Showing posts with label 78s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 78s. Show all posts

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em):
The contradiction of Mama and Daddy's 78s

The album-cover challenge continues, Part 4. The thing is, this ain't an album. It's a few 78s, ones that I've been playing since I was old enough to work a record player, which was age 4-ish.

First, behold this influential record of my youth -- Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up," on glorious shellac.

In many cases, high fidelity spun into 1950s homes, and into popular culture, at 78 rpm.

And so did the king of rock 'n' roll.

Now I have brought much of my analog musical formation into the digital present, I guess, preserved on not-so-glorious hard drives these days. (Don't worry; I still have the records.)

"All Shook Up." I couldn't tell you how many times I played this record -- this very 78 that's four years older than I am -- as a kid. The rough estimate: lots.

In 1957, "All Shook Up" was magic. As it still was when I first got a hold of it around 1964 or 1965. As it still is today.

Me (age not quite 3) and the Silvertone . . . and the records
THAT GOES as well for another of my little stash of Elvis on 78 . . . "Too Much." That's it sitting on a 1952 Webcor record changer here at Anachronism "R" Us.

And you know what? After half a century and more, the Elvis records still sound pretty much like new. Hell, I have many compact discs that sound a lot worse. I mean, some of these old 78s sound great.

RCA Victor's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was, indeed, all that. All that and a pair of blue suede shoes.

Now let's turn to a couple more 78s that more fully became touchstones when I hit my 50s -- Walter Brown's "Fine Brown Baby" / "My Baby's Boogie Woogie" and The Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me."

In 1946, when my parents were still newlyweds, they were buying "race" records and hillbilly blues records from their favorite Baton Rouge music emporiums.

LOW-DOWN BLUES. R&B. Along with pop, jump and country twangfests like the Delmore Brothers.

"She's got what it takes, make a preacher lay his Bible down," sangeth Mr. Brown. You should hear the flip side.

If you want to know the music of my soul, my folks' old 78s will get you close.

If you want to know what was it that made me the musical creature that I am -- if you want to hear the records I was playing when I was but a lad, just old enough to get into my folks records and operate a record changer -- here you go. This and Fats Domino . . . and Ivory Joe Hunter . . . and Fats Domino . . . and Hank Williams . . . and Louis Jordan.

This is about as personal as it gets.

This is who I am. The music of my parents' young adulthood (and my record-geek childhood) sounded like the world -- the Deep South -- I was born into damn near six decades ago.

It was eclectic, the Louisiana . . . the South of my youth. It was seemingly at odds with itself if you didn't look any further than the surface of things. It was also rich beyond measure.

Take Brown, the blues shouter who once sang with Jay McShann's orchestra. In the particular culture I entered into during the spring of 1961, black shouters like him could sit next to white twangers like Ernest Tubb in the record cabinet in the bottom of the old Silvertone console -- even if they couldn't sit next to each other at the Woolworth's lunch counter.

AND NO ONE thought twice about either peculiarity.

This explains my parents' music-buying habits of the 1940s and '50s, long before I came along and, a few years later, started raiding their music collection. It also explains the complex and contradictory inner lives of these people -- formed by the Southern society that brought us Williams, Louis Armstrong and Jim Crow -- who could in 1946 buy racy records by blues shouters, then in 1971 yell at me about my expletive-deleted "n***er music."

People who thought Dick Clark was a communist, probably because of the fatal combination of "beatnik music" and race mixing on "American Bandstand."

Those George Wallace and David Duke voters.

A couple more of the blackest white people on earth -- as Southern Caucasians surely are -- who may have found it just cause for homicide if you had told them that back in the day.

Go figure.

The South: It's a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, tucked away in an enigma and fueled by contradiction. These records give you a peek under its hood a little bit . . . its and mine.

You might not completely understand either of us, me and the South, but it will be a start.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

It's Viva-tonal!

This might be the cleanest-sounding 1928 record you've ever heard.

One quick takeaway from that happy accident -- 1928 recording technology was a lot better than you'd think it was, particularly the quality of the microphones.

It's a strange experience to come across a batch of 80- and 90-something-year-old 78s, as I did last Friday at an estate sale,  and have them play almost as they did in the 1920s and early 1930s -- only on modern equipment and not wind-up acoustic gramophones.

THIS IS one of those records, Lee Morse and Her Blue Grass Boys with "Shadows on the Wall." It's one of the earliest Columbia electrical recordings, which the label branded "Viva-tonal."

Simply put, an electrical recording is just that: It is recorded using microphones and amplifiers feeding an electrical signal to a cutting head. Earlier "acoustical" recordings were all-mechanical -- performers played into a large horn, which moved a cutting stylus with sheer air pressure from the sound waves.

That was the reverse of the playback on an old phonograph with a large horn that amplified the vibrations from the needle moving through the record grooves.

In other words, it was . . . Viva-tonal. Indeed.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

3 Chords & the Truth: What's not to like?

Today on the Big Show, your Mighty Favog jumps the shark.

I find it isn't too bad if you drink enough Geritol beforehand.

Let's just say that my parents were playing the long game with all those Saturday evening force feedings of The Lawrence Welk Show all those years ago. All they needed was a Magnavox console and a captive audience.

Well played, damn you.

For more information on your humble host's condition, kindly tune in to the new edition of 3 Chords & the Truth, airing right now somewhere on the Internets. Really, this week's program is an exceptional one. Even the, well, you know. . . .

I can't say much more about it right now. It's way past my bedtime, and I think I may have iron-poor blood.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehen . . . good night!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

3 Chords & the Truth: Confusing kids, 1 at a time

The older I get, the more I understand that I come from a place and time that's largely indecipherable to the younger among us.

Typewriters . . . mystery. Cassette decks . . .  enigma. Rotary-dial phones . . . puzzle.

OHMYGAWD! You didn't have Internet back in the '70s? How did you live?

Well, in an analog manner, I guess.

Thus, in an age when something as pervasive as radio is becoming an anachronism like the rest of my life, perhaps it's time to explain a few things.

For example, you know this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth? Lots of radio stations and programs -- which we listened to . . . and we liked it -- were kinda sorta like the Big Show.

THERE was some variety going on. Top-40 meant just that . . . the top records on the pop chart, no matter what they might be.

You also had things like progressive-rock stations. Freeform stations and shows.

Freeform? Like, they'd play ANYTHING?

Yep. Just like 3 Chords & the Truth. You never quite know what's coming next. Back in the day, we found that adventurous and stimulating. ANDFORGOD'SSAKEDON'TTAKETHEBROWNACID, MAN!!!

I don't know where that came from.

Anyway, once there was this thing called radio. Take a seat, kid. Let me tell you about it and play you some stuff. You ever seen an LP record or a 45 before . . . ?

IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

3 Chords & the Truth: 3 Chords town

When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go . . . to 3 Chords town.

When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know -- in 3 Chords town.

Just listen to the music from Omaha, by God, Nebraska. Linger on the website where the Big Show's there for playing. How can you lose?

The sounds are much brighter there -- you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.

So go to 3 Chords town! Things will be great when you're in 3 Chords town! No finer place for sure, 3 Chords town . . . everything's waiting for you!

DON'T hang around and let your problems surround you, there is great music . . .  in 3 Chords town. Sooner or later, you'll click on these links, and you'll be in . . . 3 Chords town!

Just listen to the rhythm of a classic rock 'n' roller. You'll be dancing with 'em too before the show is over -- happy again. The sounds are much brighter here; you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.

So go to our town. Music's the best in Big Show town. Click on the bloody link -- 3 Chords town! Good times for you tonight -- my town! You're music future's bright . . . this town!

Just take my word for it . . . 3 Chords & the Truth is the bomb!




Outta town.

IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

3 Chords & the Truth: Hot day, cool tunes

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the A/C inside's delightful.

But the summer heat's bad enough for us to go . . . let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

OK, your Mighty Favog has many powers but -- unfortunately -- the ability to make it snow at the end of July is not among them. So we'll do the next best thing on this week's 3 Chords & the Truth.

We'll play an extra cool, extra long set of music designed to conjure up the cooling power of December in the middle of meteorological Hades. It's sort of like Prof. Harold Hill's "think system" of music education, only we're thinking winter in hopes of taking the edge off of summer.

APART FROM that, you could say the show has its highs and lows this go around. Of course, even the lows -- and the Lo's -- are high points. As we strike a mortal blow against Yankee imperialism.

What? Hell, yeah!

Huh? You bet!

Confused? Relax. We got this covered.

All you have to do is listen to the Big Show, and all will become clear. Your confusion will turn into a profusion of musical enlightenment. And a cooling trend on a hot summer's day. 

IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

3 Chords & the Truth: Expect the unexpected

Did you know that, back in 1956, you could get Elvis Presley on 78 RPM records?

You could, and my folks did . . . and we have just that on 3 Chords & the Truth this week.

That's just one of the unexpected things you'll hear on this, and every, episode of the Big Show. Because we're all about surprises. And good music.

Let's see -- what else would you like to hear about this venture into the world of 3 Chords & the Truth and the stupendous music we play?

WELL, there's all the good doo-wop and R&B this time on the program. And there's all the good jazz. And then there's some tasty tunes from the world of rock.

And, of course, then there's the. . . .

Hey! You don't think I'm going to give away all the intimate details of how this week's 3 Chords & the Truth excels, do you? C'mon, sit still for an hour and a half and find out for yourself.

It might be the most satisfying 90 minutes you'll spend this week. And we do it all over again almost every week on the Big Show. You just might learn something -- or hear something you have laid ears on in years -- and you'll have a ball doing it.


IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all.  Be there.  Aloha.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

3 Chords & the Truth: No lack of shellac

I've got me some old records, some 78s.

The "78" refers to the playing speed  -- 78 rpm -- and 78s are how folks listened to music at home way back there then.

Unsurprisingly to you, I'm sure, I have a lot of these masterpieces on black shellac. Last week, I picked up even more at an Omaha estate sale. All but one are from the 1930s, encompassing the very beginning of what we now know as "the Swing Era" of music.

And I'm sure it's also no surprise to you that we're featuring these old, old discs on this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth. Duh.

I'VE GOT some pretty early Benny Goodman in there and some Tommy Dorsey with a young Frank Sinatra on vocals, too. Lots of good stuff from when Grandma and Grandpa were young, and the world was about to learn all about the jitterbug.

That's just how we roll on the Big Show.

There's lots of other good stuff (not on 78s) on the show this week as well, which also is no doubt no shock to you. If it were, I'll bet you wouldn't be reading this to start with . . . or listing to this thing called 3 Chords & the Truth.

This is a program that's all about the music, without discrimination, pretty much.

NO, I take that back. The Big Show does discriminate big time. The bad stuff will not reach your ears -- at least not through any fault of your Mighty Favog or the Revolution 21 empire.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

History at the estate sale

Whenever you walk into an estate sale, you're walking into the realm of history, which we otherwise know as "old stuff."

The missus and I did just that Saturday, stepping into a world where old stuff was the product line and history was going cheap -- more or less.

Naturally, I disappeared into stacks upon stacks of once-hot wax. (When you do this, you have to make sure your hep lingo's all copacetic -- make sure everything's Jake, right pal?)

There were 78 RPM records. Lots of 78s, which for the record aren't really made of wax but, instead, of the much less lyrical shellac. Some were from the turn of the last century. Many, like these, were from the 1930s. Some of the stash I went home with might be the best sounding '30s-vintage records I've ever come across.

AND THEN, once you start digging a little deeper, you think you might have stumbled onto some real history.

Look at the top pic -- the A-side of  a 1936 release by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra. You'll note the vocal credit on the label, this one "apologetically' given to the clarinet god and orchestra leader himself. It's a routine thing, giving big-band vocalists credit where credit is due.

Even when the band leader feels the need to apologize for his vocalizing.

Except for the second photo, immediately above. The label acknowledges that there is a "vocal refrain," but it doesn't credit the responsible party. Odd, that.

So you go on the Internet and search for about half a minute to discover the vocal on Goodman's recording of "Did You Mean It?" was by none other than Ella Fitzgerald. A young Ella Fitzgerald.

Why the hell wouldn't you give credit to Ella Fitzgerald, fuhgawdssake?

ESPECIALLY when Helen Ward got her just due on another Goodman release from '36.


1936. Goodman had one of the first racially integrated orchestras, but he couldn't tour the South for fear of arrest -- Jim Crow, don't you know? Obviously, not crediting Fitzgerald on the record label was a financially motivated surrender to the demons of America's past, which happened to be Goodman's and RCA Victor's present.

There you have it -- a nasty piece of America's racial past right there on the labels of some old estate-sale 78 rpm records. History in a box for $2 a pop, as it were.

Except that it 'tain't so, McGee.

Just because something is obvious, that doesn't necessarily make it true. And just when you think there's no good explanation for the divine Ella Fitzgerald not being credited on a 1936 recording of hers apart from the R-word, you find there's an excellent explanation involving the M-word -- money.

As it turns out, the up-and-coming jazz vocalist -- notable then for her work with Chick Webb's orchestra -- still was under contract to Decca. Not Victor. There might be "complications" if word got out.

Which it did.

And there were.
The big band session that took place on October 7 produced three vocals by Helen Ward and three instrumentals, including a Henderson-arranged "Alexander's Ragtime Band" as well as the solidly swung "Riffin' at the Ritz," during which Goodman melted into the reed section in a rare switch from clarinet to alto saxophone; the sax solo is by tenor man Vido Musso, who sounds a lot like Chu Berry or Coleman Hawkins. Henderson also arranged "Somebody Loves Me" and Jimmy Mundy drew up the charts for "Jam Session" and "Bugle Call Rag." These titles were waxed on November 5, 1936; on that same day Goodman sang "T'ain't No Use" and Chick Webb's star vocalist Ella Fitzgerald sat in on three recordings that generated flack from executives at Decca who protested that Ella was breaching her contract by getting with Victor. During a subsequent recall of product and reissuing of reshuffled titles, "Did You Mean It?" was pulled from the catalog entirely and would not reappear for many years.
SOMETIMES, just when you think you have one kind of history on your hands, you find out you have another kind entirely.

In this case, a really rare record. Go figure.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The song remains the same

A little more than 97 years ago, a young man -- a noted American composer and pianist, in fact -- sat down at a keyboard instrument called a celesta and played a heavenly version of "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" . . . "Silent Night" to you and me.

The young man and his glockenspiel-sounding contraption were in a Victor Talking Machine Co., studio in Camden, N.J., and they sat in front of a large horn that would capture the music and funnel those vibrations to a diaphragm connected to a needle. The needle would cut grooves into a blank wax disc -- the master recording.

And that recording became a side of this record, released in December 1915. Someone bought it for 75 cents that Christmas, and it came down through generations until it landed in a box of old records Sunday at an Omaha estate sale.

I bought it and some others for 50 cents a piece, and what began in Camden when
the Great War wasn't yet "great" and America was still at peace, Sunday night spun on a record changer in my little studio in Omaha. Alas, this occurred many wars after "the war to end all wars."

THE YOUNG MAN, all of 25 at the time, was Felix Arndt. Around this time, Arndt, despite his own youth, was becoming a mentor to a teenager eager to make his mark in the music business.

A decade later, George Gershwin made quite the mark, indeed.

By the middle of October 1918, though, Felix Arndt would lose his life to the Spanish influenza epidemic. He was 29, survived by his wife, Nola, and his music.

That music, generations later, lives still within the grooves of an almost century-old record and emerges to touch a world that, in 1914, surely would have been almost unimaginable. A world whose music was changed by a certain young kid who hung out with, and was influenced by, Felix Arndt.

No man is an island. Neither is any man's music.

It's rather like the communion of saints, isn't it?
Just in the grooves of ancient 78s.

Sometimes, when I'm in an old church, if I try hard enough, I can visualize all the generations of believers who sat there before me, all of us present -- across time and defying the grave -- each generation singing a verse of a never-ending hymn. Likewise, when I find an ancient record and place the needle into a well-worn groove, I hear a long-ago verse of a song still sung, and I realize that I am not my own . . . and neither are you.

We stand upon the shoulders of our forebears, all of us bought and paid for with the blood of a long-dead savior Who lives still, conducting this symphony of the generations, world without end.

Felix Arndt's rendition of Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht,

Victor 17842-B, as archived by the Library of Congress.
My copy actually might sound a little better than this.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Geeks 'R' Us

I was going to do something about the South Carolina newspaper that, gratuitously, dropped the F-bomb slap dab into the middle of a story about Saturday's LSU-Georgia football game (Geaux Tigers!).

And I was going to have a nifty segue in there about how whichever copy editor at the Gannett "regional editing hub" in Louisville, Ky., was responsible might be able to find work at Sir Richard's condoms (Richard . . . get it?), which is run by a guy whose last job was as a contributing editor for Editor & Publisher.
Then I was going to make fun of Sir Richard's being a socially conscious condom company, which has student "envoys" handing out free rubbers at the hometown University of Colorado.

I ALSO was going to really snark on one member of the Sir Richard's dormitory penis patrol who actually gave Westword this quote:
"We're encouraging freshmen to use a condom each and every time they have sex. Some people might consider a condom to be a barrier, but it's really a way of bringing couples together through enhanced trust. If you know your partner cares about protecting you, an increased level of trust comes along with it."
FUNNY, it used to be we thought that whole "enhanced trust" thing was what marriage was all about. Condoms? Not so much. Condoms are more like NATO taking Iran's word for it about not wanting nuclear weapons, then building a European anti-ballistic-missile system.

But that kind of s*** just bums me out. So I'm not blogging about it.

Instead, I thought I would show you what a complete geek I am. C'mon . . . whom else do you know with a 1947 television test pattern for his computer wallpaper? No one, that's who.

Whom else do you know with a crapload of 78 rpm records? No one, that's who.

Whom else do you know who so treasures little things like an original shellac 78 copy of Fats Domino's "Valley of Tears"
? Or "Blueberry Hill"?

No one, that's whom . . . er, who.

Because I'm a geek. Besides, I'd sooner die than pass out rubbers to perfect strangers in the name of "enhanced trust."

Four walls . . . and a 78

Stand back, people. I got my geek on.

And I'm gonna show you something. More precisely, I'm going to let you hear something.

First, however, the setup. In three . . . two . . . one. . . .

IT'S IRONIC that, after introducing the 45 almost a decade earlier, RCA Victor had pretty much perfected the 78 rpm record by 1957. As I told you in an earlier post that sadly lacked an audio-visual component apart from a snapshot of an old Elvis record, RCA's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was all that.

Let's once again say that like my Elvis 78s, this old Jim Reeves record -- after 54 years and God knows how many plays -- sounds better than most new vinyl today, what there is of new vinyl today, and better than a lot of CDs being cranked out today. Imagine when it was brand new. . . .

Anyway, I've been telling people how it has been all but lost to history how good 78s could sound, and now I've decided to show you. Enjoy.

AND NOW the technical notes. . . .


The video was shot with a Nikon CoolPix L20 digital camera. Ambient audio was recorded with a Studio Projects C1 condenser microphone, while the audio from the 78 was off the Webcor record changer's phono output. Both the phono out and the mic output were fed into a Soundcraft stereo mixer, then into a professional sound card.

The audio was recorded to a WAV file with Adobe Audition software, then synced to the Nikon video. The audio track was not cleaned up in any way, just normalized to 98 percent modulation.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hank on 78

Take a 1952 Hank Williams 78 rpm record. Place it on a 1955 Webcor record changer. Watch and listen as magic occurs.

As you can hear, 78s could sound quite good. As a matter of fact, I have some that sound a lot better than this.

Before I go back to recording more of these old records onto the computer hard drive, though, I'll leave you with this bit of eerie trivia:

THIS RECORD -- "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" -- was the last Hank Williams single released before the country legend died, hitting the stores in November 1952 and debuting on the Billboard country chart at No. 9 on Dec. 20.

Williams died in the back seat of his Cadillac early New Year's morning 1953, somewhere between Bristol, Va., and Oak Hill, W.Va. Three weeks later, "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" hit No. 1 on Billboard the issue of Jan. 24.

Fifty-nine years later, the needle still drops onto the MGM 78. While the platter spins, Hank lives again, because it's always 1952 somewhere.

Right now, it's right here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The dawn of hi-fi . . . at 78 rpm

In many cases, high fidelity spun into 1950s homes, and into popular culture, at 78 rpm.

And so did the king of rock 'n' roll.

I've been putting some more of the records of my youth onto the computer hard drive -- bringing my analog musical formation into the digital present, I guess. This is another of those, Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up" (above), on a glorious 10-inch shellac platter.

I couldn't tell you how many times I played this record -- this very 78 that's four years older than I am -- as a kid. The rough estimate: lots.

IN 1957, "All Shook Up" was magic. As it was when I first got a hold of it around 1964 or 1965. As it is today.

That goes as well for another of my little stash of Elvis on 78 . . . "Too Much." That's it at left, sitting on a 1955 Webcor record changer here at Anachronism "R" Us.

And you know what? After half a century and change, these records still sound pretty much like new. And I have many compact discs that sound a lot worse. A lot worse, because these old 78s sound great.

RCA Victor's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was, indeed, all that. All that and a pair of blue suede shoes.

I'm itchin' like a bear on a fuzzy tree to play this stuff on the Big Show, I ga-ron-tee.