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.

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