In the last week, I got a few interesting items in the mail. I had some issues with Ebay a few months ago, so I spent a bit of a hiatus away from Ebay. The sheet music market proved quite fertile in my time away, as I kept hearing of wonderful pieces of sheet music and records for sale. Nothing soul shaking for me luckily. Nothing like a pristine copy of "The Darkey Volunteer" or "Handsome Harry".
So, I finally have gotten back into getting things on Ebay, and this last few weeks' items are very interesting. For a little while now, there have been a few postcards from the 1900's featuring song lyrics floating around on Ebay. recently, it was brought to my attention that a few of these cards had a particular publisher's name at the bottom.
A few of these cards were published by Helf and Hager!
(well yes of course I chose that one)
I had no idea that these were made! Imagine my surprise upon seeing this. So, with this new found knowledge, I am wondering which songs of theirs were used for these cards. Recently I went digging through copyright records to see what oddities could be found, and should keep the eyes peeled for. There were lots of interesting pieces present, including some unexpected names!
To go on a bit of a tangent for a moment, my theory of Hager always having an arranger is closer to being proven. Just from all the digging through copyright records, there seems to have been an arranger for at least 90% of his pieces I have seen so far. I still have more things to dig through to definitively prove this, but it's looking good so far. While on this recent dig, Herbert Clarke made a few appearances as Hager's arranger! That got me curious about Hager's connection with Victor. Thanks to bits of Hager's own scrapbook(I do not own it), he saved a few clippings regarding his special trips to Victor in Spring of 1903. So we know he stuck around at Victor until at least the late fall of 1903, but how connected did he really become with Victor? Maybe when he became a publisher all the record companies jumped at him. His already high status must have been heightened when he became Mr. Helf's secretary.
Anyway, i hope to snag some more of those Helf and Hager cards. Now that I know they exist, I'll be looking through most piles of old postcards at antique stores until I find another.
So what's the highlight of the recent finds? Well, it's definitely an OkeH record! Now that I have been studying bits of Hager's personal collection, I have been anxiously searching around for OkeH and Rex records. There's actually a lot of material I find interesting and fit for my collection on OkeH, especially now that I own the physical evidence of Hager's involvement in the field recording projects of 1923 to 1925. So what is this record I got? It's a record I have heard about for awhile actually. Before all the deeper digging into OkeH and such, I saw this record listed and wondered what it would sound like. Well here ya go:
Seems simple enough.
I had no idea what to expect from this. The performer listed is what is most attractive here, as it is something that is uncommon, though it paints Ring out to be the star. Well, considering my ever growing love for Justin Ring, this record seemed a perfect addition to my collection.
But holy crap! When I played this thing I just about passed out! I couldn't believe my ears. That voice...the voice at the beginning. It can't be...but it must be!
The pianist speaks! Yes indeed folks, that is the voice of Justin Ring.
(Ring in 1903 courtesy of Jason Sanders)
Now this record other than Ring's(quite pleasing I might add) voice at the beginning, isn't too special. Most of it is a celeste solo, which is pleasant, but not outstanding. But of course because this is my collection we're talking about, this record is invaluable. It holds the loud and clear words of Justin Ringleben, a significant rag-time pianist and composer, and important background figure on thousands of recordings.
So how could this be used in relation to other records?
The first thing that came to mind was that 1902-ish piano solo on Columbia. You know, that one I highlighted in a post a little while back?
So after a few more months of studying Zon-O-Phone's and Columbias back and forth, I think I may have unlocked the mystery. When I did the post on this record awhile back I really was thinking the pianist was Hylands. But after more close examination of Hylands' whereabouts and Ring's invariable presence at Columbia, this is seeming more of a confusing mess. The most important thing to note about the 1902 record(0ther than the piano playing) is that announcer. In the post about this Columbia piano solo, I broke down the announcement, word by word, with the dialect dissected.
Here's the record to refresh the mind of it:
That announcer really stands out. It's not someone recognizable to a collector of Columbia's of this period. It's not Harry Spencer, Joe Belmont, Tom Clark, or Quinn. Now that I have a very clear example of Ring's voice, I have been doing comparisons like mad to try and figure it out. I am really not sure what to say, as the announcer is almost definitely the performer. This has been itching at me or the last few days, as these two records should technically have the same voice at the beginning, but I am really not sure at all. This has been a great source of conflict, now that the perfect example of Ring's voice is in my hands.
Anyway, if any of you have input about the comparison between the 1902 and the 1922 records, please comment! I'd love to read your input.
After that OkeH came in the mail, I went searching for more example of Justin Ring's playing on that label. There's a fair amount of it that was issued luckily. The more I dig for them, the more I seem to find. It seems that later in his days in the studios, he became a better accompanist. He evolved, and that's a good thing. His odd sense of time became smoother as times changed. One particular record captured my heart. It's been awhile since I fell in love with a record in such a way, but this one did it. It seemed so generic, but it was heavenly. (I'm learning this is a pattern with the OkeH records I am going after).
Luckily they really had some of the best recording technology there, so the piano comes through astonishingly well. Ring's old sentimental style comes through on this one. Compare with this 1900 Zono:
His sweet playing remained the same, which is nice for me studying his accompaniment style. What's interesting is that his rhythmic playing was still just a little bit out of whack in the early 1920's. Not nearly as eccentric as his early records for the Zon-O-Phone, but the soul is still there.
Anyway, before I close, I'd like to share another new transfer. This one is another Spencer and Hylands! Yes I have been face deep in Ring and Hager studies, but I still return to the classic Rag-Time pair of Spencer and Hylands when Ring's eccentricities prove too much for me.
This particular record is an early one for Spencer and Hylands, 1897 in fact. These early ones are the most essential for pinpointing when Hylands began working for Columbia.
The piano sound is that signature terrible tone of 1897-1898 Columbias. There are some interesting bits the accompanist plays here, including bass heavy inversions of chords in the left hand at the vamps. Naturally, I would assume that in itself to be a Hylands characteristic, and logically it would be, as I have heard him play that often. In my last post I highlighted a 1902-ish take of "the Laughing song" by Johnson, and how the vamps are lumbering, as they were on previous takes by Johnson, and this is similarly present on this 1897 Columbia.
Here's that 1902-ish Columbia from the last post:
Similar accompaniment style overall. And I am CERTAIN that the pianist is Hylands on that 1902-ish "Whistling Coon". Despite all that I have been learning about Ring and Hager's involvement at Columbia around that time, Hylands was still there occasionally. Of course when that happened he thundered in and pushed aside Ring and Hager with a domineering heave, as they were slowly taking his place.
Anyway, that 1897Spencer and Hylands is fascinating, even though there isn't a piano solo at the very end.
Hope you enjoyed this!