Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Search for Will J. Hardman and More fixed transfers

After spending a little time to-day searching on sheet music archive websites, I finally came across a few pieces by Lyricist Will J. Hardman, who was Hylands' lyricist in 1899 and 1900. After so much time wondering about anything that would be traced on him, I finally found some more music of his! What I found was nothing like the songs he wrote with Hylands though, in fact it was much older than the other music he wrote with Hylands. It seems he was one of those composers who began writing music earlier than expected, like Monroe Rosenfeld. The oldest piece of his I was able to trace was from 1885, 14 years before he was writing music with Hylands. The piece that was closest in date to 1899 was this one here:
Wow, what a bleak subject matter in contrast with his lyrical genius of "You Don't Stop the World from Goin Round". Without a doubt, Hardman was a genius when it came to language and diction, and this has been made ever clearer by seeing more of his music, both in the sense of lyrics and in music. One thing that is for certain now, is that Hardman was probably born in the 1860's, or just generally older than Hylands, and that debunks my preconception that he was the same age or around that of Hylands. Maybe he was Gaskin's age?(born 1863), that wouldn't be too unreasonable. Until I see census records there will only be guesses of his age. I understand now why Hylands probably had him as his lyricist, and it was because of his longer experience and previous success in the matter, though Hylands didn't publish any instrumental music of Hardman's, which is a little strange, yet somewhat telling. 
It is a little strange though that he was writing very emotional songs in the 1880's and even the 1890's, but then once Hylands had pulled on his leg long enough, Hardman was writing Rag-Time songs with him. That leap to the other side of popular songs seems really interesting to me, and must be noted in studies of Hardman. He seems like a very interesting character, as it seems like that had to be a requirement to be one of Hylands' friends, since that's a trend with those who Hylands associated himself with. 

Hylands probably took notice to Hardman's talents around the time that he was a music director at Pastor's(in 1897), since his music had been laying around in piles of music at his office, and being a music director, of course he came across Hardman's music! Since he took an interest in Hardman's music, he probably tracked him down, and he wasn't too far, since he last piece was published not far away from where Hylands worked in the next year(1898). It even could have been something as random as Hylands commuting to work sometime in 1898 and stumbling into Hardman's direction, and them getting to at last praise each other's music, instantly forming a solid friendship. According to The Phonoscope , things like this did happen when some of the recording stars were commuting to and from work(such as the horrific cable car crash of September 1898). Just to give this thoery some credibility, Hylands' commute from where he lived to Columbia would have been passing the address of the publishing firm in the music pictured above, though not every day he would have passed by it however. 

Just as a side note, Hylands lived really close to Union Square in 1898, but really far away from Columbia, just to put that into perspective. This is exactly why he moved to 33 W. 27th street in 1899, a block away from Columbia. All of you collectors out there who still aren't sure if Hylands worked at Columbia after 1898, this little blurb is the evidence.

 If he worked on 14th street, that's where he lived, if he lived on 27th street, that's where he lived, it's not that hard to comprehend. 

However they first met, he and Hardman must have become good friends quick, as it was much like his relationship with Spencer, though he didn't work in the studio with Hardman. Alright, it seems I'm able to piece together the people who worked with Hylands in his publishing firm who weren't the names in their gorgeous footer:
Here are some of the names:
Roger Harding, Burt Green, Will C. Jones, his sister Etta, Rollin Wooster, Georgie Emerson, Steve Porter, Will J. Hardman, and George Gaskin.

There are others, but these are the ones who helped him directly under Spencer and Harry Yeager, and there are probably more who we have yet to discover. Some fraternity it was! 

Now it's time to listen to some music! The endeavor of slowing down these records scattered about the Internet has been slowing down, since we're getting ready for the West Coast Ragtime Festival this weekend, and finding records played at the wrong speed is becoming harder to find, though there is so much more we can do. One record that we recently slowed down is Gaskin's 1903 recording of "The Bassoon", which is certainly played far too fast on the website it came from. 
An image of Gaskin from c.1895 that makes him look innocent and sweeter than others out there. Something about Gaskin's singing is very pleasant, but his thick dialect is often what makes it not nearly as perfect in the pleasant factor for me. I guess that's why I can never really love Gaskin's records. He seems to have been a more influential figure in the early recording business than previously thought, with his advocacy for George W. Johnson, he certainly earns some points for that, as well as throwing in a whole lot of money to the fund for his defense team in 1899. 
Without further ado, here's the original transfer of the record:
Far too fast and screechy, here's the newly slowed down version:
So much better. 
Like a breath of fresh cool air. 

Another record that we fixed involved many things to be done to the original transfer in order for it to sound as is does now. It is a record by:
John Yorke AtLee. 
For a long time, I knew that he recorded a few coon songs with whistling choruses, and one had been put up on the Santa Barbara cylinder website for not too long, but it was completely mis-labeled as a cylinder by Billy Golden, just because it was a coon song with whistling, which was Golden's specialty. Nope, this was even stranger record, it was one of two or three coon songs that AtLee recorded in 1897-1899. Here's his take of "Whistling Yaller Dinah":

This record has origins that are very hard to trace, since it is one of those independent recording companies, possibly one of the original masters of records that AtLee sold under his own company in 1898-1900. I only know of one other example of an AtLee original from that period, and it's his "Our Whistling Servant Girl", with a hard to trace date. Much like that one, the newly slowed down AtLee record is hard to trace when it comes to putting an accurate date on it. The "Whistling Servant Girl" cylinder comes from, and the company is said to be the U. S. Phonograph company, and is dated at 1900, though that doesn't make any logical sense. That company fell completely by the middle of 1897, and it had a pitiful and ugly end, dissolving to nothing in just a few weeks. 

Now the question of these two recordings comes to the piano accompaniment. Who does the pianist sound like? Well, none of the studio pianists. It just sounds like Gaisberg a little bit, but it's not, as the dates would be in the range that he was still in the United States, even though I think they're probably from 1898. After digging around in the go-to source for possible information on this, The Phonoscope, it seemed that there was a little section in the September 1898 issue that hints at a pianist playing behind him. This section stated that AtLee was at a recent phonograph demonstration(connected with Columbia, durr...), and he sung three songs accompanying himself on the piano. WHAT! REALLY? That's amazing, and raises suspicion of who might be playing piano on these two records, since they're not strictly Columbia's, with Hylands or Gaisberg on piano for certain, it makes some sense that he be playing piano on his self-made records. Keep in mind that this only applies to the records he made on his own in 1897 to 1900, not his records for Columbia in 1897 and 1898, nor his records from 1891-1894 with Fred Gaisberg. 

He had an interesting piano style if he's playing piano on these two records! 

It says in one advertisement for AtLee's records that he recorded "The Whistling Coon". Now that's a record I hope exists somewhere. 

Hope you enjoyed this! 

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