Favoriting Thomas Edison's Attic: Playlist from May 1, 2007 Favoriting

The audio curator at Edison National Historic Site rummages through the archives of the legendary Edison Laboratory of West Orange, New Jersey. Tune in for Edison cylinder and disc record rarities, many not heard since "the old man" himself stashed them away, featuring: Tin Pan Alley pop songs, ragtime, vaudeville comedy sketches, flapper dance bands, old-time country tunes, historic classical music, laboratory experiments and other artifacts - all dating from 1888 through 1929.

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Favoriting May 1, 2007: "1920s blues and jazz artists of Edison disc records" by Ray Wile & Len Kunstadt - ARSC 1977

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"My papa doesn't two-time no time" - Diamond Disc 9482 test pressing

Artist Track Album Year
Genevieve Jordon  Baby's got the blues   Favoriting Diamond Disc 9204  1923 
Original Memphis Five  St. Louis Gal - blues fox trot   Favoriting Diamond Disc 9254  1923 
Fletcher Henderson and his orchestra  My papa doesn't two-time no time - fox-trot   Favoriting Diamond Disc 9482  1924 
Andy Razaf - vocal, Maceo Pinkard - piano  Hot tamale baby   Favoriting Diamond Disc 9705  1924 
Wilbur Sweatman's Brownies  It makes no difference now   Favoriting Diamond Disc 9782  1924 
Helen Gross with the Kansas City Five  Undertakers blues   Favoriting Diamond Disc 9813  1924 
Bud Lincoln and his orchestra  Everybody stomp   Favoriting Diamond Disc 10641  1925 
Georgia Melodians  I've found a new baby - fox trot   Favoriting Diamond Disc 10913  1926 
Mal Hallett and his orchestra  Wang wang blues   Favoriting Needle Type disc N-1170  1929 

Ray Wile and Len Kunstadt spoke at the 1977 ARSC Conference in Orange, New Jersey.

Thanks to: Ray Wile, the Len Kunstadt family, Spivey Records, and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections.

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Listener comments!

Philip Tower:

Love these programs. So does my dad.
Mitch Golden:

Question and comment: The question: Do you know how these records were played for this talk? Were they playing tapes of the records, or playing the records live? On what sort of machine were they reproduced?

The comment: a correction to the playlist - Kunstadt says the spelling was Jordon, not Jordan. (Or was he mistaken?)

Hi Mitch- Just before the Fletcher Henderson record, Ray Wile mentions that Merritt Malvern (who was an audio engineer) made the transfers to tape, with no filtering. So, they were listening to a tape recording on that day. Sometime before the program, he must have played the discs electrically using a modern (1970s) turntable - into a tape recorder, probably a reel-to-reel. The reason you hear so much surface noise is because he didn't apply any equalization (a.k.a. "filtering"). Some people prefer to listen to electrical playback of acoustical recordings without any equalization.

Jerry -- regarding some people's preference for no equalization -- it is understandable when you hear so many digitized recordings ruined by overuse of Digital Signal Processing. I hear so many artifacts and midrange distortions from DSP, overcompression and low bitrates that it becomes unlistenable. A true audio professional can sometimes work miracles, but much of what I hear on the Internet is amateur restoration.

great programme: the enthusiasm and knowledge of the presenters is quite infectious. and i love the transfers: no processing: you get a real feel for the music. more please!!
Linda Fitak:

Listen to Kunstadt's comments after the end of song number 6- Undertaker Blues by Helen Gross.Listen specifically starting at 42 minutes 45 seconds.I "think" i hear Kunstadt saying "Rosa Henderson met his requirements.Edison measured them around to see if they had the right circumference figuring out their vocal qualities."
I wonder exactly where Edison measured them around? The waist or someplace higher up?And i wonder what he measured them with?A tape measure or maybe his arms.
And what measurements did Rosa Henderson have that met his requirements?
Maybe Edison "measuring them around" was referring to recording horns but sounds like to me it was some sort of physical measure of the singer themselves.Please listen to this and e-mail me back what you think.I would really like some opinions.Also the other person on the program with Kunstadt seems embarrassed or very uneasy with what Kunstadt says.See id you hear that too. thanks, Linda

Hi Linda. I think Len K was goofing around there, not serious.
Linda Fitak:

If Kunstadt was not serious and goofing around and improvised the whole story about Edison and singers measurements my husband came up with a good reply if he could have been there-My husband would have asked Kunstadt if any college has a math class on computations for measuring singers and meeting the parameters for fulfilling requirements to determine their vocal qualities.
I never knew before that the qualities of determining a good jazz singer were such an exact science.
But then again, Edison was a very "scientific" man familiar with all kinds of measurements and equasions because of his inventions.

Okay, my apologies to Linda. Here's a correction. The following quotation is from page 50 of the book "Edison Diamond Disc Record Labels & Discography" by Charles Gregory, in the article titled "The Diamond Disc's Director of Artist and Repertoire - Thomas Alva Edison" by Jack Stanley. Stanley writes of TAE: "He studied many singers and did a major study on Elizabeth Spencer. She was one of Edison's favorite sopranos. He had doctors study her head to see why she sounded so nice to him."
So, Len Kunstadt may have been referring to that story, or a similar one. Maybe he saw or heard about the same documents that Jack Stanley used to write his article. (I knew Edison studied the sound of vocalists on recordings vs. live, etc. But I wasn't aware before that he had a doctor study Elizabeth Spencer's head.)
Colin Age 11 From Austin, TX:

Cool playlist. I love the Jazz. The Fletcher Henderson was intresting, and so was the Mal Hallet. Big Fan of the Georgia Melodians and Wilbur Sweatman.
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