Sunday, July 16, 2017

Miscellaneous Analyses and digging

Over the past week or so...
I have been sorting through an awful lot of the whole Hylands thing, and luckily this time, it has nothing to do with his playing style. 
This time, it's more of the logic of understanding his relationship with Columbia itself, when that began, and understanding periods of time where he could and couldn't be pianist. 
Of course, we're still amid a nasty debate(it's not really nasty)whether this unidentified pianist is Hylands or not. I still stand on my wild assumption and theory of it being Hylands, but of those who I've asked are split down the middle in terms of opinions. Im not going to go on about this picture again, I've already done it to death...

We still don't know when he started working there.
That's really the issue here, forget all the spottiness after 1900, what we really need to know is when he started at Columbia. The dates in The Phonoscope make it very hard for any of us pianist researchers to understand or even try to get a specific timeframe of when this hiring happened. The timeframe we've got as of now is 1897 to mid-1898. That's a relatively generous frame of time actually. In reality, it's more likely 1897, BUT! We don't have any written evidence of him being hired or advertised as pianist in that year. The reason it's more likely 1897 is because that was when Columbia moved from Washington DC to their famous headquarters at 1155 Broadway, and also because they hired a bunch of new staff, and essentially ended their recording in Washington at that point. Of course, with not written evidence of Hylands working there in 1897, that's where most researchers turn away and shun the theory. The only way we have any evidence of him possibly working there in 1897 are some records, and of course the above photograph(if that's him!). One thing that's sure amid this ongoing nightmare of researching, is the fact that Hylands worked alongside Issler at Columbia for an overlapping period of time. We are still unsure of where exactly this was, but it's certainly around the end of 1897 or early 1898, which, luckily, comfortably fits into the timeframe of when Hylands was likely hired. Why is this so important?(can't we just stick to the timrframe as a guess?)NO! I find it very significant when Columbia hired Fred Hylands, because he was the first pianist with no recording experience at all and was literally plucked off the stage to make records because he had a specific talent--playing "Rag-Time". Even Banta wasn't picked as pianist for Edison because of his ability to play a certain music genre, he was picked for his skill overall. It's very significant to a Rag-Time historian to know when Hylands became Columbia's Rag pianist, because we know it was early, but we just want to know how early. 

I still stand on Hylands being hired in 1897, despite him working at theaters and such in that year according to most sources we've found. 

Now to something else related...
Recently I learned from my friend Craig that there is a recording of Hylands' kind of popular piece "The Rag-Time Boardinghouse":
The sole fact that such a recording exists somewhere is very interesting. However, this was not an American recording! This was a British record from 1912-1913. This being an English recording is strange, however it makes sense that it was recorded over there, if it was recorded in 1913, that would make the most sense.(Hylands toured out there) This brought up an interesting point that kind of backed up a previous theory. This previous theory was appertaining to how Hylands' relationship with Columbia was likely sour after 1902. His trust with the Columbia staff has begun to fade as early as 1900, because of his bust with the publishing firm and Len Spencer, etc. In 1902, he tried that whole union thing, and that didn't last as we all remember, and like anything having to do with workers' rights must have angered the management there at Columbia. His unsavory nature in the studio is also likely as to why the relationship with Columbia became sour later. That reputation though would have begun many years before 1902. That would stem back to the beginning of his term there. We can hear how that reputation was earned oftentimes on records, such as that damn forsaken mess of a cylinder "Smokey Mokes":
(hear it at 57:50)
Something's wrong with him here, and this time it's unfortunate that we know it's him making the mistakes...
Records like these were issued for some reason, and it's why Hylands had that reputation that we're still trying to figure out. Something about it wasn't good, that's all we know for sure. 
This lasting unsavory reputation maybe kept Hylands' music from being recorded in the U. S., even after his time at Columbia. Maybe that's it? This is only a notion, remember. If this was the case, that would be really interesting, and would finally justify maybe why all these recording stars like Quinn and Murray didn't mention Hylands specifically in their letters and interviews with Jim Walsh. Something was off about him, and it's clear that he did something(had a habit of some kind) that aggravated the Columbia staff and management. Of course, I do not know what this could have been, but we can only guess what the issue was. 

Anyway, at these times when Hylands was most likely not playing piano who would be the sub?
Well, one of three people. 
Fred Hager♡
Charles Prince
George Schweinfest
Luckily, by the time of these little pockets of time, we know that Issler wasn't working at Columbia, so it doesn't over complicate everything. At a point of time in 1901 and 1902, during a familiar period of time often called "The Climax feud", it seems that pretty face Fred Hager worked for Columbia. In this period you can hear Climax records, with their generalized identification, be announced as being by "Hager's orchestra" or "Hager's band". It's a little confusing really, but until you see that Hager made a bunch of violin solos for them, as well as Columbia incidentally. How convenient is that! Those Columbia's Hager made also have piano accompaniment, so that ought to be interesting...
After having an intense listening session with Craig, we listened to a whole lot of Climax records and Zon-O-Phone's, and we found a few records of each label that have the alternate pianists than their home companies. Hager on Climax, and Hylands on Zon-O-Phone is meant by that. Okay, so we've found Hager's on Climax and Columbia, that's good. We know Schweinfest was a pianist, a pretty good one as far as we know(though we haven't heard him yet), according to those 1889 North American handwritten notes. We know he was a relatively good pianist from this because he played duets with Issler, which couldn't have been just for any pianist out there. We know Prince was the pianist on those operatic recordings Columbia made in 1903, which is helpful for recognition. Prince was not nearly as accomplished a pianist as Hylands or Hager, so I would highly doubt he be the other Rag pianist who could take Hylands' spot while he was on tour or sick(which he was out for a few times we're learning!). I still have yet to sit down and figure these dates out with Charlie Judkins(who found them!), and when we finally have a rough timeline, we'll understand this whole thing, and maybe have a better idea of when he started at Columbia in the first place. 

I'll be getting back to writing more posts finally, I mean it this time.

Hope you enjoyed this! 


  1. Thank You. Collectors probably argue the 1897 date, not because it is not correct, but because you are young, and they have a propensity to either chastise you, or purposely mislead. I have heard piano style on Columbia from 1897 and it sounds like Hylands. An 1897-early 1898 columbia cylinder is dainty in diameter, about 2.145-2.150" and less than 4.25" long. After mid 1898 Columbia's records were in the 2.160" range of thickness and 4.25" long, with thicker spiral in the core, the early self made blanks had thin, single spiral cores, similar to North American Edison blanks. Later Columbia blanks have a thick, clunky single spiral (were talking brown wax).

  2. I have just discovered this immensely informative blog; thank you! Somewhere I have an early 10-inch black and silver Columbia disc of a march, 'The Man Behind the Gun', with an announcement which I have never quite been able to make out; until now I have tentatively understood it as 'Brady's' or 'Grady's' Orchestra. I now wonder if the name could be 'Hager's'. I have not set eyes on the record for years, but I think the catalogue number is 133.

  3. @Casaubon. Columbia 133, The Man Behind the Gun, was indeed recorded by Hager's Orchestra,