Between 1900 and 1920 14 million immigrants came to the US from Europe. Although African-Americans had been portrayed as caricatures for years in minstrels shows, these new arrivals appeared in performances at museums, circuses and variety houses as “dialect acts” – German dialects, Irish dialects, Jewish/Yiddish dialects as well as African American dialects were all extremely common at the time. The comedy came from the mangling of the English language and misunderstanding of ideas as they were new to life in America. These stereotypes fostered prejudices against these groups but were popular in music and stage. They continued as vaudeville developed and very little stigma was attached to them. Some even considered these portrayals as sympathetic to the plight of minority groups.
Joseph Morris Weber and Lew Fields (born Moses Schoenfeld) teamed up together in a “Dutch” act, portraying German immigrants Mike and Meyer. Weber played Mike, the short, clever schemer always trying to involve Fields’ Meyer, the tall simple one in some caper or ruse. They became one of the most popular and profitable acts in vaudeville opening the Weber and Fields Music Hall in 1896 where they produced very successful satires of popular Broadway shows they called “burlesques”.
Their relationship was a testy one and the duo broke up in 1904. Fields took over the musical hall, producing many successful musicals. Weber continued to perform. With the developing popularity of records, they would occasionally team up again in the recording studio.
Edward Easton distributed and sold Edison phonographs and phonograph cylinders in Washington, DC, Maryland and Delaware. He called his company Columbia from the District of Columbia where he was located. Columbia broke ties with Edison in 1894 and continued making recording devices and recordings. They started making disc records in 1901 and in 1908 started to manufacture 10-inch discs with the recording grooves stamped into both sides of each disc called their “Double-Faced” discs. In July 1912 Columbia decided to make disc recordings only. Competing with both the Edison Phonograph Company cylinders and the Victor Talking Machine Company disc records, Columbia is one of the top three names in American recorded sound.
On July 16, 1912 Weber and Fields recorded SINGING SCENE for Columbia Phonograph.