100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Archive for the category “Music”

Recorded January 14, 1915

CHIN CHIN – A Modern Aladdin is a musical that opened in October 1914 on Broadway in New York City. It is written by Anne Caldwell and R.H. Burnside with music by Ivan Caryll, lyrics by Anne Caldwell and James O’Dea.

Lambert Murphy

Lambert Murphy

Lambert Murphy was attending Harvard University where he and his brother were both in the Harvard Glee Club and the Harvard Quartet. Murphy sang in many important church choirs and appeared in several music festivals. In 1911 he was engaged as a member of the New York Metropolitan Opera. Murphy became a popular recording artist for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

On January 14, 1915 Lambert Murphy was in the recording studios of Victor at Camden, New Jersey recording a song from CHIN CHIN “Goodbye Girls, I’m Through” under the pseudonym Raymond Dixon.

Recorded January 8, 1915


Since the beginnings of the hostilities in Europe, America has taken a stand of neutrality and non-involvement. Various groups from different sides of the political spectrum such as labor unions, socialists, members of the Old Right, and pacifist groups publicly oppose participation in the war. Powerful leaders such as Andrew Carnige and Henry Ford financially have backed the Peace Movement. President Wilson promises to guarantee neutrality and keep the US out of the war. However the US is still shipping war goods to Britian and France – half the rifles in the British Army are American-made. Most of the steel used in the French armaments industry is American, along with half the French TNT. Still, the overwhelming majority of Americans wish to avoid this global conflict.

Alfred Bryan is a Canadian lyricist and arranger in New York and has written lyrics for many Broadway shows. Working with composer Al Piantodosi, he wrote an anti-war song in late 1914 – “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” subtitled “A Mother’s Plea for Peace.” It is told from the standpoint of a mother as she contemplated her dotage without the son who should have been there to support and succor her. It was recorded and published on January 8, 1915 by Morton Harvey, a popular vaudeville singer who was the first ever to record a blues song, the “Memphis Blues” by W.C. Handy which he recorded on October 2, 1914.


Recorded January 2, 1913

John Francis Count McCormack was born in Athlone, Ireland in June 1884. He received vocal training at school and college. Conradh na Gaeilge(Gaelic League), an Irish cultural organization founded in 1893, started a music festival in 1897 called Feis Ceoil that promote Irish song and dancing. In 1903 McCormack won the coveted gold medal of the Dublin Feis Ceoil. He met writer James Joyce who was trying his hand at singing and encoraged him to compete in the 1904 Feis Ceoil. In 1905 McCormack traveled to Italy for training and made his operatic debut there in 1906. He returned to Great Britain and attained success as an operatic tenor. In 1909 he debut in the US and quickly became the most celebrated lyric tenor of his time thanks in part to the many records he made for Victor Talking Machine Company.

On January 2, 1913 John McCormack went into the Victor Recording studios in Camden, New Jersey and recorded the Irish ballad “Where The River Shannon Flows”.

“Where The River Shannon Flows” by John McCormack

Tenor John McCormack

Tenor John McCormack

Boy Arrested For Firing Gun On New Year’s In Louisiana

Louis Armstrong was born in August 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was raised by his grandmother and uncle. He attended the Fisk School For Boys and only saw his father in parades while his mother was absent working in “houses of pleasure”. It was in this atmosphere that Armstrong was exposed to live bands playing in brothels and dance halls. Armstrong dropped out of school and worked for a junk dealer who treated Armstrong like a member of the family. He also joined with other boys and played on the street corners for money.

On January 1, 1913 Louis Armstrong was arrested by police after firing his stepfather’s pistol to celebrate the arrival of the new year. He will most likely be sentenced by the juvenile court to the Colored Waifs’ Home For Boys in New Orleans.

Colored Waifs' Home For Boys in New Orleans 1913

Colored Waifs’ Home For Boys in New Orleans

Ragtime Song Recorded in New York

African music entered the American culture when the slave trade brought almost half a million Africans to the United States. Festivals at such places as Congo Square in New Orleans allowed slaves to perform their music and similar gatherings took place in New England and New York. As African-Americans became familiar with western music and instruments and were introduced to harmony through religious hymn, they mimicked what they heard through cakewalk dances and spirituals. White America also started absorbing African American music expressed through composers like Stephen Foster and through minstrels shows.

Where segregation limited employment opportunities for most African Americans, black musicians were able to provide entertainment in dance-halls, minstrel shows and in vaudeville. Black pianists played in bars, clubs, and brothels. By the 1890′s from this mix Ragtime with its “syncopation” developed. At first Ragtime was passed to white musicians who started making early sound recordings. Tom Turpin published his HARLEM RAG in 1899, the first rag published by an African-American. In 1899 a classically trained African American pianist Scott Joplin became the “King of Ragtime” with his international hit “MAPLE LEAF RAG”.White musicians like Ben Harney began to pick up on ragtime style and produce songs that popularized the music to white America.Mike Bernard was born in New York City, New York in March 1881. He was a child prodigy on piano and once played for the Kaiser. In 1900 Bernard heard Harney perform and decided to compete against him. He soon became known as one of the best ragtime performers in the country. He pioneered a style of music that appealed to the public but is often derided by purists as “pseudo-ragtime that was looked down upon by the admirers of the “genuine ragtime” that is played by African-American musicians.On December 2, 1912 Mike Bernard recorded “Everybody Two Step” written by Earl C Jones and Wallie Herzer on Columbia Records.
"Everybody Two Step" sheet music

“Everybody Two Step” sheet music

Recorded November 21, 1912

The zither is a musical string instrument most commonly found in central and eastern Europe. Kitty Berger was recognized at an early age for her musical ability on the zither. As a youth she traveled to England to perform. She was frequently engaged to perform in private homes, restaurants and concert halls. In her spare time she also offered zither lessons and would call on students in their homes. In England Kitty Berger’s music elevated her to the highest social circles. In Windsor Castle Queen Victoria and members of the royal family were also charmed by her zither playing. Impressed, Queen Victoria presented her with a solitaire diamond. In February 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt and a group of distinguished guests were entertained by Berger and thoroughly impressed to learn that her zither was made in the United States.

On November 21, 1912 Kitty Berger recorded “The Fisher Boy” for Victor Records.“The Fisher Boy” by Kitty Berger
Thanks to the incredible collection at University of California Santa Barbara Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings :http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.php

Kitty Berger performing on zither in a New York City hospital

Recorded November 14, 1912

In the 1890s, Eldridge Reeves Johnson owned a small machine shop in Camden, New Jersey, when a customer brought in a Berliner phonograph. Unlike Edison talking machines, Berliner Gramophone Company used disc records instead of cylinders. The sound quality was bad and Johnson spent the next 6 years improving the sound and volume capacity. In 1901 Johnson’s Consolidated Talking Machine Company merged with Berliner’s Berliner Gramophone Company to form the Victor Talking Machine Company.

English painter Francis Barraud had a brother, Mark who passed away. When Mark Barraud died Francis inherited his brother fox terrier Nipper along with an Edison cylinder phonograph and a number of recordings of Mark’s voice. Nipper took particular interest in the recorded voice of his late master emanating from the trumpet of the inherited Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. Barraud committed the scene to canvas “Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph.”

Original “Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph.”
by Francis Barraud

Barraud took his painting to Edison-Bell and offered to sell it. He was turned down after being told by an Edison executive that “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs.” He next approached the Gramophone Company and showed a photograph of his painting. The manager asked if he could introduce a machine of their own make, a Gramophone instead of the Edison cylinder pictured. Barraud replied he could make the alteration if they would let me have an instrument to paint from. Given a Gramophone Barraud painted out the cylinder machine, and then painted in a Berliner “Improved Gramophone” machine on top adding a brass horn to replace the dark horn. The new image was called “His Master’s Voice.”

Barraud’s modified painting “His Master’s Voice”

Victor recording studios used Victor staff conductor Walter B Rogers directing Victor’s own “house” orchestras, the Victor Orchestra for popular works and the Victor Concert Orchestra for “classical” music starting in 1907.

On November 14, 1912 the Victor Concert Orchestra was in the Victor Recording studios in Camden, New Jersey to record “Oh! Oh! Delphine” by Ivan Carryl

Oh! Oh! Delphine

Copyrighted November 2, 1912

Irving Berlin was born Israel Beilin on May 12, 1888 in Russia. His family emigrated to the US in 1893. They lived in poverty in New York’s lower east side and Berlin worked whatever jobs he could to contribute to the family. He would sing in saloons for pennies and by 18 he was a singing waiter. His first song was “Marie From Sunny Italy,” The sheet music was printed with an error on the cover, his name read “I Berlin”. Berlin became a popular songwriter collaborating with many composers that were in New York. His first big hit was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” which helped introduce Ragtime to white America and started a new dance craze. Berlin became a lyricist in hot demand.

On November 2, 1912 Berlin copyrighted WHEN THAT MIDNIGHT CHOO CHOO LEAVES FOR ALABAM’ . It was recorded by the team of Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan, a popular comic duet that due to their obese stature are known as the “Half-Ton Duo.”

“The Memphis Blues” Is Published In Tennessee

The term “blues” originated in 1798 with the introduction of the George Colman’s one-act farce “Blue Devils.” The term associated “the blues” with melancholy and sadness. In March 1912 Hart A Wand, an American fiddler and bandleader from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma published the “Dallas Blues” but did not copyright it so the exact date cannot be confirmed. Although the opening bars of the earlier “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” is in blues structure, “Dallas Blues” is the first published twelve-bar blues song. In Summer 1912 highly popular southern African-American pianist H Franklin “Baby” Seals composed “Baby Seals Blues” as part of his vaudeville act with Miss Floyd Fisher. Because it has a publication date, this is considered by some to be the first “blues” song.

W C Handy

William Christopher Handy was born in Florence, Alabama in November 1873. He grew up a hard-working young man and being the father and grandson of preachers, a regular church-goer. He had to hide his musical talents from his parents who thought it was sinful. He worked odd jobs while pursuing music. At various times he was first tenor in a minstrel show, worked as a band director, choral director, coronet and trumpet player. During this time he took from the musical influences in the African-American community and began developing the blues” style. He played cornet in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and by 1896 became band master of Mahara’s Colored Minstrels. He toured the country but eventually married and settle down taking a job as a music teacher at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes in Normal, Alabama in 1900. In 1903 he quit teaching and became the director of a black band organized by the Knights of Pythias, located in Clarksdale, Mississippi. While there he studied the music of the rural poor and discovered the “slide” guitar style of playing.

Edward H Crump
“Mister Crump”

In 1909 Handy and his band moved to Memphis,Tennessee where they started playing at clubs on Beale Street. Edward Crump was a political boss and mayoral candidate in Memphis. Handy was hired to write a campaign song “Mr Crump” which started with a true 12 bar blues strain, followed by a 16 bar section, and ended with another 12 bar phrase. Handy jettisoned the campaign lyrics worked on the song. Although his band plays rags and marches they start playing the new song. People who hear it like it.

On September 28, 1912 W C Handy self-published “The Memphis Blues – A Southern Rag” as an instrumental and arranged distribution through a Memphis music store. It is sub-titled “Mister Crump.” A national distributor has expressed interest as well.

“The Memphis Blues – Mister Crump”
original sheet music

Recorded September 23, 1912

In pre-Civil War America popular stage characters included the tall-tale telling Yankee, the Frontiersman and the “Sambo” character – a performer in black face. In the 1830’s white actor Thomas Rice made a character called “Jim Crow” one of the most recognizable face in the US and Europe. As theater became more pedestrian and vulgar, black face performers lampooning African-Americans became more popular. In 1843 the Virginia Minstrels became the first full-time minstrel show “entirely exempt from the vulgarities and other objectionable features which have hitherto characterized negro extravaganzas.” Minstrel shows became respectable.

Performers would dress in costumes and apply exaggerated black and white makeup, to portray themselves as different types of stereotypical African American characters. They sang and spoke in dielect. Typically, the performers would be seated in a chorus with the main characters seated in front. The host, or “Mr. Interlocutor”, would remain standing and would introduce and direct the show. Jokes would be exchanged between the host and different characters of the group. By the 1860’s minstrels shows changed to be more pro-slavery with race as its main focus. Most minstrels showed African-Americans as cheerful, simple slaves always ready to sing and dance and to please their masters. After the Civil War the shown romanticized the fallen soldiers and was critical of the South.Minstrelsy lost popularity as new entertainments such as variety shows, musical comedies, and vaudeville appeared in the North. The popularity of Minstrel show faded rapidly after the beginning of the 1900’s. Though several performers use black face in vaudeville like Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker records of this time already refer to these as ‘Old Time’ minstrels.On September 23, 1912 the Victor Recording studios in Camden, New Jersey recorded the “Victor Minstrel Company” featuring which included the voices of studio regulars like Arthur Collins, Henry Burr, Albert Campbell and John H Meyer performing various minstrel songs.

The four members of the Victor Minstrel Company can be seen in the middle photograph

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