Victor 19779 – Vernon Dalhart – 1925

Around February 13—the exact day and moment is uncertain—in 1925, the Kentucky spelunker Floyd Collins met his end in what is now called Sand Cave after being trapped there for about fourteen days.  In early twentieth century Kentucky, many former farmers, disillusioned from their craft by the poor soil, took to exploring the extensive cave system beneath them, in hopes of creating a prosperous tourist attraction.  Having discovered Crystal Cave in 1917, now part of Mammoth National Park, which lay on his family’s property, but attracted few tourists because of its remote location, Collins attempted to find an alternate, more convenient entrance.  On January 30, 1925, Collins dug his way through the narrow passageways of Sand Cave, but became pinned there by a rock that had become wedged near his leg.  Friends found him the next day, and a rescue effort was mounted.  Digging a new tunnel to reach Collins, by the time the his would-be rescuers made it to the chamber where he was located, he was already dead from exposure.  The attempted rescue of Floyd Collins created the third largest media sensation between the World Wars (the other two involved Lindbergh), and the first major news event to be covered on the radio.  On Collins’ grave reads the epitaph, “Greatest Cave Explorer Ever Known.”

Victor 19779 was recorded September 9, 1925 in New York by Vernon Dalhart, accompanied on guitar by Carson Robison and violin by Lou Raderman.  This issue was pulled from the Victor catalog several weeks after it was issued following complaints that Victor was profiting from the USS Shenandoah disaster, “Floyd Collins” was reissued on number 19821 the following month, paired with a different flip-side; apparently no one had a problem with profiting off Floyd Collins’ death.

On what was actually intended as the “B” side of this disc, but served as the “A” on the reissue, Vernon Dalhart sings Rev. Andrew Jenkins famous tribute, “Death of Floyd Collins”.

Death of Floyd Collins, recorded

Death of Floyd Collins, recorded September 9, 1925 by Vernon Dalhart.

The flip-side, “Wreck of the Shenandoah”, refers to another major event that occurred in 1925, the crash of the USS Shenandoah, a US Navy airship (from those amazing science fiction-esque days when the Navy took to the sky). After embarking on a promotional tour of the Midwest, the airship crashed during a storm in Noble County, Ohio on September 3, 1925.  Songwriter Maggie Andrews is, in fact, a pseudonymous Carson J. Robison.

Wreck of the Shenandoah, recorded

Wreck of the Shenandoah, recorded September 9, 1925.

Victor 18537 – Billy Murray/Arthur Fields – 1919

January 16, 2016 marks the 96th anniversary of the passage of the Volstead Act and the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, better known as Prohibition.  That noble experiment lasted for thirteen years, ten months, nineteen days, seventeen hours, thirty-two minutes, and thirty seconds, before it was repealed by the 21st Amendment, passed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 5, 1933.  To commemorate that occasion, here’s a record with two topical tunes, one for the Volstead Act, one for the end of the First World War, sung by two popular personalities of those days.

Victor 18537 was recorded February 14 and 27, 1919 in Camden, New Jersey by Billy Murray and Arthur Fields, singing two topical songs about current events of the day.  Both sides feature an orchestra directed by Josef Pasternack.

On what is actually the “B” side of the record, that consummate vaudevillian Billy Murray laments the ratification of the 18th Amendment with “How Are You Goin’ to Wet Your Whistle” (When the Whole Darn World Goes Dry)”.

How Are You Goin' to Wet Your Whistle? (When the Whole Darn World Goes Dry), recorded February 14, 1919 by Billy Murray.

How Are You Goin’ to Wet Your Whistle? (When the Whole Darn World Goes Dry), recorded February 14, 1919 by Billy Murray.

On the “A” side, Arthur Fields, in his vaudevillian element, sings one of his better remembered songs, “Hot Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm? (After They’ve Seen Paree)”, referring to the homecoming of our boys from the Great War.

You Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm? (After They've Seen Paree), recorded February 27, 1919 by Arthur Fields.

You Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm? (After They’ve Seen Paree), recorded February 27, 1919 by Arthur Fields.

Hello World 001 – W.K. (Old Man) Henderson/Blind Andy – 1930

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.

A 1930 special pressing made by Okeh records.

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)

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…

Hello world, doggone ya.  Now don’t you go away!

Updated on October 21, 2015.