Retired!

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve decided to call it a day on ‘Dinosaur Discs’. This comes in part because I’ve accomplished a lot of what I wanted to get done, and in part because there are other folks doing similar work better (looking at you, Mainspring Press blog), but mostly because there are a bunch of other things I want to invest significant time learning and experiencing and I’d rather make a clean break here than phone it in.

Thanks to everyone who’s read, downloaded, written me, or contributed, and double thanks to the historians, collectors, re-issuers, and, most of all, musicians who put me on this path to begin with. Don’t be a stranger.

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Thanks again to Danielle Ceneta for the illustration above. I requested it under the pretense of ‘retiring’ my blog months ago, but always had one-more-thing to get in first.

Record Research (DONE!)

2+ years in the making, my archive of Record Research magazine (1955-1995) is finally complete. When I wrote the listserv of the Association of Recorded Sound Collections to announce the completion of the same for the ‘Victrola and 78 Journal’, I included a request for assistance with the Record Research project. It wasn’t the first time I’d made such a request, but maybe being taken seriously this time for showing that I could get things done, or coming with a mostly complete project, collectors came out of the woodwork to offer scans or lend issues.

Because it’s such a long-term project, scan qualities (and index quality on archive.org) vary pretty dramatically. I’ve used at least 5 different scanners, and some of the scans are from other folks. What can you do.

If you aren’t already familiar with the publication, the best way to get into it is probably to browse or search the index on Tyrone Settlemeir’s web site, then link to the corresponding issue on my page. If you want to take the plunge and download all of them, I’ve split the archive into three parts: Issues 1-99 (1GB), issues 100-200 (1.3GB) and issues 201-254 (303MB).

Big thanks to everyone who’s contributed scans or lent issues to help me bring this together. Having these online is one less hassle for aspiring scholars and collectors.

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(Source: philblank)

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Images from “Spanish Songs of Old California”, part of a fascinating collection of folk music scholarship by Charles Lummis of Mexican and Spanish musicians in California around the turn of the 20th Century.

The collection is held at the Braun Research Library of the Autry Center of the American West. It holds more than 900 wax cylinder recordings, mostly of Mexican and Native American musicians, but (curiously) extending to some rare operatic recordings taken by Gianni Bettini. 

Audio preservation work has been ongoing since aluminum transcriptions were taken by Yale University in the 1930s, but the most recent digital transfers were done by members of the California Antique Phonograph Society. 12 of these digital transfers can be heard on the “Spanish Songs…" page, and a little more context about this process is available in a 2010 blog post titled "Sounds from a Technological May-December Romance" (love this image).

Finding this collection was exciting for me for two reasons. First and foremost, that this collection, and these recordings exist, but also, it’s surprising, encouraging and kind of heartwarming to see this kind of collaboration between two quite different ‘cultural heritage organizations’ (a research library and collectors’ society).

Farewell to Storyville

Kid Ory

Kid Ory: The Great New Orleans Trombonist

In the 1940s, after swing had (mostly) run its course and bebop was beginning to take hold, record companies initiated a ‘dixieland revival’, centered around Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, but including other New Orleans musicians like Kid Ory and Sidney Bechet.

This music has always been a bit contentious for me - It’s fun to listen to, but if you’re looking for a time-capsule, this isn’t it. It is, however, a fun adaptation of New Orleans jazz musicianship reacting to and adopting styles of its time (like all music ever). If you listen carefully you’ll hear a Hank Williams tune!

Download “Kid Ory: The Great New Orleans Trombonist” (63 MB)

Download “Sidney Bechet: Grand Master…” (114 MB)

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"Upcycle"

Turn your worthless old 78s into £2 worth of shitty coasters!

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Victrola and 78 Journal

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I’m excited and honored to announce that all 13 issues of the Victrola and 78 Journal are now scanned and available on archive.org. Tim Gracyk, the editor, got wind of the index I posted in December, and wrote me soon after to give me the ‘OK’ to scan and distribute the journal.

If this is your first exposure to the it, Victrola and 78 Journal (‘V78J’) was a collaborative journal featuring original research articles, reviews, and playlists from the most important collectors and researchers active at the time of its publication (1994-1998). Writers and curators include Brian Rust, Allan Sutton, Gayle Wardlow, Jas Obrecht and Dick Spottswood.

The journal covered a range of topics centered around American music history, sound recording industry history, and acoustic talking machines (Victrola, etc.). One thing that set V78J apart from similar concerns was its balance of first class research with the humor and camaraderie that make record collecting such a fun hobby to participate in or follow.

You can browse the index on Dinosaur Discs to find articles that interest you, or dive in and download them all (822 mb - please excuse the file size, you’ll appreciate the resolution!). If you find the journal useful or entertaining, I encourage you to write Tim, or reach out to the other contributors as you deem appropriate.

A word from Tim:

I am grateful that Mason makes available information that friends in the collecting world contributed to my journal during the years I edited it.  Putting out issues was great fun though V78J ended after 13 issues because of other responsibilities—mainly a growing family and a busy teaching career.  Also, publication stopped because I saw that the internet was the way of the future.  I’ve been delighted in recent years by the proliferation of websites, forums, mp3 files online, and more.  On a daily basis archives are uploading rare materials, and I can’t keep up!  Trade journals are online!  Record catalogs!  Old magazines with priceless information!  

Now is an exciting time for anyone interested in the history of the talking machine industry—the machines, the musical artists, the musical trends.  Each day I find fresh primary sources via “google,” but I also like to look back at pages in my old journal since contributors had sent in facts, opinions, and primary sources that continue to be fascinating.  Thanks again, contributors to V78J!  And thanks again to you, Mason!

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P.S. - I agree with Tim 100% that this is an exciting time to be involved in this kind of work (that’s why I’m here, after all!). Many recordings and research materials that were buried in archives or private collections a decade ago are now freely available online.

Some other resources, though, remain frustratingly unavailable and hard to find even for purchase. The semi-professional nature of record collecting and research creates or allows a situation where a lot of important original research is published in these collaborative magazines that aren’t collected or preserved by libraries, and so tend to be unavailable unless you know the right people.

Allen Koenigsberg’s ‘Antique Phonograph Monthly’ belongs in this class. With V78J now online, ‘APM’ is, in my opinion, the last in its class to remain so unfortunately scarce.

I’ve got a nearly complete run, and a standing offer with Allen to scan and distribute them if he’ll allow. It’s a long shot, but if anyone reading this knows Allen and could sway his opinion, I know there are many young collectors and researchers who would benefit enormously from the archive being made accessible.

Complete recordings of Mississippi old-time duet W.T. Narmour and S.W. Smith now available on Spotify via Document Records CDs 8065 and 8066. If you like the recordings, consider buying the CDs or MP3s from Document, since streaming doesn’t really pay. If you don’t like them, get your head checked out - these guys are awesome.

Complete recordings of Mississippi old-time duet W.T. Narmour and S.W. Smith now available on Spotify via Document Records CDs 8065 and 8066. If you like the recordings, consider buying the CDs or MP3s from Document, since streaming doesn’t really pay. If you don’t like them, get your head checked out - these guys are awesome.

Aaaaand, god damn it Edison. 1928 advertisement via Patrick Huber’s “Black Hillbillies” and Diane Pecknold’s “Hidden in the Mix”.

Aaaaand, god damn it Edison. 1928 advertisement via Patrick Huber’s “Black Hillbillies” and Diane Pecknold’s “Hidden in the Mix”.

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Another, from Victor’s 1924 catalog, via “Hillbilly Music: Source and Symbol”

Another, from Victor’s 1924 catalog, via “Hillbilly Music: Source and Symbol

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