Russell Hunting stories #3 1898: Oi! Where are you going with those records?

This week we are planning to run a five day series of blog entries about Russell Hunting a maverick who was involved at the start of the very start of the record business when its pioneers were searching to find the best business model to capitalise on the new sound-recording and playback technology. Hunting tried all sorts of ways to make money. One or two of them were close to the wind. None were boring. This is day #3 of 5 about the early years of Russell Hunting.

After coming off worse in a skirmish with the law and finding himself at the pleasure of the US government for 3 months in 1896, Russell got in another scrape but this time the boot was on the other foot. Hunting found himself to be one of the very first victims of dubious record company accounting….

In 1898, a cylinder record company called Leeds Talk-O-Phone contracted Russell to record a version of one of his famous recording set-pieces which was called “Cohen at the Telephone”. Hunting was paid $5 per “round” for his troubles. A round was a recording into 4 machines that in turn produced about 100 acceptable duplicates of a cylinder.

At the end of the fourth round Hunting spotted a man covertly taking a batch of cylinders away from the studio. Hunting pounced and discovered additional copies of the “Cohen at the Telephone” recording. Leeds Talk-O-Phone were paying for four rounds but recording far more cylinders. Copyright law had not been established for recordings at this time, but Hunting accused Leeds Talk-O-Phone of attempting to defraud him.

This time Hunting was more successful than he had been with his skirmish with the law over obscene recordings. Leeds Talk-O-Phone, according to Hunting, made good upon being threatened with exposure.

This was not the end of Leeds Records naughtiness. In April 1909 Victor triumphed in a lawsuit for patent infringement, and Leeds Records and Talk-O-Phone went out of business.

Big pink foot for Leeds Talk-o-phone

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