The bass-baritone Peter Dawson (1882–1961)

  By Tony Locantro

gat134-018-LFCourtesy of  © EMI Group Archive Trust

The bass-baritone Peter Dawson (1882–1961) came to the UK from his native Australia to study singing in 1903. His lessons with Sir Charles Santley stood him in good stead for a career that lasted almost 60 years and encompassed every kind of music, from the oratorios of Handel via Gilbert and Sullivan to rousing patriotic ballads and popular songs of the day.  He began recording in 1904 on cylinders for the Edison company, and in 1906 Fred Gaisberg signed him to an exclusive contract with the Gramophone Company. His first flat discs were on the G&T label but he was soon appearing on HMV when the dog and trumpet trademark started being used on Gramophone discs around 1909. He went on to become one of the most prolific recording artists of all time and remained exclusive to HMV for the rest of his life.

As well as his own name, he used many aliases, including Hector Grant, the pseudonym under which he performed the repertoire of Harry Lauder, not only on disc but also on the music hall stage in full Scottish gear, much to Lauder’s annoyance.

Listen to Dawson give a fine rendition of  “The Song of Australia“.   Written by English born poet Caroline Carleton in 1859 for a competition sponsored by the Gawler Institute. If you’re a SOTH subscriber following by email please go to the actual blog to get the full posting.

A stirring version of Dawson’s  Rule Britannia  is featured on the new double CD Scott’s Music Box, released on 14 May.

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HIS MASTER’S GRAMOPHONE, part 5

Today we publish the fifth and final in our series of extracts from this fine new book, with kind permission from its creators Christopher Proudfoot and Brian Oakley.

While the gramophone horn was a wonderful piece of design and construction and served its purpose well during the early years, when it came to portability it was pretty cumbersome. As one of the key marketing points of this invention was the ability to take it on picnics, to parties, and indeed to the First World War trenches, and even to the Antarctic with Captain Scott, sooner or later the Gramophone Company scientists would come up with a hornless model, if you’ll pardon the phrase!

This is the probably politically incorrectly named Pigmy Grand.

It has to be confessed that this machine was created in April 1909 to compete with portable machines coming into Britain from Europe, and despite the scorn poured on it by Eldridge Johnson, designer of the first gramophones to be brought to England from American by William Barry Owen, who pronounced it ‘a bum outfit’, it ended its life selling nearly 2,500 by September 1911.

This is the single spring model, made of satinwood with the internal horn behind the trendy treble and bass clef brass grill.

It sold for £5.10s (£5.50) or £7 with carrying case – the first truly portable record player!

If your interested in purchasing this fine edition please contact Brian Oakley at brian.e.oakley@btinternet.com     The cost of the book is £45.00 plus postage/packing quoted on request once country of destination known.

Publicity photos of the early Gramophone stars #4:Louise Kirkby Lunn. Northern Lass.

This is the fourth in a series of publicity shots from the early years of the recording business that our friends at the EMI Archive Trust have made available to us. This photo is of Madame Kirkby-Lunn (known to her friends as Louise) who was a Mancunian contralto who lived between 1873 and 1930. This picture was taken of her in 1909 when she was recording for The Gramophone Company and playing Dalila (or Delilah as Tom Jones might have said) in Saint-Saens’ opera Samson et Dalila at Covent Garden.

Unusually for an English person, Louise spoke 4 languages and sang fluently in each. Even more unusually, for an Opera singer of the era, she retained a Northern English accent throughout her life. An interesting fact about Louise was that she performed in the very first Proms put on by Henry Wood in 1895.

As for Louise’s efforts at PR, we give her a 6 out of 10 for this photo. Although she is dressed well and shows willing – and exhibits excellent technique with the net curtains – her eyes betray her discomfort with the whole sordid affair.

This is her singing in the first decade of the twentieth century, a couple of years before the photo was taken.