As we here in the States are giving our thanks and digesting our bountiful dinners this Thanksgiving, it seems an opportune time to share a few words spoken by some voices from the past. A one-of-a-kind glimpse into a different time, courtesy of one family and their home record lathe.
This Motorola Home Recording Disc was cut on December 1, 1942 and November 22, 1944, likely somewhere in Texas, as that’s where I found it.
On “Thanksgiving 1944”, we are granted the opportunity to listen in on a family get-together taking place during the War, seventy-two years in the past. As they record their voices for posterity, they have apparently just finished off “a regular Samuel Gordon Thanksgiving dinner.”
Thanksgiving 1944, recorded November 22, 1944 by Mother.
On the other side of this home recording, cut two years before the first, Mother recounts “When Norman Left Home” for Officer Candidate School. Alas, this side doesn’t play quite as well as the other one.
When Norman Left Home, recorded December 1, 1942 by Mother.
UPDATE: Diligent experts have identified these tunes as “Down Yonder” (first side), and “The Waltz You Saved For Me” (second side). Thank you, for your great assistance, Messrs. Chalfen, Johnston, and Bosch!
Here’s another home recording that I found along with that old time fiddle one, it features two very familiar sounding, and quite enjoyable piano solos whose names I cannot seem to place. I’m hoping someone out there can help me identify the names of the pieces being played. If any of you treasured readers out there can put a name with them, I’ll update the article with special thanks.
This Wilcox-Gay Recordio home recording disc is completely unmarked, making it impossible for me to offer any information on its artist or date. The copyright date of 1950 would likely place it in that vicinity as far as dating goes. As is often the case with these home recordings, sound quality is on the low end, and there is quite a bit of noise, but these aren’t too bad, all things considered.
This side sounds especially familiar to me, but I just can’t put my finger on the title. At first I though it was “Waiting on the Robert E. Lee”, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit that tune.
Thanks to a reader’s identification, this tune seems to be L. Wolfe Gilbert’s 1921 composition “Down Yonder”.
Down Yonder, recorded ? by unknown pianist.
This little ditty, too, sounds quite familiar, but again, I just can’t quite think of the title, if I ever knew what is was called. Some talking can be heard in the background of this one at one point.
The Waltz You Saved for Me, recorded ? by unknown pianist.
I tend to pick up home recordings and lacquer discs when I see them, providing the price is right. Sometimes, the quality of sound on them is surprisingly decent, but often, they sound terrible. What you’ll find on those discs is also a crapshoot, oftentimes I’ve found families marking a special occasion, or the ubiquitous child’s recital of a song or instrument. Once I even found a bawdy comedy skit. However, rarely do I ever turn up anything musically exciting.
Recently, I picked up about five lacquer discs. One of them was a recording of a local family’s Thanksgiving in 1944, one an unintelligible recording of children’s voices, another was an unusual cornet performance. One completely unmarked disc contained a pair of very enjoyable piano solos that I’ll post here at a later date. Then there was this one. When I came to this one, I put the needle on the record, curious to hear what secrets it had concealed for so many years, I was thrilled to hear a great old time fiddle and guitar duet burst to life. Then, after about five seconds of play, the stylus skated all the way across the disc to the label. Unfortunately, despite (or perhaps because of) the record’s excellent musical content, the lacquer surface of the home recording disc was in absolutely dismal condition, bubbled and cracked, with large worn passages.
Nevertheless, I knew I had to figure out a way to coax those tunes out of these shallow old grooves. Eventually, I wound up using two methods to transfer the two sides of this eccentric disc. On the first one, I rigged up a very unconventional method of tracking the grooves by tying a string to the tone-arm and guiding it by hand. On the flip, I managed to get it to track with an LP stylus at 45 RPM, and changed the speed to 78 RPM on the computer.
On this presumably unique metal based lacquer disc, a fiddler and guitarist play two classic old time tunes. Given the nature of this record, I know nothing of the identity of the artists. It would stand to reason that they were based in North Texas, as I found the disc in Dallas. My estimate for the date comes from the copyright date on the label, but it could have been made much later.
Please take warning, these transfers are not for the faint of heart, while the music is superb, the condition of the record is awful, making these a very noisy and distorted pair of transfers. Since the record is virtually unplayable through normal means, I think they’re pretty decent under the circumstances. If at any time in the future I figure out a way to get a better transfer of these, I’ll update this post.
First, J.L. Cosslly (?) and “Frank” play it slow and easy on “Saving Up Cupons [sic]“. This side plays a bit more respectably than the next, and I find it quite listenable for the most part, though it begins to break up near the end.
Saving Up Cupons, recorded ? by J.L. Cosslly and Frank.
On the other side of the disc, “Jess and Frank” play “Give Me Back My 15¢”. This side unfortunately has more than its fair share of skips and jumps, the worst being a passage from about twenty-five to thirty-five seconds that is greatly interrupted by a severe crack in the lacquer surface.