This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
We have another really early year with music that was recorded at the time. This year we're deep in the first great unpleasantness, but I've eschewed all the songs that refer to that as I really don't like them at all.
The first song wasn't written in 1916, but it was recorded in this year. It's a Stephen Foster song that's still being sung today (as many of his songs are). The version from this year is by ALMA GLUCK.
Alma was born in Romania but her family moved to America when she was a kiddliewink. She was classically trained and had considerable success at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
When this new-fangled recording thingie became popular, she was one of the first to recognise its potential. Besides the classical repertoire, she recorded popular songs of the time and became the first classical singer to sell a million records.
Later she married the famous violinist Efrem Zimbalist with whom she had a couple of kids, including Junior (77 Sunset Strip, etc). One of her big sellers was My Old Kentucky Home.
JOHN MCCORMACK was an Irish tenor who eventually settled in Australia.
He was also classically trained and appeared at Covent Garden where he met Nellie Melba and toured with her (thus the Australian connection). There's another meeting that's interesting to me.
Early on in his old country, he used to sing with James Joyce (yes, the author) who fancied himself as a bit of a singer. Anyway, John sings The Sunshine of Your Smile.
ARTHUR COLLINS and BYRON HARLAN make yet another appearance in these years series.
They were noted for their comedy records and others as well. This one has the rather inspired title of Oh How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wachi Woo.
I remember when I was growing up my elders would berate me about the silly lyrics of the songs I'd listen to at the time. I wish I had known about this one (and others) back then.
THE STERLING TRIO was yet another group with whom Henry Burr was associated.
It seems that he was everywhere in the early days of the century, I'm surprised he had time to sleep. We're not in Hawaii, but we're not freezing our butts off either. This is In Florida Among The Palms, written by Irving Berlin (who lived a long time).
OLIVE KLINE and LAMBERT MURPHY perform this next song (the recording quality of which is not good at all)
They both used stage names, they were really Alice Green and Raymond Dixon, but they weren't the first and were far from the last to assume a different name in show biz. Here they perform So Long, Letty.
The sound quality of this next track is vastly superior to all the rest today. It was recorded by SCOTT JOPLIN who wrote the tune.
When I say recorded, he created a piano roll in 1916, which is a form of recording and is good enough for me. Some say that folks at Connorized Music Rolls, who did the recording, tinkered with it somewhat as Scott was suffering from terminal syphilis (from which he died a year later) and he was a bit shaky.
Others contend that what you hear is what was put down. I guess we'll never know. This is Pleasant Moments.
It's been said that THE PEERLESS QUARTET were The Beatles of their day. I don't know about that as I wasn't there.
They were certainly well recorded during the teens of the 20th century. I've featured them in most of these early years, and I'm doing so again as they are a handy resource for these columns.
They perform On the Old Dominion Line.
Initially, when I listened to this, I thought, "That's not AL JOLSON". As the song progressed it became clear that it was.
The song really isn't indicative of his style that we're used to. I guess he was just starting out, trying various things to see what would work. I don't think this one did, but he did commit it to shellac so we have it for posterity.
The song is I Sent My Wife to the Thousand Isles.
There seems to have been a considerable number of songs about Hawaii this year, such that I could have filled the column with them. I refrained from doing that. However, here's another one by BILLY MURRAY.
There's a bit of overlap today as Billy was the lead tenor for the Peerless Quartet. However, this is Billy on his own. The song is about the huge expense of phoning from New York to Hawaii. He should have written a letter (remember them?) Hello, Hawaii, How Are You.
This could also be considered in the Hawaii category as well, it's called Paradise Blues. The singer is MARION HARRIS.
Marion was the first white singer who was known for singing jazz and blues songs. There were probably others but she was the one who hit the big time with her songs.
Although this is called Paradise Blues, it doesn't sound very bluesy to me. Oh well.