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This mini information magazine on old records is issued monthly and covers many aspects of collecting 78rpm records
As I haven't been invited on to Desert Isle Discs, here are the records I would happily share for ever with myself on my Desert Island.
Arthur Roseberry's Kit Kat Band: You Were Meant for Me
(Parlophone R383, matrix E2509-2, recorded June 1929)
Many Parlophones of this era had brilliant clear forward recordings, and this is one of them. Roseberry's band produced this well paced version of perhaps not the greaest song of the era, but what the band does so well, is to provide a counter melody that echoes seductively through the main tune.
All Roseberry recordings are worth a listen, but perhaps this is the pick of the crop, with Broadway Melody on the reverse side. However, if I had more room in my suitcase, I'd definitely take the Roseberry recording on Parlophone R303 of I'm a One Man Girl, coupled with Spread a Little Happiness
(article to be continued next month)
Thanks to a well known local collector, I was tipped off that the person who must surely be the oldest surviving recording artiste, is still alive and well in a Norfolk retirement home.
I called on Joy the first day of December last, and found an incredibly alert old lady considering she had been born on April 1st 1899 and was now 119 years old. She insisted that I tell you, dear readers, she put her longetivity down to only listening to acoustically recorded discs. "I never made a recording in front of an electric mike," she insisted, but I couldn't quite work out if this was because her voice, like some early talkie film star, was unsuited to the medium, Her version was she had retired from recording to have a family.
But let me start at the beginning. Joy Berliner was born in Germany, but her parents emigrated when she was aged three to America. Owing to some mix up on the steamer, she got to New York, only to sail right back to England with her uncle, who absconded with a lady passenger of dubious repute, according to Joy, and was last heard of trying to sell gramophones in the Canaries.
Thus Joy ended up in the charge of legendary recording entrepreneur Fred Gaisberg, who took care of the child on his trip to Britain to set up the gramophone business there.
According to Joy, Will, her other uncle, got her to make the first ever disc in Britain, on June 29th 1898, it was of the three year old singing Vesti la Giubba, an extraordinary accomplishment by one so young. She even showed me the original record she still has kept in a locket round her neck. A four inch Berliner recording, the date scratched on it, but some have cast doubts on its authenticity, specially as it is made of card and looks except for the label like a small Durium advertising record of the late 1920s. However there is nothing on the label except the suspect date which reads 29/6, which could mean June 29th or maybe 1929 sixth month, and when she played the disc to me, it certainly sounded primitive, more like a home recording. Whether it was Vesti la Giubba, or as I thought Tea for Two, I didn't want to upset the old lady.
Now named Joy Gaisberg, she had some unspecified dispute with her uncle when she was ten and was unofficially adopted by that doyen of the recording studios Stanley Kirkby. It was he who encouraged her in 1906 to start recording some phonograph cylinders, and she even was given her own label by Uncle Stan, "The Joy." These one minute cylinders sold for sixpence, but despite the price, can't have made Uncle a fortune, since they turn up rarely today.
As she moved into her teens, he encouraged her to record as prolifically as him, and her recording pseudonyms are many and varied, it is very difficult to decide which aliases she used. But her claim to me that she was the only female singer of songs seems maybe a little far fetched. What about Melba, I suggested. She did then tick me off, she had said the only female singer of popular songs. But I'm sure she hadn't said that in the first instance. I threw a couple of names at her, Jessie Broughton? Never heard of her. OK what about Florrie Forde? Joy's claim is that she sang all Florrie's recordings after 1905, since Florrie was too large to fit into the small recording booth. How about Violet Essex. Yes, shouted Joy in excitement, that was another of my pseudonyms. Could she remember any other aliases Uncle Stan saddled her with? Yes, she was Nancy Charman, she said, and she would put on a deeper voice for Will Terry, and she even did those football commentaries by Sammy Shields, so she says.
I felt the old dear might be wandering a trifle, so I asked about her private life. She fell in love with the twelve year old son of well known recording star Harry Fay, named Jay, and they secretly married on a Pacific Isle when he went down under with his dad in 1909. They had had lots of children, she couldn't recall any of their names, or even the number of them, but she is sure one was called Alfred who went on to record dance band numbers on the Winner and Radio labels under the name of Alfredo. She also says one went to America and married someone named Pestle or Presley.....
I got her back on track by asking about when she had made her last recordings. I saw a tear in the corner of her eye as she continued her life story.
Jay had got a reputation of being a drinker, just like his dear old dad, and his aggressive behaviour to recording engineers like Billy Whitlock, got him banned from all the studios in 1922. As he insisted on accompanying Joy whenever she recorded, she was soon in trouble. The climax that led to her ban was when Jay deliberately, Joy claims, burped during her recording of the Laughing Policeman, ruining the serious nature of the performance.
Jay set up his own recording company, buying the defunct Clarion Company's phonograph recording apparatus and setting up Joy Cylinders Ltd. Joy definitely recalls making some cylinder masters, songs like Turned Up and Sonny Boy, which she recorded even before the great Jolson. But the trouble was very few people wanted cylinders in 1923 and I have never seen any of her six recordings she made for this company. She herself has not got any, and it would make her last days very happy if anyone out there can turn up one of her cylinders and send it to her. They are easily recognisable, since as a marketing ploy, Jay photocopied a stencil of a naked lady onto the wax, Joy insists it wasn't her.
Sadly she fell out with Jay over profits from the business, she still thinks that girl was his secretary, Elsie (Preston, or Carlisle or some such surname), and the marriage was dissolved in 1924, Joy with a broken heart. She never sang again
Not to be confused with the better known 1920s USA label, this green disc was launched on June 5th 1949 by The Mayfair Record Company of 45 Dorset Street London W1. A few turn up these days, including the fine record that launched the series, but others are much less common. The records cost five shillings and ninepence including tax, actually less than many makes at that era, but they clearly didn't sell too well.
List of records issued:
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