Sunday, April 17, 2016

Locations and Record Studies

Within the past two days, I have been looking through Google Earth once more for the locations of  where early studio stars lived, and where businesses were, as according to The Phonoscope of course. Some of them lived a reasonable distance from the Columbia studio at 1155-1159 Broadway, but some lived rather far away. I would say that Russell Hunting lived the farthest until 1897, when he moved closer(much like many of the other artists did). Hylands lived pretty far away until 1899, when he moved to the probably very expensive place at 27th street, just a block away from Columbia's studio. I have come to believe that one stretch of 27th street was something like "Columbia Row" or maybe "record row" in the late 1890's as there were a handful of record companies and publishing houses located in this very specific area. This is much like the whole "Tin pan Alley" thing, but that was on 28th street. I noticed that much of the publishers Hylands associated with in 1899-1900 were within a one mile radius of where Hylands Spencer and Yeager was located. Notice the address of the publishing house here:
16 West 27th Street. 
That's a location that is actually shown in The Phonoscope to have been where J. W. Myers kept his "Globe Phonograph Company" in 1896-97. The location of Hylands' prized firm was right in the middle of all of these businesses. 
33 West 27th Street.
Yep, just a few houses down, there was the madness at Hylands, Spencer, and Yeager. Hylands probably didn't want to publish the tune just above himself, so he took it to his friends just a few houses down. From examining the building in which his firm was at, he probably bought out more than half of the structure for his firm. In the 1900 census, it must be noted that Hylands had several people living with him, still, and this was taken in June of 1900, when the firm was just starting to wind down a little bit. I had forgotten however that Fred's father Charles was the head of the house, of course, because he probably had lost some trust in his son by 1900. Though losing trust in Fred probably began long before that. I find it very funny how when the census taker came by all the recording stars, they didn't really know what to say as their occupation, as sometimes it's more specific than others. Hylands' in 1900 says simply "musician", though we well know that he was working at Columbia in 1900 and also working at theater's after his day's work at the studio. I can remember from reading through the 1910 census for Arthur Collins, and he listed his occupation as "phonograph singer", which is actually the most accurate response of any I have found so far, until I find out what Len Spencer, his wife, said. 

However, Collins was saying that in 1910, and that's when the idea that being a phonograph singer was actually a well-to-do occupation, not that is wasn't so before that. 1910 seems more like a reasonable year in the development of the phonograph. If I can recall correctly, Banta simply said "musician" as well, though we know that he was at the height of his term at Edison and just beginning his next commitment at Victor. Banta lived much more comfortably than Hylands did, having two house servants and a home in a nice part of town, with an accommodating wife and two great kids, Banta lived more like Steve Porter or J. W. Myers, rather than Hylands choosing to live like a true musician, just with more money to burn, and how he threw it in the fire!  

Hmm, to change the subject, I have been listening to a singer I usually refuse to for some reason, Henry Burr. 
Yes indeed(he looks a little like Hylands!)
It's amazing to think, but Henry Burr began recording in the piano accompaniment era. He began just early enough to have had many experiences with Fred Hylands, not really Banta though, he just missed that opportunity. Now among the powerhouse Columbia duos in the piano accompaniment era, from Spencer and Hylands, to Collins and Harlan with Hylands, Henry Burr and Hylands was a real amazing feat. 
Why? Well, think about it for a moment, the only reason I'm not a big Burr fan if because he was a man similar to Arthur Collins, who was very hard to get along with, and was not praised for his personality, just like Collins was. Hylands was, as we know, full of himself and fully confident with his playing all the time. When you put those two together, one can only imagine the sort of tangle that was created at every session with the two of them. At most of Burr's earliest sessions, he recorded sacred songs, with organ by Hylands, and as I have explained before, Hylands was not skilled on the organ(reed organ that is...). Since Burr was new to Columbia, he didn't really know of Hylands' antics there before 1900, which means that he was missing quite a lot of it. 
Anyhow here are a few of Burr's records with Hylands:
This one is particularly fantastic. Burr was really an astonishing solo artist in his earliest days of recording, as his earliest records are often overlooked, which is unfortunate.
This is Burr's remake of  J. W. Myers/ Gaskin's take of this, that is why the cylinder number is that of a brown wax Columbia. Whenever I listen to Burr's earliest records, I can almost hear the bickering between the takes with them. These would usually begin with Burr telling Hylands that he did something too loud or could've played better.
Now onto his sacred cylinders, with Hylands' mediocre organ playing. There's not a doubt that these records with Hylands and Burr were among the best of the late piano accompaniment era, as Burr was quite a change from the recording stars of the brown wax era, and once he and Murray came in, it was clear to the old "Columbia clan" that a new era was beginning, and it was nothing like the one they had created.
Burr was essentially doing what Steve Porter did in the late 1890's, by recording all of those sacred songs, but this time, they used the organ much more often. It must be noted that Columbia used a reed organ without any long pipes, whereas Edison had an organ that actually used pipes that extended several feet in height, which made for a much purer and darker sound than the reed organ at Columbia. 

Before I get into another subject, I must hold off on the idea for the next post I will do, all I am saying for now is that it has to do with Les Copeland and Hylands being compared stylistically. 

Hope you enjoyed this! 

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