HARRY LAUDER (1870–1950)

By Tony Locantro

Harry Lauder (1870–1950), the great international Scottish entertainer, was born into a poor family in Portobello, near Edinburgh, and worked in Scottish coal mines during his youth. His fellow-mineworkers enjoyed his singing and encouraged him to perform in the local halls, which led to a full-time career as a singer.

He made his London music hall debut in 1900 under the Scots persona which became his hallmark, complete with a pastiche of highland dress, broad accent and a canny eye on his money.

From 1902, Lauder recorded extensively for The Gramophone Company, initially on G&T, and by the outbreak of war in 1914 much of his repertoire was on both HMV and Zonophone. The death of his only son on the Sommein 1916 prompted him to make a record appealing for £1 million to help disabled Scottish servicemen and he gave numerous fund-raising concerts at home and abroad. After the introduction of electrical recording in 1925, Lauder remade much of his earlier repertoire for HMV, Zonophone and Victor.

Harry Lauder – Don’t Let Us Sing About War Anymore.        If you’re a SOTH subscriber following by email please go to the actual blog to get the full posting.

Thank you to our friends at the EMI Archive Trust in providing these fine images.

HIS MASTER’S GRAMOPHONE

  

PART 1

We made mention of this fine new hardback book a few months back, but feel it deserves more attention, and so, with the kind permission of its creators Christopher Proudfoot and Brian Oakley, we’re starting a series of extracts to give/remind you of the first golden era of  recorded music and the wonderfully crafted machines that allowed it to be heard.

First up is ‘The Improved Gramophone – Trade-mark, (Style No 5).

This was the machine that started the life of The Gramophone Company in Britain in 1897, the first to be sold here by Wilfred Barry Owen and his associates. While the very first machines imported from New York bore The National Gramophone Co name, subsequent imports carried the names of The Gramophone Company (until 1899), The Gramophone Company Ltd. (until the end of 1900), and The Gramophone and Typewriter Ltd (January 1901-March 1902) together with one of the first two addresses of the Company, 31 Maiden Lane or 21 City Road.

Initially retailing  at £5.10s (£5.50), cheaper models were added, retailing at 2,3 or 4 guineas (£2.10, £3.15, £4.20)

With a plain oak case housing the motor and, together with the extension arm, mounted on a baseboard and the mainspring projecting in a nickel-plated cast iron casing, the Improved Gramophone set the standard of craftsmanship and quality that was to epitomise the Gramophone Company’s output for many years.

Other versions, like this one

were made from walnut with gilt fittings, and there were even ‘Extra Fine’ models made from mahogany – all at this stage imported from New York. The witch’s hat horns were either made from tinplate or zinc and painted black, as in the first photo, or single spun from brass. While the first shipment was largely the black version, the brass model, an experiment, proved the more popular and by 1902 nickel plated and even silver plated versions were available.

To complete the purchase, wealthy customers were invited to buy a carrying case. These came in several styles, made in black enamel, brown canvas and green crocodile or tan leather. Classy eh?

Sounds as useful as a chocolate teapot? The long tradition of chocolate records.

We were sent a link to a contemporary Scottish group called Found who worked with a local baker to create a record made of chocolate. It was for their single Anti-climb Paint and you can watch a video of their experiment here. It seemed like a novel idea.

But they were not the first…..this guy in the Germany did it back in the 1980’s and apparently applied for a patent to own the chocolate disc.

I think his disc sound better and looks even better to eat than the more recent Scottish effort but I suspect his patent was unsuccessful because even he was nowhere near the first to have this idea.

Our friends at the EMI Archive Trust have come up with an even earlier example dating back to the very beginning of the twentieth century.

The EMI Archive Trust has examples of the packaging and gramophones made to play chocolate records. These were manufactured by Stollwerck, a German confectionary firm, which produced small disc machines from 1902. These were simple machines, derived from the American toy Graphophone. The records themselves were vertically cut, and some were made of chocolate with a tin-foil covering. Two models of machines were made; one tin-plate circular affair finished in green and gold, and one rectangular wooden one.

As ever, please contact the EMI Archive Trust if you would like learn more about their collection.

Stollwerck has a chocolate museum on Cologne, Germany, where you can find out more about their history…

“That faint perfume of the salons” The Gramophone Company moves into Opera. 1902.

In the early days of their UK business (i.e. before 1900), Gaisberg and the Gramophone company made good headway in persuading music hall stars and comedians to record with the new Gramophone technology. They found it much more difficult to persuade the great Opera singers of the day to condescend to do so.

To try to alter this, Gaisberg recruited Landon Ronald, who had been Nellie Melba’s pianist and is seen above posing with her, to come on board as an A&R man to actively target the recruitment of Opera stars to the cause in 1900. Their breakthrough came a couple of years later with the huge success of the first Caruso recordings in 1902 which proved that the new medium sounded good but also, crucially, that it was a lucrative new source of revenues for the singers.

On May 30th 1902 Pol Plancon, who was a leading Opera star, arrived at Maiden Lane for a first recording session with Gaisberg in pursuit of the recording shilling. This photo is from the EMI Archives and shows Plancon in a publicity shot. Fred remembered him as “daintily booted and gloved like a Parisian dandy with that faint perfume of the salons about him” which certainly concurs with the picture. Plancon was not impressed by the dingy premises at Maiden Lane, literally turning his nose up at the place. It took some witty stories from Landon Ronald, who was there as accompanist, to relax Plancon sufficiently to deliver his contracted 10 sides of music.

Glamorous gramophones and other early playback devices #3

This little beauty from the EMI Archive Trust collection is an Oratiograph Phonograph which was made by John Schoenner in Germany in 1902

Its described by the Trust as:
 
“…a is a fascinating small machine about which not much is known. They were made in Germany by the John Schoenner Factory in the early years of the 20th Century. The Oratiograph outfit comprises of a box containing the mechanism, a box containing the cylinders, and a collapseable paper horn. Once set-up, unlike other phonographs, the reproducer and horn remain static, as it is the madrel which moves beneath it. The cylinders were wax on a tin core and came in a red box with decorative lid.”

Thank you to the EMI Archive Trust for allowing us to show these pictures. You can find out more about the EMI Archive Trust (and even arrange a time to go and visit their gramophone collection) here.

We’d love to make contact with people who have an interest in these kind of devices. Please get in touch via the comments section below.