When Gertrude “Ma” Rainey—known as “The Mother of Blues”—sang, “It’s true I wear a collar and a tie, … Talk to the gals just like any old man,” in 1928′s “Prove It on Me,” she was flirting with scandal, challenging the listener to catch her in a lesbian affair. It might not seem like a big deal to us now, but back then, pursuing same-sex relations could get you thrown in jail.
As it turns out, the blues world was the perfect realm for people who were thought of as “sexual deviants” to inhabit, as it thrived far outside the scope of the dominant white American culture in the early 20th century. In Jazz Age speakeasies, dive bars, and private parties, blue singers had the freedom to explore alternative sexuality, and on a rare occasion, they even expressed it in song.
Theo Wangemann was hired by Edison in 1888 to figure out how to market the new wax cylinder phonograph.
From the New York Times article about the discovery: “In June 1889, Edison sent Wangemann to Europe, initially to ensure that the phonograph at the Paris World’s Fair remained in working order. After Paris, Wangemann toured his native Germany, recording musical artists and often visiting the homes of prominent members of society who were fascinated with the talking machine.”
Now the National Park Service has released all the digitized recordings.
I always love it when I find home recorded acetates. The records are not actually made from acetate, but they are usually a metal record with a fragile lacquer coating.
The reason I enjoy these is that I never know what I’m getting when I drop the needle. Most of the time it’s someone’s piano recital, or other boring stuff. Then when I find something like today’s post, it makes up for all the bad organ music I listened to.
I found these two 8″ records at a white elephant sale a few years ago, and they are dated 1941 in pencil. The first side was unremarkable piano music in one track taking up the whole side, but the flip side only contained a single short track. On it was children playing with the microphone! A little yelling, which I assume is being done while they are enjoying making the monitor gauge needle jump into the red. Then the child laments off mic that “There’s no noise in it!”, then sings Happy Birthday”. I don’t know why, but I like this random private moment captured in time. Continue reading "There’s No Noise In It"
This was an interesting find. These two 12″ discs are radio promotions for the 1949 William Castle film-noir from Universal-International: Johnny Stool Pigeon.
Johnny Stool Pigeon stars Howard Duff (as the Federal Agent), Dan Duryea (as the Killer from Alcatraz), and Shelly Winters (as the Woman). Hooray for well-rounded female characters in Hollywood!
The first record is just 8 radio spots in 60, 30, and 15 seconds.
The second record is a “Personal Interview with Dan Duryea”. The “interview” is just a one-sided conversation. The records were sent out to radio stations with a script to be read by the DJ, so that the listeners might think that the actor was visiting their local radio station. Continue reading "Johnny Stool Pigeon"
Today’s audio offering is an odd one. This 45 record from Dictation Disc is a practice disc for increasing your shorthand speed. The record is undated, but from the tone of the voice work feels very mid-century to me.
A man in his best 1950′s voice dictates various fictitious business letters in increasing speeds. For example, the second track has our man thanking Mr Smith for his order of butter and asks for feedback about their packaging, but in… very… stilted… 50… words per minute.
These tracks are ripe for sampling. If you are inspired, please feel free to take these and make magic. All I ask in return is that you send me a copy and I’ll group them into a future post.
This is an “Official Mickey Mouse Club” 45 rpm record from 1955 called Mousekedances – 6 Dances and how to do them. Unless there was an insert that has been lost, they only tell you how to do two of the dances. Oddly the instructions for the Big Bear dance do not match up with The Big Bear Boogie, so I won’t be including it in this post.
So for those who are keeping track, that’s 6 Dances and how to do one of them.
Side 1 has one of my favorites from this record: The Mickey Mouse Mambo. This probably marked the end of the Mambo craze in the US. You know an adult musical fad is over when they record a version for children.
My other favorite song is The Big Bear Boogie with the chorus of “Hug a bear, hug a bear, hug a boogie-woogie bear”. That will get stuck in your head. It’s not a bad thing.