Thomas A. Edison’s “Needle Type Electric” records—sometimes called “thin” Edisons for reasons self explanatory—were his last hurrah in the record business, before bidding the industry farewell forever. Unlike his vertically cut, quarter-of-an-inch thick Diamond Discs, they were plain, ordinary shellac 78s, which could be played on any Victrola or like talking machine. The completely redesigned labels—with an array of lightning bolts striking from the top, framing the name “Edison”, emblazoned in bold, block lettering—represent the pinnacle of late-1920s commercial art. Thus, like any of the countless extremely short-lived record lines (e.g. Black Patti, Timely Tunes, Sunrise, etc.—all of which, incidentally, also had beautifully designed labels), they are quite uncommon today.
First up, the famed B. A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra plays “Dance of the Paper Dolls” and “Fioretta”, both sides featuring vocals provided by an uncredited Jack Parker. Born on October 24, 1879, Benjamin Albert Rolfe, known in earlier life as the “Boy Trumpet Wonder” was a trumpet prodigy who went on to become a popular radio bandleader and Edison recording artist. During the 1910s and ’20s, Rolfe spent a stretch as a Hollywood movie producer, following which he established his distinguished career as a bandleader. Notably. he directed his “Palais D’or Orchestra”—named for his own Broadway cabaret—from 1926 until 1928, at which point it became the “Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra” for the remainder of his time with Edison. Rolfe remained a radio mainstay into the 1930s, appearing in a pair of Vitaphone short films, and leading the B.F. Goodrich Silvertown Orchestra in 1935 and ’36. B.A. Rolfe died of cancer on April 23, 1956.
Edison 14003 was recorded on March 19, 1929 in New York City. Both tunes also appeared on separate Diamond Discs, as the “R” side of their respective discs. This Needle Type record provides a somewhat uncommon opportunity to hear Rolfe’s orchestra on a standard laterally cut phonograph record. First up is “Dance of the Paper Dolls”, which also appeared on Diamond Disc 52548, backed with “Hello Sweetie”.
On the “R” side, Rolfe’s orchestra plays “Fioretta”, from the 1929 Broadway musical of the same name. This disc, unfortunately, is a little moisture damaged, causing some noticeable “swishing.” This one was also issued on Diamond Disc 52531, backed with “If I Had You”.
Next up is another Edison dance band on Edison 14041, recorded on July 18, 1929, also in New York City. The Hotel Commodore Dance Orchestra (under the direction of violinist Bernhard Lewitow) first plays “Where the Sweet Forget-Me-Nots Remember” I’m not sure who the vocalist is on this one, so if anyone could tip me off, I’d be much obliged.
On the reverse, they play “Smiling Irish Eyes”, from the 1929 Warner Bros. Vitaphone talkie of the same name, starring Colleen Moore, now a lost film. This tune also appeared on Diamond Disc number 52637. These two are in better shape than the previous, and if you ask me, the music is too; those last two are just too darned dainty.
Updated on April 28, 2018.