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.
With 2015 being the first Christmastime we’ve had on Old Time Blues, I think it would be appropriate to start a new tradition, one record to share every Christmas Eve (much in the same way that the fine folks over at Shorpy post that same office party photograph every year). This particular record, made specially by Starr Piano Company for the Christmas season, I think is the perfect one with which to start such a tradition.
Now, on December 25, 2016, 2017, 2018—a whole three years later—Old Time Blues continues in our yuletide tradition of celebrating a very William Jennings Bryan Christmas!
Christmas Greetings from the folks at Gennett Records, and here at Old Time Blues!
Bryan and the Lord’s Prayer, pasted inside the card paper record sleeve.
This record is only one in a series of ten “Christmas Greetings” records issued by the Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana, for Christmas of 1923; others included Bryan reciting the 23rd Psalm, a recitation of “Always Christmas” by Wilbur D. Nesbit, movie stars Bebe Daniels and Shirley Mason each extending their Christmas greetings, and the same from Mrs. Henry Gennett herself, among other, mostly spoken word, recordings by notable personalities of the day. The “B” sides of each featured a Christmas song performed by various singers, bands, and vocal groups.
The “A” side of Gennett 5225 was recorded July 3, 1923, at the Gennett studio of the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana. The “B” side was recorded in February of 1922, presumably in the same place.
On this very special Christmas Greetings disc, former Secretary of State, three time Democratic Presidential candidate, and esteemed orator William Jennings Bryan delivers a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. It is one of a handful phonograph recordings made by the orator, others including eleven sides for Victor in 1908, and a couple of others for Gennett made at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I cherish this rare opportunity to hear the voice of the “Great Commoner” on phonograph record.
The Lord’s Prayer, recorded July 3, 1923 by William Jennings Bryan.
On the back of this record, the Westminster Quartette sings a solemn a capella rendition of “Nearer, My God, To Thee”.
Nearer, My God, To Thee, recorded February 1922 by the Westminster Quartette.
On December 11th in 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry the American Wallis Simpson, becoming the Duke of Windsor. After revealing his plans to marry Simpson to British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, his cabinet informed him that the people would not tolerate the divorced woman as queen, as remarriage was opposed by the Church of England. King Edward was faced with three options: to dump Wallis, to go against the wishes of the British government, or to abdicate the throne. Unwilling to give up his fiancée, Edward chose to abdicate. He signed the papers on December 10, and on the evening of December 11, 1936, King Edward VIII, in a speech broadcast around the world via radio, formally abdicated the throne of England, and his brother, George VI became king thereafter. After the change, George granted Edward the title of “Duke of Windsor”. George would be the king that would see England into World War II.
This unnumbered Electro-Vox record was recorded December 11, 1936 in Los Angeles, California from the live radio broadcast of King Edward VIII’s abdication speech in London. This speech was also issued on a variety of other labels, including Brunswick and Columbia. Many of those other issues were on standard sized ten-inch records; this one is a twelve-inch.
Besides the speech, one highlight of this recording is a chance to hear the tolling of Big Ben, all the way back in ’36.
Farewell Message, recorded December 11, 1936 by King Edward VIII.
Will Rogers was America’s most complete human document. He reflected in many ways the heartbeat of America.
— Damon Runyon
The great American humorist Will Rogers, circa 1935.
On this day, August 15, eighty years ago, the great American humorist, movie star, vaudevillian, and cowboy, Will Rogers met his tragic fate with the famed aviator Wiley Post near Point Barrow in Alaska while surveying a route from North America to Russia in Post’s cobbled together airplane, with Will intending to pick up some new material for his newspaper column along the way. The flight went well until an engine failure caused the plane to take a nosedive and crash into a lagoon.
In his life, Will Rogers, born November 4, 1879 in Oologah, Indian Territory, was one of the biggest and brightest stars of the Roaring Twenties. He became a cowboy in his early life, and later turned to vaudeville, starring in Ziegfeld’s Follies, with his trick roping a major attraction. By the end of the 1910s, Rogers had become a Hollywood movie star, and would appear in seventy-one pictures from 1918 to 1935. What Will Rogers is probably best remembered for however, is his wit, which he expressed in his newspaper column from 1922 to 1935. Befriending another of the greatest stars of the day, Charles Lindbergh, Rogers took an interest in aviation, which would be his downfall in 1935. Will Rogers in his day became something of a folk hero, representing classical American values, and an innocence of bygone days, and his death sparked nationwide tributes.
On Victor 45347, recorded February 6, 1923 in New York City, Will Rogers gives us “A New Slant on War” and “Timely Topics”. The record was released in March of 1923 and remained in the Victor catalog until 1927, it was later reissued as Victor 25126 on August 25, 1935, ten days after Will’s untimely demise.
With the Great War still fresh on the nation’s mind, in “A New Slant on War”, Will gives us, as the title would indicate, some humorous thoughts on war, why we have them, and how we can prevent them in the future.
A New Slant on War, recorded February 6, 1923 by Will Rogers.
While “Timely Topics” may not be so timely anymore, this side is still brimming with gems of Rogers’ timeless witticisms.
Timely Topics, recorded February 6, 1923 by Will Rogers.
WordPress automatically creates this “Hello World” post, I suppose I could delete it, but I’d rather use the opportunity to introduce the material I intend to post on this new website, and introduce a marvelous piece of recorded history from my collection…
This Okeh custom pressing, titled Hello World 001, was made in 1930 for the owner of KWKH radio in Shreveport, Louisiana, one W.K. Henderson. The first side, by Henderson himself, was recorded on February 18, 1930 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the second, by country artist Blind Andy, was recorded March 5, 1930 in New York. Henderson recorded three other talks that day, but none were released.
William Kennon Henderson, Jr., was born in Bastrop, Louisiana in 1880 and made his fortune as owner and president of the Henderson Iron Works and Supply Company. Henderson became interested in radio in 1923, when he was requested by Shreveport radio station WGAQ to help fund a replacement of their low-powered transmitter. In 1925, he bought the station and renamed it KWKH, the callsign representing his initials. Broadcasting across many states with his 50,000 watt station, Henderson made a name for himself with his rural brand of humor and his heated, profanity-laced political rants against chain stores, large corporations, the Federal Radio Commision, and the establishment in general. Henderson was a long time friend and associate of governor Huey Long, who appeared as a guest on the station occasionally, along with some of his allies. Long also aided Henderson in keeping government regulation away from his controversial broadcasts. Henderson also founded an alliance of small business owners dubbed the Modern Minute Men (MMM), which at one point claimed around 32,000 members nationally and raised almost $375,000 for Henderson.
Despite his attempts to exploit loopholes, Henderson was an enemy of the fledgling Federal Radio Commission for his repeated and numerous violations of their policies, including his obscenity laced monologues and his reliance on “canned music”. In 1931, Governor Long had a falling out with Henderson, and the Federal Radio Commission ordered an inquiry into the affairs of KWKH. That combined with hard times brought on by the Great Depression saw him to declare bankruptcy and sell the station in 1932. On his death bed in 1945, Henderson said, “I was right, you know… I guess I was fighting for free speech and free enterprise.” KWKH would later gain new fame for their “Louisiana Hayride” program beginning in 1948, which eventually featured a young singer by the name of Elvis Presley in the 1950s.
Recorded by Okeh in Shreveport, Louisiana, W.K. Henderson tones down his act considerably for the record’s first side, “Hello World”, a diatribe from Henderson about other stations interfering KWKH’s frequency of 850 kilocycles by WABC in New York, a “chain outfit,” WLS in Chicago, that “Sears-Rareback outfit,” and WENR, and the entity responsible for the interference, the Federal Radio Commission.
Hello World, recorded February 18, 1930 by W.K. (Old Man) Henderson.
On the flip-side, recorded March 5, 1930 in New York City, noted country and gospel artist Andrew Jenkins performs “Hello World Song (Don’t You Go ‘Way)”, a well-done country song set to the tune of his older composition, “The Death of Floyd Collins”. Blind Andy warns listeners not to invest their money in the stock market and offers other bits of timely advice from the agenda of W.K. Henderson.
Hello World Song (Don’t You Go ‘Way), recorded March 5, 1930 by Blind Andy.
Having shared that piece of history, I leave you with a final word…