Archive for Ontario

Hidden Record Gems Of Central Ontario-Currie’s Music And Antiques

Posted in The Collector's Hunt for 78's with tags , , , on June 14, 2015 by the78rpmrecordspins

Hidden away in the town of Gravenhurst, Ontario is one of the most unique record stores I have ever come across, Currie’s Music And Antiques. Located in the heart of the town on Muskoka Rd. North, the store was originally an old movie theatre that was converted into a place to find records of all speeds, guitars, a recording studio, and many antiques. We took the trip north to this one-of -a-kind store on Saturday, June 13, 2015, and were amazed. There are well over 2,000 78’s in the record room, 45’s galore, and for vinyl lovers, a good selection of all types of music. A history of this store has been copied from their website, with the permission of the owners.


Music Store

Described by many travelling musicians as “my favourite store, ever,” Currie’s Music & Antiques is choc-o-block with some of the most interesting old guitars and stringed instruments you will find anywhere, as well as drum kits, vintage amps, cowboy boots and western shirts and stacks of hand-picked vinyl.

The son of long-time antique dealers: Ted and Suzanne Currie, Andrew fell in love with the business of buying, repairing and selling vintage guitars as a teenager. A business that began with tiny booths set up at antique markets and trade shows turned into over six rooms of vintage and pre-loved musical instruments, and a name that is known by players far and wide.

A careful expert when it comes to repairing and rebuilding classic instruments, Andrew has brought many an old Gibson, Harmony, S.S. Stewart or Kay guitar back from to life after years of neglect, and made it sing.

With a discerning ear, Andrew began working as a live-sound engineer in High School and to this date has controlled the sound board for over 3000 performances at venues such as Peter’s Players, The Gravenhurst Opera House, The Kee to Bala and many concert halls around central Ontario for acts as well known as Johnny Winter, Big Sugar, The Yardbirds, The Tragically Hip, 54-40 and Taj Mahal.  Andrew acted as Technical Director for four of Muskoka’s best-loved concert venues for several years.

All of this aside, Andrew is first and foremost a musician – and boy can he play. Let him pluck the strings of your favourite guitar in the shop, or hear him rip it up as a bass player of drummer on a local stage and you will see for yourself where the passion begins.

The extensive vinyl selection in Currie’s Music is cared for by Rob Currie – another extremely talented musician, and recorded-sound aficionado. More about Rob can be found on the “studio” page.


The photographs below show that a trip to this store can be very exciting for record collector’s.


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

Posted in Records in Canada, Upcoming Phonograph and Record Shows with tags , , , on June 20, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Still loading a ton of 78’s into the shed for my big sale on July 5th in Brampton, Ontario. Most of it is ready to go, so here are some updated photographs I would like to share with you.


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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.



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

The Forty Third Canadian Collectors Congress April 25-April 27, 2014 Toronto, Ontario

Posted in General Announcements, Upcoming Phonograph and Record Shows with tags , , , , on March 5, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

Fellow record collectors, it is with great pleasure that I announce that the Forty Third Canadian Collectors Congress will take place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada the last weekend of April, 2014. There are a total of seven attachments so that you may see the lectures that will take place, and register.

























Starr Gennett Records 1920

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, Canadian Recording Artists of the 1920's, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, Records in Canada with tags , , , , , , , on January 19, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Starr Company of London, Ontario publicized their line of Starr Gennett records in the March 1, 1920 edition of The Border Cities Star, Windsor, Ontario.


The Border Cities Star   Google News Archive Search-starr gennett march 1, 1920

The Leader Phonograph at the T. Eaton Company, Toronto 1920

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2014 by the78rpmrecordspins

From Toronto, Ontario comes an advertisement placed in The Toronto World, on August 23, 1920, by the now defunct department store Eaton’s, depicting a Leader phonograph. Eaton’s would also carry their better known Amphion phonograph at this time.


The Toronto World   Google News Archive Search

The Vacation Grafonola 1919

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , , , on December 31, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Summer is six months away, and what a better way to think about a nice sunny warm day in July, than with a grafonola from the C.W. Lindsay Limited of Ottawa, Ontario. Lindsay’s inserted this advertisement in the July 2, 1919 edition of the Ottawa Citizen.


Ottawa Citizen   Google News Archive Search

Ultra-Phonic Phonographs: The Ideal Christmas Gift To The Entire Family 1926

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , on November 16, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Ontario Music and Piano Company Ltd., Ottawa, Ontario, suggested that the Ultra-Phonic Phonograph would be the ideal Christmas present for the entire family in the December 13, 1926 Ottawa Citizen. Unfortunately, none of the models are shown in this advertisement.


Ottawa Citizen   Google News Archive Search

Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians (courtesy of londonbigbands)

Posted in Canadian Recording Artists of the 1920's, Canadian Recording Artists of the 1930's and 1940's, Recording Artists Who Appeared in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

There is no doubt that Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians put London Ontario on the music map during the Big Band era.

Guy (Gaetano Alberto) Lombardo was born on June 19, 1902, in London, Ontario, Canada, to Gaetano and Lena Lombardo. Lombardo senior, who had immigrated to Canada from Italy, worked as a tailor, and the family lived on a small house on Queens Avenue in the town of London Ontario. Guy was theLombardoeldest of seven children, five boys and two girls, born between 1902 and 1924 and took violin lessons from another Italian immigrant Prof. Venuta. In 1914 Guy with brothers Liebert (drums), Carmen (flute) and neighbour Kreitzer (piano) formed a quartet and played for the local Italian community. In 1920 they heard records of Paul Whitemans band and immediately became fascinated with the sound. They changed instruments to emulate it, Carmen to sax and Liebert to trumpet. By 1922 the group expanded to include more saxes, trumpets and trombone.

In the spring of 1923 the Lombardo brothers were hired as the house band for the Hopkins Casino at Port Stanley on Lake Erie. After the band started its second season at the Winter Gardens in London, the 21-year-old Guy decided that the group was wasting its time in Canada, and in November 1923 they traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to make an attempt on the American market.

In March of 1924 the Lombardos’ band recorded several songs for the Gennett label. Their sound differed little from that of other white bands of the era, however, and the recordings sold poorly. They soon realized that changes were needed if the orchestra was going to survive. They began to develop their own brand of sweet music, focusing on melody over improvisation. Brother Carmen also helped create a distinct saxophone sound which gave them instant listener recognition and helped set them apart from all the other bands. Their big break finally came in Chicago in 1927 when Guy paid radio station WBBM to broadcast a fifteen-minute segment of their performance at the Granada Cafe. By the end of the night the ballroom was packed and the radio station had received so many calls that they extended the broadcast further into the evening.

The musical team played at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959, and their New Year’s Eve broadcasts (which continued with Lombardo until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria) were a major part of New Year’s celebrations across North America. Even after Lombardo’s death, the band’s New Year’s specials continued for air two more years on CBS

Lombardo never forgot his friends in Ontario,, and when the Thames River, London Ontario flooded in 1937 he staged a benefit for flood victims in Detroit’s Fox Theatre. The band opened this engagement with a rendition of Home Sweet Home, moving some in the audience to tears.

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.




The Second Trip to the Record Hoarder

Posted in My 78 RPM Collection, The Collector's Hunt for 78's with tags , , , , , , , on July 7, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

On Saturday, July 6th, we left Brampton, Ontario bright and early, as our drive to north of Peterborough, Ontario, would take about one and a half hours, through some of the most beautiful countryside along Highway 35 and Highway 7. Another 30 boxes of 78 RPM records was acquired, and loaded into the back of my girlfriend’s Liberty Jeep. Lifting heavy boxes of loose singled 78’s and one’s in binders, is not an easy task for a man of my age. It took about a good hour to finish the job. 

A third trip will be in the fall or early next year, as he has many more records down in his cold storage unit in the house.

Over 2000 78’s were brought back, but only about 100 were one’s I wanted. The rest are now for sale. Not any real rare gems in the lot, but one’s I did not have, and needed. I guess the best find was the Starr Gennett with The Vagabonds on it.

Here is how the back of the Jeep looked with all the 78’s inside.


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Wartime Big Band from Newmarket, Ontario-Max Boag and his Orchestra

Posted in Canadian Recording Artists of the 1930's and 1940's with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Max Boag, aka Harry Glenn,  was a well known dance band leader from 1939 into the 1950’s in the Newmarket, Ontario and Musselman Lake area,  where he played at the Cedar Beach Gardens. His only claim to fame as a recording artist, was two acetates that he cut, and in  July, 1943,  were released by the Compo  Company of Lachine, Quebec on the Apex label. He also formed his own record company in 1948 under the Tip Top Record label, which produced 78’s and then LP’S up to 1980, when it closed.

Pictured below is Apex 26270. The A side is entitled ” Cow Cow Boogie” and the B side is entitled “Canteen Bounce. I do not possess the second recording. The  newspaper clippings below are courtesy of the Stouffville Tribune, 1939-1952.


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Max Boag Orchestra-Stouffville Tribune, August 12, 1943 Max Boag Orchestra-Souffville Tribune, May 6, 1948 Max Boag Orchestra 1943, Stouffville Sun-Tribune Max Boag Orchestra, April 5, 1951 Newmarket Era Max Boag Orchestra, May 25, 1944 Stouffville Tribune Max Boag Orchestra, Stouffville Tribune, June 8, 1944 Max Boag's Orchestra-Souffville Tribune, May 11,1939

Two More 78 RPM Record Finds at the Aberfoyle Antique Market

Posted in My 78 RPM Collection, Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's, Records in Canada with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

This past Sunday, I was fortunate to be able to go to the oldest antique market in Ontario, located on Brock Rd. 46, or Highway 6 South, about half an hour west of Toronto by the 401. The day was muggy, so both myself the 78  rpm collector, and my girlfriend, the 45 rpm collector, feeling the heat.

At the back part of the market was a booth with a Sonora gramophone. I asked the vendor if he had any 78’s. “Look inside the cabinet of the gramophone, and look at the pile on the shelf behind you”, was the response. After sorting some boring Victor’s, I came across a Compo Starr Gennett. I looked closely at the label-it was Ladd’s Black Aces, second record from 1921. The A side has “Gypsy Blues”, the B side has “I’m Just Too Mean to Cry”, and is number 9177, recorded orginally on Gennett 4794, October, 1921. Rust states the personnel as not being confirmed.

The second record I found was another Compo label, Microphone, one of those cheap labels meant for dime stores. Number 22305 has on the A side, Leslie Norman and his Orchestra performing “Who Says They Don’t Care?”  This hot dance band is none other than Al Lynch and his Orchestra, who first recorded on Banner 7077 in New York, March 7, 1928. Rust has the band as unknown’s in my copy of his American Dance Band Discography, and it does not appear, in the first edition of his Jazz Records book.

starrchinese 061



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 Gold Medal Phonograph 1921

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , on May 5, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Gold Medal Phonograph

The Gold Medal Phonograph was manufactured in Uxbridge, Ontario. Little is known about the Gold Medal Furniture Co. who manufactured the phonograph. Here is a 1921 advertisement from the Ottawa Citizen

The Egan Phonograph

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , on May 5, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Egan Phonograph

The Egan Phonograph was made in Toronto, Ontario. This is the only newspaper advertisement I have ever seen, placed in the Kingsville Reporter, December 9, 1920.

The Sonora Phonograph 1920 to 1923

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , on May 3, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Sonora phonograph is shown in the following advertisements, posted in the Ottawa Citizen, between 1920 and 1923.


-sonora phonograph october 1920 ottawa citizen -Sonora Phonograph Feb 1920 Ottawa Citizen -SONORA PHONOGRAPH AUGUST 6, 1923 MONTREAL GAZETTE -sonora phonograph sept. 1920-ottawa citizen -sonora phonograph december 3,1920 montreal gazette

Bert Niosi

Posted in Recording Artists of the 1930's and 1940's with tags , , , , , , on April 29, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Bert Niosi

From Wikipedia

Bert Niosi (London, Ontario, February 10, 1909 – Mississauga, Ontario August 3, 1987) was a Canadian bandleader, known as “Canada’s King of Swing”.


Bert Niosi was notable for his swing orchestra which had a long-time association from 1933 to 1950 with the Palais Royale dance hall in Toronto, considered the top dance hall in Canada, where he earned his nickname ‘Canada’s King of Swing.’ His orchestra was broadcast regularly on CBC Radio and in 1945 and 1946 toured Canada. He was also a member of CBC radio’s The Happy Gang musical series from 1952 to 1959. He was also involved in CBC television including The Tommy Hunter Show.

Mr. Niosi played several instruments including clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet and trombone.

Mr. Niosi’s family had other musicians, including his brothers Joe and Johnnie.


-bert niosi sept 28,1945 -bert niosi sept 21, 1946 ottawa citizen -bert niosi sept 4,1957 ottawa citizen -bert niosi sept18,1943 -bert niosi july 17th,1957 ottawa citizen -bert niosi october 2,1941 -bert niosi october 3,1941 -bert niosi october 31,1947 -bert niosi sept. 9,1942  ottawa citizen

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!

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Metropolitan Stores and Domino Records

Posted in Records in Canada with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Metropolitan Stores and Domino Records

The Metropolitan Stores, a Canadian chain of department stores launched in 1924, with a head office in London, Ontario, placed this advertisement in the Ottawa Citizen in 1928. The Compo Company, which produced a brown waxed budget label by the name “Domino” supplied the chain with its latest releases. This is the only advertisement I have come across.

His Master’s Voice Newspaper Advertisement-Toronto World, 1918

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

His Master's Voice Newspaper Advertisement-Toronto World, 1918

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.

Simpson’s Department Store Advertisements for Phonographs

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

I came across three interesting ads from Simpson’s, which was a direct competitor of the T. Eaton Company in Canada. These ads depict  the phonographs and records they carried in the early 1920’s.


-2 The Toronto World   Google News Archive Search -1 

Starr Gennett Records Newspaper Advertisements-1920 to 1923

Posted in 78 RPM Label Discography, 78 RPM Record Development with tags , , , , , , on April 19, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Here is a cross section of newspaper advertisements from across Canada,  that the Starr Gennett Company of London, Ontario ran,  from 1920 to 1923:



-Starr Gennett 14 -Starr Gennett 11 -Starr Gennett 12 -StARR GENNETT 7 -Starr Gennett 6 -Starr Gennett 9 -Starr Gennett 8 -Starr Gennett 4 -Starr Gennett 5 -Starr Gennett 3 La Patrie   Google News Archive Search-Starr Gennett 13 Quebec Telegraph   Google News Archive Search-Starr Gennett 1

The 1920 Phonograph Advertisement-Brunswick Ultona

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , on April 2, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The 1920 Phonograph Advertisement-Brunswick Ultona

As it appeared in the Acton Free Press (Acton, ON), 8 Jan 1920. Store located in Georgetown, Ontario.

Newspaper Advertisements for Phonographs from 1917 to 1924

Posted in Phonographs That Played 78 rpm records with tags , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

I decided to include in this blog some of the machines that were used to play 78 rpm records. As an introduction, I have inserted some of the more interesting newspaper ads for phonographs in Ontario, Canada, between 1917 and 1924.

Stewart Phonograph Ad-The Essex Free Press, December 9, 1921 Phonola Phonograph Ad-The Leamington Post December 5, 1918 Phonola Phonograh Ad-The Leamington Post, May 22, 1919 Pathephone Phonograph Ad-The Windsor Evening Record-June 28, 1918 McLagan Phonograph Ad-The Leamington Post November 3, 1921 McLagan Phonograph Ad-The Essex Free Press, November 19, 1919 Gunn-Son-Ola and Imperial Phonograph's mention in Ad-Leamington Post, June 26,1924 Brantola Phonograph Ad-Newmarket Era,November15, 1918 Symphonole Phonograph Ad-The Newmarket Era November 30, 1917

Victor and Apex Records Advertisement from 1929

Posted in Records in Canada with tags , , , , on March 23, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Victor and Apex Records Advertisement from 1929

Wraggette’s Drug Store in Georgetown, Ontario put this ad in The Georgetown Herald on January 9, 1929 for Victor and Apex records.

Victor and Apex Records Advertisement, 1928

Posted in Records in Canada with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Victor and Apex Records Advertisement, 1928

A Drug Store Advertisement for Apex and Victor Records, as it appeared in The Georgetown Herald, October 31st, 1928, Georgetown, Ontario

A Jazz Oriented Gennett Records Advertisement, 1919

Posted in Records in Canada with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

 A Jazz Oriented Gennett Records Advertisement, 1919

From The Leamington Post, December 18th, 1919, Leamington, Ontario.

The Starr Company of Canada, London, Ontario by Betty Minaker Pratt (courtesy of the APN, 2008)

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

he Starr Company of Canada, London, Ontario:
Their Head Office and Retail Store, 265 Dundas Street

by Betty Minaker Pratt

The Starr Company of Canada Phonograph store, Wholesale & Retail, 265 Dundas St., London, “Merry Christmas / Happy New Year”, late December-early January, 1919. The location is on the south side of Dundas close to the corner of Wellington.
[courtesy of Alan Noon and Weldon Library, University of Western Ontario]

If we could walk into the Starr store in London between the years 1917 and 1923, we might meet a few young musicians such as the Lombardo brothers who frequented Dundas Street at the time. We might also say hello to Melville Standfield of Toronto, who started as a travelling salesman with Starr, and whose life story led us to London [CAPS News, July-Oct. 2006]. Mel’s family was related to Thomas Standfield, the Tolpuddle Martyr who left England in the 1840s and is commemorated today on an Ontario plaque at Fanshawe Park Road East Cemetery. The story of the Standfields in turn led us to Mel’s start in the phonograph business with John Croden and Wilfred Stevenson. By inquiring of Guy Lombardo Museum, London Central Public Library and Museum London, we were introduced to the striking photograph of the Starr London store, carefully restored by Alan Noon at the University of Western Ontario, which gives us the best insight into the beginning of Starr in Canada. The photo of the Starr store was taken by Henry (Harry) G. Hines, a commercial photographer whose studio was at 666 Dundas Street during most of his career, between 1906-1933.

John Alexander Croden (Nov. 17, 1866 – Jan. 20, 1950), born in London, Ontario, and Wilfred D. Stevenson (1882 – July 9, 1960) from Ailsa Craig, north of London, had both previously been in the piano business. Croden had managed the London branch of Heintzman Pianos for twenty years, then moved to the Toronto area in 1912. On December 1, 1916, he left his position as vice-president and general manager of the R. S. Williams Piano Company in Oshawa to start in the phonograph business.

Stevenson started with Doherty Piano and Organ in Clinton, Ontario in 1900 and moved to London around 1902-03 to join the Sherlock-Manning Piano Company. There he worked his way up to office manager in charge of advertising and accounting. He then joined the Mendelssohn Piano firm in 1915 as a London agent [CMTJ, April 1917, p. 59]. Although this was a Toronto piano company, Mendelssohn had a strong connection to London. The head of the company, Henry Durke, married Gertrude Wilson, a sister of Stevenson’s wife Ethel Wilson [CMTJ, Jan. 1917, p. 65]. On April 1st 1917, Stevenson left Mendelssohn to enter business with John Croden [CMTJ, April, 1917, p. 59].

Croden and Stevenson, both keen on opening their own business, formed a partnership as the Canadian Phonograph Supply Company in March, 1917. They toured the extensive Starr Piano Company facilities in Richmond, Indiana, where they were impressed by the modern equipment, product quality, service and value of that operation. They chose to deal with Starr over all offers from other phonograph factories nearby [CMTJ, April, 1917, p. 59] and arranged, at first, to import Starr machines and records into Canada. They were also the local representatives of Gourlay Pianos and their line of player-pianos. They had a store by May 1917 when they took over the lease of the former Gourlay piano agency in London at 261 Dundas. Here, they proudly displayed ribbons won at the Panama Fair in San Diego by the Starr Indiana firm [CMTJ, July 1917, p. 51].

John Alexander Croden (1866-1950) / Wilfred D. Stevenson (1882-1960)
London Advertiser, Thurs., Dec. 13, 1917
[courtesy of Douglas Flood]

Gourlay, Winter & Leeming Pianos, based in Toronto, flourished between 1890 and 1923. The Gourlay Piano factory started operations in 1904 and by 1922 they were also making phonographs. They were also dealers in cabinet organs, made by Mason & Hamlin (Boston), Karn (Woodstock), Berlin (Kitchener), Thomas (Woodstock) and Bilhorn (Chicago). By 1922 they were carrying only Estey organs (Brattleboro, Vermont), which may be the one displayed in the London store window. In 1924 Gourlay was taken over by Sherlock-Manning Piano Company.

As new Starr Phonograph dealers, Croden and Stevenson would have received extensive help from Starr in Indiana in developing their business. Below is text from a Starr Piano Co., Richmond, ad encouraging new dealers for Starr phonographs:

Starr Phonographs and Starr Records are the heritage of long, successful manufacturing experience – So is the selling experience which assists the Starr dealer in developing his business. Everything possible is done to aid him. National advertising – in many of the leading publications, such as Cosmopolitan, Literary Digest, World’s Work, Scribner’s, Harper’s, National Geographic….Regular weekly schedule of large advertisements in over a score of the metropolitan newspapers….The new dealer receives a series of most attractive announcement ads…folders, picture slides, window cards, etc., without cost…he is monthly supplied with ten or a dozen illustrated timely ad-suggestions with copy, which he can easily adapt. Cuts are free. New picture slides, cards, booklets, etc., are frequently offered….[CMTJ, Sept. 1917, p. 56].

Gourlay, Winter & Leeming Ltd letterhead, Toronto, Jan. 21, 1922. This company flourished between 1890-1923.
[author’s collection]

There were several ads in the London Free Press of 1917 showing the Starr Richmond operation, including their claims of being only one of a few factories manufacturing phonographs in their entirety on site. They also insisted that any disc records, including Starr, Victor, Columbia, Edison and Pathé, could be played on their universal machines.

The Canadian Phonograph Supply Company was renamed The Starr Company of Canada on March 1, 1918, and by September moved their premises from 261 to 265 Dundas Street. Much of London’s architecture still retains a Victorian Italianate Renaissance Revival style from the late 19th century. In London, they are able to date many of these buildings to the 1874-1883 period when an architectural firm, Robinson and Tracy, created similar facades along commercial streets [Michael Baker, ed., Downtown London, p. 9]. The downtown area has a charming and unifying use of “white” brick, fashionable in the Victorian era of contrasting colours.

London Advertiser, Thurs. Dec. 13, 1917
[courtesy of Douglas Flood]

In 1918, the Starr Co. of Canada exhibited at the Western Fair, London:

Musical Instrument Display at London Exhibition, 1918
Gourlay Pianos and Starr Phonographs

The first exhibit to the left of the entrance is that of the Starr Company of Canada, who have the local representation of Gourlay and Gourlay-Angelus lines of pianos and players. A representative and attractive range of these were shown. Mr. D.R. Gourlay, vice-president of Gourlay, Winter & Leeming, Ltd., spent a couple of days assisting their London agents, who are doing an extensive and increasing trade with Gourlay lines.

The Starr lines of phonographs, which have been so energetically exploited in Canada since Messrs. John A. Croden and W.D. Stevenson secured the distributing rights for Canada, a little more than a year ago, appeared in full force at the fair, and the Starr company of Canada’s success at the Toronto Exhibition was duplicated [CMTJ, Sept. 1918, p. 74].

It was now a year and a half since they had begun setting up their new business as Starr representatives in Canada. Croden and Stevenson were now very busy dispatching travelling salesmen such as Melville Standfield, D. S. Cluff and J. W. Caswell (formerly of White Sewing Machine Co.) to all corners of the country. They unloaded boxcars of Starr equipment shipped from Indiana, and developed the Starr record pressing business with Herbert Berliner in Montreal.This company has recently moved their retail store and offices a few doors east of their old stand, giving them a larger, brighter and more attractive store. When a Journal representative called, Messrs. Croden and Stevenson were making necessary alterations for the stocking of a shipment of “His Master’s Voice” records. Their record department is on the ground floor, adjoining a series of demonstration booths, with the front or main portion of the floor set apart for general display purposes. A specially constructed front with deep entrance gives roomy show windows on either side of the main entrance. Their new location brings the music houses of London still closer together, they being all within a radius of a few minutes’ walk [CMTJ, Sept. 1918, p. 74].According to the CMTJ, the new store had sound-proof demonstration rooms, essential to attracting more business and often shown in photographs in the CMTJ. A few companies specialized in supplying equipment for such rooms, such as the Walker Bin and Store Fixture Company of Kitchener. Walker advertised modular compartments with double mahogany walls and inside panels of fibre board, easily dismantled by a carpenter to transfer to any new location [CMTJ, Nov. 1918, p. 60]. Although Stevenson may not have used Walker units, that company did understand its business, as an upright phonograph called the “Walker Talker” was another of their exclusive inventions. 

Starr Table Top, Style 1/2
[courtesy of Al Gentry]

HMV advertising dominated the store window in the photograph, as Croden and Stevenson always sold extensive product from the Berliner factories in Montreal. They continued to promote Victor records, as they were more expensive and more prestigious than the Starr-Gennetts. There are three of the popular Nipper dogs in the window, all about 18 inches tall. Hanging records are obscured by the Christmas decorations, but perhaps show a glint of gold on the labels. On the floor are flat printed record display stands similar to those shown inThe Collector’s Guide to HMV Nipper Souvenirs ( p. 503). The plaster bust in the right window looks like Mozart which was probably a nod to their Mozart line of pianos [ad, City of London Directory, 1921]. It’s an eclectic variety of display items provided by Victor, Starr, Gourlay, and Mozart [fl. Toronto, ca. 1912-1920, EMC].

Two table-top machines are on the floor, but the grille of the one in the back, left window, is not clear enough to recognize the Starr Style 1/2 machine. These phonographs have the tone arm at centre rear, and a metal knob in the centre of the grille like the Starr, but the plain flat lids with square corners are different. Croden and Stevenson were selling many other makes of table-tops as well. In April 1917, they arranged for three other table-top styles of phonographs to retail at $20, $32.50, and $45 in order to give their dealers a line selling from $20 to $400.

Theatrical window card, The Wanderer, in the store on the left at 267 Dundas, Woolnough’s Corsetiers.
LFP, Dec. 28, 1918, p. 9

The hanging store sign in the photograph shows a Starr upright machine that may be the Style 3/4 or a Style I, with straight bars on the grille, as shown in a rare comprehensive advertisement of all Starr phonographs available in Canada [Montreal Daily Star, June 26, 1920, p. 14]. Uprights like this appeared in a Starr catalogue of ca.1917-1919, from the Richmond parent company. This catalogue showed about eleven styles of uprights, numbers I – IX, and two larger models, the William & Mary and the Jacobean [Al Gentry]. In April 1917, the CMTJ described eleven styles of Starr machines from $65 to $400. In 1920, a London Free Press ad for Starr’s “Big Alteration Sale” mentions other uprights such as Columbia (Toronto), Sonora Baby Grand (Michigan/N.Y./I. Montagnes, Toronto), Mason & Risch (Toronto), Pathé (Montreal/Toronto) and Aeolian Vocalion (Nordheimer’s, Toronto / Scythes Vocalion) [LFP, Feb. 20, 1920, p. 14]. The sign also highlights their much applauded Silver Grain Spruce Singing Throat, which was supposed to amplify and improve the tone of the wood horn to resonate like a fine violin.

For the most part, uprights were available in Canada but long console cabinets, such as the Style XVIII, were made by Starr Richmond [Fabrizio & Paul, A World of Antique Phonographs, p. 202].

We can actually date the photograph of the Starr store from a theatrical poster in the window of Woolnough’s Corsetiers, next door at 267 Dundas Street [Vernon’s City of London Directory, 1917]. The poster announces the play The Wanderer, the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son, which was staged at the Grand Theatre between Dec. 28, 1918 and Jan. 8, 1919 [LFP, Dec. 28, 1918, p. 9; ibid. Jan. 8, 1919, p. 10]. This would be a memorable production, as it was billed as “the biggest spectacle ever brought to London with a flock of real sheep, dogs and goats, and a large ballet of dancing girls” [LFP, Wed. Jan. 8, 1919, p. 10]. Staged by David Belasco, Written by Maurice Samuels, Music by Anslem Goetzl, Presented by William Elliot, Ray Comstock, and Morris Gest…the Magnificence of the Orient in the time of King Solomon…. [LFP, Fri., Jan. 3, 1919, p. 12] David Belasco was the same impresario who gave Toronto’s Gladys Smith her stage name of Mary Pickford.

The business on the right was the Dominion Café, at 263 Dundas, listed in the London City Directories between 1917 and 1923.

Starr Company of Canada Chronology


March 1, 1917 The Canadian Phonograph Supply Company founded in London, Ont., by John A. Croden and Wilfred D. Stevenson, importing goods from the Starr Piano Co., Richmond, Indiana. Stevenson mentioned their Starr warerooms at 261 Dundas, April 1917
Fall 1917 Starr dealerships secured in western Ontario, Montreal, Quebec City, and the Maritimes; exclusive wholesale and retail rights to Starr products in Canada
August 1, 1917 Wilder’s Ltd in Montreal stocked Starr phonographs with manager George S. Pequegnant
December 6, 1917 Purchased the Gourlay Piano Store and agency at 261 Dundas Street
March 1, 1918 Company name changed to The Starr Company of Canada
May 1918 Dominion government imposed tax on imports of player pianos, player organs, records and talking machines, leading Croden and Stevenson to negotiate with Fred and Harry Gennett to plan Starr phonograph manufacturing in Canada
September 1918 The Starr store moved from 261 to 265 Dundas Street
November 1918 Melville Standfield developed Starr agencies in Western Canada
Late 1918 to early 1919 Starr-Gennett records pressed by Herbert Berliner’s new Compo Company in Lachine; labels marked, “Made by Starr Co. of Canada, London, Ont.” Romeo Beaudry distributed Francophone records on Starr and Compo labels in Quebec province (from 1919-1920 until 1959)
May 1919 Lateral Cut Gennett Records pressed in Lachine, bringing increased sales by August
February 1920 Fred Gennett and production manager A.F. Mayer spent several days in London, visiting three factories that were now producing Starr phonographs in Canada. Mr. Gennett was highly pleased with the organization in Canada and with the facilities for taking care of Starr and Gennett interests [CMTJ, Feb. 1920, p. 57]
March 1920 Stevenson arranged for a dealer in Winnipeg, a warehouse in Regina, and a distributor in Vancouver
September 6, 1920 Charter for The Starr Company of Canada Limited, granted, Toronto
March 1922 Advertisement showed 101 music dealers for Starr-Gennett records in Toronto alone, at the height of the company’s record distribution
April 28, 1922 Disastrous fire at Starr warerooms, 197-199 Dundas Street, resulting in a massive sell-off of damaged London stock at Quality Music Store in Toronto [Toronto Daily Star, May 19, 1922, p. 10], and at 195 Dundas Street London [LFP, May 13, 1922, p. 4]
1923 The Starr Company of Canada, Limited, changed from a private to a public company [IHS, John H. MacKenzie Collection / Richard Green]
1923 Croden began a real estate company in London, J. A. Croden and Sons [LFP, Jan. 20, 1950, p. 21 / LCPL]
1924 The Starr Company of Canada, Limited, started liquidation of stock and assets [letter from George Welsh, Starr Richmond, Jan. 26, 1926 / Companies Branch]
February 1924 Stevenson briefly became Vice-President of Starr Piano Co. in Richmond [CMTJ, Feb. 1924, p. 78 / Richard Green]
1925 Starr in Richmond, Indiana, discontinued the Starr label.
1926-1929 John E. Roberts moved Starr of Canada from 265 Dundas to a smaller office at 410 Rectory Street and was in charge while stock was sold off
January 1926 Stevenson took over from R. H. Murray as manager of Sun Records, Toronto [CMTJ, Jan. 1926, p. 24 / Richard Green]. Later he was founder and president of Stevenson & Hunt General Insurance Ltd, London [LFP, Sat. July 9, 1960, p. 4 / LCPL]



The Starr Company of Canada by Betty Minaker Pratt (courtesy of the APN, 2007)

Posted in Interviews and Articles with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

The Starr Company of Canada 
by Betty Minaker Pratt

The Starr Phonograph Co. of Quebec
Montreal Daily Star, 26 June 1920, page 14
courtesy of Arthur Zimmerman

The Starr Company of Canada head office, located in London, Ontario, was the wholesale distributor of Starr records and phonographs in Canada, active between 1917 and 1925. Ongoing research by Douglas Flood of the London Lombardo Museum, Mike Baker of Museum London, Alan Noon of the University of Western Ontario, and Arthur McClelland, London Public Library, has uncovered new facts and stunning photographs of the London operation. There was a connection to the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana, and to Herbert Berliner’s Compo record company in Lachine, Quebec.

Two London “old boys”, John A. Croden and Wilfred D. Stevenson, were responsible for the Starr Canada office. In 1917, after successful careers in the piano industry, they launched the Canadian Phonograph Supply Company, importing records and phonographs from the Starr Piano Company in Richmond. In early 1918, they changed the name to Starr Company of Canada. The next year, the Dominion government introduced a prohibitive tariff on imported manufactured goods. Consequently, Fred and Harry Gennett collaborated with Croden and Stevenson to shift manufacturing operations to Canada.

In 1918, Herbert Berliner moved some discarded record presses from the Berliner Montreal factory to his new Compo record factory in Lachine. In early 1919, he began pressing American Starr-Gennett masters in Lachine for Starr Canada. The following year, Croden visited England and Europe, returning with “mothers” to be pressed by Compo for Starr.

Early Starr labels were printed with a large “Gennett” logo, surrounded by a scrolled hexagon, and “Starr Co. of Canada, London, Ont.” in gold lettering at the top. Steven Barr, author of The Almost Complete 78 rpm Record Dating Guide, has written about these various dark blue, black, and red labels, all with gold type.

Gennett Records catalogue, 1919, Mamie O’ Mine Medley, 2500-B,
courtesy of Ed Moran

The February 1920 Canadian Music Trade Journal stated that Fred Gennett, head of the Richmond factory, visited Stevenson in London to set up three plants to manufacture phonographs. Canadian-made Starr phonographs, as well as U.S. models, were made in the styles illustrated here.

For a brief period in 1925, London’s W. D. Stevenson became Vice-President of Starr Piano Company in Richmond, the first non-Gennett family member to hold an administrative position.

Arthur Zimmerman introduced us to the Standfield-Macpherson Starr dealership in Toronto (APN July-Oct 2006). In 1917, Melville Standfield was recruited by the London office to establish Starr agencies in Western Ontario. In 1918 he travelled to British Columbia. By the Spring of 1920 Starr stores appeared in all major cities from the West to the Maritimes. By March 1922, at the height of its record sales, there were 101 Starr dealerships in Toronto alone.

The Starr record label continued to flourish in Canada after the Richmond firm discontinued it in 1925. Compo used the Starr name until 1953. There is an outline of the Quebec Francophone side of the operation on the Virtual Gramophone web site – m2-3011-e.htm

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