Showing posts with label estate sales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label estate sales. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

This week's listening. So far.

Well, this is what I've been listening to so far this week.

I found a couple of cool 45 EP sets at an estate sale Sunday, along with a feast of LPs. I know, you're wondering what, exactly, is a "45 EP set." I don't blame you, really. The concept didn't stick for all that long.

A 45 EP set was an album, only on a couple -- or sometimes three -- 45s that typically had two songs to a side. They came in a little gatefold jacket that was a miniature version of a 12-inch LP jacket, and lasted as a format for about as long as there was a competition between LPs and 45s as a medium for record albums.

In that battle, the 45 r.p.m. record lost. The record industry more or less standardized release formats, with 45s being the common format for singles and 12-inch LPs being the common format for full albums. The 45 EP set largely disappeared by the end of the 1960s in the United States.

Basically, the sound quality wasn't as good as an LP record -- you're cramming a lot on music on a 7-inch record not really meant to hold that much. And, if you ask me, 45s by and large don't sound quite as good as LPs anyway. So there's that.

Then you have the "more records to mess with" factor, even if they're smaller records.

On the other hand, they are kind of cool. They're a curiosity, to be sure.

ANYWAY, the EPs we have here for my listening pleasure -- and soon yours, too, no doubt --  are the 45 version of Jackie Gleason's Music for Lovers Only, one of his 1950s albums with trumpeter Bobby Hackett fronting an orchestra "conducted" by The Great One. God help me, I love the stuff.

Jackie Gleason put the bachelor pad in "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music."

The other EP set is The Anthony Choir, a group that trumpeter Ray Anthony put together to perform with his orchestra, because somebody had to give Mitch Miller, Ray Conniff and Fred Waring a run for their money.

And, yes, your humble correspondent was born (1961) too late.

FINALLY on the agenda tonight was a little Bent Fabric.

Bent Fabric, the Danish pianist and composer born 90 years ago as Bent Fabricius-Bjerre. You know, the "Alley Cat" guy who, by Grammy logic, won for Best Rock & Roll Recording of 1962.

And, yes, Bent Fabric is still with us.

And -- once again -- God help me, I love this stuff. That is all. Nighty-night.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

All you need is paint

Nothing you can know that isn't known
Nothing you can see that isn't shown
Nowhere you can be that isn't
where you're meant to be
It's easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
THE FUN of going to estate sales often lies in the surprises you find amid the artifacts of people's lives that are being sold off one item at a time.

Sunday in Omaha, this was what we found in the onetime bedroom of a onetime teenager who now must be around the same age I am.

Speaking as a Baby Boomer . . . wow!

As I recall, the house has been sold, and who knows what the fate of this teenage tribute to the Fab Four might be. You'd hope the new owner would lack the heart -- or the nerve -- to paint over this or, God forbid, to turn this house that once was a home into yet another tear-down on a street that has seen a few older houses razed so that newer, bigger ones might replace them. 

If that's to be the fate of this house, being yet another demolition job or the new owner merely painting over a teenage masterpiece, I just wanted folks to know that Jay Dandy's room had the awesomest wall ever back in 1977.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Everything I need to know, I learned in 1948

Click on photos for larger, readable versions

This isn't just an old issue of the Capitol News -- the way rad tout mag from the hot-wax peddlers in Tinseltown.

This isn't just another "primary source document" for students of the cultural history of the United States.

And this isn't just another fascinating estate-sale find in Omaha, Neb.

No, Poindexter, this is a guide to good living, good music, good writing and good times. Everything you need to know, pally, you'll learn in 1948. Because, as the continued existence and occasional unearthing of this cultural touchstone proves, it's always Postwar America somewhere . .  and there you, too, can be a hep cat, baby!

So, what did I learn from the preserved wisdom of '48? A few things.

FOR EXAMPLE, from the cover of the December 1948 edition of the platter-patter rag, I learned that if you're one to watch the record go 'round and 'round when you're grooving on your stacks of wax, don't be surprised if your eyeballs turn into spinning 78s.

I ALSO learned that the wise owl better give a hoot what Dave Dexter says -- he's gonna sign Sinatra to Capitol someday, you wait and see. I don't think he'll "get" the British invasion and the lads from Liverpool, though, Daddy-O!

AND WHILE I was doing a double take on that news blast about how Columbia's movie mavens are remaking Latin music maker Desi Arnaz into La-La Land's new cha-cha heartthrob, I found myself wondering what hilarious hijinks Lucy and Ethel will inflict upon the Left Coast.

LIKEWISE, didja ever wonder what the Pied Pipers would sing if they were pie-eyed? And do you suddenly want a piece of pie now?

I do.

I wonder why.

AND WE SEE that Nat  King Cole had himself a hit with "The Christmas Song" some 12 years before he had himself a hit with "The Christmas Song."

ONE VERY IMPORTANT thing to learn is that you got to be hep to the lingo, Clyde.

If you're not hep to the lingo, you might have ignorantly turned the headline Blues Bawlers / Sign New Cap / Waxing Pacts into something like Blue Ballers / Sign New Cap / Waxing Pacts. There's a difference, you know.

FINALLY, Capitol Records not only provides "Christmas cheer throughout the year," it also provides a pretty decent workout from lugging those albums full of 78s all over creation.

So drop the needle in a groove, dude, and we'll chatter about the platters long into the new-old year.

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, April 18, 2011

One of these things is not like the others

It never fails. When you see a bunch of vinyl at an estate sale, it falls into two categories.

You have the now-elderly (or dead) parents' music. All this stuff dates from the '40s, '50s and '60s, along with a smattering of later "remember when" types of long-playing offerings.

This stack is chockablock with Lawrence Welk and Mitch Miller offerings, usually, but if you're lucky, there'll also be lots of jazz. Particularly Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

Or, in this case, a bit of "Late Music" -- purchased by Mom and Dad sometime around 1957, based on the LPs Columbia was hawking on the inner sleeve.

THEN YOU HAVE the stack comprised of the now-elderly (or dead) parents' kids' music, which for one reason or another was left with Mom and Dad to serve as both a source of parental confusion ("Are Johnny and Jill going to pick up their record albums, dear? They've been here 30 years now!") and an eternal middle finger to the folks' bourgeois staidness, as befitted their leading roles as Unhip Conformist Tools of the Fascist Establishment.

The beauty of a complete and total geek such as myself is that I buy from both piles of albums, thereby giving the middle finger of cultural revolt to both sets of conformist tools of the Establishment repression.

In other words, I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll, but now she's just my melancholy baby.