Friday, January 6, 2017

Harding's publishing and Making good for Screw-overs

This evening, I stumbled across a fantastic article on Roger Harding, from the only collector who was an expert on him. Even Jim Walsh didn't know much about Harding, no matter how far he dug into the people who knew him. Unfortunately, this collector who wrote about Harding is now deceased as one of my friends told me a while back. This is also the case with a collector who possessed the best collection of Len Spencer recordings and odds and ends there ever was, and now the collection is split up unfortunately, with much of it ending up at the LOC. 
Harding is among my favourites of these early recording stars, other than Len Spencer, Fred Hylands, Vess Ossman, etc. So it wasn't all that surprising to see that I was mesmerized by this article, and completely hooked immediately upon seeing the article. The article was very well-written, and was full of not often read information on Harding. If you would like to read it yourself, here's the article in the link below:

The good thing that was detailed in the article in the link above is Harding's publishing endeavors, which began with his relation with Hylands and Steve Porter. Of course, we know very well that the whole "Knickerbocker" went though Hylands' ear and straight out the other. We know how that went. This must have made Roger a little disillusioned, and disappointed in Fred, with the trust he'd thrown him for this to actually happen, then it didn't. But of course, that didn't end anything with them, because the one rule that Columbia's studio seemed to have just as a mutual thing was that no grudges could be held between any staff members.
Well think about it, Hylands had "screwed over" many of the Columbia staff, even his bestest of friends like Harry Yeager and Len Spencer, which left them all frustrated with one another, however, they couldn't be for very long, because they all still had to make records, with no regards to the "baggage" that they had. This was so even later in time, such as when Collins and Harlan were first working together, because they disagreed rather often, probably more than most people have documented in fact. this happened all the time, Columbia talent disagreed, in fact, during the Johnson Murder trial, this was probably amplified by everyone's differing beliefs and opinions, despite them all siding with the defense(of course they did, because they had to). The point to this moral "rule" is that they all had to come back to work the next day and make records, no arguments or divas allowed. 

Luckily for Harding, he was a logical and optimistic man, wise to all of this, and never cause any fights amongst his fellow employees. He didn't hold a grudge against Hylands, because of the need for more recordings, but also because Hylands made good with him by writing some music for and with him. 
It's this kissing up to him that we get pieces like this one:

Ah yes, more of that infamous Hylands Spencer and Yeager music. 
Before I get into the strangeness of Mrs. Cal Stewart being on the cover, I must continue on Harding. 
Harding's relationship with Hylands didn't end with the Knickerbocker failure, despite what the article stated, as the pieces of music Hylands published with Harding continued:
Without a doubt Harding was still on the periphery of the publishing endeavor, because Hylands kept pulling his leg to publish more music of his:
Hey! It's Gaskin!
But of course, like anything like this, it really shocked me to see Harding AND Porter's names on music for composer credit, and the fact that the authorship looks reversed from our typical knowledge of Porter and Harding. Hylands really wanted to keep their trio together, even if the whole Knickerbocker thing blew to bits. Hmm, wonder why that is? The piece of music just above really says for it, because that's a later publication of Hylands', perhaps later 1899 rather than earlier(my piece in full colour above is a few months older, because of the two other publishing outpost location addresses not being present.) As Much as Spencer probably disliked Hylands for the amount of thing he pulled, there was not a way that they could split, Spencer dedicated himself to the firm, and he had created that gorgeous footer, so whenever he was questioning his commitment to Fred, it was just violently shushed by Fred the millisecond he began in on it.

 So... after Harding learned some of the publishing game(from not a very good role model), he began publishing himself since no one would bother to help him otherwise, setting up on the same block as where he worked(Columbia), and simply called it Roger Harding Publishing Company. One example was thus:
Now that's a familiar face! There were scores more on Harding's music, from Gaskin to George Schweinfest. Hylands probably saw this as a threat to his then-fading firm, since it was set up a block away from him, and for the same purpose, by one of his own co-workers. Harding was confident for a short period about this firm, though just like Fred's around the same time, it sunk quicker than the stock could handle all in one. Since Harding didn't see the end of the next year, his music was never sold to larger firms, which makes it even rarer than Hylands Spencer and Yeager music. It's actually a little surprising that Hylands didn't slip out Harding's stock after the firm went under and when be died, because that seems like something he would do, especially since his own firm was in a slow, painful decline. He didn't and the staff mourned Harding's death, much like when Frank Banta died, though this didn't seem as big a deal as Banta's death two years later. 

Now to return back to the "Kitty Clover" music farther above in this post. Now the many recognizable faces on Hylands' music can seem a pleasant surprise to unknowing collectors, and every time I see a new copy of one of those pieces, it gets me all excited. You never know if a famous recording star will be on a Hylands piece, which is why it's great to sift through them. That specific edition of "Kitty Clover" is a strange one, and gets me a little suspicious. One thing to keep in mind with Hylands is that everything he did came with benefits. By this, it is meant that anything he did came with some perk given to the other person or people involved. Take his praising advertisement from The Phonoscope, where he literally invites people over, in exchange for accommodating hospitality. It is because of this that we don't see any scathing reviews of his Broadway shows later, though they existed, regardless of what all of the sources we see state about him. Hylands probably offered each of those performers on his music something, whether it be percentage of the profits, or something else... ... ... 
It can be assumed by some wild theory that Hylands and Harding found Cal Stewart's wife gorgeous(well it didn't help that they were surrounded by other strange looking men all the time at work...). That's not impossible, because she does seem to be rather pretty, and it almost seems out of nowhere for her to be the dedicatee on the music of two men who knew her from the same source. 

I can see Fred's face light up when she came in with Cal one day at Columbia, same with Roger, except that Roger was probably a little less struck than Fred, since he was older, and a little more reserved it would seem. It seems like something that could be attached to Fred's character, or Roger's. 
Hmm, wonder if Cal had any notion? Hope so. 
It seems odd to tie anything like this to Cal Stewart, thinking of him as "Uncle Josh". But really, if you think it over, it's not too unusual, this is Columbia we're speaking of here, none of this would happen at Edison. 

Other than making all the ladies stars on his music, Fred also made up for wrongdoings by publishing artists' music and dedicating music he wrote to them. This went for Len Spencer, Vess Ossman, Harry Yeager, and Dan Quinn. All of those specific names in association to Fred seem a little suspicious. They all seem like artists that got in a tangle with him before he made up for it by publishing music. The only reason I think this is because he ended a few letters with 
I beg to remain yours respectfully,

Also that he was thrown out of the White Rats union because he was tangling with other agents and going off doing what he wanted. All of these factors set up a figure who screwed over many fellows. Since this was such an issue with him, without a doubt this was so when he worked for Columbia. Hylands certainly had his reasons for dropping so many names on his music, probably each performer had a story as to why he did this. Even Ada Jones probably had a yarn with him, because she wasn't on just one of his covers. In this case his tale with Ossman would be an interesting one! Who knows what Ossman thought of dealing with Hylands, two musicians full of themselves is never a good thing, and that's exactly what that duo was. This new article was fascinating to read, especially coming at the Hylands Spencer and Yeager endeavor from Harding's point of view, which is very different from anyone else involved. Knowing what Victor Emerson thought of this whole employees as publishers thing would be the most interesting however, because he had nothing to do with it, yet in a way he was managing it, whether he wanted to or not. 

Before I end, I would like to satisfy some of my Hager "kick" recently, with a new record I found a few days ago. This is an early pre-paper label Zon-O-Phone from 1901 by John Terrell. 
Here's his 1901 Zon-O-Phone of "Tain't A'goin to Weep No More":
Not a big fan of Terrell, but Hager always makes up for it! The Rag-Time is not phenomenal as far as records go with his accompaniment, but it's interesting and Ragged nonetheless. The solo at the end is short, but has a very interesting melodic idea as far as Rag-Time goes. Hager was always an interesting pianist, even if his Ragged time was a little out of whack sometimes; this was certainly not true when he conducted his orchestra. I would go out on a limb and say that Hager's orchestra(and the Zon-O-phone orchestra) were the best house orchestra of the 1900's, they had the best musicians, best arrangements, and the slickest execution of all the house orchestras. And their arrangements weren't easy, they were the most complicated as well. They were arguably just as good as Sousa's and Arthur Pryor's bands. 

We've got to find more about Hager. 

I looked around in my many books on early recording to-day and didn't find too much on Hager, other than his obvious Zon-O-Phone leadership, and his publishing firm with J. Fred Helf in 1907-ish, and that he worked as a bandleader into the 1920's, but that's not really much for a man who died in 1953. There's literally an abyss of information missing on Hager, not just a gap. There's nothing out there on his piano playing, which is the most unfortunate thing, because he would have to be that unknown pianist on Zon-O-phone playing the most oblong, yet interesting Rag-Time style of all the regular studio pianists. 

Hope you enjoyed this! 
Batten down the hatches  for the storm out here in California! 

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