And the answer is….A Klingsor gramophone, well done to those of you who answered correctly!
And the answer is….A Klingsor gramophone, well done to those of you who answered correctly!
Frederick William Gaisberg 1873 – 1951
“Fred was clearly one of those Children with a natural talent for the keyboard, and his mother made the most of this opportunity from the moment she began to teach him when he was four.”
-Extract from ‘A Voice in Time’ – Jerrold Northrop Moore
Name: Frederick William Gaisberg
Born: 1 January 1873
Resident: Born in Washington DC, immigrated to the United Kingdom as a young man of only 25 in 1898
Occupation: Sound Recording Engineer, A&R Supreme
Loves: Travelling, musicians, engineering
Fred Gaisberg’s love affair with music began at the early age of just four. From the age of eight until his voice broke Fred was a chorister at St John’s Episcopal Church, here he met and studied under one of Washington’s most celebrated artists of the time – the young master of the United States Marine Band, John Philip Sousa.
“I attended rehearsals in his then modest home in the Navy Yard in South Washington. He (Sousa) patted me on the head and made quite a pet of me… I was one of those music-mad youngsters who hovered by his podium and never missed a concert.”
-Fred Gaisberg recalling his childhood
Although he was an excellent singer, the piano remained his first love and after securing a scholarship to study piano he gained a reputation for his excellent playing and accompanying and was soon playing for charitable organisations and amateur organisation throughout the city. In 1889 in search of some more pocket money, the sixteen year old Gaisberg came across an advert for the Columbia Phonograph Company. They were looking for someone to play the piano loudly and clearly enough for its sounds to be captured by the apparatus as the accompaniment for a musician to record.
One of the first musicians selected to record with Gaisberg was John York Atlee, a Whistler. Together they would churn out in three’s countless records of performances of ‘Whistling Coon’, ‘Mocking Bird’, and the ‘Laughing Song’. These recordings were made on small hollow cylinders of wax, where a needle moved gradually in a lateral way etching the grooves that represented the sound waves into the wax.
Fred Gaisberg secured his first job working at the Columbia Phonograph Company. He spent the next few years working for various people within the growing phonograph industry, including Thomas Edison.
In 1894 he met Emile Berliner and his career took on a new direction. His fascination with Berliner’s novel recording process was the start of his career change from an accompanying pianist to a recording sound engineer. Very soon after meeting and working under Berliner, Gaisberg was sent to London to record music for the European market, working with Trevor Lloyd Williams and William Barry Owen.
Once he reached London he was introduced to another sound engineer – Sinkler Derby and together they continued to travel all over the world recording local music for the ever expanding Gramophone Company. His travels are well documented in “The Fred Gaisberg Diaries” which have been made available by Hugo Strötbaum. Fred Gaisberg was without a doubt one of the single biggest contributors to the success of the Gramophone Company. More details on exactly what he got up to can be found in our Gaisberg Travels blog series.
“Thursday, 21 September 1899 [Dublin]
A very disappointing day from a record-making standpoint.
Miss [Maud] Boyd did not appear during the day, but on going to dinner that evening I discovered the whole crowd of them in the dining room.
When they arose to go, I followed them and reminded them of their promise, and after a good lot of coaxing they followed me over.
Miss Boyd proved a charming lady with a grand, big voice. She sang “The Golden Isle” from “The Greek Slave“, and a sweet girl, Mrs. Medlicot, played her accompaniment.”
- Extract from Gaisberg’s Diaries.
Miss Maud Boyd was a prominent pantomime singer at the time. She did only a small number of recordings for the Gramophone Company but they did release her rendition of “The Golden Isle.”
Trevor Lloyd Williams
“The money behind the music”
Name: Trevor Lloyd Williams
Born: 18 July 1859, Deudraeth Castle, Penrhynd, Merionethshire, Wales
Occupation: Solicitor, The first major British investor and registered The Gramophone Company in the United Kingdom in 1898 with William Barry Owen
Loves: Classical music, Law, Travelling, Investing in new inventions from across the pond
In the very early days of the Gramophone Company Emile Berliner (inventor of flat discs and the gramophone) sent his partner William Barry Owen to London to generate some interest and investors in the gramophone to launch the company. After many months of high profile engagements in London Owen wasn’t having much luck. In a final attempt for investment he gave his young solicitor, Trevor Williams, a gramophone to take home for one evening. Williams was unimpressed by the prospects of the gramophone to begin with but was convinced on trip to New York where he met Berliner and witnessed for himself the recording industry beginning to become established in the United States.
When he returned to London, Williams along with three of his friends, arranged for a bank guarantee of £5000. This wasn’t as much as Owen and Berliner had hoped for but just enough to kick start the company.
On February 23rd 1889 Owen and Williams registered the small, private Gramophone Company. Trevor Williams had overall control and Owen was his general manager. Gramophones would be assembled in London from components supplied by America. The company made its own recordings, but the actual records would be pressed at a factory in Hanover, Germany, at a factory plant owned by Berliner’s brother. Trevor Williams knew that the American taste in music would not be big sellers in the Victorian salons, so recording specific musicians that would be to the taste of Victorian Britain was essential.
“Williams put his foot down and insisted on selecting his own repertoire”
-William Barry Owen
The Company set up its offices at 31 Maiden Lane, just off the Strand. It was a shabby old building, part of which served as a make do hotel. However it was close to many of London’s theatres and music halls, where London’s brightest and best singers could be found easily. At the time Williams and Owen had no way of conducting the recording sessions for themselves, however Berliner was not prepared to share the details of his record making process with the two business men. Instead Berliner sent his trusted young sound engineer, Fred Gaisberg, to London to start making recordings for the European market.
One of the first ever recordings was the Welsh National Anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, sung by Trevor Williams’ niece, Madge Breese.
For Hound readers with access to the Welsh Language channel S4C wishing to learn more about the Welsh connection watch S4C Darn Bach o Hanes (a little piece of History) 26 August 20.25 to 21.00
Dewi Prysor looks at the Welsh connection in the history of recorded music. He learns about the Welsh roots of the music recording and publishing company EMI, attempts to record his own voice using some early technology, and visits EMI Archive Trust to listen to the first recording in Welsh.
There’s no place like home…
114 years ago, 20th August 1899, Fred Gaisberg and fellow sound engineer William Sinkler Darby were on their way back to London from Madrid via Bordeaux. They came across many strange characters and had strong opinions about the local cuisine as this extract from Gaisberg’s show’s that even after the best adventure there’s no place like home…
Sunday, 20 August 1899 [at sea]
We awake and find we are on our way to London. We enjoy the good English food once more, and make the acquaintance of some nice English chaps. The day is beautiful and the air is invigorating. After dinner, we sit in the smoking room chatting with the Captain, a jolly Englishman. We were discussing an article in a newspaper saying a woman in England had given birth to a sextette. Some of the men discredited the Captain’s statement, and he said he was not there – nor was he the father of the sextette. The distance from Bordeaux to London is about 800 miles and we’ll arrive Wednesday morning (noon).
Extract from http://www.recordingpioneers.com ©Hugo Strötbaum – Gaisberg Diaries
The young Fred Gaisberg arrived in Liverpool and made his way to London to set up his studio. Despite the long journey and unfamiliar country Gaisberg was in high spirits and recalls
“Arriving in London at the tail end of a strawberry glut of which I took the fullest advantage.”
- Fred Gaisberg
Before any recordings could be made he needed to find the correct space for the studio and purchase all the necessary materials and chemicals. His Notebook is filled with a long list of items such as:
- A gallon of coal oil
- Jars and pitchers of earthenware and glass
- A soldering iron
- An etching tank
- Oil cloth
- Cotton cloth
- A bucket
All parts were necessary to make the discs after the recording.
The studio was based in the basement room of the dingy Old Coburn Hotel.
“Yes, grimy was the word for it. The smoking room of the Old Coburn Hotel was our improvised studio. There stood the recording machine on a high stand; from this projected a long, thin trumpet into which the artist sang. Close by on a high movable platform, was an upright piano.”
-Gaisberg’s description of the studio
Although it was grimy it was very well placed near the theatres, concert and dance halls of London’s west end, which made finding artists to record easier for the young American.
By the end of the first week of August all the necessary materials were purchased, the studio was set up and began recording. The records were made in Hanover at Berliner’s bothers factory. The earliest discs issued are dated
One of the first recording artists was Syria Lamonte, an Australian singer working at Rules Restaurant in Maiden Lane.
Alfred Clark 1873 – 1950
“The fine thread running through the very fabric of HMV history”
Name: Alfred Clark
Born: 19 December 1873
Resident: Born in New York, moved to France 1899 aged 26 then resident of the UK, 1909 -1950
Occupation: Gramophone Company Managing Director, Chairman and EMI President
Loves: Classical music, sealing the deal, travelling the world
Clark was born into an affluent New York family. He began his career in the newly forming recording industry with North American Phonograph in 1889, at the age of just 16. Throughout the 1890’s he also worked for Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope organisation, where he produced ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ – Edison’s first scripted film.
“Clark had all the vision of youthful enthusiasm and it was not long before he had enticed to his recording studio the great stars of the Opera and concert halls…”
-Fred Gaisberg meeting Clark in Paris
He later went to join Emile Berliner as a sales manager at the Berliner Gramophone Company store in Philadelphia. Around this time he also became involved in experimental work, redesigning and patenting a new design for the gramophone sound box with Eldridge Johnson.
In 1899 at the age of just 26 Clark immigrated to France as an agent for Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner. He joined forces with the Gramophone Company to form ‘Compagnie Française du Gramophone.’ He remained here until 1908 and after one year’s short break he became the Managing Director of the Gramophone Company in 1909. He stayed in this post for 21 years until 1930, when he became The Gramophone Company’s Chairman.
He played a central part in the negotiations that led to the formation of Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI Ltd) of which he was the first chairman. In 1946 he became EMI President. He stayed in this post for only 6 months before deciding to leave the company. Despite his incredible success Clark took a humble view of his career.
“…it has been a drab, plugging career, nothing spectacular, a business of laying one brick upon another…”
Name: Emile Berliner
Born: 20 May 1851
Resident: Born in Hanover in Germany, immigrated to the United States as a young man of only 19 in 1870
Occupation: Recording sound mastermind
Loves: His wife and family, inventing, campaigning for better health standards and shellac discs
Berliner applied himself to the science of sound and recording. On November 8 1887 he patented a successful system of sound recording. Berliner was the first inventor to make recordings on flat disks or records. Previously recordings were made onto cylinders. With Berliner’s new system a spiral groove with sound information was etched into the flat record.
Around the time of his invention Berliner met a young man called Fred Gaisberg. With a keen interest in the newly developing phonograph industry Gaisberg paid a visit to Berliner’s laboratory in Washington DC where he watched Berliner record Billy Golden onto a flat disc and then listened to the playback.
When Gaisberg first heard one of Berliner’s recordings he noted
The superior sound and ease of mass reproducing recordings lead Berliner to set up the Gramophone Company in the United States. He later sent the young Fred Gaisberg to London to set up a recording studio to exploit the European market.
Berliner has been described as an eccentric inventor and scientist but the intricacies of the business world never came naturally to him. The success of the Gramophone Company was due to his careful choice in business savvy partners, such as Gaisberg, who made the contacts and sales that pushed the company to be an industry leader. Gaisberg commented in his journals
“For many years Berliner was the only one of many people I knew connected with the gramophone who was genuinely musical and possessed a cultured taste.”
For his achievements in the recording field Berliner was awarded the prestigious John Scott and Elliott Cresson medals by the Franklin institute. He remained a true scientist throughout his career. Both in public health by promoting the pasteurisation of milk thus reducing the rates of childhood infectious diseases and in the field of physics where he continued making developments in acoustic tiles, aeronautics and microphone technology.
On the 23rd of July 1898 Fred Gaisberg, at the age of 25 set sail on the 9 a.m. SS Umbria Cunard ship from New York to Liverpool. He was sent by the inventor of the Gramophone, Emile Berliner to London as one of the first sound engineers to set up a recording studio in London to cater to the European market.
Fred’s personal preparations for life across the sea were simple. “My baggage consisted of a complete recording outfit plus a twenty-five dollar bicycle with pneumatic tyres, and a notebook stuffed with receipts addresses and advice… “
At only 25 years old one can only imagine the excitement, curiosity and fear Gaisberg would have felt as his cousin, Carrie, waved him goodbye from the New York harbour. He must have wondered…would he like the new people? Would London be welcoming? Would the journey be comfortable?
Although he must have been anxious he was certainly ambitious, taking the opportunity to meet potential contacts and artists while aboard. During his journey he met the music hall comedian Bert Shepherd, whose wide repertoire and contagious laugh drew in Gaisberg. The two became friends and before leaving the SS Umbria Gaisberg secured a promise from shepherd to visit the studio in London once it was set up.
In the early days of the Gramophone Company the British founders worked closely with their American counterparts. A lot of the initial success can be attributed to one of the first sound and recording engineers – American Born Fred Gaisberg.
He began working on the newly invented gramophone in the late 19th century and was taken on by the Gramophone Company in 1898. Read more about the work Gaisberg did as one of the first sound engineers on a previous blog post here
On this very day 113 years ago (4th of July 1900) Gaisberg himself was en route to Milan to record for the Gramophone Company as recorded in his personal diary. As one of the company’s best sound engineers he spend a lot of time in mainland Europe recording popular local musicians.
“Wednesday, 4 July 1900 [The Vatican → by train to Florence → Bologna → Milan]
“We started for Milan, passing through Florence and Bologna.
Arriving at the Hotel Milan about 9 o’c we entered, and were lucky enough to see the great composer Verdi. Fine-looking maestro now bent with age, yet with a distinguished look. He must be about 86 years old.” FG