Spencer's talking records from 1898 to around 1903, and have found that Spencer's sense of humor was rather similar in many ways.
Yep, it was him.
I already had some notion that Spencer's humor was very similar to that of his recording friends, as from thinking of how much of a riot he was. His auction records are actually the best examples of his sense of humor, more so than one would think at first. They seem like they're just auction records, but they are actually also great examples of the real dark and rude humor that Spencer had, and all the others at Columbia had as well. He did most of these talking records with the assistance of Gilbert Girard, but at Columbia, he did some with yodeler Pete LaMaire. The first take of "An Auction Sale of a Bird and Animal Store" is the Edison take, and I particularly find the Edison take interesting, only because, well, it's Edison, and Spencer did not really work for them very much, as we know he was a Columbia fanatic. In 1902, Edison was finally able to grab him to work for them. Now the main reason I think that this take is interesting is because of how clear and ever so slightly different he sounds on this one than on most of his records, somehow, it seems that he sounds more realistic on this cylinder, and it truly catches all the tones and colours of his speech, more so than many records of his.
Anyhow, here's that cylinder:
Spencer spoke in a wide variety of tones, it was really something that made him so agreeable to record buyers. Some of you might have been able to notice this idiosyncrasy in some of the records I have posted a while back, as it's all over his talking records, but not exactly in all of those many hundreds of songs. I may be Columbia-biased, but I must say, those Edison records that Spencer made in 1902-07 were actually the best examples of what Spencer truly sounded like. As we have all read somewhere that these records only paint a shadow of what these people truly sounded like(though I only half-believe that statement). Though, those Edison cylinders he made were not nearly as interesting content-wise as his earlier recordings for Columbia. Without a doubt, his Columbia's were more full of history and "clan" mirth, but the Edison cylinders caught the tones of his voice better than any other records he made.
Anyhow, now to move onward to the Victor take of the selection in the link above. The victor of this is just as interesting, and it's great like always, because Spencer often added things in the dialogue, or said things in a different tones. That fact always makes for an interesting variety when digging through Spencer's talking records. Here is that record:
Spencer must have really enjoyed making records with Girard. Especially these auction records, as every time I hear them, I know that Spencer's loving it. Speaking of Girard, I have been meaning to share this image here for a while:
Yep, there's the reason that Spencer had him on all of those auction records. Girard must have also been a real riot!
Now back to the Victor record, the examples of Spencer's humor can be heard in these quotes here:
"Now, these cats are noted for their gentle disposition, why they'll actually eat off your hand!"
and this one " they are gentle and affectionate--(cats begin to fight in the cage)"
a little later in the record, you can hear "Carrie Nation, Oh! Don't Axe me madam!"
"This monkey will eat anything, very fond of children!"
I like that he specifically puts emphasis on the final word here. How that joke is terribly wrong, and no one was supposed to laugh at it anyway, though he puts more emphasis on that one than the more common-type of jokes that he tells on the record. That says something about him doesn't it. Now if you listen to the very end of the record, after Girard does the parrot sounds, they left the record going too long and you can hear them beginning to talk at the end. That's always funny, even if it is more likely than not to be unable to understand the speech when this happens.
You can hear the Columbia version(transferred a little too fast...) here:
Pete LaMaire does all of the animal sounds and the second voices, which are all hilarious. That other deeper voice in the background is Hylands by the way, it's a little hard to hear though.(recorded in their big room)
Now for the other one of his auction records, the "Auction Sale of Household Goods". Now this one had many variations to it, as expected from Spencer. Here is the Edison cylinder(s):
You not only get Spencer and Girard, you get Banta involved as well, laughing at all those points on it, and playing at the sale of the piano. That is a great added bonus! You know what's so odd about this one, it that the piano actually sounds fantastic at that one point it's played, all the notes are fully present, and it reveals the echo of the room more than anything else on the cylinder. Both takes have this amazing characteristic, but the second take specifically has that effect more. I wish there was more playing of that piano on the second take!
The humor Spencer throws in slyly is just as funny as it was on the Animal store record, though it's not really as dark. These include these statements:
"...there, that'll wake up yer mother-in-law."
Girard: "Why, it's lovely, sounds just like a piano!"
Spencer: "Of course it does."
Only on the second take listed you can hear these:
"Eh, Your name please...(Banta plays part of "And Her Golden Hair was Hanging Down Her Back")
Girard:"And Her Golden Hair was hanging down her back!"
Spencer:"Aww, what a sweet singer, yer address please...(everyone laughs, including Banta!)"
What Spencer says at the very end actually has a little bit of an esoteric connotation to it, more so than it actually does in the situation depicted on the cylinder. It can refer to Spencer's publishing days, as he liked her singing, so he asks for her address, as he did back in 1899 and 1900. I must remember though that this isn't a Columbia cylinder, so Hylands wouldn't be there, to get a little bit cross with him for mentioning that. I know he did a Columbia take of this selection, so I'd be curious to know if he added that dialogue on the Columbia take. Here is the Victor of it:
The variations on this one include this:
" Why of course it is, what'd ya think it 'd sound like, a Jew's harp, heh!"
(that's a quick one...)
Also at about 1:50 when the Bible is being sold, his voice cracks terribly. That's fantastic! It adds to the comedy, even if we know that he didn't at all intend for that to happen. OH! Something I just noticed when listening to this record is what Spencer says here:
"The lady that sells this piano----lady that sells this piano got beautifully carved legs, double back-action, and a patent harp attachment." Oh! What a quick and sly piece of comedy Spencer! Wow, it took me five listens to finally catch the connotation of that statement. Wow. My eyes widened at that one.
The rudeness of that reminds me of that last line of Spencer singing "I Wish They'd Do it Now" recorded in 1898(with Fred Hylands probably tipsy). Spencer says this:
" They'd take me in to sleep with them-- Ta Re Re Boom De-Ay."
Yep, that's Spencer's humor for ya. In fact, I think that's the most obviously crude piece of Spencer's speech of many of these recordings.
Now to move to something by Harry Spencer(that Len Spencer recorded at some point). Which is another one of those auction cylinders. This one is called "Auction Sale of a Pawnbroker's Unredeemed pleasures", and it's another great creation of the Spencer brothers, though Harry was more known for it. This first example of this sketch is the 1902-03 take with only Spencer and Hylands. Here is that cylinder:
The other voice on this cylinder is--Fred Hylands. Yes indeed, and the only thing that really gives it away that it's Hylands is the thing just after Spencer says, "Say Ikey, you can go and shoot Filipinos with that!"
What Hylands does is really hilarious, and we can actually understand him! Though he doesn't really talk. I like the "Oi! Oi!" at the end of it though...(nice political correctness Hylands). You know what's weird about Hylands on this cylinder(other than the fact that he isn't playing piano at all, and that he's sitting at the piano!), is that it's a very clear cylinder that catches Hylands' voice extremely well. He sounds a little bit like someone else---Byron Harlan. Hmm. Never noticed that before I listened to the cylinder this morning. Just an interesting observation.
Anyhow, back to the Spencer's. The thing that he says on the cylinder above that is really the funniest thing on there is this:
"Now, this bicycle has two wheels; tireless, shameless, spoke-less, and dan-gerous."
That, is hilarious. The double meanings really make it so.
Now, the brown wax version of this is also hilarious, and since it's longer, there's more material. Here's the brown wax:
Now this one actually has two more recognizable voices behind Spencer. The voices include Russell Hunting and Fred Hylands.
Hunting says this one thing that give it away,
"Ow, why ye-o rememba' the Maine!" yep, that's Hunting alright.
Hylands can be heard clearly saying "Five dollars!" at 1:02, and a little later in that same bidding, he yells "Seven dollars!"(in a little bit of a different tone of voice). It's indeed that same voice on the later take of this. Though it's hard to tell because both the records are heard at different speeds, the tones and pronunciations of the words are the same as they are on this one Spencer's "Side Show Shouter" from 1898 as well. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if these two cylinders were recorded on the same day, as they're both very similar, and have the same sound to them. Oh! I meant to mention on the 1898 take of the auction sale a little above, try to notice how Hylands says, "Five Dollars." It's very odd, but it's kind of slurred. Really take a few listens!(hmm, maybe a clue into Hylands being a drunk...)
Also the funny little pun at the sale of the "mouth-organ"(harmonica), Spencer says, "Sold! To that red-head boy over there for 1 cent!" Ha! Hidden Hylands pun, love it. There's another voice at 3:29, and I'm not sure who it is exactly. Does anyone know? It's not Russell Hunting, and not either of the Spencer's. Hm... I don't know if it's Fred Hylands or not, as he's awfully close to the mouth of the horn. I'll try to write out the dialogue exactly as I hear it:
Hylands(?): Why, you'd look here, the tire's busted--
Spencer: So er you--
Hylands(?): I's all full a' holes!
Spencer: Ha ha ha ha!
Hylands(?): Sa-y, take it back an' get me a ci-gar for it-eh!( said awfully close to the horns...)
Spencer: A cigar! Smoke up Rube, yer goin' out!
If anyone thinks that they know who that voice is, if it's Hylands or not, leave a comment on this post! I would love to have the observations of other ears!
Anyhow, I love looking into the slightly obscene sense of humor that the Spencer's had, more particularly, Len Spencer's. Their sense of humor was quick, intelligent, and rude, even to modern standards, and it certainly must have been considered as such back when the records were new, take the puns that no one laughs at in the room for example.
I hope you enjoyed this!