Victor Talking Machine Company
The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901–1929) was an Americancorporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph recordsand one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey.
The company was founded by Eldridge R. Johnson, who had previously made phonographs to play Emile Berliner‘s Berliner Gramophone records. Some sources also claim Berliner as a co-founder; others say Berliner was never connected with the Victor company, though that may have been part of a ruse by Johnson to defeat the Zonophone lawsuits that had put Berliner Gramophone out of business (in the U.S., but not in Canada, the UK, or Germany) and threatened Johnson’s phonograph business. (Zonophone had used patent ruses to defeat Berliner, the inventor of disc records, whose technology Zonophone had copied.) In any event, Victor ultimately acquired the remaining assets of Berliner Gramophone; it also acquired Zonophone after defeating it in court.Contents
Name and logo
There is some controversy as to how the name came about. Fred Barnum gives various possible origins of the “Victor” name; in “‘His Master’s Voice’ In America”, he writes, “One story claims that Johnson considered his first improved Gramophone to be both a scientific and business ‘victory.’ A second account is that Johnson emerged as the ‘Victor’ from the lengthy and costly patent litigations involving Berliner andFrank Seaman‘s Zonophone. A third story is that Johnson’s partner, Leon Douglass, derived the word from his wife’s name ‘Victoria.’ Finally, a fourth story is that Johnson took the name from the popular ‘Victor’ bicycle, which he had admired for its superior engineering. Of these four accounts the first two are the most generally accepted.”
Victor had the rights in the United States and Latin America to use the famous trademark of the fox terrier Nipper listening to a Berliner Gramophone. (See also His Master’s Voice.) The original painting was by Francis Barraud in 1893, as a memorial to his deceased brother, a London photographer, who willed him his estate including his DC-powered Edison-Bell cylinder Phonograph with a case of cylinders—some home-recorded—and his dog Nipper. Barraud noticed that whenever he played a cylinder recorded by his brother, the little dog would run to the horn, cock his ear and listen intently. Barraud’s original depicts Nipper staring intently into the horn of an Edison-Bell while both sit on polished wooden surface. There is some controversy amongst historians as to whether this surface is the top of a table or the lid of the deceased master’s coffin. This dispute originated long after Barraud’s death and he made no comment during his life as to what the polished wooden surface is supposed to depict, if it depicts anything other than an artistic device for fixing Nipper and the Phonograph in space.
After several years the painting was still unsold. Since the horn on the Edison-Bell in the painting was black, a friend of Barraud’s suggested that he might paint one of the bright brass-belled horns on display in the window at the new Berliner Gramophone shop onMaiden Lane. The London branch was managed by an American, William Barry Owen. Barraud paid a visit to the branch with a photograph of the painting and asked to borrow a horn. Owen gave Barraud a Berliner Gramophone and asked that he paint it into the picture and then he would purchase the painting. The original painting shows the contours of the Edison-Bell Phonograph beneath the paint of the Gramophone when viewed in the correct light
The “His Master’s Voice” logo as rendered in immense circular leaded-glass panels remains in the 1915 factory building tower, now converted to apartments.
Acoustical recording era
Before 1925, recording was done by the same purely mechanical, non-electronic “acoustical” method used since the invention of the phonograph nearly fifty years earlier. No microphone was involved and there was no means of amplification. The recording machine was essentially an exposed-horn acoustical record player functioning in reverse. One or more funnel-like metal horns was used to concentrate the energy of the airborne sound waves onto a recording diaphragm, which was a thin glass disc about two inches in diameter held in place by rubber gaskets at its perimeter. The sound-vibrated center of the diaphragm was linked to a cutting stylus that was guided across the surface of a very thick wax disc, engraving a sound-modulated groove into its surface. The wax was too soft to be played back even once without seriously damaging it, although test recordings were sometimes made and sacrificed by playing them back immediately. The wax master disc was sent to a processing plant where it was electroplated to create a negative metal “stamper” used to mold or “press” durable replicas of the recording from heated “biscuits” of a shellac-based compound. Although sound quality was gradually improved by a series of small refinements, the process was inherently insensitive. It could only record sources of sound that were very close to the recording horn or very loud—preferably both—and even then the high-frequency overtones and sibilants necessary for clear, detailed sound reproduction were too feeble to register above the background noise. Resonances in the recording horns and associated components resulted in a characteristic “horn sound” that immediately identifies an “acoustical” recording to an experienced modern listener and seemed inseparable from “phonograph music” to contemporary listeners.
From the start, Victor pioneered manufacturing processes and soon rose to preeminence by recording famous performers. In 1901 Victor made a three-track puzzle record (single-sided A-821) and in 1903, a three-step mother-stamper process to produce more stampers and records than previously possible. After increasing the quality of disc records and phonographs, Johnson began an ambitious project to have the most prestigious singers and musicians of the day record for Victor Records, with exclusive agreements where possible. Often these artists demanded fees which the company could not hope to make up from sale of their records. Johnson shrewdly knew that he would get his money’s worth in the long run in promotion of the Victor brand name. These new “celebrity” recordings bore red labels, and were marketed as “Red Seal” records. For many years these recordings were single-sided; only in 1923 did Victor begin making double-sided “Red Seal” records. Many advertisements were printed mentioning by name the greatest names of music in the era, with the statement that they recorded only for Victor Records. As Johnson intended, much of the public assumed from this that Victor Records must be superior to cylinder records.
Popular vaudeville performer Cal Stewart‘s “Uncle Josh” comic monologues were enormously successful for Victor.
The Victor recordings by Enrico Caruso between 1904–1920 were particularly successful, with those recorded until mid-1916 usually conducted by Walter B. Rogers and the remainder conducted by Josef Pasternack and Rosario Bourdon. They were often used by retailers to demonstrate Victor phonographs; Caruso’s rich powerful low tenor voice highlighted the best range of audio fidelity of the early audio technology while being minimally affected by its defects. Even people who otherwise never listened to opera often owned a record or two of the great voice of Caruso. Caruso and Victor Records did much to boost each other’s commercial popularity. He made his final recordings in September 1920, only three months before his final appearances at the Metropolitan Opera.
Victor recorded numerous classical musicians, including Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler,Victor Herbert, and Sergei Rachmaninoff in a series of recordings at its Camden, New Jersey studios. Rachmaninoff, in particular, became one of the first composer-performers to record extensively; he first made several recordings for Thomas Edison in 1919, then became an exclusive Victor artist from 1920 to 1942.
Orchestras were at a disadvantage in acoustical recordings, due to the limited frequency and dynamic range of the recording equipment. Musicians had to gather as closely as possible around the recording horn. Percussion instruments, in particular, were used sparingly since many of them could not be heard on the recordings. However, Victor made numerous recordings with bandmaster Arthur Pryor conducting his own “Pryor’s Orchestra” in 1904-06, and Victor staff conductor Walter B. Rogers directing Victor’s own “house” orchestras, the Victor Orchestra (for popular works) beginning in 1904 and the Victor Concert Orchestra (for more “classical” literature) beginning in 1907. (A very few 1903-04 14-inch issues are credited to the “Victor Symphony Orchestra”; these may have been conducted by either Pryor or Rogers.) The concert orchestra of Victor Herbert made several recordings for the company in 1903; these early discs may not have been conducted by Herbert himself, but Victor signed Herbert and his orchestra to a long-term contract in 1911, engaging them to record symphonic and theatre music under Herbert’s direction (most of the labels credit “Victor Herbert’s Orchestra/Personally directed by Victor Herbert”). Victor also imported early orchestral recordings made by its European affiliates, notably performances by the La Scala Orchestra under Carlo Sabajno and the New Symphony Orchestra of London under Landon Ronald. Victor expanded its American orchestral recording program by making recordings of the Boston Symphony Orchestraconducted by Karl Muck and the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski in 1917; Victor’s relationship with Stokowski and Philadelphia remained firm for decades. In 1920–21, Arturo Toscanini made his first recordings, conducting the La Scala Orchestra, which was then on an American tour. Victor went on to record the New York Philharmonic Orchestra withWillem Mengelberg and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra with Rudolph Ganz from 1922, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Alfred Hertz from 1925; Hertz’s earliest discs, made at Victor’s new Oakland studios (opened in 1924), were the company’s last acoustical orchestral sessions.
The origins of country music as we know it today can be traced to two seminal influences and a remarkable coincidence. Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family are considered the founders of country music and their songs were first captured at an historic recording session in Bristol,Tennessee on August 1, 1927, where Ralph Peer was the talent scout and sound recordist for Victor Records.
During the 1920s Victor also released “race records” (that is, records recorded by and marketed to African Americans). These records were scattered in Victor’s regular popular music series until July, 1928 when they started the V-38000 series (which lasted until V-38146 in 1930). They then started a new “hot dance” series 23000-23041, which ran 1930-31 followed by a new race series 23250-23432 running through 1933.
Emile Berliner emigrated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1900, probably to escape the legal chaos created by his erstwhile “sales manager,” Frank Seaman, in the United States, since he still owned his Canadian patents for his lateral disc records. He set up the Berliner Gram-O-Phone Company to merchandise his machines and disc records. The company was eventually controlled by Emile’s son, Herbert Berliner. Note that Herbert established his own, essentially competing, record company, the Compo Company, also in Montreal. In fact, in 1919 the Compo Company pressed records credited only to “Famous Tenor,” which used Victor sides cut by John McCormack; these were quickly withdrawn, to be replaced by the same titles cut by Ernest Hare doing a creditable McCormack impression.
Herbert Berliner left Berliner Gramophone of Canada in 1921 and developed Compo into a full-fledged record company.
A few years later, Victor acquired its Canadian counterpart, Berliner Gramophone of Canada, in 1924. Interestingly enough, when Victor introduced electric records in 1925, the Canadian firm immediately announced “the new V.E. Process” records; this was probably because the Compo Company had begun issuing electric recordings, promoted as such, in late January 1925. As a result, a special record, “You and I” by Jack Shilkret, promoting “the new V.E. Process” was issued; this was Victor 19571, with the Canadian promo version pairing acoustic (as issued in the U.S.) and electric (apparently recorded in Montreal) versions of 19571-A.
Electrical recording era
The advent of radio as a home entertainment medium in the early 1920s presented Victor and the entire record industry with new challenges. Not only was music becoming available over the air free of charge, but a live broadcast made using a high-quality microphone and heard over a high-quality receiver provided clearer, more “natural” sound than a contemporary phonograph record. In 1925, Victor switched from the old acoustical or mechanical method of recording to the new microphone-based electrical system developed by Western Electric. Victor called their version of the improved fidelity recording process “Orthophonic”, and sold a line of new designs of phonographs to play these improved records, called “Orthophonic Victrolas“. The large top-of-the-line “Credenza” models of Orthophonic Victrolas had a 1.8 m (6 foot) long horn coiled inside the cabinet, and are often considered the high point of the development of the commercial wind-up phonograph, offering audio fidelity seldom matched by most home electric phonographs until some 30 years later. Victor electric recordings began being issued in spring 1925. However, in order to manufacture a sufficient supply of the electric recordings to satisfy anticipated demand and to allow dealers to liquidate their stock of acoustic recordings, Victor and its rival, Columbia, agreed to keep secret from the public, until the end of 1925, the fact that the recordings using this new process offered a vast improvement over the older acoustical recordings. With a large advertising campaign, Victor introduced its Orthophonic records on “Victor Day”, November 2, 1925.
Victor’s first commercial electrical recording was made at the company’s Camden, New Jersey studios on February 26, 1925. A group of eight popular Victor artists, Billy Murray, Frank Banta, Henry Burr, Albert Campbell, Frank Croxton, John Meyer, Monroe Silver, and Rudy Wiedoeft gathered to record “A Miniature Concert”. Several takes were recorded by the old acoustic process, then additional takes were recorded electrically for test purposes. The electric recordings turned out well, and Victor issued the results that summer as the two sides of 12-inch 78 rpm record Victor 35753.
However, the first recorded commercial electrical recording was not the first issued commercial electric recording, and Gelatt notes for the first issued commercial electric recording that, “chronological pride of place goes to Victor 19626″, with both sides being selections from the (University of Pennsylvania’s) Mask and Wig Club’s production Joan of Arkansas conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret. The A-side was recorded on March 16, 1925 and the B-side on March 20, 1925
Victor quickly recorded the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Stokowski in a series of electrical recordings, initially at its Camden, New Jersey studios and then in Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. Among Stokowski’s first electrical recordings were performances of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns and Marche Slave by Peter Tchaikovsky. Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra made a series of recordings for Victor, beginning in 1925, first in Victor’s Chicago studios and then in Orchestra Hall. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alfred Hertz made a few acoustical recordings early in 1925, then switched to electrical recordings in Oakland and San Francisco, California, continuing until 1928. Within a few years,Serge Koussevitsky began a long series of recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston’s Symphony Hall. Toscanini made his first Victor electrical recordings with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1929.
In 1926, Johnson sold his controlling (but not holding) interest in Victor to the banking firm of Seligman & Spyer, who in 1929 sold to theRadio Corporation of America, which then became known as the Radio-Victor Division of the Radio Corporation of America laterRCA Victor. (See RCA and RCA Records for later history of the Victor brand name.)
The Victor Company of Japan (JVC), founded in 1927, severed its ties to RCA Victor at the start of World War II, and is still one of the oldest and most successful Japanese record labels as well as an electronics giant. It also retains the Victor name and “His Master’s Voice” trademark in commercial operations in Japan.
In September 1906, Johnson and his engineers designed a new line of phonographs with the turntable and amplifying horn tucked away inside a wooden cabinet. This was not done for reasons of audio fidelity, but for visual aesthetics. The intention was to produce a phonograph that looked less like a piece of machinery and more like a piece of furniture. These internal horn machines, trademarked with the name Victrola, were first marketed to the public in August of that year and were an immediate hit. Soon an extensive line of Victrolas was marketed, ranging from small tabletop models selling for $15, through many sizes and designs of cabinets intended to go with the decor of middle-class homes in the $100 to $250 range, up to $600 Chippendale and Queen Anne-style cabinets of fine wood with gold trim designed to look at home in elegant mansions. Victrolas became by far the most popular brand of home phonograph, and sold in great numbers until the end of the 1920s. RCA Victor continued to market phonographs with the “Victrola” name until the early 1970s.
Victor Orthophonic Victrola“Credenza” model
The Victor archives
Victor kept meticulous written records of all of its recordings. The files cover the period 1903 to 1958 (so this discussion is pertinent to RCA Victor as well as The Victor Talking Machine). These written records are among the most extensive and important sources of available primary discographic information in the world. There were three main categories of files: A daily log of recordings for each day; a file maintained for each important Victor artist; and a 4″x6″ index card file kept in catalog number order. As of 2010, the Victor archives were owned by Sony and kept in New York City.
There are about 15,000 daily log pages, each titled “Recording Book,” that are numbered chronologically. Each recording was assigned a “matrix number” to identify the recording. When issued, the recording had a “catalog number,” almost always different from the matrix number, on the record label. For most recordings the information given in the daily log included the following:
- recording date
- matrix number
- instrumentation (e.g., “2 violins-piano,” with only the important artists or important Victor house musicians named, e.g., “violin-L. Raderman-piano-N. Shilkret“)
- author(s) (lyricist(s) and composer(s))
- take number (e.g., B 27413-3 for the third attempt at recording matrix B 27413)
- disposition (“D” for destroy, “H” for hold, “M” for master), which was written in by hand after the entry was made
- a date which may have been the date disposition was made
For many recordings the following additional information was written:
- catalog number, which was written by hand after the entry was made
- city in which the recording was made
Some pages have letter suffixes; e.g., page 5417A follows page 5417. Frequently, but not always, the pages with letter suffixes were used for recordings made other than in the New York area; e.g., page 5417A lists recordings made in Chicago. Pages with letter suffixes are sometimes slightly out of chronological order.
As of 2010, the pages available at the Sony’s Victor Archives go only up to April 22, 1935. Victor’s original pages after this date were apparently discarded at some point. However, Victor had ties with EMI in England, and at Hayes, England EMI has more recent pages. These pages were sent at the time they were first written, and they do not have the annotations made afterwards.
Most, but not all, daily log information for recordings made for synchronization with motion pictures were kept separately, and the separate synchronization recording information is missing from the Sony Victor archives.
The files by artist were also maintained chronologically and had information similar to that in the daily log sheets, and also some technical information such as information about the horns used for acoustical recordings. E.g., there is an approximately 350-page file labeled “International Novelty Orchestra–Export.” The word “Export” indicated that only the recordings made for export to Central and South America were included in the file.
The 4″x6″ index cards are on blue stock, and, thus, are usually referred to as “the blue cards” or some variant of this. The blue card file consists of approximately a quarter of a million cards arranged in catalog number order. The blue cards contain much of the same information as the daily log and also additional information, such as the date a master was tested. In some cases, record sales are indicated on the back side of the card.
Victor also issued catalogs, usually annually, with supplements issued during the year, that were carefully prepared and also provide useful information.
The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) is a continuation of a project of Ted Fagan and William Moran to make a complete discography of all Victor recordings. The Victor archive files are a major source of information for this project.
In 1922, The Compo Company of Lachine, Quebec, through its Toronto branch “The Sun Record Company”, launched the first of many different record labels it would be known for, under the name “Apex”. In order to gain a foothold into a market that was controlled by the two major record record labels in Canada, Victor and Columbia, it began to run newspaper advertisements about the latest releases. Here is a selection of those ads:
This particular ad by Berliner is important to Canadian phonograph buffs in particular, as it gives the location of all the Victor dealers in Toronto, Ontario.
One of the foremost department stores in Canada was the T. Eaton Company. and they marketed many of their store items through mail order catalogues. Here are two pictures from the Spring 1926 catalog depicting the phonographs they sold, the various supplies for phonographs, and a list of the Victor records sold by them.
He was born in White Plains, New York. He began as a sideman playing the violin in Fred Hamm‘s band, and in the 1920s and 1930s he led a series of jazz-oriented dance bands (the most famous being the Biltmore Hotel Orchestra), making a large number of recordings in that period for Victor Records. In 1925 (or 1930), (with Hamm, Dave Bennett, and Chauncey Gray) he composed the well-known standard “Bye Bye Blues.” He also wrote some other songs, including “You’re The One I Care For” and “Tired.” By the mid-1930s he quit leading the orchestras, becoming a booking agent and manager; eventually he left the music industry and moved on to executive positions in thetelevision industry. He died of a heart attack in 1962 in Portland, Oregon.
- 1929 he recorded for Columbia‘s cheap labels (Diva, Harmony, and Velvet Tone)
- 1930 he recorded for the Plaza/ARC dime store labels (including Banner, Cameo, Pathe, Perfect, Jewel, Regal Records, Conqueror)
- 1930 he also recorded two sessions for Hit of the Week
- 1930 he also recorded two sessions for Columbia
- 1930-1932 he recorded prolifically for Victor
- 1933 while still signed to Victor, his records were assigned to the new Bluebird dime store label (these sides were also released onElectradisk and the super rare Sunrise label)
Maple Hill Stories
Researched and written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
The remains of famous musician and orchestra leader Don Hubbard Bestor lie in Maple Hill Cemetery. In life
he was a talented pianist, song writer, and orchestra leader. His final address is the Mitchell addition, Block
4, Lot 62.
It’s the dash that tells the story, according to a popular poem, the dash that is printed in an obituary or
carved between the dates on a tombstone. On either side of the dash for Donald Hubbard Bestor are the
dates 1889 and 1970 and quite a dash it was.
Donald Hubbard Bestor was born in South Dakota. His family moved to Mazomanie, Wisconsin in 1896. His
father, Robert Griffen Bestor, was a traveling salesman for a piano company. His mother, Carrie Elizabeth
Hubbard Bestor was the daughter of Alva Beach Hubbard and Clara Force Hubbard.
Donald’s brother, Vernon Bestor, was a popular orchestra leader, piano player, arranger and composer and
gave Don his start in the orchestra at Madison’s Majestic Theater. Both Bestor brothers made big names for
themselves in the music business. Another brother Alva Leroy Bestor, was an orchestra leader in
Young Don became interested in playing piano and writing music in his teens. At the age of 16, Donald was
composing music. Vaudeville, orchestras and the early years of radio were venues for the talents of
On September 12, 1908, Donald Hubbard Bestor married Harriet Agatha Cyrier, a vocalist, both were in their
late teens. When the 1910 census was taken, Hattie (age 20) and Donald were living in a boarding house
on East 55th Street in Chicago. Donald listed his occupation as arranger and musician.
Seven years later, he was receiving rave revues from a Madison newspaper: “Irving Berlin had better watch
out; he is likely to get keen competition from Don Bestor, Madison boy, who ‘has made good’. Bestor, who
got his start in music in the orchestra at the Majestic in 1917 has composed some song hits, such as
‘Dimples and Dollars’, ‘Won’t You Try to Love me’ and ‘The Katzenjammer kids’.”
The songs were composed for a musical “Maid To Order” at Madison’s Orpheum Theater. It was described
in the Wisconsin State Journal advertisement as “The Merry Musical Comedy Tabloid in 3 scenes, new
songs, new music, new dances. Special Scenery and Electrical Effects.” The musical was booked for four
nights in Madison, then scheduled to go on a vaudeville tour.
The Evansville Review announced that Donald’s mother, Carrie Bestor and sister, Helen, Evansville
residents, were planning to attend one of the Madison performances of the show. Carrie and Helen lived
with Carrie’s elderly parents, Alva & Clara Hubbard at 114 South Third Street. Helen worked in the
Evansville telephone office and also played piano for silent movies at the Magee Theater.
Three years later, according to the 1920 federal census, Donald and his wife were living in Kankakee,
Illinois. He listed his occupation as theater proprietor. However, he had larger ambitions and within a few
years became a national figure in the music industry.
Bestor formed his own dance band, then had an opportunity to lead one of Chicago’s best known
orchestras. Bestor took over conducting the Benson Orchestra. This well known group played in Chicago
at the Marigold Gardens. It was a popular hangout for Chicago gangsters.
The new communication device, the radio extended Bestor’s music to audiences well beyond the walls of
theaters and hotel ballrooms. In addition to his radio work, Don made recordings under the Victor label in
the early 1920s.
Music was his first love and in September 1920 he made his first recording with the Benson Orchestra at the
Victor studio in Camden, New Jersey. A few months later, in April 1921, the orchestra again recorded at the
By 1922, Donald Bestor had left the Benson Orchestra and was conducting his own orchestra. Bestor’s
orchestra was playing at a hotel near one of the early radio stations, KDKA in Pittsburg. The station decided
to try a remote broadcast from the hotel and strung a wire from the hotel to the radio station. Bestor would
later boast that he had one of the longest records in radio broadcasting.
Bestor’s personal life was not so successful and in 1923, he was divorced from Hattie. She remained in
Kankakee with their son Bartley and remarried. By 1925, Don Bestor was married to dancer, Frankie
His composing was having some success. In 1925, he collaborated with Roger Lewis and Walter Donovan
to write “Down By The Vinegar Works”. It was sung by Johnny Marvin, “The Ukulele Ace”.
Radio and Victor records raised Bestor’s musical career to new heights in popularity. When the Bestor
orchestra appeared at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, with the Orpheum Circuit Vaudeville, in January
1928, he was billed as the “internationally famous Don Bestor and his Victor recording orchestra, a talented
aggregation of syncopating harmonists. ”
Several articles about Bestor appeared in the Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal in January 1928.
The January 8, 1928 Capital Times said: “Bestor has led his orchestra through a career that embraces
many of the great theaters, cabarets, ballrooms and amusement palaces in the country. The Bestor
orchestra has played at Young’s Million dollar Pier at Atlantic city, the Drake Hotel, Marigold Gardens, and
Terrace Garden, Chicago.”
Fans of the radio show also increased Bestor’s popularity. A Pittsburg newspaper ran a contest to
determine the most popular entertainers on the KDKA radio station in Pittsburg in 1930. Bestor was first with
the Pittsburg fans.
Many Evansville fans stayed up until 11 p.m. on a Thursday evening in February 1930 to hear the music of
Bestor’s Orchestra, broadcast from the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburg. The Review noted that Bestor was
“a former Evansville resident and nationally known orchestra leader. Besides recording for the Victor
Phonograph Company, Mr. Bestor and his orchestra have played permanent engagements at Dallas, Texas;
St. Louis and Kansas City, Chicago and Pittsburg. ”
It was the era of ballroom dancing and there was plenty of work for the big bands and orchestras in hotels
and dance pavilions throughout the country. In September 1930, Bestor’s 11-piece orchestra was playing a
two week engagement in Milwaukee at the Hotel Schroeder. The orchestra was also scheduled to broadcast
over the Milwaukee Journal radio station, WTMJ.
In the early 1930s, Bestor and his orchestra were featured on the Jack Benny Radio Show. Bestor had met
Jack Benny when they were both touring with the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit in the late 1920s.
The show was broadcast at 7 p.m. on the NBC station in New York and could be heard at 6 p.m. in
Evansville. The show also featured Mary Livingston and announcer Don Wilson.
Carrie Bestor and many of her Evansville neighbors turned on the radio every Sunday evening to hear the
Jack Benny Show. Benny’s famous introduction for the orchestra was “Play, Don, Play.”
It was during his time with Jack Benny that Bestor wrote one of his most popular jingles. One of the
sponsors of the show was Jello and Bestor wrote the famous J-E-L-L-O song.
In the 1930s, Bestor recorded under the Brunswick label. Under this label, Bestor wrote and recorded,
“Singing A Song”, “Teach Me to Smile” and “I’m Not Forgetting.” Some of Bestor’s best known recordings of
songs written by other artists from the 1930s were “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” and “Forty-Second Street.”
After he was released from the Benny show, Don continued to tour with his orchestra. The Bestor orchestra
also played background music for movies including “Animal Crackers In My Soup” with Shirley Temple in
“Curly Top” in 1935 and “Let’s Sing Again” in 1936.
As Bestor seemed to be at the top of his career, his ex-wife Hattie once again appeared. In November 1937,
Hattie had Donald Bestor arrested in Joliet, Illinois for unpaid child support for their 16-year-old son,
Bartley. He spent two days in a Kankakee jail before giving a $3,000 paid-up life insurance policy to Hattie,
to compensate for his lack of support.
A newspaper photographer took a photo of Hattie sitting beside a photograph of her son, and reading a
book. The Associated Press wire photo appeared in newspapers throughout the United States with the
headline “Divorced Wife Jails Don Bestor.“
Bestor had also gotten into trouble with the union in New York, and could not play in the city for two years.
In September 1937, he was allowed to return to the city and played for two weeks at the French Casino, a
famous night spot with a restaurant and theater.
Bestor continued his career as an orchestra leader until 1943. For a short time he served as Musical
Director at a New York radio station, WHN.
His personal life continued to be bumpy. His second marriage to Frankie Klossen ended in divorce in 1944
and he married his third wife, Beulah Pinbell, in 1945 and they separated in 1958. He had children by each
wife, including his sons, Bartley and Donald H. Bestor, a talented pianist; and daughters, Mary Ann and
Donald Hubbard Bestor died at the age of 80 in Metamora, Illinois. He was living near his sister, Helen. His
funeral was held at the Mason Funeral Home in Metamora and he was brought back to Evansville for burial
in Maple Hill Cemetery. He was buried beside his mother, Carrie Hubbard Bestor and his grandparents, Alva
B. and Clara A. Hubbard, who were, no doubt, his greatest fans.
Bestor’s obituary listed him as a one time resident of Evansville, “whose career as a dance orchestra leader
reached a peak in the 1930s when he was music conductor for comedian Jack Benny’s radio network
|Born||July 10, 1898|
|Origin||Maysville, Georgia, USA|
|Died||August 17, 1967 (aged 69)|
|Labels||Victor, Bluebird, Sunrise,|
|Associated acts||Bob Hope
Daisy and Violet Hilton
Nat “King” Cole
Ina Ray Hutton
Tal Henry (July 10, 1898 – August 17, 1967) was an American orchestra director in the swing and big band eras.
Henry was born Talmadge Allen Henry in Maysville, Georgia. At the age of 7, he started playing the violin. He left Maysville in 1914 to attend Shenandoah Conservatory of Music located in Dayton, Virginia. The school moved to Winchester, Virginia and has become a University. After his education there, Henry went to Elon College, near Burlington, North Carolina, where he taught violin.
In early 1919, he began playing with the Frank Hood band and made his home in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1924 Tal Henry took over the band and formed the Tal Henry and His North Carolinians Orchestra where he played in the O’Henry Hotel in Greensboro. The orchestra moved north to Washington, Pennsylvania playing the dances and events at the Washington Hotel. The orchestra had a contract to perform at the formal opening of the Hotel Charlotte when the hotel opened in 1924. The orchestra moved on to the Mound Club in St. Louis, Missouri where he signed with William Foor-Robinson Orchestra Corporation of America. The Tal Henry orchestra went on to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Ed Fishman introduced Bob Hope and George Burns to Tal Henry and His North Carolinians and booked them into the Stanley in Pittsburgh. They traveled vaudeville for sixteen weeks, going from town to town playing wherever the act could find work.
Tal Henry signed with the Orchestra Corporation of America, and so the orchestra was under contract with the Hotel New Yorker, Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., and the Baker Hotels all in the cities of the state of Texas. There was always a place for the orchestra in New York City.The Dorsey Brothers, Tommy and Jimmy, practiced with the orchestra when they were in the city. By the middle of the 1920s, the orchestra was nationally known as a famous band with theVictor Records, Bluebird and Sunrise records. In 1928, the orchestra produced two Warner Bros.and Victor Record Company’s Vitaphone films. These Vitaphone shorts were used in theatres, radio, photoplay theatres, Loew’s Palace and other standard movie theatres. Vitaphone was the first sound film technology to gain widespread acceptance in the early Swing Era offering audiences the closest approximation possible to a live performance. The orchestra played many of the movie theatres in the orchestra pit, on stage, in hotel ballrooms, and any other venues where the orchestra performed.
The orchestra became so famous nationally, and were so busy with contracts afforded by the Orchestra Corporation of America that Charles Miller of Music Corporation of America, wrote to Tal at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, telling him how extremely surprised he was to receive a letter advising the MCOA that Tal was not interested changing his booking arrangement at that time. The letter from Miller stated that Tal should change his mind; they would like very much to talk to him and make the change.
Tal Henry and His Orchestra was billed at the Hershey Park Hotel, on the advertisement,dated Wednesday May 25, 1932, with admission 50 cents. They were also billed Saturday May 21, 1932 “Harlem’s Aristocrat of Jazz” with Duke Ellington, followed on May 28, 1932 Vincent Lopez would be at the same ballroom in the Hershey Park Hotel. Memorial Day on May 30, 1932, hadOpie Cates and His Orchestra. Tal Henry recorded Victor Records, Bluebird and Sunrise recordings in New York City on May 6, 1926, Camden, New Jersey on April 25, 1928. New York City on May 22, 1928, New York City December 5, 1928 and New York City on February 7, 1934.
Tal’s photo was on the front of Max Hart Inc Magazine. He was presented as the Exclusive VICTOR Artists, Tal Henry and his North Carolinians Orchestra, claiming Tal Henry as “The Prince of Personality” with a great Orchestra from the Cotton Belt of North Carolina. He was also on the cover of Orchestra World Magazine and Billboard Magazine, February 3, 1934. He had become the “South’s Finest …One of American’s Best.” Miami News wrote that Tal Henry is “here at last” with his “knock-out” orchestra of Victor Recording Artists. “One of America’s greatest entertaining and novelty orchestras…A sensational hit” …. A orchestra that radiates enthusiasm, life and action….people recalled the nostalgic, favorite enchanting swing and big band music Tal Henry played for the patrons. Tal directed the orchestra with 11 talented musicians.
The Tal Henry Orchestra accompanied many of the Major Bowes applicants trying out for the program on the network broadcasting on Sunday nights. The applicants were tabulated for votes and were thinned down to 15 or 20 in Major Bowes fashion. The chosen ones had to rehearse privately for the broadcast. The eleven piece band took on other musicians, making a total of fourteen sensational orchestra. They were at the Roseland-on-the-Merrimack where Tal Henry and his clever artists were one of the outstanding dance orchestras in America in 1931. They were known far and wide throughout daily radio broadcast over the networks of the National Broadcasting Company, featured particularly through Station WEAF in New York. In addition they won worldwide fame through their hundreds of Victor Red Seal records. He returned to the Hotel New Yorker after the Roseland booking. United Artists had the movie “Coquette” with Mary Pickford at Loew’s Palace the week of April 15, 1929. Tal Henry was billed with Mary Pickford on stage with “Coquette.” Thomas Meighan played with Mary Pickford in early movies with no sound. Tal Henry and his North Carolinians provided the musical accompaniment.
Paul Whiteman came to Tal Henry’s home on many occasions. Around the sametime, Jan Garber, a close friend of Tal’s came to Greensboro, NC., where Tal drove him to Asheville, NC. There was a band from Canada that had a tax levy against the band. Jan took over the band, which was Jan Garber’s second band.
Tal Henry and His North Carolinians Orchestra
Tal Henry and His North Carolinians Personnel: Tal Henry – Violin & Leader Walter brown – Carinet, Alto Saxophone & Vocalist Doc Dibert – Cornet Francis Ellsworth – Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone Walter Fellman – Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone Charlie Hudson – Drums Paul Kenestrick – Piano Chet Lincoln – Trombone Harold Madsen – Vocalist Gordon Martin – Cornet Ivan Morris – Banjo, Trumpet, Vocalist Chester Shaw – Brass Bass, Vocalist Taz Wolter – Vocalist – Vern Yocum also played with the Tal Henry Orchestra.
1923 in Washington, DC “Skirts” by Tal Henry and Guy Funk (Music and Words) 1924
Recordings of Tal Henry and His North Carolinians Orchestra April 25, 1928 Recordings List by Victor Record Co. Camden, NJ. “My Song of Songs to You” Shaw, (vocal) “Why Do You Make Me Lonesome?” (vocal) “Some Little Someone” – Brown, Morris, Shaw, (Vocal) “You’ve Broken My Castle of Dreams”
May 22, 1928 “Louise, I Love You”… “I’d Trade My Air Castles For A Love Nest And You”… “Lonesome”
December 5, 1928 “Just You and I” – Madsen, (Vocal)… “Found My Gal” – Brown, Fellman, Morris, (Vocal)… “I Know Why I Think of You” – Madsen, (Vocal) “When Shadows Fall” … “Shame On You” – Brown, Fellman, Morris, (Vocal)… “My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans”
February 7, 1934 By Bluebird and Sunrise “Dancing In the Moonlight” – Wolter, (Vocal) By Bluebird … “Dancing In the Moonlight” – Wolter, (Vocal) By Sunrise … “Carioca” (Rumba) By Bluebird … “Carioca” (Rumba) By Sunrise … “There Goes My Heart” – Wolter, (Vocal) By Bluebird … “There Goes My Heart” – Wolter, (Vocal) By Sunrise … “Don’t Say Goodnight” – Shaw, (Vocal) By Bluebird … “Don’t Say Goodnight” – Shaw, (Vocal) By Sunrise … “Goin’ To Heaven On A Mule” (Vocal?) By Bluebird … “Goin’ To Heaven On A Mule” (Vocal?) By Sunrise … “I Can’t Go On Like This” – Wolter (Vocal) By Bluebird … “I Can’t Go On Like This” – Wolter (Vocal) By Sunrise.
“I Know Why I Think Of You” Words: Hank Hauser Music: Tal Henry 12/7/29 EUnp 14155
“Just You and I” Words: Walter Fellman Music: Tal Henry 6/3/29 EUnp 7413
“Shame on You” Words: Ivan Morris Music: Tal Henry 12/7/29 EUnp 14158
“Louise” Words: Hank Hauser Music: Tal Henry
“Why Do You Make Me Lonesome” Words: I. Morris, F. Ellsworth Music: Tal Henry
“Skirts” Words: Tal Henry and Guy Funk Date: 1923 Music: Tal Henry and Guy Funk Copyright: 1924
Warner Bros. Victor Recording Vitaphone Film 1928
Bob Hope, Kay Kyser, Hal Kemp, Vincent Lopez, Fred Waring, Paul Whiteman, Dorsey Brothers, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Dave Brubeck, Randy Brooks, Ina Ray Hutton, Nat “King” Cole, Larry Clinton, and Jan Garber
The Tal Henry Orchestra entertained from New York to Miami, to Maine. East, North, West, South in the USA. The orchestra performed in the New Yorker Hotel, Peabody Hotel, Baker Hotels of Texas, Casinos, Roseland Ballroom, Hershey Park Hotel, Steel Pier in Atlantic City and other Ballrooms, Theatre, Parks, Madison Square Garden, Loew’s Palace, Million Dollar Photoplay Theatre. His photo was featured on several piano sheet music. The Tal Henry Orchestra played for PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt‘s Birthday Ball. Tal Henry Orchestra was heard on NBC Network coast to coast. The first radio hook-up SS Starr off the Aleutian Islands to Tal Henry at Baker Hotel, Jan. 13, 1930. He Broadcast on WLW, Cincinnati, WJZ-NBC New York City, and WEAF Danbury, Conn.
The Elitch Gardens in Denver, CO. opened in 1890. Tal Henry performed at the ballroom “Trocadero” in The Elitch Gardens inDenver, Colorado, shown from an advertisement in the 1920s or 1930s with a photo. Tal Henry moved from East to West, to North and South. When performing at the Hotel New Yorker, he would have a reunion with Hal Kemp and Kay Kyser, enjoying ole’ times sake. Hal Kemp, Kay Kyser and Tal Henry were playing in nearby cities. Hal was at the Manger Hotel while Kay Kyser was at the Bamboo Gardens in Cleveland. All three were from North Carolina with great success with their orchestras. Tal had a contract with Hotel New Yorker for weeks at a time. Dinner was on the Summer Terrace and the Empire Tea Room with $1.00 to $1.75 prices. The orchestra played for the dances and events in the ballroom of the hotel, the Manhattan Room and the Summer Terrace for all occasions.
The first Dance Marathon was directed and conducted by Tal Henry and His North Carolinians Orchestra at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Tal left New York many times to play other cities. He and Jack Marshall went to the Grand Opening of the New China Cafe at 1614 Euclid Avenue on a Saturday on August 30 (year not noted) according to the news ad that showed they would be broadcasting in Cleveland, Ohio over WTAM. In the New China Cafe, the customers had a chance to hear their favorite song by entering the name of the tune on the entry card and asking for a request to be played.
During the Great Depression, many of the famous musicians disbanded the bands and began to look for work or to make a come back if they could raise the funds for recruiting more musicians. Tal Henry did not disband the orchestra until 1938. At that time, he became the agent and manager for some of the fallen bands and musicians. Some famous names were Lionel Hampton, Randy Brooks, Ian Ray Hutton, Nat “King” Cole, and Larry Clinton. When the World War II began, Fred Waring and Kay Kyser wrote to Special Services in the Army, suggesting Tal Henry become the European Director of Music Theatre. In 1944 through 1946 Tal was traveling England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the French Riviera. He produced some of the USO and Radio City Music Hall productions where he checked on other production too. Tal Henry was with Glenn Miller on the day he left an airport outside of London to fly to Paris. That plane was lost in the fog of the English Channel and Glenn Miller never made it to his destination in Paris, where the members of his band were waiting for his arrival. After the war was over Tal Henry returned home and began to play in the King Cotton Hotel with an organist on occasions. He also performed with the North Carolina Symphony.
In 1995, long after the death of Tal Henry, UCLA Festival of Preservation began to appoint actors and donors to restore old movies and Vitaphone Films to be screened in the UCLA Auditorium where the media, actors, families of the producers and associates could view the films. On April 30, 1995 the Tal Henry, Jr family received an invitation to the screening of Tal Henry’s Warner Bros. Victor Recording Company Vitaphone Short film for the first time showing in Hollywood. Sara and Tal Henry, Jr. attended the screening where Tal, Jr. was introduced as the only living relative present at the event. Soon after the trip to Hollywood, Sara and Tal Henry, Jr. moved to Palm Beach for a year. While searching for the Big Band Hall of Fame, a neighbor was found to be the founder of a new Big Band Museum. The Tal Henrys returned to North Carolina and went back to Palm Beach with the Swing Band and Big Band memorabilia. The Henry family donated archives to the upcoming Big Band Museum. The museum was completed and a special dinner dance was held at the Mar-A-Lago Club owned by Donald Trump. The Tal Henry family were honored guest on February 3, 1998 as the late Tal Henry was inductee (posthumouly) while the Tal Henry, Jr family became charter members of the Palm Beach Big Band Hall of Fame Museum. Later, memorabilia was placed in the University of Pacific by Dave Brubeck and the UCLA Vitaphone Film was placed into the Movie Image Museum in Astoria, NY.
He married Florrie Tidwell Henry. Their children are Jane Delores Henry Hardin, and Talmadge Allen Henry Jr. Grandchildren are Kyle Talmadge Henry, Tobin Allen Henry, Talmadge Allen Henry III, William Hardin, Paul Hardin, Patty Hardin, and Wade Hardin.
An article about the lastest records and Victor’s Electrola.
Victor Master Numbering Systems
The original Victor identification system was begun with No. 1 on April 23, 1903, and (with occasional modifications) was in continuous usage until August 1936, when the basic system had reached 104,075. At that time, a new block of numbers was established, beginning with 00 and reaching 09999 by February 1938 and 097503 in August 1958. Effective August 15, 1951, a new and much more complex matrix numbering system was introduced (revised December 10, 1954).
The matrix system that originated in 1903 consisted of three parts: an initial letter, followed by a dash and a “serial number,” followed by a dash and a “part number,” which we today call a “take.” The initial letter indicated the finished record size: A = 7”, B = 10”, C = 12”, and D = 14”, and E = 8”. [look at first and last dates for these] (seldom used), as well as E for an 8” record size introduced in 1906 and abandoned in 1909. Starting in the 1920s, the initial letter or letters began to be used for further information in addition to the record size. The place of recording could be indicated (when other than Camden); thus, PB and PC indicated 10” and 12” recordings made on the Pacific Coast (first in Oakland, later Hollywood), and the initial letters BA were used for 10” records made in Buenos Aires. When electrical recording was introduced in 1925, the letters “VE” were added to indicate the use of a Western Electric recording head; thus, 10” electrical recordings were designated “BVE,” 12” electrical recordings as “CVE.” Electrical recordings made in Brazil were “BBVE” and “BCVE”; those on the Pacific Coast were “PBVE” and “PCVE.” When RCA recording heads were used in place of Western Electric, the prefix became “BRC” and “CRC.” “BRCHQ or “CRCHQ” indicated a 10” or 12” “high-quality (fidelity)” RCA cutting head, while a designation “BSHQ” or “CSHQ” showed that a “semi-high-quality” head was used. An “L” meant “long play” (33.33 rpm); thus, “LBVE” or “LCVE.”
The chronologically assigned “serial number” remained the same for further takes of the same selection by the same artist even if made many years later, as long as the accompaniment remained the same. If a selection originally made with piano accompaniment was re-made with orchestra, it was assigned a new matrix number and began again with take 1. Thus, C-2980-1 was a recording made by Schumann-Heink on January 3, 1906; C-2980-2 was a re-make of the same selection on October 18, 1909; and CVE-2980-3 and -4 were electrical re-makes recorded June 26, 1930, all with orchestra. Parts for all these different versions, even including some unpublished takes, might well be found together in the vault. Original recording sheets and cards in the catalog-number (“historical” or “blue” or “green”) cards in New York are supposed to show by the letters “d,” “h,” or “m” which takes were destroyed, held, or mastered, but these notations cannot be trusted to reflect what was actually published and which masters were retained long-term. Sometimes a notation such as an “h” changed into a “d” (on a given date) is found, and that may have been the intention, but the take marked “h” may have been retained. Often, a take actually issued and replaced in the catalog by a later take was changed from “m” to “d” in the card files. Actual copies of published recordings said in the card files to have been destroyed are often found in collections and archives, and parts for them sometimes exist in SonyBMG archives.
Until about the middle of 1906, the first two components of the matrix number (initial letter and serial number) were hand-written in the original wax and appear on pressings in the 6 o’clock position (stamped catalog number at 12 o’clock). The first take usually was not marked, but subsequent takes from number 2 onwards were numbered and (until about mid-June 1907) could be seen hand-written in the center above the center hole, with the take to the left of the center and a brief title and notation of the artist below the center. All this information was placed so that it was covered by the label cutout and thus not visible on the finished pressing, but it is visible, of course, on the metal parts. Still later, the take number was often imprinted outside the label at 9 o’clock.
In November 1912, it became the practice to stamp a very tiny letter “R” in the inner rim at 3 o’clock to indicate a new take that replaced an earlier one on a record with the same catalog number. I have never seen this mark mentioned in Victor literature, and it is not mentioned in any of the existing files found in New York.
Late in 1912, Victor experimented with a groove enhancement program that smoothed and deepened the original record groove on masters whose grooves had rough edges. I have found no mention of this in the Victor files, nor do treated masters have any special mark showing that this has been done. Pressings made from such treated masters can be identified by sight by some rather subtle indications. We first learned of this process from correspondence found in the files of the Gramophone Co. in England, as this company participated in Victor’s Camden research.
In 1915, Victor developed an acoustical dubbing process to create new masters from pressings where damage had occurred to the originals. Such dubbings are marked with the symbol “s/8” stamped in the inner rim. These are occasionally (but not always) noted in the New York files. Pressings made from these dubbed masters are sonically inferior to the originals.
During the electrical period (i.e., after 1925), a tiny “R” was placed under the take number (9 o’clock) to indicate an electrical dubbing. Such dubbings do not appear to be noted in the New York files. This should not be confused with the “R” at 3 o’clock used in the acoustical period for take substitution, as noted above.
Beginning in 1905, Victor started sending recording teams to Asia and Latin America. Wax plates were shipped back to Camden for processing, and finished pressings, often of local interest only, were shipped to their country of origin for sale. Letter prefix numbers were assigned to each overseas trip and the resulting recordings were numbered serially for that trip, which perhaps would start in Mexico, go to Cuba, then down the west coast of South America, across to Buenos Aires, and back by Rio and the Caribbean. Paper documentation of these field trips is only fragmentary today.
Special Recordings and Tests: Over a period of 50 years or more, Victor made hundreds of pressings of artists’ trials, including artists who recorded for other companies or are not known to have left any commercial records. Up until the electrical period, test pressings we have seen appear to carry no numbers, unless some identification was written (as sometimes happens) on the exterior ring and thus does not appear on pressings. After about 1925, many (but not all?) “trial” test pressings were serially numbered, preceded by “T”; sometimes they also carry conventional matrix identification, such as BE-T-#### or CVE-T-####.
Known matrix numbers of Victor origin from 1903 through the mid-1950s number some 235,238. HMV and other imported masters probably bring the possible total to 300,000. This number probably represents close to the total number of matrix entries that will eventually be listed, mostly with backup material, in the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings.
William R. Moran
The notice mentions all the major dealers of 78 RPM records in 1923.
Crown Records was a New York based dime store label started in 1930 and survived the depression until 1933. Known as the label offering “Two Hits for Two Bits” (proudly printed on their sleeves), they sold for 25 cents.
Plaza Record Company started the company (after they were excluded from the merger which resulted in the American Record Corporation). They had offices and recording studios in the McGraw-Hill building on 42nd Street in New York City. Adrian Schubert was the initial recording director. From the start, Crown set out to provide well performed versions of the hit songs of the day. For the most part, Crown used publisher’s basic ‘stock arrangements’: they initially weren’t interested in hot solos. However, after about 200 issues their records started getting a bit more peppy, increasing interest in these later issues to many collectors.
Studio assembled groups like Adrian Schubert, Milt Shaw, Jack Albin, Lou Gold, Buddy Blue (Smith Ballew), The High Steppers, Frank Novak and others recorded for Crown. Ben Pollack‘s band recorded for Crown using the name “Gil Rodin”. There were a number of country-styled records recorded by Carson Robison, Frankie Marvin, as well as Frank & James McGravy. There were a few performing orchestras who recorded for Crown towards the end of their existence, such as Gus Steck’s Chanticleer Orchestra.
The most collectable records are probably those made by Pollack (using the name “Gil Rodin”), 5 records made by the legendary Fletcher Henderson (issued under his name as well as Connie’s Inn Orchestra, 7 records made by the legendaryEubie Blake, the couple of records made by Jack Teagarden, as well as a sizable group of hot sides recorded by Gene Kardos‘s orchestra under the name of “Joel Shaw”. For personality collectors, the vocal records made by Sylvia Froos, Welcome Lewis and Charlie Palloy are quite scare and highly valued. There was one very rare commercial side recorded byBenny Carter‘s band, as well. Also a handful of Paramount blues and gospel was issued on Crown and are super rare.
Crown issued a handful of “longer playing” 78s, featuring nearly 5 minutes of music at the same 25c price.
Despite Crown Records being recorded at their own studios, pressings were done by Victor, being the first client label pressed by Victor. (Victor also started attempting their own ‘budget’ series of labels. After the demise of the short-lived 1931 Timely Tunes label, Victor started their Bluebird and Electradisk labels, originally as an 8″ record. An early group of 10″ Electradisk records (on their 2500 series) look more like Crown masters than Victor masters, leading collectors to speculate that perhaps these early Electradisk’s were recorded at Crown’s studios, based on appearance of the record and the typeface of the matrix numbers).
Crown Records seemed to sell fairly well (competing with Hit of the Week, Columbia‘s line of ‘cheap’ labels (Harmony, Velvet Tone and Clarion), as well as the ARC group of dime store labels (Melotone, Perfect, Romeo, Oriole, etc.). Although Crown records turn up in the east, they are much less commonly found in the midwest and south, leading to the assumption that they did not have a full nationwide network of dealers.
Some selected Crown sides were leased to Broadway and Homestead in the US, to the Imperial label, and Edison Bell Winner Records in the UK, and to Angelus, Lyric and Summit Records in Australia. A handful of Paramount masters were issued on Crown, as well.
Crown also produced a very rare label called “Gem”. All known Gem’s were exactly the same as the issue on Crown (for example, Joel Shaw’s Crown 3414 of “Yeah Man” b/w “Jazz Pie” was also issued on Gem 3414). No one has been able to determine what store sold these rare records (or even what price they might’ve sold for), but the few copies that have turned up were in the New York/New Jersey area.
The last known Crown master was recorded on August 8, 1933.
In 1939-40, many of the jazzier Crown sides were issued on Eli Oberstein’s short-lived Varsity Records, all from dubbed masters.
The Edison Disc, also known as a Diamond Disc record, was a type of audio disc record marketed by Edison Records from 1912 to 1929. They were known as Diamond disc because the reproducer fitted to the matching Edison disc player was fitted with a diamond stylus.
Edison had previously concentrated on producing phonograph cylinders but decided to get into the disc market due to the increasing market share of disc sound recordings, especially the discs of companies such as Victor Talking Machine Company (the format of which would evolve into “78 records”). Victor and most other disc record companies used side to side or lateral motion of the stylus in the record groove, whereas in the Edison system the movement was up and down or vertical (also known as “hill-and-dale” motion), as in a cylinder record. An Edison Disc Phonograph is distinguished by the diaphragm of the reproducer being located parallel to the disc surface. The Victor (or similar) diaphragm is located at a right angles to the surface of the disc such that the diaphragm is more or less parallel to the groove.
The grooves on an Edison Disc are smooth on the sides and have a variable depth. Standard lateral discs will have a more constant depth, but the sides of the groove are scalloped. As the Edison groove pitch (or “TPI”, i.e. “threads per inch”) was 150, a much finer grooving than that on lateral discs, Edison’s 10-inch discs played considerably longer than Victor’s or Columbia’s — up to nearly five minutes per side. The Edison Disc is also ¼-inch thick (supposedly to prevent warping), and was filled with wood flour, and later, china clay.
Victor’s system could not play Edison Discs as the needles used would cut through the recorded sound, and the Edison system could not play Victor or other lateral discs unless one used special equipment, like the Kent adapter. There is an example of a device to play Edison discs on a Victor machine. The Brunswick Ultona and the Sonora Phonograph were the only machines besides the Diamond Disc player that could play Diamond Discs, but Edison made an attempt at curbing this (a phonograph/gramophone that could play Edison, Victor/lateral 78s, and Pathé discs) by stating “This Re-Creation should not be played on any instrument except the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph and with the Edison Diamond Disc Reproducer, and we decline responsibility for any damage that may occur to it if this warning is ignored.”
The Edison records had their greatest commercial success in the mid 1910s to early 1920s, with sales peaking in 1920. Diamond Discs arguably had better audio fidelity, but were more expensive than and incompatible with other brands of records, and ultimately lost out in the marketplace. In 1926, an attempt at reviving interest in the Edison Disc was with a 450-TPI long-playing disc, still spinning at 80 rpm, with times of 24 minutes per 10-inch disc and 40 for a 12-inch disc, but problems occurred (notably with broken groove walls and overall low volume, often only 40% of that of the regular discs), and the disc failed. In August 1927, discs began to be electrically recorded, making Edison the last major label to adopt electrical recording (over two years after Victor, Columbia, and Brunswick had converted from acoustical recording). Sales continued to drop, however, and although Edison Discs were available from dealers until the company left the record business in late October 1929, the last vertically-cut direct masters were recorded in the early summer of that year. The U.S. phonograph and record industry itself reached a historic nadir during that year, as the onset of the Great Depression and the rise of radio depressed sales and sent numerous companies out of business.