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Goin' Hawaiian

GUEST,josepp 22 Oct 11 - 04:30 PM
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Subject: Goin' Hawaiian
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 22 Oct 11 - 04:30 PM

As I mentioned yesterday, I got a big load of old time music in the mail that I ordered online. One is called "Early 1900s Hawaiian Songs" and is from a 1915 Edison disc. It's pretty scratchy. This website records old songs played on a hand-cranked 1918 Victrola and records it with a condenser mic with a bit of compression so that blaring passages don't overload the signal. This might be why the sound isn't great. Edison, from what I understand, made vertically cut discs while Victor and Columbia made laterally cut discs and you couldn't interchange them. So if they are playing a vertically cut disc on a Victrola then it's going to be noisy and not great for the record or the stylus. That said, it's still quite listenable.

This is historically significant because the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (or Exposition) or PPIE was held in San Francisco from February 20 to December 4, 1915 to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal (but also to show the world how San Francisco had recovered from the devastating earthquake nine years earlier). After the Exhibition, Hawaiian music became a huge craze on the mainland.

The Victor label was releasing Hawaiian discs on a monthly basis starting in 1915. Evidently, so was Edison. By 1916, all record labels in the States were issuing Hawaiian music records or music with a Hawaiian flavor or with tropical themes. Labels sold more Hawaiian music that year than any other genre accounting for about 146 different recordings that year alone. Hawaiian sheet music and instruction manuals for playing the Hawaiian steel or ukulele were enormous sellers. Tin Pan Alley had a field day releasing one Hawaiian number after another. Hawaiian guitars sold more than any other all the way through the 1920s. All non-Hawaiian guitars had to be sold with instructions and accessories for modifying the instrument in Hawaiian fashion.

So this disc was issued at the very beginning of the Hawaiian craze and was, no doubt, bought by and listened to by a large number of Americans at that time. I know at least some of the artists on this recording played at the PPIE and probably all of them did. So it's very cool to be able to hear these very bands as they sounded at that time rather than some modern band re-cutting the old stuff for posterity.

This was the stuff that popularized the ukulele, redefined vaudeville and gave birth to the music of the 20s via Roy Smeck and Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) which really defined how music sounded at that time because anything that was written for mass consumption had to be conducive to being played on the uke. A good example is "Charleston" which was written on piano but sounds as though Jimmy Johnson wrote it to be fully functional on the uke (I play it in Bb on the uke and it sounds great). This music is an early influence on later jazz and its importance can't be stressed enough. Thank god, someone had the sense to record it for us today.

Anyway, go to the website "Old-Time Victrola Music" and take a look at their catalog--some good stuff and we need markets like this. If they don't distribute this stuff, no one will but they can't do it if no one buys it. Delivery is very prompt. I ordered it on Monday night and received in the mail on Friday.

I also picked up minstrel recordings of that era, dance tunes and popular songs from 1908-1913 and two volumes of Bert Williams recordings. But they have plenty more stuff that I will go back and buy later on. I hope you'll buy some too. I don't know any of these people, I just think they provide an invaluable service and need to stay in business.

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