Every hero has a sidekick. Today’s new podcast episode tells the tale of Sinkler Darby. Listen now!

Every hero has a sidekick. And in this episode we tell the story of Fred’s wingman, the wonderfully named William Sinkler Darby. Five years Fred’s junior, fellow American Sinkler was by his boss’s side as he established The Gramophone Company in London and travelled the world to capture sound. Their tale is like a buddy movie: it’s Batman & Robin meets The Hangover meets Lethal Weapon (if the weapon in question is an unwieldy mobile recording rig).

Darby first worked with Fred in Emile Berliner’s laboratory in Washington DC in the summer of 1897 (he got a job that Fred’s brother Will had initially wanted, only to be banned by their father). Once in London, Darby proved himself to be the most reliable partner imaginable. He helped Fred in the newly established Maiden Lane studio before they headed to mainland Europe to make the Company’s first continental recordings. Leipzig, Vienna, Budapest, Paris, Milan… they visited them all. There was a definite element of ‘boys on tour’ to these trips, as Dave and James find out in this episode. There were many escapades, including a curious story involving a sausage in a sweltering train carriage in Spain. They then toured the UK and Ireland, recording in Scotland, Dublin and elsewhere. Darby was also with Fred on their ground-breaking recording expedition to Russia in 1900.

But this was more than a Victorian bromance. The duo recorded hundreds of historic recordings. Darby was an accomplished engineer himself, and helmed plenty of recording sessions himself, both at Maiden Lane and at the City Road studio that followed. We play a selection of those tracks here. Perhaps keen to emerge from Fred’s shadow, Darby went it alone with an interesting venture that we explore in this episode. The history of recorded music is packed with characters. But it’s unlikely that a duo exist who did so much to kick-start the music industry as these two, and – frankly – had so much fun doing it.

The early days – Washington in the 1890’s. The four people on the left hand side are Fred Gaisberg, Emil Berliner (seated). William Sinkler Dareby and Joe Sanders, who would accompany Gaisberg to Europe.
A young William Sinkler Darby
Pasta in Milan. Gaisberg on left, Darby on right, looking at the camera.
Sinkler Darby demonstrates the gramophone in Russia
Gaisberg, left, and Darby, right, with lady frfiends in Dublin.
Max Hampe, left, and Sinkler Darby take a break from recording in India to pose for a photo. They have clearly dressed up for it but then appear to be casually writing and reading the newspaper. Notice the bottle on the table between them.
Another snap from Sinkler Darby’s travels. This one from Turkey.
A middle aged Sinkler Darby records his two oldest children for his Darbycord venture
Youngest son Bob is held in wife Marcelle’s arms to record for Darbycord
This is the label of the recording of Bob
Sinkler Darby’s grave. Photo credit unknown. Source: http://www.recordingpioneers.com

The recordings played in this episode:

  1. Fiorello Giraud – Ancora
  2. Titta Ruffo and Maria Galvany – Si, Vendetta, Tramenda Vendetta
  3. Yvette Guilbert – La Soularde

This episode was edited by Andy Hetherington.

The Sound Of The Hound is powered by EMI Archives Trust.

You can subscribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them!


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