It's about damn time. Hylands is on the left.
This last Friday, I received a phenomenal piece of sheet music through the mail. When I first saw this piece on Ebay, I woke up the next morning after buying it thinking that all that was a dream. It seemed too good to be true, a piece of self published Hylands music with two pictures of him on the cover, it was too much at once. The piece was also relatively cheap considering my bad luck with Hylands sheets before then. This piece certainly makes up for losing his "Darkey Volunteer" and his "Uncle Sam" cake-walk. It's just as good.
So you can all see the rest of the cover, here you go:
What a salacious illustration!
It's also rather beautiful and gracefully drawn, whoever that cover artist is. The only reason I used that picture of the two of them is because it's a better picture of Hylands(and of course it's more aesthetically pleasing!). So after staring at the thing for a week an a half, I finally got to hold the music and get a great scan of those two Hylands pictures. This piece is from 1912, and it's hard, if not impossible, to trace in copyright records. I had seen this piece on the back of the cover of my early edition of his "Rag-Time boardinghouse", and never would have thought that I'd see the piece in its entirety. Of course the music aside, I got the piece because of the Hylands pictures and the exceeding rarity of the piece. Here's the other picture of Hylands in great detail:
Damn, he looks rough.
Well, that's to be expected. Even with all of the wild things I've said about him, it seems that a lot of those assumptions were pretty true. He certainly looks like he had some rough times. You name it, drugs, alcohol, and fights. All of those things are clear in his rugged face at only 40. Not only that, his hair seems to have turned pretty light, if not rather white by then, which would point to my theory of his hair being vibrant red. Redheads unfortunately lose that beautiful shade rather early, with strands turning white often before age 35. Hylands just looks like a stereotypical redhead, you can almost see it in that detailed picture of him just above.
What intensity and pleading! Even with the roughness and weirdness, those eyes are just haunting. Haunting in the best possible way of course. Now here's something interesting that I've noticed in both of the pictures; right near the dimple on his chin, there appears to be a scar of some kind. In both pictures a slash scar is visible. Hmm...That's so curious. That would be the sort of thing we'd all expect from Len Spencer, as he supposedly had that somewhere on his face. But thinking that Hylands had that is interesting, since I had the assumption that he was rather disliked for being rather pompous and egotistical(as taken from reviews of his Broadway shows and other newspaper bits), so I can see him slipping up at a gambling match before Columbia(or maybe during it for all we know!) and trying to smart his way out but failing miserably. Despite being freakishly tall and rather strong(assuming this is pre-1898), I'm sure someone would take him as bully bait and take a slash to his face. It would not be in nearly the same circumstances as Spencer's scar, as that would have been much more intense and dramatic, with a fistfight to get the razor to top it off. Imagine a shark just getting fed up with Hylands' wise chatter and losing it and quickly slashing his chin with a razor to shut him up. That's absolutely hilarious to imagine, it's a perfect cartoon template.
Speaking of cartoons, now that I finally know what he looked like definitively, I must go back and edit the most detailed portraits of him that I've done, such as this one:
That's how it looks now, and it's painstakingly accurate now.
It's strange that he had those dark sunken eyes that the Emerson's had.
(there's Victor Emerson)
Hylands had the same kind of stare, and it's rather creepy to be honest.
Well, now that we see Hylands fully as he was, especially rough as he was later in life, his stare can now haunt us as we listen to records of his!
Speaking of that, it be time to analyze some of his records! Well, just as I've been doing for the last few posts, Santa Barbara keeps putting up new transfers, and each new one is outstanding.
To begin, we have a new transfer of a George Schweinfest record.
Oh he just looks so sweet!
Previously, Santa Barbara had a fast transfer of "Bob White Polka" from c.1899-1900 up, but recently they put up a perfect transfer of a take from c.1902. It's absolutely lovely, with outstanding clarity, so here you go:
Toward the end Hylands plays some interesting quick notes that sound like Gottschalk's imitation of the piccolo!
Of course, that's to be expected of Hylands, but it's nice to actually hear it in great clarity. Other than that, the record is pretty straightforward, it's one of those great Schweinfest solos which never fail to please.
This next one is a long anticipated transfer, that has been sitting there on the website for a while. Like every time I check the website, I always check the Spencer records first.
Of course at any opportunity possible I intend on using this picture of him.
These next three transfers are just as good as Santa Barbara's old transfers, clear and crisp.
This first one was scattered all over the internet years ago, but it was not the entire record transferred for some reason. Here's Spencer and Hylands' 1898 Columbia of "All Coons look Alike to Me":
It's hard luck that the record has that weird problem of losing the sound of the recording at the end of the first verse and for most of the chorus. This tune would be ideal in identifying pianist rag-time styles, as everyone recorded it on different labels, all with different pianists. This tune was also used in many early rag-time contests, such as the one that Mike Bernard won in 1900. The tune was the epitome of "rag time", and the "rag time life" as they would say in the late-90's. The "rag time life" being struck with free love and gambling and drugs, you know, the usual stereotype of new and rebellious music.From this take, we can hear Hylands' weirdness rather well, as it truly comes out at second chorus. He does all sorts of weird spiraling chromatic patterns that are hard to imitate since they are so strange. It's his classic Indiana rag style coming through. What he plays at the second chorus reminds me of a 1916 Indiana rag called "That Dizzy Rag"(take a listen! It's weird! The entire rag is full of stuff we often hear Hylands play). Anyway, this record is a classic great example of Hylands and Spencer collaborations, this time with one of the most recognizable coon songs of the era.
This next Spencer and Hylands record is from a little bit later, but it's mislabeled on the website.
This one has a transfer of the popular coon song "I ain't a-goin to weep no more", which is really nice, since Hylands plays all sorts of nice and weird stuff. It's transferred a bit fast, but we can still hear the lovely rag-time. On this take, it seems Hylands' style is constantly going and is rollicking, which is tantalizing. Again, there's not too much to explain here, as the rag-time explains all that needs to be said, and the way Spencer sings it is very different from all the other takes I've heard of it. Spencer often went his own way when singing popular songs. It's nice to have cross reference from other takes by different singers. Of course like many of these records, Spencer adds in a little sketch. Those little sketches vary in lecherousness, depending on the specific subject matter of the coon song. Keep in mind that he only does those on his coon song records, most often when with Hylands, though he did do them later long after his falling out(or whatever happened) with Hylands.
I still think his sketch about "his gal" rubbernecking and talking all about polyamory is real risque.
This is one of many reasons why Spencer is fascinating, his sketches before Ada Jones were much more like the nature that we'd expect from Spencer.
Anyway, this last Spencer record is actually him with Vess Ossman.
(such a cute face!)
Spencer and Ossman never fail to please, as their musical chemistry was unequalled. Ossman brought a distinct self-taught style to Spencer's singing that seemed to fit perfectly. Ossman's ego seemed to piece together well with Spencer's control freak personality, since they weren't really that different. Also, Spencer had known Ossman since probably as early as 1892 if not earlier, which would mean he had experience with Ossman's troubles and issues in the studio. As some of us know, Ossman was difficult to work with in the studio. He was impatient with takes and tuning his banjo, as well as keeping it tuned as takes went along. He also had a short temper, that was notorious for being triggered in the studio when he was accompanying singers. Luckily, with Spencer, it would seem their high strung personalities cancelled out and made for outstanding records, such as this one.
Here you go with their 1897 record of "I can't Give Up My Rough and Row'dish ways":
It seems that this song is a perfect anthem for Spencer's nature. No matter what he did and wherever he went, he was inevitably rough and willing to start a fight. It's also a good song too, with Ossman adding all sorts of nice rather jarring syncopation for a rather early example. I would put the date of this record to around the middle of 1897, such as March-June of that year, since it's most certainly in that transition period. Spencer also sounds slightly like his older self from the Issler era, but not quite like how he did when with Hylands around the same time and in the years succeeding. This record is truly a great example of Spencer in general, as he sings very nicely on pitch, and stays perfectly on beat with Ossman, both of which aren't always true, particularly with Spencer from 1892 to 1897. It's a real treat to hear Spencer just before he worked every day with Hylands and just after he had left his pledged position as Issler's assistant. Hearing him in that gray area is always important in piecing together late-1890's Columbia.
Anyway, that Hylands sheet is still unbelievable to own, and is an absolute pleasure to own and be able to get nice scans of it.
Hope you enjoyed this!