Friday, August 5, 2016

Delving into Hunting, and The Phonogram

This is just one of many great photographs presented amid the pages of The Phonogram. (This picture is now my favourite one of Hunting!)

Just within the last two days, the entire set of editions of The Phonogram were put up on the Internet Archive(or, and it has made for some great time searching around in its pages. Now I'll admit truthfully, that it is not nearly as fun to read as The Phonoscope, but it's still interesting, since it's much earlier on in the business, when much of the action didn't happen yet. It began in a very somewhat too young and uneventful time in a sense. It was begun so early, that there wasn't too much of the infamous craziness going on yet. Hunting began The Phonoscope, at a perfect time, and not a time could have been better. Now that I have the chance to go through The Phonogram, it seems that Hunting's purpose with beginning The Phonoscope, was not exactly the most serious of matters. He began it for the same reason of The Phonogram, but he created a comical and rude spin-off in a way to it. It was more so this way toward the beginning of its existence rather than when 1900 neared closer. Hunting's intentions were much less serious than those who ran The Phonogram, and it seems clear by the very existence of the Our Tattler section that always included some of the funniest things having to do with the late-1890's recording business. That column is where we get these sections:
(still don't exactly know that that means...)
still funny. 
I like that Hunting found this funny, and the rest of The Phonoscope people did too. 

Most of the sections I use often are from the Our Tattler section, and it's the most questionable of these sections from The Phonoscope, only because they are often little items of gossip and the official so-called "scandal-sheet" of the magazine. Items of gossip are not always to be fully trusted, though the fact that Hunting was behind most of it until late-1898 gives credit up to that point, he was a better insider to have been writing about this than some of his friends. There was none of this in The Phonogram, which strangely seems Edison/North American biased, as we know very well that The Phonoscope was Columbia-biased, though there were many articles and such on old man Edison. Those boys at The Phonoscope did portray Edison not the nicest ways, aside from easily getting across his genius with the Phonograph and the electric light. The Phonoscope people were the kinds who would go for Tesla in the Edison vs. Tesla debate over AC and DC electricity. 

From what I've gathered in The Phonogram, it seems more like a magazine for the salesmen and managers of record companies rather than the group of recording stars themselves. It didn't have all of the great gossip and stories that we all love The Phonoscope for, and it ended so early on that it missed all of the good stuff that Hunting was around to see and write about. 

Had The Phonogram gone a year or two longer, they probably would have taken back all of the praise they gave Hunting in 1892, as they didn't see their finish as arcade owners with Hunting's "experimental" records. By that, I mean all of his infamous smut cylinders. They would have freaked out the same way that all of the "Columbia clan" did when the Johnson murder trial befell them. The first scandal of the business was essentially Hunting's smut cylinders, as before that there was the fall of North American, but that wasn't a scandal at all, it was just two major companies sparring over patents, which happened all the time, so that wasn't really a big deal. It just ended a very innovative and unique early record company, that's all. Hunting's scandal was the failure of the slot machine owners, but his moment of glory as Anthony Comstock's men scrambled for every last one of the records. All the records were destroyed during the trial and while he was in prison, so there wasn't much he could do about it. This scandal practically ended the slot machine age for the phonograph, even though plenty of phonograph parlors existed after the fact, they were more likely owned by recording stars or exhibitioners, not saloonkeepers and enthusiasts like they used to be. 
Take for example Roger Harding's phonograph parlor, which was clearly advertised in The Phonoscope in 1897, which was one of many places where the "clan" could gather, and where Harding could get credit for his "sales commission" that began at Columbia in 1898. I don't think I need to explain that, as it is pretty much what it sounds to be. 

From reading through The Phonogram, it seems that John Yorke AtLee was a much more prominent and popular recording star than previously thought. I knew that he was popular in the early days, and remained as such into the late-1890's, but the amount of writing on him in The Phonogram really says a lot about how important they all thought he was. 
Here's two of the same picture from The Phonogram:
Here's the original, sorry it wasn't copied very well...
There ya go, an actual photograph of AtLee!
Here's an etching of the same photograph:
Now you can inadvertently see it better. 
Well, he still had the best whiskers at Columbia, without doubt.
He looks more like a policeman than a recording star! Those are the most civil war-era looking whiskers I've seen. The picture of him is probably from c.1888-1890. AtLee was prided by Columbia more so than Edward Issler and Spencer were in 1895-1897, which is really saying a lot. He and the U. S. Marine band were really what Columbia was advertising in 1889 to 1892, all of the famous recording stars was know well came a little later, though a few of them are mentioned inThe Phonogram. Spencer, Denny, Gaskin, Schweinfest, Issler, and Hunting were all advertised in The Phonogram in 1892, which makes sense, but it seems a little early for Spencer to be specifically advertised as a soloist, since there was practically nothing on him in that magazine in 1891, and at that time, he was using pseudonyms for the most part, and was working in Issler's orchestra. Maybe they were mentioning that he was an Issler worker, since that's where most of us hear him before 1896. If you are not entirely aware of this, here are a few examples:

One thing I don't think I've noted about "Dancing on the Housetops", is that it's genuinely syncopated, which is very strange for a schottische of the early 1890's that isn't a "danse de negres"(as Gottschalk's music was called). It is actually a very good and well-hidden piece of early Rag-Time. It was much more socially acceptable in this case. Since this is the oldest one I know of, and it has the syncopation, that makes it inadvertently an early piece of Rag-Time. I'm sure Issler would not like to hear that. 

Well, I will have more onThe Phonogram within the next few days, but there's not really too much to take away from it, since it's so early on and not full of charming gossip. I hate to like Hunting for this, but you can't go wrong with his points made inThe Phonoscope.

Hope you enjoyed this! 

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