Archive for the Interviews and Articles Category

Brampton man’s passion for jazz music fuels his hobby for collecting records

Posted in Interviews and Articles, My 78 RPM Collection, The Collector's Hunt for 78's on August 8, 2015 by the78rpmrecordspins

Brampton music afficianado Ken McPherson with his collection of thousands of 78 rpm records, many from his favourite jazz eras - the 1920s and 1930s.

Brampton music afficianado Ken McPherson with his collection of thousands of 78 rpm records, many from his favourite jazz eras – the 1920s and 1930s.

Brampton man’s passion for jazz music fuels his hobby for collecting records.


A Report On The Forty Fourth Canadian Collector’s Congress

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags , on May 5, 2015 by the78rpmrecordspins

Here is a report on the 44th Canadian Collector’s Congress held in Toronto on Saturday, April  25, 2015, courtesy of Jack Litchfield.


Victrola and 78 Journal-Issue 2, Fall 1994

Posted in 78 RPM Record Development, Interviews and Articles, Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags on March 11, 2015 by the78rpmrecordspins

Here is the second installment of the Victrola and 78 Journal, edited by Tim Gracyk, in the Fall of 1994. The first issue can also be found on this blog.


A Record Shack Is The Perfect Man Cave For The Summer Months

Posted in General Announcements, Interviews and Articles, The Collector's Hunt for 78's with tags , , on June 15, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

On May 12th I previously published my invitation to you to attend my record sale on Saturday, July 5th, at my residence. Due to the large amount of 78’s, 45’s and radio station transcription discs, plus many other items, I decided to have a shed built in the backyard, to double as my man cave and storage unit for all records I will be selling. After a week of laying down patio stones, and construction of the shed, it was finished yesterday. Today, I started to load the shed with records and a turntable for previewing the records. Here are some photographs of the shed, and the records that I have put in it, so far.


004 005 001 002 003


A Report on The Canadian Collector’s Congress That Was Held April 26, 2014 In Toronto

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Phonograph and 78 RPM Record Clubs with tags , , , , on May 3, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Our good friend, and discographer, Jack Litchfield has just sent me a copy of the minutes of the Canadian Collector’s Congress, held on Saturday, April 26th, in Toronto, Ontario. I would like to share this with our readers, so that they will know what transpired at this meeting.



Ben Pollack And His Orchestra Before Victor 1925

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , on March 22, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

According to a September 1925 issue of Variety, the Ben Pollack Orchestra from Venice, California, had been playing an exclusive engagement at the Venice Ballroom. The most important part of this insert, was the mention of all the musicians in the orchestra at the time. Notice how Benny Goodman is addressed and the fact that he plays saxophone in addition to the clarinet. The other, better known original member of the band mentioned, was Gil Rodin, who would later form his own group, and record for Crown Records in the early 1930’s. 

old fulton ny post cards-variety sept 9, 1925 ben pollack orchestra.

The Best Kept Record And Phonograph Secret Of Central Ontario

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records, The Collector's Hunt for 78's with tags , , , , , , on March 15, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

One of the best kept secrets on where to junk for 78 rpm records, and phonographs in Central Ontario is the Barrie Antiques Centre, located in the heart of downtown Barrie, Ontario. Barrie, is located north of Toronto, Ontario, as is about an hour away by car. I paid a visit to it on Saturday, March 15th, 2014, and was astonished to find such a wide display of records and phonographs. The manager graciously allowed me to take some photographs and share them with you.

Barrie Antiques Centre, 227 Innisfil Street, Barrie, Ontario Open 7 days a Week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Picture Sunrise Record 012 Picture Sunrise Record 007 Picture Sunrise Record 005 Picture Sunrise Record 013 Picture Sunrise Record 009 Picture Sunrise Record 011

Tony Spargo Photorama From Record Research 53 July 1963

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags , , on March 13, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Record Research provided an excellent photographic biography of Jazz drummer Ton Spargo, who played with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in the July, 1963 issue. 


The Montgomery Ward Cecilian Phonograph Manual 1913

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , on March 7, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

In 1913, the American department store Montgomery Ward provided an owner’s manual with each Cecilian phonograph purchased, containing the complete line of models, and how to properly care for the phonograph and records.


Jazz King Makes $800,000 In Five Years 1922

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , on March 1, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

I came across an article about band leader Isham Jones, and how he became a successful  jazz musician and recording artist. Anyone familiar with Isham Jones knows that he was associated with Brunswick Records. The blurb itself appeared in the Lawrence, Kansas newspaper on June 20, 1922, the Lawrence Journal-World.


Lawrence Journal World   Google News Archive Search

Leeds Talk-O-Phone Record Label

Posted in 78 RPM Record Development, Interviews and Articles with tags , , on February 27, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Leeds Talk-O-Phone was a record label, producing cylinders from 1894 to 1903 and single-sided lateral-cut disc gramophone records in the United States of America from about 1902 to 1909.

Leeds Records were produced by the Talk-O-Phone Company of Toledo, Ohio, owned by Wynant van Zant Pierce Bradley and Albert Irish. Talk-O-Phone produced disc phonographs(gramophones in British English) very similar to the earliest “Victor” machines of the Victor Talking Machine Company.


Some Leeds Records were unauthorized dubs of recordings made in other countries, a practice that slipped through a legal loophole at the time when international copyrights on recorded sound was poorly regulated. Some printed speculation about this obscure early record label has alleged that all Leeds material was either leased or pirated from other companies, but this was not the case. Some Leeds records were recorded specifically for Leeds, as can be confirmed by the spoken announcements at the beginning of the records. There was, however, an artist dishonesty incident in the late 1890s with Russell Hunting. Leeds had Hunting record a specialty of his called “Cohen at the Telephone”. He was paid $5 per “round”, as pantographic duplication yielded about 100 acceptable duplacates of a cylinder. At the end of the fourth round (recording into 4 machines yielded 16 masters) he saw a man carting 24 recordings of his “Cohen at the Telephone” away at the end of the studio. Hunting accused Leeds of attempting to defraud him. Leeds Talk-O-Phone, according to Hunting, made good upon being threatened with exposure.

A few Vaudeville stars of some note recorded for Leeds, including Byron G. Harlan. The audio fidelity of original Leeds recordings is about comparable to Victor or Columbia Records discs of some 5 years earlier.

The most notable feature of early Leeds records are the labels at the center of the discs, some of the most elaborate and beautiful ever to grace phonograph records. The labels are coated in embossed gold foil in high relief, with a trio of angels flying in clouds beside “LEEDS TALK-O-PHONE RECORDS” in elaborate flowing lettering. The lower portion of the label shows the record number, song title, and artist, in much more plain type. The whole is surrounded by a floral border.

In the early 20th century, the quality of Leeds records improved. Leeds records were issued under the rare “Century” label, the “Sir Henri” label, the “Imperial” label, and many others. None of these labels credited Leeds as the manufacturer, likely as Leeds was usually in court for infringing some patent, trademark, etc. In 1905, Leeds was rumored to have begun plans for returning to producing cylinders, sending Edison investigators scattering about. Leeds made its last known cylinders in 1903, in brown wax. Columbia made molded brown waxes at this time and introduced black waxes in 1903. This stopped Leeds cylinder production. If Leeds really did resume cylinder production in 1905, the cylinders would have to have been molded black waxes or they would not have survived on the market if they were brown. Columbia stopped brown wax molding in 1904, thus eliminating any niche competition for Leeds brown waxes. No supposed Leeds cylinders from ca. 1905 survive, nor do any Leeds cylinder catalogs.

In April 1909 Victor triumphed in a lawsuit for patent infringement, and Leeds Records and Talk-O-Phone went out of business.


(Courtesy Wikipedia)

Jack Crawford Orchestra in Miami Florida 1929

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , on February 22, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Victor recording artist Jack Crawford and his Orchestra are signed on to appear at the Million Dollar Pier in Miami Beach. The announcement was made on September 1, 1929 via The Miami News newspaper.


The Miami News   Google News Archive Search-jack crawford The Miami News   Google News Archive Search-crawford 2

Hit-Of-The-Week Record Launch 1930

Posted in 78 RPM Record Development, Interviews and Articles with tags , , , , on February 22, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

On June 12, 1930 Dirium Products Corporation of New York launched their new indestructible phonograph record that would be sold weekly at newsstands for the remarkable price of 15 cents. The launch in Pittsburgh that day was through a full-page advertisement, and an article about the Hit Of The Week record, as reported by The Pittsburgh Press.


The Pittsburgh Press   Google News Archive Search-hit of the week The Pittsburgh Press   Google News Archive Search-hit2

King Oliver Appears At The Reading Casino 1924

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , on February 19, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

These two items appeared in The Reading Eagle, Reading, PA., on May 13, 1924 regarding an appearance of King Oliver on May 14th for a dance at The Casino. This casino was controlled, I believe, by the notorious gangster Tony Moran.


Reading Eagle   Google News Archive Search-king oliver may 13,1924-king

Jazz Trumpeter And Soloist of Whiteman’s Orchestra Is Former Davenport Lad 1928

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , on February 16, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke, native of Davenport, Iowa, is featured in an article, found in The Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 25, 1928. 


Davenport Democrat and Leader  Wednesday  April 25  1928  Page 19

25 Years Ago At The Canadian Antique Phonograph Society 1989

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Phonograph and 78 RPM Record Clubs with tags , , on February 11, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

The February 1989 issue of The Canadian Antique Phonograph Society newsletter carried with it an article about collector and musician Jeff Healey.


Bunk Johnson

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artists of the 1930's and 1940's with tags , , on February 9, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Bunk Johnson

Bunk Johnson

Background information
Birth name William Gary Johnson
Also known as Bunk
Born December 27, 1879
Origin New Orleans
Died July 7, 1949
Genres Jazz
Instruments trumpet
Associated acts George Lewis
Louis Armstrong

Willie Gary “Bunk” Johnson (December 27, 1879 – July 7, 1949) was a prominent early New Orleans jazz trumpet player in the early years of the 20th century who enjoyed a revived career in the 1940s.

Bunk gave the year of his birth as 1879, although there is speculation that he may have actually been younger by as much as a decade.

Education and early musical career

Bunk received lessons from Adam Olivier and began playing professionally in Olivier’s orchestra. Bunk probably played a few adolescent jobs with Buddy Bolden, but was not a regular member of Bolden’s Band for any length of time (contrary to Bunk’s claim). Bunk was regarded as one of the top trumpeters in New Orleans in the years 1905–1915, in between repeatedly leaving the city to tour with minstrel shows and circus bands. After he failed to appear for a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade job in 1915, he learned the krewe members intended to do him bodily harm, and so he left town, touring with shows and then settling in New Iberia, Louisiana. In 1931 he lost his trumpet and front teeth when a violent fight broke out at a dance inRayne, Louisiana, putting an end to his playing. He thereafter worked in manual labor, occasionally giving music lessons on the side when he could.

Career revival and first recordings

In 1938 and 1939 the researchers/writers of the first book of jazz history, Jazzmen, interviewed several prominent musicians of the time, includingLouis ArmstrongSidney Bechet, and Clarence Williams, who spoke very highly of Bunk in the old days in New Orleans. The writers tracked down Bunk’s address, and traded several letters with him, where Bunk recalled (and possibly embellished) his early career. Bunk stated that he could play again if he only had new teeth and a new trumpet. A collection was taken up by writers and musicians, and Bunk was fitted with a set of dentures (by Bechet’s dentist brother, Leonard) and given a new trumpet, and in 1942 made his first recordings.

Bunk (left) with Lead Belly in New York City, 1946

Later touring career

These first recordings propelled Bunk (along with clarinetist George Lewis) into public attention, attracting a cult following. Bunk and his band played in New Orleans, San FranciscoBoston, and New York City and made many more recordings. Bunk’s work in the 1940s show why he was well regarded by his fellow musicians—on his best days playing with great imagination, subtlety, and beauty—as well as suggesting why he had not achieved fame earlier, for he was unpredictable, temperamental, with a passive-aggressive streak and a fondness for drinking alcohol to the point of serious impairment.

Death and legacy

Bunk suffered from a stroke in late 1948 and died in New Iberia the following year.

Jazz fans and historians still debate Bunk’s legacy, and the extent to which his colorful reminiscences of his early career were accurate, misremembered, exaggerated, or untrue.

The majority of his recordings remain in print on CD reissues, and his playing is an important influence on many contemporary traditional jazz musicians. Johnson plays a small, but significant, role in Alan Schroeder’s picture book “Satchmo’s Blues.” In that book, Johnson serves as a source of musical inspiration to the young Louis Armstrong.

(Courtesy Wikipedia)

Antique Phonograph News January to February 2014

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Phonograph and 78 RPM Record Clubs, Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , on January 17, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Here is a look at the publication of the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society. This issue contains the history of the “Thorens” phonograph.


78 Quarterly Number 4 1989

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags , , on January 15, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

I am pleased to present issue number four of “78 Quarterly”, originally issued in 1989.


78 Quarterly Number 3 1988

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags on January 14, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

I am pleased to present the third issue of “78 Quarterly”, filled with interesting articles on both the Paramount and Gennett labels.


78 Quarterly Issues 1 and 2 1967 and 1968

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags on January 12, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

I am pleased to present these two issues of “78 Quarterly” packed with excellent articles about 78 RPM records and the artists behind them.


Edison (Record Research Sept./October 1958)

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, Interviews and Articles with tags , , on October 27, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Saga of a Sideman: Rudy Powell (Record Research 20 1958)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , on October 16, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Berliner Records by Steven C. Barr (courtesy CAPS)

Posted in 78 RPM Record Development, Interviews and Articles with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Berliner Records
History of Recorded Sound in Canada
by Steven C. Barr
     The one characteristic of the earliest “made in Canada” records that makes them both recognizable and in demand by collectors, particularly those in the United States, is the fact that from 1900 to about 1910 the Montreal-pressed records of Emile Berliner were, unlike any others at the time, on a light to medium brown material, known to collectors as “brown wax”, although wax was never used for disc records and only for the earliest cylinders. These records were apparently introduced in early 1900, shortly after Berliner set up operations in Montreal. The first issues, like the U.S. Berliners in size and often in musical content, were 7-inch records which, unlike their earlier American counterparts, had a brown and gold paper label. They were known as “Gram-O-Phone” or “Improved Gram-O-Phone” records, crediting the Berliner Gram-O-Phone Company of Montreal.     In the following year, 1901, the U.S. Victor firm introduced the 10-inch “Monarch” record and these appeared in Canada as the “Berliner Concert Grand” record. Shortly thereafter, probably late 1902 or 1903, the familiar figure of Nipper appeared on a label similar to the Victor/ Monarch label, then in use in America, and the brand name was simplified to “Concert Record” while the label colour was lightened to match the milk-chocolate colour of the actual record. During this period, and probably until 1904, the Canadian records differed from their U.S. counterparts in two respects; first, they were numbered in their own sequence, with most in a 5000 series (even though the majority were pressed from Victor matrices), and second, the centre holes of the records were protected by a brass ferrule – a feature which would have saved many a record for today’s collectors, as the automatic changers introduced in the late 1930s had a tendency to chew away at the hole in the record!

In early 1905 the “Monarch” and “Deluxe” labels, identifying 10 and 12-inch Victor records respectively, were replaced by the Victor name, which henceforth appeared on virtually all the records of the company. At the same time or shortly later, the “Concert” label was replaced by a “Victor” label on Berliner’s records from U.S. matrices, with a notice announcing that the record was specifically “for sale or use in Canada only”. (It is not known just who dealt with the offenders, – and how – , who were bold enough to play one of these in Detroit or Buffalo!) It was at or near this time that the Canadian number sequences were dropped and Victor numbers were used. Somewhat later, the phrase “His Master’s Voice” was added above the “Victor Record” which appeared on each side of the centre hole, so that the trade name appeared to read “His Master’s Voice-Victor”, a phrasing which was used until 1947 on Canadian Berliner and Victor products, with the exception of Berliner’s Montreal-recorded products from 1918 until 1924 and a handful of records pressed from U.S. matrices which possibly used leftover labels from the Canadian records. These bore the legend”His Master’s Voice” without “Victor”.

The use of brown material for records continued through at least most, if not all, of 1909, and through the first 100-odd double-sided issues in the 16000 series. At some point late in 1909 or early 1910, the brown records were quietly discontinued, and Berliner’s products appeared in the familiar black. This was the last North American appearance of brown or “red” records until Aeolian Vocalion introduced their label in late 1918. Ironically, the Canadian equivalent of this label appeared on black records! There were two rather odd types of records of the “brown wax” period. The first is the pre-1909 Canadian Red Seal series, brown material but with the familiar crimson label; the second apparently resulted from some frugal manager in Berliner’s operation being unwilling to discard the brown labels left over from the matching records, and appears as occasional black records bearing two (or less often, one) brown labels.

In late 1909, Berliner introduced the first of their Canada-only issues since Victor masters had replaced the early Montreal-recorded sides. These were, however, not recorded in Montreal but were European (French) and English recordings which the firm felt would appeal to Canadian talking machine owners. Several series were introduced: the fairly common 120000 (10″) and 130000 (12″) black-label series, the violet label 100000 (10″) and 110000 (12″) single-sided series and a 183000 Red Seal series, with the 121000 series (which included but one record, the “puzzle record”) added shortly thereafter. These were broken up into blocks which appear almost without logical reason, so that establishing dates for them by number is a frustrating task. The initial records (or at least the initial numbers) were all European-recorded French-language sides; however, the French records were shortly thereafter assigned to the 120/130500 block, and then made obsolete by Montreal-recorded material after 1918.

Although the French records are seldom found in Ontario, the 120-130000 series records turn up often enough to indicate that material from “The Old Country” proved quite popular with British and Scottish record buyers. In 1914, the more patriotic selections, along with a handful of records from the regular catalogue, acquired a fanciful red-white-and-blue label with the Union Jack prominently displayed. Once the patriotic fervour of wartime had diminished, the series reverted to the usual label which it would wear from then on. Around this time, the numbering was started at 120700 for the 10″ series and continued from there until it jumped to 120800 when electric recording was introduced (with the 12″ electrics starting at 130800). Moogk’s Roll Back the Years lists two oddities in this series: numbered 120900 and 120901, they are apparently sides recorded in the U.S. during WWI for Canadian issues!

In 1916 the Berliners resumed recording in Montreal on a regular basis, and began issuing another series, the Canadian-recorded 216000 series. This started slowly, with a pair of poems recorded experimentally much earlier and three records by one “Canadian Cohen” (actually Herbert Berliner!) but picked up once the war ended. Although Canadian talent was used to some extent, many of the records were made by established American artists, and a fair number were, in fact, “cover versions” of records on competing labels, using artists such as Billy Jones, Milo Rega and Harry Raderman who did not record for Victor. By 1920, the majority of Berliner’s black label issues were in this series, and the Victor company in the U.S. began to look askance at the situation. This was responsible for another unique Canadian item: when a popular U.S. record duplicated one of Berliner’s own sides, he simply deleted that side from the Canadian version of the Victor record and substituted a different pairing. For that reason, a number of Canadian Victors have a different pairing of songs than the U.S. issue with the same catalogue number!

     Finally, in late 1921, pressure from the Victor firm slowed the 216000 issues to a trickle once again. In the meantime, Emile’s son, Herbert, had resigned from his father’s firm, moving to the Compo Company which he had started in 1918. Victor was evidently still somewhat less than happy about being dependent on the independent company for its Canadian operations, and continued pressure on Berliner until Victor finally acquired the company in early 1924, renaming the operation “The Victor Talking Machine Company of Canada” and making the Victor name more prominent on an altered label.

Phil Napoleon

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Phil Napoleon


Phil Napoleon
Jackie Gleason Phil Napo043.jpg

Jackie Gleason and Phil Napoleon on stage
Background information
Birth name Filippo Napoli
Born September 2, 1901
BostonMassachusetts, US
Died October 1, 1990 (aged 89)
MiamiFlorida, US
Genres Jazz
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1910s–1980s
Associated acts Original Memphis Five


Phil Napoleon (2 September 1901 – 1 October 1990), born Filippo Napoli, was an early jazz trumpeter and bandleader born in BostonMassachusettsRon Wynn notes that Napoleon “was a competent, though unimaginative trumpeter whose greatest value was the many recording sessions he led that helped increase jazz’s popularity in the mid-’20’s.” Richard Cook and Brian Morton, writing for The Penguin Guide to Jazz, refer to Napoleon as “a genuine pioneer” whose playing was “profoundly influential on men such as Red Nichols and Bix Beiderbecke.”

Napoleon began with classical training, and was performing publicly by age 5. In the 1910s, he was one of the first musicians in the northeastern United States to embrace the new “jass” style brought to that part of the country by musicians from New Orleans, Louisiana. With pianist Frank Signorelli he formed the group “The Original Memphis Five“. It was one of the busiest bands in New York City in the 1920s, recording for most record labels, often under a variety of pseudonyms.

After some time leading his own band and doing regular studio work for NBC radio, he worked with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra for a time in the 1940s. Phil also worked frequently with his nephew Marty Napoleon, a jazz pianist. In 1959 he moved to Miami,Florida, where he ran a club called “Napoleon’s Retreat” where he played for many years.


From Wikipedia

W.C. Handy

Posted in Interviews and Articles, The History of Jazz and Blues Recordings with tags , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

W. C. Handy


(From Wikipedia)
W. C. Handy

In July 1941, by Carl Van Vechten
Background information
Birth name William Christopher Handy
Also known as The Father of Blues
Born November 16, 1873
FlorenceAlabama, U.S.
Origin MemphisTennessee, U.S.
Died March 28, 1958 (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres BluesJazz
Occupations Composer, songwriter, musician,bandleader, author
Instruments Pianocornettrumpetguitar,vocals
Years active 1893–1948

William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was a blues composer and musician. He was widely known as the “Father of the Blues”.

Handy remains among the most influential of American songwriters. Though he was one of many musicians who played the distinctively American form of music known as the blues, he is credited with giving it its contemporary form. While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a regional music style with a limited audience to one of the dominant national forces in American music.

Handy was an educated musician who used folk material in his compositions. He was scrupulous in documenting the sources of his works, which frequently combined stylistic influences from several performers.


Early life


English: W. C. Handy, age 19. Photo courtesy o...

English: W. C. Handy, age 19. Photo courtesy of University of North Alabama, Collier Library. Photographer unknown. Русский: Уильям Кристофер Хэнди в возрасте 19 лет (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


W.C. Handy at age 19

Handy was born in Florence, Alabama. His father was thepastor of a small church in Guntersville, another small town in northeast central Alabama. Handy wrote in his 1941 autobiographyFather of the Blues, that he was born in the log cabin built by his grandfather William Wise Handy, who became an African Methodist Episcopal(AME) minister after emancipation. The log cabin of Handy’s birth has been saved and preserved in downtown Florence.

Growing up he apprenticed in carpentryshoemaking andplastering.

Handy was a deeply religious man, whose influences in his musical style were found in the church music he sang and played as a youth, and in the natural world. He later cited the sounds of nature, such as “whippoorwills, bats and hoot owls and their outlandish noises”, the sounds of Cypress Creek washing on the fringes of the woodland, and “the music of every songbird and all the symphonies of their unpremeditated art” as inspiration.

Handy’s father believed that musical instruments were tools of the devil. Without his parents’ permission, Handy bought his first guitar, which he had seen in a local shop window and secretly saved for by picking berries, nuts and making lye soap. Upon seeing the guitar, his father asked him, “What possessed you to bring a sinful thing like that into our Christian home?” Ordering Handy to “Take it back where it came from”, his father quickly enrolled him in organ lessons. Handy’s days as an organ student were short lived, and he moved on to learn the cornet. Handy joined a local band as a teenager, but he kept this fact a secret from his parents. He purchased a cornet from a fellow band member and spent every free minute practicing it.

Musical development

He worked on a “shovel brigade” at the McNabb furnace, and described the music made by the workers as they beat shovels, altering the tone while thrusting and withdrawing the metal part against the iron buggies to pass the time while waiting for the overfilled furnace to digest its ore. “With a dozen men participating, the effect was sometimes remarkable…It was better to us than the music of a martial drum corps, and our rhythms were far more complicated.” He wrote, “Southern Negroes sang about everything…They accompany themselves on anything from which they can extract a musical sound or rhythmical effect…” He would later reflect that, “In this way, and from these materials, they set the mood for what we now call blues”

In September 1892, Handy traveled to Birmingham to take a teaching exam, which he passed easily, and gained a teaching job in the city. Learning that it paid poorly, he quit the position and found industrial work at a pipe works plant in nearby Bessemer.

During his off-time, he organized a small string orchestra and taught musicians how to read notes. Later, Handy organized the Lauzetta Quartet. When the group read about the upcoming World’s Fair in Chicago, they decided to attend. To pay their way, group members performed at odd jobs along the way. They arrived in Chicago only to learn that the World’s Fair had been postponed for a year. Next they headed to St. Louis but found working conditions very bad.

After the quartet disbanded, Handy went to Evansville, Indiana, where he helped introduce the blues. He played cornet in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. In Evansville, Handy joined a successful band that performed throughout the neighboring cities and states. His musical endeavors were varied: he sang first tenor in a minstrel show, worked as a band director, choral director, cornetist andtrumpeter.

At age 23, Handy became band master of Mahara’s Colored Minstrels. In their three-year tour, they traveled to Chicago, throughoutTexas and Oklahoma, through TennesseeGeorgia and Florida, and on to Cuba. Handy earned a salary of $6 per week. Returning from Cuba, the band traveled north through Alabama, and stopped to perform in Huntsville. Weary of life on the road, he and his wife Elizabeth decided to stay with relatives in his nearby hometown of Florence.

Marriage and family

In 1896 while performing at a barbecue in Henderson, Kentucky, Handy met Elizabeth Price. They married shortly afterward on July 19, 1896. She had Lucille, the first of their six children, on June 29, 1900 after they had settled in Florence, Alabama, his hometown. Henderson’s W.C. Handy Music Bar B Q and Blues Festival is held annually in June. There is also a 10 day, 200 event W.C. Handy Music Festival in Handy’s hometown of Florence, Alabama annually the last week of July.

Teaching music


W.C. Handy, ca. 1900, Director of the Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical College Band

Around that time, William Hooper Councill, President of Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (AAMC) (today named Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University) in Normal, Alabama, recruited Handy to teach music at the college. Handy became a faculty member in September 1900 and taught through much of 1902.

His enthusiasm for the distinctive style of uniquely American music, then often considered inferior to European classical music, was part of his development. He was disheartened to discover that the college emphasized teaching European music considered to be “classical”. Handy felt he was underpaid and could make more money touring with a minstrel group.

Studying the blues

In 1902 Handy traveled throughout Mississippi, where he listened to the various black popular musical styles. The state was mostly rural, and music was part of the culture, especially of the Mississippi Delta cotton plantation areas. Musicians usually played the guitarbanjo and to a much lesser extent, the piano. Handy’s remarkable memory enabled him to recall and transcribe the music heard in his travels.

After a dispute with AAMC President Councill, Handy resigned his teaching position to rejoin the Mahara Minstrels and tour theMidwest and Pacific Northwest. In 1903 he became the director of a black band organized by the Knights of Pythias, located inClarksdale, Mississippi. Handy and his family lived there for six years. In 1903 while waiting for a train in Tutwiler in the Mississippi Delta, Handy had the following experience:

“A lean loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept… As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars….The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard.”

About 1905 while playing a dance in Cleveland, Mississippi, Handy was given a note asking for “our native music”. He played an old-time Southern melody, but was asked if a local colored band could play a few numbers. Three young men with a battered guitar, mandolin, and a worn-out bass took the stage.

“They struck up one of those over and over strains that seem to have no beginning and certainly no ending at all. The strumming attained a disturbing monotony, but on and on it went, a kind of stuff associated with [sugar] cane rows and levee camps. Thump-thump-thump went their feet on the floor. It was not really annoying or unpleasant. Perhaps “haunting” is the better word.”

Handy noted square dancing by Mississippi blacks with “one of their own calling the figures, and crooning all of his calls in the key of G.” He remembered this when deciding on the key for “St Louis Blues”.

“It was the memory of that old gent who called figures for the Kentucky breakdown—the one who everlastingly pitched his tones in the key of G and moaned the calls like a presiding elder preaching at a revival meeting. Ah, there was my key – I’d do the song in G.”

In describing “blind singers and footloose bards” around Clarksdale, Handy wrote, “[S]urrounded by crowds of country folks, they would pour their hearts out in song … They earned their living by selling their own songs – “ballets,” as they called them—and I’m ready to say in their behalf that seldom did their creations lack imagination.”

Transition: popularity, fame and business

In 1909 Handy and his band moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where they started playing at clubs on Beale Street. The genesis of his “Memphis Blues” was as a campaign tune written for Edward Crump, a successful Memphis mayoral candidate in 1909 (and future“boss”). Handy later rewrote the tune and changed its name from “Mr. Crump” to “Memphis Blues.”


Handy’s first popular success, “Memphis Blues”. Recorded by Victor Military Band, July 15, 1914.

The 1912 publication of his “Memphis Blues” sheet music introduced his style of 12-bar blues; it was credited as the inspiration for the foxtrot dance step by Vernon and Irene Castle, a New York–based dance team. Some consider it to be the first blues song. Handy sold the rights to the song for US$100. By 1914, when Handy was 40, he had established his musical style, his popularity increased significantly, and he composed prolifically.

Handy wrote about using folk songs:

“The primitive southern Negro, as he sang, was sure to bear down on the third and seventh tone of the scale, slurring between major and minor. Whether in the cotton field of the Delta or on the Levee up St. Louis way, it was always the same. Till then, however, I had never heard this slur used by a more sophisticated Negro, or by any white man. I tried to convey this effect… by introducing flat thirds and sevenths (now called blue notes) into my song, although its prevailing key was major…, and I carried this device into my melody as well… This was a distinct departure, but as it turned out, it touched the spot.”

W. C. Handy with his 1918 Memphis Orchestra: Handy is center rear, holding trumpet.

“The three-line structure I employed in my lyric was suggested by a song I heard Phil Jones sing in Evansville … While I took the three-line stanza as a model for my lyric, I found its repetition too monotonous … Consequently I adopted the style of making a statement, repeating the statement in the second line, and then telling in the third line why the statement was made.”

Regarding the “three-chord basic harmonic structure” of the blues, Handy wrote the “(tonic, subdominant, dominant seventh) was that already used by Negro roustabouts, honky-tonkpiano players, wanderers and others of the underprivileged but undaunted class”. He noted,

“In the folk blues the singer fills up occasional gaps with words like ‘Oh, lawdy’ or ‘Oh, baby’ and the like. This meant that in writing a melody to be sung in the blues manner one would have to provide gaps or waits.”

Writing about the first time “St Louis Blues” was played (1914), Handy said,

“The one-step and other dances had been done to the tempo of Memphis Blues … When St Louis Blues was written the tango was in vogue. I tricked the dancers by arranging a tango introduction, breaking abruptly into a low-down blues. My eyes swept the floor anxiously, then suddenly I saw lightning strike. The dancers seemed electrified. Something within them came suddenly to life. An instinct that wanted so much to live, to fling its arms to spread joy, took them by the heels.”

His published musical works were groundbreaking because of his ethnicity, and he was among the first blacks to achieve economic success because of publishing. In 1912, Handy met Harry H. Pace at the Solvent Savings Bank in Memphis. Pace was valedictorian of his graduating class at Atlanta University and student of W. E. B. Du Bois. By the time of their meeting, Pace had already demonstrated a strong understanding of business. He earned his reputation by recreating failing businesses. Handy liked him, and Pace later became manager of Pace and Handy Sheet Music.

W.C. Handy Place in YonkersNY

While in New York City, Handy wrote:

“I was under the impression that these Negro musicians would jump at the chance to patronize one of their own publishers. They didn’t… The Negro musicians simply played the hits of the day…They followed the parade. Many white bands and orchestra leaders, on the other hand, were on the alert for novelties. They were therefore the ones most ready to introduce our numbers.” But, “Negro vaudeville artists…wanted songs that would not conflict with white acts on the bill. The result was that these performers became our most effective pluggers.”

In 1917, he and his publishing business moved to New York City, where he had offices in the Gaiety Theatre office building in Times Square. By the end of that year, his most successful songs: “Memphis Blues”, “Beale Street Blues“, and “Saint Louis Blues“, had been published. That year the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a white New Orleans jazz ensemble, had recorded the first jazz record, introducing the style to a wide segment of the American public. Handy initially had little fondness for this new “jazz”, but bands dove into his repertoire with enthusiasm, making many of them jazz standards.

Handy encouraged performers such as Al Bernard, “a young white man” with a “soft Southern accent” who “could sing all my Blues”. Handy sent Bernard to Thomas Edison to be recorded, which resulted in “an impressive series of successes for the young artist, successes in which we proudly shared.” Handy also published the original “Shake Rattle and Roll” and “Saxophone Blues”, both written by Bernard. “Two young white ladies from Selma, Alabama (Madelyn Sheppard and Annelu Burns) contributed the songs “Pickaninny Rose” and “O Saroo”, with the music published by Handy’s company. These numbers, plus our blues, gave us a reputation as publishers of Negro music.” 


“Ole Miss Rag”, a ragtime composed by W. C. Handy and recorded by Handy’s Orchestra of Memphis in 1917 in New York.

Expecting to make only “another hundred or so” on a third recording of his “Yellow Dog Blues” (originally titled “Yellow Dog Rag”, Handy signed a deal with the Victor company. The Joe Smith recording of this song in 1919 became the best-selling recording of Handy’s music to date.

Handy tried to interest black women singers in his music, but initially was unsuccessful. In 1920 Perry Bradford persuaded Mamie Smith to record two of his non-blues songs, published by Handy, accompanied by a white band: “That Thing Called Love” and “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”. When Bradford’s “Crazy Blues” became a hit as recorded by Smith, African-American blues singers became increasingly popular. Handy found his business began to decrease because of the competition.

In 1920 Pace amicably dissolved his long-standing partnership with Handy, with whom he also collaborated as lyricist. As Handy wrote: “To add to my woes, my partner withdrew from the business. He disagreed with some of my business methods, but no harsh words were involved. He simply chose this time to sever connection with our firm in order that he might organize Pace Phonograph Company, issuing Black Swan Records and making a serious bid for the Negro market. . . . With Pace went a large number of our employees. . . . Still more confusion and anguish grew out of the fact that people did not generally know that I had no stake in the Black Swan Record Company.”

Although Handy’s partnership with Pace was dissolved, he continued to operate the publishing company as a family-owned business. He published works of other black composers as well as his own, which included more than 150 sacred compositions and folk song arrangements and about 60 blues compositions. In the 1920’s, he founded the Handy Record Company in New York City. Bessie Smith‘s January 14, 1925, Columbia Records recording of “Saint Louis Blues” with Louis Armstrong is considered by many to be one of the finest recordings of the 1920’s. So successful was Handy’s “Saint Louis Blues” that in 1929, he and director Kenneth W. Adams collaborated on a RCA motion picture project of the same name, which was to be shown before the main attraction. Handy suggested blues singer Bessie Smith have the starring role, since she had gained widespread popularity with that tune. The picture was shot in June and was shown in movie houses throughout the United States from 1929 to 1932.

In 1926 Handy authored and edited a work entitled Blues: An Anthology—Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs. It is probably the first work that attempted to record, analyze and describe the blues as an integral part of the U.S. South and the history of the United States.

The genre of the blues was a hallmark of American society and culture in the 1920s and 1930s. So great was its influence, and so much was it recognized as Handy’s hallmark, that author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his novel The Great Gatsby that “All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the “Beale Street Blues” while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust. At the gray tea hour there were always rooms that throbbed incessantly with this low, sweet fever, while fresh faces drifted here and there like rose petals blown by the sad horns around the floor.”

Later life

Following publication of his autobiography, Handy published a book on African-American musicians entitled Unsung Americans Sing(1944). He wrote a total of five books:

  1. Blues: An Anthology: Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs
  2. Book of Negro Spirituals
  3. Father of the Blues: An Autobiography
  4. Unsung Americans Sing
  5. Negro Authors and Composers of the United States

During this time, he lived on Strivers’ Row in Harlem. He became blind following an accidental fall from a subway platform in 1943. After the death of his first wife, he remarried in 1954, when he was eighty. His new bride was his secretary, the former Irma Louise Logan, whom he frequently said had become his eyes.

In 1955, Handy suffered a stroke, following which he began to use a wheelchair. More than eight hundred attended his 84th birthday party at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

The grave of W.C. Handy at Woodlawn Cemetery

On March 28, 1958 he died of bronchial pneumonia at Sydenham Hospital in New York City.[26] Over 25,000 people attended his funeral in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. Over 150,000 people gathered in the streets near the church to pay their respects. He was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.


Handy’s songs do not always follow the classic 12-bar pattern, often having 8- or 16-bar bridges between 12-bar verses.

  • “Memphis Blues”, written 1909, published 1912. Although usually subtitled “Boss Crump”, it is a distinct song from Handy’s campaign satire, “Boss Crump don’t ‘low no easy riders around here”, which was based on the good-time song “Mamma Don’t Allow It.”
  • “Yellow Dog Blues” (1912), “Your easy rider’s gone where the Southern cross the Yellow Dog.” The reference is to the crossing at Moorhead, Mississippi, of the Southern Railway and the local Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad, called the Yellow Dog. By Handy’s telling locals assigned the words “Yellow Dog” to the letters Y.D.(for Yazoo Delta) on the freight trains that they saw.
  • Saint Louis Blues” (1914), “the jazzman’s Hamlet.”
  • “Loveless Love”, based in part on the classic, “Careless Love“. Possibly the first song to complain of modern synthetics, “with milkless milk and silkless silk, we’re growing used to soulless soul.”
  • “Aunt Hagar’s Blues”, the biblical Hagar, handmaiden to Abraham and Sarah, was considered the “mother” of the African Americans.
  • Beale Street Blues” (1916), written as a farewell to the old Beale Street of Memphis (actually called Beale Avenue until the song changed the name); but Beale Street did not go away and is considered the “home of the blues” to this day. B.B. King was known as the “Beale Street Blues Boy” and Elvis Presley watched and learned from Ike Turner there. In 2004 the tune was included as a track on the Memphis Jazz Box compilation as a tribute to Handy and his music.
  • “Long Gone John (From Bowling Green)”, tribute to a famous bank robber.
  • “Chantez-Les-Bas (Sing ‘Em Low)”, tribute to the Creole culture of New Orleans.
  • “Atlanta Blues”, includes the song known as “Make Me a Pallet on your Floor” as its chorus.
  • Ole Miss Rag” (1917), a ragtime composition, recorded by Handy’s Orchestra of Memphis.

Performances and honors

US Postage Stamp 1969

Awards, festivals and memorials

Bronze Statue of W.C. Handy in Handy Park, Beale StreetMemphis

The footstone of W.C. Handy inWoodlawn Cemetery

  • In 1979, New York City joined the list of institutions and municipalities to honor Handy by naming one block of West 52nd Street in Manhattan “W.C. Handy Place”.

Noble Sissle (Record Research 61 1964)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, Recording Artists Who Appeared in Film with tags , , on September 26, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Complete Edison Lateral Record Catalog (Record Research 54 1963)

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, 78 RPM Record Development, Interviews and Articles with tags , on September 21, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Meet The Collector: Ken McPherson by Mike Daley (Courtesy APN)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, The Collector's Hunt for 78's with tags , , , , on September 19, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

 A few months ago, I was interviewed by a fellow member of the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society. Here, below, is the content from that interview.


201309-page-010 201309-page-011

The Story of Louie Metcalf (Record Research 46 1962)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , , , , on September 14, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Johnny Dunn’s Early Records/Vera Guilaroff (Record Research 76 1966)

Posted in Canadian Recording Artists of the 1920's, Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , , , on September 10, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

1926 Paramount Bulletin Found! (Record Research 71 1965)

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, The History of Jazz and Blues Recordings with tags , , , , , on September 7, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Lucille Hegamin’s Last Performance (Record Research 1970)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, The History of Jazz and Blues Recordings with tags , , , on September 7, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

In The Days of Isham Jones (Record Research 68 1965)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , on September 6, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Tony Parenti Story: The New York Years 1928-1950 (Record Research 28 1960)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, Recording Artists of the 1930's and 1940's, The History of Jazz and Blues Recordings with tags , , , , , , on September 5, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Gennett Bands and Gennett Record Research (Record Research 94 1968)

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , on September 4, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Victoria Spivey and Joe “King” Oliver (Record Research 87 1967)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , on September 4, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The California Ramblers (Record Research 47 1962)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , on September 4, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Louis Armstrong and Victoria Spivey (Record Research 48 1963)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , on September 3, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Canadian Victor 216000 Series-Estimating The Recording Dates by Jack Litchfield

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, Canadian Recording Artists of the 1920's, Interviews and Articles, Records in Canada with tags , , , , on September 2, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Mamie Smith-First Lady of the Blues (Record Research 1964)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, The History of Jazz and Blues Recordings with tags , , on September 2, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Red Nichols and the Syncopating Five (Record Research 1962)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , on September 2, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Red Nichols Memorial and Sam Lanin Okeh Sessions (Record Research 1969)

Posted in Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins


Edison and the Diamond Disc Record (Record Research 20 1958)

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, Interviews and Articles with tags , on September 1, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Record Hunt in Maryhill, Ontario

Posted in Interviews and Articles, My 78 RPM Collection, The Collector's Hunt for 78's with tags , , , , , , on August 18, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Every so often I look through the garage sale listings on one of the many online sites to see who is selling 78’s, and for my girlfriend, 45 RPM records. This time we found an ad for one that sold both, which was on Saturday, August 17th, on a farm, just west of Maryhill, Ontario.

For those of you who don’t know, the town of Maryhill is located northwest of Guelph, Ontario. The sale was to commence at 8:00 a.m. so we made sure we left Brampton, Ontario by 6:30 a.m. to give us enough time to get there before all the other collector’s arrived. Why travel there you ask? The records, in most cases, were being sold at 10 cents each, some at $1-$2.00.

We were the first to arrive on the scene, and ran to the garage where a large table had been set up, where four stacks of 78’s and 6 rows of 45’s were. Most of the 78’s were from the 1940’s and 1950’s, which disappointed me. There were only two 78’s I found, a Canadian Crown, 81424, and a  Via Tonal Columbia, 2344D. As usual, my girlfriend found more records than I did. Maybe I should have her hunt for 78’s the next time!

We then headed over to St. Jacobs to check out the three Antique shops. The first store had 78’s, but they were either pre 1920’s or 1940’s and 1950’s stuff. The second and third stores had nothing but late 1950’s 78’s

Although the trip failed to yield better results, the Sun and the hot weather made it an enjoyable outing all in all. We intend to make a couple more trips before the cold weather settles in, to look for records.




A Sad Day For The Collection of a Lifetime Collector and Discographer

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags on June 13, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

A few months ago, the well known discographer Steven C. Barr, and a member of the Canadian Antique Phonograph had been placed in the care of the public guardian and moved to a long term nursing home, north of Oshawa, Ontario. For those of you who did not know, Steve had written a book entitled ” The Almost Complete 78 RPM Record Dating Guide”, illustrated below. Steve was involved in an accident several years ago which affected his capacity to think rationally. His landlady, had obtained a court order, enabling her to seize and sell his  collection of over 20,000 78 RPM records from the house he rented, because of back rent owing, and the house was to be demolished and sold.  I was fortunate to secure a few of these gems, from one of the lockers where a fraction of the records had been stored.

It was my understanding that Steve had desired that his collection be sent to a University in California, if anything happened to him.  The unknown location of Steve is also unfortunate. I am certain that once he learns what has happened, it will not help his mental well being at all.

A good lesson to be learned from this is to make certain a family member, or close friend, is willing and able to handle your collection in the event something should happen, and dispose of it according to your wishes, not at the discretion of  a third party.




Minutes of the Forty Second Canadian Collectors Congress, April 27,2013 (as recorded by Jack Litchfield)

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags , , , on May 5, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

As promised earlier, here is the official report of  last Saturday’s Canadian Collector’s Congress held in Toronto, Ontario. You will need to open the PDF attachment in order to read it.

The Story of Don’s Discs: An Informal Interview with Don Keele

Posted in Interviews and Articles on May 5, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Don Keele is somewhat of a legend amongst record collectors in the Greater Toronto Area. He has been around for forty years, and told me his story on Saturday, May 4, 2013, while I visited his Toronto warehouse to attend his 50 cent deal on 78’s.

Don, you have been selling records for how long now?


From a retail location, forty years this year.


Tell our readers a bit about your background-how did you get interested in becoming a record dealer?


Well, I always liked music ever since I was a little kid. When I was going, went back to school, when I was older, to put myself through school, I’d go around and find find stuff in junk stores and wholesale it to antique stores. Then when I finished school, I opened a little antique store, and I started putting my own records in and they would sell a little bit here and there. Then I bought a huge collection of 6000 45’s from an old DJ at CHUM radio for $600.00. I put a little ad in the Star, and I was swamped, absolutely swamped with people. So that was mostly 50’s and 60’s rock and roll, and then I thought hmm, perverbial light bulb went off in my head. I closed the store and John Black, the departed John Black, designed the bins for me, got them built, and opened as an all records store in December of ’73. I’ve never looked back.


Is anyone else in your family a dealer or collector?


My son. My son runs the Midtown record show on Broadview, just north of Danforth. Him and his

buddy are called The Record Guys, Aaron and Akeem, and ah they cater to a younger audience, but he’s full time in it for years too, and has done very, very well. 


You had a couple of store’s in downtown Toronto years ago-can you tell me how they came about, and what were your most memorable moments at these locations?


Well the first store was at Queen and Parliament and I lived in it, and it cost me $80.00 a month for rent. Then I moved to Queen and Lansdowne, and I had a whole building, and that was $500.00 a month in rent. In my last place, as an unofficial place of business was at Queen and Sorauren Avenue, and that cost me $650.00 a month. And what are my memorable moments? I don’t know. Some of the musicians that walked through my door. Ottis Blackwell, ah Willie McCaulder whose is a Canadian artist. Just a lot of people over the years. My best moments were the clubs I went to….Some collectors that I knew in ’73 and ’74 that walked through the door. Some I am still in touch with. Some unfortunately, have passed.


Did you have regular customers?


The guys who were at all three locations followed me. Some came and went. With the advent of CD’s guys stopped collecting records. I remember when everyone was dumping their records for CD’s and now it’s the other way around. God, I’ve know some guys forty years. Before I had a store, I would sell some records out of my house. And now, I’m basically doing the same thing. By appointment, E-Bay, shows. I don’t want to be in a location, six, seven days a week.


How did you obtain your records back then?


All kinds of ways! The biggest way was litterally going to the States and just literally just beating the bushes. In 1973, 74′ there was a place in Niagara Falls, New York called Cataract Amusements, an old jukebox company. Amazing, amazing 78’s he had. Unplayed, rare, rare R & B’s. Got them for a buck apiece. I’d literally drive there with a hundred dollars, spend it, come home, sell the records and go back in a few days or the next week. No bank manager would lend me the money in those days-“Want to buy records, what’s that?” Of course when I got successful they all wanted to fall all over themselves and borrow me money.


Has this changed over the years?


Well, I’m still convinced I could still go into the States and make the drive and find stuff, but I’m sixty nine, and it’s not as easy as it used to be. Fortunately, unfortunately, both, I get a lot of collections, from my old time customers, people that have know me. And a lot of lot of stuff that young guys don’t even want. For instance that Clyde Clarke collection, of which you have bought some, it was an amazing collection of 78’s, and 10 or 15 so called record dealers who were in the house before me, who didn’t even look at the 78’s, and they were fabulous. So that’s all changed. 78’s, I don’t move them like I use to, but I still do. I’ve got another collection coming up, some guy that’s deceased.


Do you recall how we first met? Was it at the Queensway Lions Record Show?


You and me? I have no idea..sorry!


You attend record shows and deal throughout the year. What show would you say, is the biggest and best for you?


Well, it depends on what I am selling. If I’m selling 78’s I do the show up on Dixie, Capitol Banquet Centre, and I’ve done really well with it. If I have more current stuff, the Midtown record show, run by a very nice guy, Doug Brown. I don’t bother with the shows out of town, Hamilton, Guelph, it’s not worth it. To take in $200 to $300.00 it’s just not worth it.

Don's Discs at 1576 Queen St West at Sorauren in 1978. Don Keele 001 Don KeeleDon Keele 003 Don Keele 004 Don Keele 002


A Report on the Forty Second Annual Canadian Collector’s Congress

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

On Saturday, April 27th, 2013 I embarked on my second trip to the Canadian Collector’s Congress at the Toronto Plaza Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. As the record room would be open prior to the morning presentations, I made sure I got there early enough to avoid the usual collector frenzy that goes on…worse than boxing day! I was able to obtain a few gems from several dealers there, including a Goofus Five on American Parlaphon.

After registering, the meeting commenced at 9 a.m. with Colin Bray as the M.C., and some remarks by the founder of the Congress, Gene Miller. There were several short discography presentations, and some films, before we broke for lunch. After lunch, the formal presentations began. The first presentation was by Phil Melick from Charleston, West Virginia. He discussed the Victor V 40000 series and how hot dance bands and jazz artists ended up on a country series.

Trevor Tolley, from Williamsburg, Ontario delivered a most enlightening  presentation about Jimmy McPartland. 

Finally, Kurt Weisbecker from Pittsburg, Pennsylvannia gave a very debatable presentation about Frank Teschemacher, regarding the Duophone recording of “Out of the Dawn.” We heard comparisons of clarinet styles of Teschemacher and Jimmy Dorsey, and also the trombone stylings of Jack Teagarden and Tommy Dorsey. The question was who was on the sessions?

Thereafter the Canadian Collector’s Congress award for excellence in Traditional/Clazzic Jazz recordings in Canada was awarded to Jazz Vocalist Alex Pangman.

After dinner, collector’s could play one record they brought, where the composer was also on the record. I played Room 1411 by Benny Goodman’s Boys on Brunswick 4013. Both Goodman and Glen Miller are on the session.

I will upload the formal transcriptions from the afternoon presentations at a later date. For now, enjoy the photographs!

KENS 002 KENS 004 KENS 003 KENS 005 KENS 007 KENS 008 KENS 009 KENS 011 KENS 016 KENS 017 KENS 014 KENS 010 KENS 015 KENS 018 


The Calgary Herald “Melody Lane” Record Reviews from 1930 and 1931

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, Interviews and Articles, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, Records in Canada with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Calgary Herald, a Canadian Newspaper published in Calgary, Alberta, reviewed Brunswick, Victor, and Columbia records,  they thought were the best during 1930 and 1931. Six examples are shown below:


-Columbia, Victor, Brunswick Records Calgary Herald 1930-2 -Columbia and Victor Record Calgary Herald 1931 -Columbia, Victor, Brunswick Records Calgary Herald 1930 -Brunswick, Victor, Columbia Records Calgary Herald 1931 -Columbia and Brunswick Records Calgary Herald 1931 -1931 Brunswick, Victor and Columbia Records Calgary

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