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 1898 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.