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Dismuke's Hit Of The Week
Previous Selections
December 2007




December 20
 


This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by

Coca-Cola
Delicious and Refreshing
(from 1936 ad)


 
 
 
 
 

1933 Melotone record label






Puddin Head JonesClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Bob Causer And His Cornellians
Chick Bullock, vocal                                                            1933
(Melotone M12848 mx 14315)

My Old ManClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Bob Causer And His Cornellians
Chick Bullock, vocal                                                              1933
(Melotone M 12848 mx 14316)
 
 
 

Though he is largely forgotten today, Chick Bullock, the vocalist on this week's selections was one of the most recorded and recognizable voices of the 1930s.  Most of his recordings were made as the in-house vocalist for the American Record Corporation, the parent company of a number of Depression era "dime store" labels. 

While there was an actual band named Bob Causer and His Cornellians, the band on both of these recordings was the Don Redman Orchestra.   According to the Big Bands Database,  Causer was a hotel manager in Ithica, New York who formed a band for his hotel by recruiting musicians from nearby Cornell University.   A good number of recordings were issued under the Bob Causer name on Melotone and various low-priced "dime store" subsidiary labels of the American Record Corporation.   Some of the Causer recordings were made by in-house ARC studio bands while, in other instances,  recordings by the Will Osborne, Russ Morgan and Freddy Martin orchestras were issued under the Bob Causer pseudonym. 

The recording session with the Don Redman Orchestra from which both of this week's selections came was held in New York on November 14, 1933.  The two other sides that came from the session were issued under the name Earl Harlan and His Orchestra which was a pseudonym that was used for other ARC recordings by Don Redman. 

Today the willingness of artists to record under someone else's name seems very odd.  However, in the 1920s and 1930s, sales of recordings were heavily driven by song title.   Unlike recent decades where popular songs are often associated with or are exclusive to specific artists,  the big "tin pan alley" music publishing firms were still the major promotional force behind popular music.  Whenever a new song with strong commercial potential was published,  every major record label would attempt to cash in by  recording  one or more versions.   Record buyers were just as likely to seek out  recordings based on songs they initially enjoyed in a show, on the radio or  in a talking picture as they were to look for recordings by a favorite artist.    If they could afford it, they might buy  a version of a song by a well-known artist they were familiar with for 75 cents on a premium label such as Victor, Brunswick or Columbia.   But if they were on a budget, they would likely choose from what was available from the 35 cent bargain records sold at places such as dime stores and often branded with a label that was unique to that particular dime store chain.    After factoring in currency inflation, 75 cents in 1933 was equal to about $11.87 in 2007 and 35 cents was worth about $5.54.   During the very worst period of the Depression when many could not even afford the bargain records,  this was a significant price difference. 

To keep costs low and to prevent them from cannibalizing sales from their higher priced parent labels, the bargain labels either used lesser-known bands or in-house studio bands. Usually  these studio bands were drawn from a pool of musicians and even entire bands seeking to earn extra money on the side.   Sometimes a band's contract with a record label was only for the exclusive use of its name thus permitting the band to record elsewhere under a different name.   The use of pseudonyms enabled the bargain labels to promote  what appeared to be a consistent  and ongoing roster of exclusive bands while enabling them to, behind the scenes, make use of whichever musicians and bands were available to them at the moment. 

The era of dime store labels and  pseudonyms came to a close with the establishment of Decca Records in the USA in late 1934.  Decca featured big name artists - mostly recruited from Brunswick  - for the same price as the various bargain labels.  Decca was an immediate success and helped revitalize the record industry.    In order to compete, other labels were forced to start offering name artists on their bargain offerings.   The success of Decca and RCA's low-priced Bluebird label which were nationally distributed also made the in-house labels offered by retail chains less attractive to customers. 

 - Dismuke
 
 
 

 

EXTRA








This section will  present 78 rpm recordings that do not fall within the range of the vintage pop and jazz  fare that I usually  present.  Here I will feature recordings from a wide variety of eras, musical genres and nationalities as well as occasional spoken word recordings.
 
 

1929 French vertical cut Pathe record

SeductionClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Jovatti                                                                   1929
(Pathe Saphir N 3753 mx 201746)

Serment Dí AmourClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Jovatti                                                                   1929
(Pathe Saphir N 3753 mx 201926)
 

Here is a French record I recently acquired.  I have not been able to locate any information about the vocalist, Jovatti.  I did, however, immediately fall for the recording of "Seduction" when I put it on the turntable despite the fact that I do not understand French. 

These recordings come from an old vertical grooved Pathe disc.   Pathe dates back to 1894 and pioneered the French record industry.  In the early decades of disc records, the patents for the lateral "zig zag" grooves found on most conventional 78 rpm records were controlled by Victor and Columbia and their various foreign affiliates.  For this reason, when companies such as Edison, Pathe and others began manufacturing disc records, they  used the vertical or "hill and dale" grooves that had previously been used on cylinder records.

The very early Pathe disc records were unusual in just about every respect.   The had a playback speed of  90 rpm and were issued in non-standard sizes - some as large as 20 inches in diameter. Furthermore, the records' grooves started in the center and played outward to the edge of the record.   Pathe records could only be played on a Pathe machine which featured a special stylus tipped with a rolling sapphire ball.  It was claimed that the sapphire ball eliminated wear on both the record and the stylus.   While Edison's Diamond Disc records were also vertically cut, their playback required a special diamond stylus.  Thus Edison's and Pathe's records were just as incompatible on each other's machines as were the conventional lateral cut records which used steel needles. 

Pathe was extremely successful in the French market.   It was less successful when it began production in the US market in 1916.  By this time, Pathe records were no longer center-start and the playback speed had been reduced to 80 rpm.  But they still required the special sapphire ball playback equipment which undoubtedly made sales more difficult.   In late 1920, after the Victor and Columbia patents expired,  Pathe's US and UK branches introduced a line of lateral cut records which they named Pathe Actuelle - and these records, along with their US bargain label, Perfect,  were commercially successful.    In 1925, Pathe discontinued production of vertical cut records in the US.  However, in France, where many people had Pathe machines, its vertical cut records were still in demand. 

Pathe records were also unique in that its studio sessions were recorded on oversized wax cylinders at a very high rpm.  This enabled Pathe to dub the same recording pantographically to both vertical and lateral masters.   Unfortunately, one can sometimes hear on early 1920s Pathe and Perfect records extraneous noise produced during this dubbing process. 

I don't have any information when production of lateral-cut Pathes began in France.  It wasn't until 1927 that the company converted from acoustical to electrical recording.     In France, the  sapphire-ball discs remained in production until 1932 making French Pathe the last company to commercially produce vertical grooved records. 

Pathe also had branches  in several other countries.  While they were but a minor player in the USA and UK markets,  they had a strong presence  in Czarist Russia  with factories and/or studios in cities such as  Moscow, St. Petersburg,  Kiev, Odessa, Rostov and Warsaw.   I have read that a large percentage of pre Russian Revolution era recordings of Ukrainian folk music were issued by Pathe and that Pathe's gramophone  trademark continued  to exist in popular slang usage as a generic term for wind-up record players in the USSR long after the Soviets had confiscated Pathe's factories and abolished all trademarks. 

I should mention that Pathe was also a pioneer in the motion picture industry producing   equipment and operating studios and cinemas.   The company still produces films and operates cinemas in Europe.   Pathe's record business was sold off in 1928.   Its American operations were purchased by Cameo Records which soon afterwards became part of the American Record Corporation.   Its European operations were sold to English Columbia which became part of EMI in 1931.  My understanding is that EMI still issues recordings under the Pathe name. 

 - Dismuke


December 13

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by

Matson Line - Oceanic Line
(from 1932 ad)



 
 
 

 
Note - I am very please to welcome back guest contributor Matt From College Station  as he shares some more recordings from his excellent collection of 1920s and 1930s jazz and dance band 78 rpm records. 

All recordings and commentary in this update, both the regular and the "Extra" sections, are from Matt.  My only contribution was to transfer and digitalize the recordings. 

You can learn more about Matt and find his contact information by clicking here
 
 
 
 

Charleston Baby Of MineClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Don Bestor And His Orchestra                                          1925
(Victor 19751-B)

Summer NightsClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Don Bestor And His Orchestra                                           1925
(Victor 19751-A)
 
 
 

Don Bestor began playing piano at age 16 and led and played with dance bands throughout the early 1920s.

In the mid 1920s Bestor took over the Benson Orchestra of Chicago and transformed it into his own jazzy band.  He was popular during this time and continued to make records with Victor, as he had with the Benson Orchestra.

In the early 1930s Bestor was popular on radio and, for a while, was appeared on both the Walter O'Keefe and the Jack Benny programs.  After a brief recording hiatus he began recording with Victor again in 1932, but this time in the sweet band format. He remained with Victor until late 1934 when he began recording with Brunswick.

Bestor folded the band in 1943, as did many other bandleaders during World War II. His only number one hit was "Forty Second Street," from March 1933.

The first tune  presented here is a snappy 1925 arrangement of "Charleston Baby Of Mine." As the name suggests it is a Charleston Fox Trot and captures the jazzy and carefree feel of the '20s. Out of all the early electric recordings that the Victor Talking Machine Company released in 1925-1926, this is in my top 10.   "Summer Nights," the next tune, is a tango style Fox Trot. Although not as jazzy it definitely pleases the ear.
 
 

 - Matt From College Station
 

 

EXTRA








This section will  present 78 rpm recordings that do not fall within the range of the vintage pop and jazz  fare that I usually  present.  Here I will feature recordings from a wide variety of eras, musical genres and nationalities as well as occasional spoken word recordings.
 
 
 

Moon For SaleClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Les Allen And His Canadian Bachelors                             1935
(UK Columbia FB 1278 mx CA 15518)

Mine AloneClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Les Allen And His Canadian Bachelors                             1935
(UK Columbia FB 1278 mx CA 15519)
 
 
 

British musician Les Allen bounced back between Great Britain and Canada throughout his life, playing with bands in both countries.

His big break came in 1932 when he signed with the Henry Hall BBC Dance Orchestra and became a featured vocalist. He also worked with the bands of  Carroll Gibbons, George Melachrino, and Geraldo at that time.

In 1934 his solo career started with a recording for Britain's  Columbia label, and he soon formed a singing group called The Canadian Bachelors with Jack Curtis,  Herbie King and Cy Mack. Les Allen also starred in the 1937 film Heat Wave.  By 1948 when he retired to Toronto he had made hundreds of recordings. He died in 1996 at the ripe old age of 94.

The two selections presented here are great recordings. I am especially impressed with the close harmony work on "Moon For Sale" as well as the beautiful melody.
 

-  Matt From College Station


 
 
 

 

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