Thursday, May 5, 2016

Character Studies--Spencer and Hylands

Since I have been beginning a part of the "character studies" format speaking of two people, if found it appropriate to analyze and dig into the partnership and friendship of Fred Hylands and Len Spencer. 
It's been a while since I have delved into this friendship, though every time I do, something new is added into the mix of oddities that went into this partnership. As I have explained before, Hylands and Spencer probably met not long after Hylands began his trial at Columbia for a few months in 1897. In fact, Spencer might have even approached Hylands while he was waiting his turn to be judged by the managers. Whenever it was that Spencer approached Hylands for the first time, a connection was immediately made, no matter what kind of conversation came about. 

Hylands and Spencer were like no other pair in Columbia's 27th and Broadway studio. Spencer was loud and expressive, acting as though he were in his minstrel clothes more than half the time in the studio with Hylands. Len was noted for calling Hylands, "Freddy" the most often, and he called him that all the time when they made records. Between some takes later in the day, the both of them would sniff up snuff on counts of three, same with drinking some harsh liquor, all brought by Hylands most of the time. Hylands would get all excited when Len came in, as it was always a fun time when he came, rather than J. W. Myers, or Vess Ossman. Hylands took favourites once he got to know everyone he worked with in the studio, and he knew who to look forward to, and who to not be as much with. Part of the reason that Hylands was chosen for Columbia's piano chair in the first place was due to the fact that they wanted to stay absolutely up-to-date, and since it was 1897, they wanted a Rag-Time pianist. Hylands just happened to be perfect for Columbia's needs, and wants. It didn't take long for the artists to cling to Hylands' style, both Rag-Time and not, and of course, Len Spencer did this more than anyone else, as their senses of Rag-Time were practically identical. It's no surprise that Spencer was immediately drawn to Hylands. Of course, Spencer didn't exactly know of the "baggage" that Hylands had with him as a person, it took many days of recording to finally somewhat understand how that piano man worked. It took until early-1899 for Spencer to build up enough trust in Fred to want to begin a publishing venture with him. Out of this studio trust came Hylands, Spencer and Yeager. Hylands and Burt Green ran Fred's flat, whereas Spencer would only come later in the evenings, after making records and such. When they were all at the flat late at night is when the antics would begin, with Fred's father occasionally coming in to yell at them to be quiet. This is where new music was made, ideas were created, drinks were taken, and drugs were sniffed. It was the most mirthful of times for all of them, and it was much more free than when in the studio, and also the stage that Burt Green worked at. Hylands lived the best while running this firm, and it was with Spencer that many of these deals were made, and many of these "coon songs" were published. After all, it is no surprise that Hylands' so-called "baby" "You Don't Stop the World from Going Round" had Len Spencer as the featured performer on the cover for six to eight editions of the tune. The friendship between Spencer and Hylands lasted well into 1900, though as the firm was beginning to slowly wind down, Fred was becoming frustrated with Spencer, as he almost never came in to tend to any duties, or even pick up the piles of mail Fred would receive for him. In angry fits, Fred would take the piles of mail and pour them on Len as he walked by the building on his way to the studio some mornings. "Here's yer mail!" Fred would snap. With this flame of animosity ever being fueled by Len, Fred was forced to sell all of his stock to the larger firms that had become associates of his. This slight tension between Len and Fred remained for many years, but it did not keep them from still being friends and great studio partners. 

Their records were truly some of the best that came out of the late-1890's especially their very dynamic and popular pieces of Rag-Time. 

Here are a few of them:

Hope you enjoyed this! 

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