SH Spotlight Old 78 RPM records: FATS WALLER/BUNNY BERIGAN, etc. sound so amazing 75 years on...

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Nov 23, 2007.

  1. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    Do you have a set of variously-sized styli? They can work real wonders by riding the groove above damage from steel needles. Stock sets are available from KAB for Stanton cartridges, or you can have them made up custom by Expert Stylus in England (which maddeningly remains firmly rooted in the analogue era for communications--no Web site and no e-mail).
    McLover likes this.
  2. il pleut

    il pleut New Member

    i have the standard 2.7 mil stanton and a 3.0 and a 3.5 made by rek-o-kut, though on the few records i've done so far, the 2.7 seems to give the best combo of signal to noise.

    for a couple of records i used the L channel, since the R was worse, though i prefer to sum the two channels as this seems to cancel out some of the noise and rumble better.

    i'm trying to get a system down so i can do this without spending hours on one record, since i have a lot of records and not that much time right now.
  3. RJL2424

    RJL2424 Forum Resident

    I have two copies of one of the earliest Duke Ellington releases on Victor, "Creole Love Call" b/w "Black and Tan Fantasie" -- both using stampers made from the same master disc. Both songs were recorded on 27 October 1927 -- the first of two Ellington recording sessions at the Camden church. I could not believe that the record was mastered as well as it turned out, even though my 78 RPM playback equipment is crappy (the typical 1970s-vintage BSR changer with a ceramic cartridge, which had trouble with the treble and the low bass notes).
  4. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Senior Member

    Northern, OR

    I'd definitely love to hear that record sometime since I've never heard the original. Funny that everytime I think of that song, I can't help but think of the scene in "Young Frankenstein" when Madeline Kahn sings it as the monster "rocks her world"!:biglaugh:
  5. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    $4? Good deal! I was lucky to score mine for $10 five years ago.

    Hope you find it's money well spent!
  6. Steve, give us a short list of records cut there so we can look them up?
  7. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Boston MA
    More on those amazing discs!

    Hey Steve! Looks like more than three people are interested in this fine topic...

    Notes down to 28 Hz! Dynamic range of 52 db! Why am I not surprised? Answer: Because that's what I hear.

    Moreover, as I've said for years, decades even, certain instruments -- solo or in small combinations -- sound more real off a 78 than off any of your tinkly LPs or edgy CDs. (Oh, not yours, Steve!)

    Well after CD had defeated LP, I wrote:

    In a way really it was a blessing that early digital sound sucked. Without that impetus the enormous progress in audio during the past two decades might never have happened—or would have occurred more slowly. For out of that bleak, despairing era of expansionist digital hegemony, when any mitigation of its frozen-in-amber numerics seemed an impossibility, several realizations emerged that might otherwise have eluded us: The fine art of playback; the resurrected glory of the LP; the fallibility of audio "professionals" and academics; and our own susceptibility to delivered opinion.

    Alas, after the LP swamped 78s, no similar effort was devoted to their resuscitation. And so today, the transfers we have on CDs are but pale imitations of the originals.

    My own particular contribution to the audio art has been the application of high-end playback technology to those old spinners, a combination that few have ventured upon, and no one in the industry. I wrote an article on that too, which I believe has been mentioned here before, but just in case:

    I'm heartened to see that others too are perhaps interested in this fascinating pursuit. And aren't the performances great?!

  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Untold thousands of records were recorded there; it was Victor's main studio from the dawn of the electric era until 1937 when the church was torn down to make way for the subway or something.

    Anything that was recorded on the East Coast (nothing much was done on the West Coast) at that time for Victor or Bluebird was cut there or at their drape filled NYC studio (you can tell by a deader but still nice sound).

    Rare 38,000 series "Race" stuff like jazz, blues, washboard, gospel, big band (Ellington, Moten, etc.).

    Red Seal Classical like opera, salon, orchestral, etc.

    Victor and Bluebird "Hillbilly" stuff like string bands, Jimmie Rodgers, Hartman's Heartbreakers, etc.

    20,000 series Pop stuff like dance bands, solo singers, etc.

    All recorded in that wonderful church.

    One can instantly "spot" that studio when listening to old Victors.
  9. Another Side

    Another Side Senior Member

    San Francisco

    Wow, the Carter Family, Duke Ellington, and Paul Robeson!!! :eek:
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Some (note the "some") of those American Deccas were recorded nicely, with full, rich sound but they must be played back with the absolute correct stylus. Especially some LA recorded early Decca Bing Crosby, etc. need a special needle to get the groove reproduction correct or there will be "swish" and a great deal of extra needless noise.

    Most of my other 78's from 1905-58 can be played back uncritically but nicely (casually) with a Shure M44 Green.
    McLover likes this.
  11. Ocean56

    Ocean56 Forum Resident

    Waterford, MI USA
    Same here!.....:)
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Usually when I play a really old electric from the late 1920s to a novice they react by saying that it reminds them of Laurel & Hardy Music or cartoon music. To the casual listener, yes. Then they begin to discern the styles of the day and get an appreciation for the innovators like Louis, Bix, Coleman, Henderson, Moten, etc.

    In fact, when I mention Bennie Moten And His Kansas City Orchestra and play them "South" from 1929 (was it?) not a soul has a clue as to who I'm talking about until I explain that this "head of its time orchestra" was taken over when Moten sadly died in 1935 after a failed tonsillectomy by COUNT BASIE and, just in time for the swing era, became Count Basie & His Kansas City Orchestra and then just the Basie Band.

    Evolution. People find that time line totally cool, once explained and there are so many others, going way back to Ferd "Jelly Roll" Morton and Joe "King" Oliver. One can do the same time line with other styles of that day, especially the "hillbilly" sound of Jimmie Rodgers or The Carter Family, etc. Goes all the way up through Western Swing, Bluegrass to Hank Williams, Elvis and the music of today. It's all related.

    It stops it all from sounding like cartoon music.

    And as I keep saying, until you hear this great stuff on the original full-range 78 RPM cuttings, you ain't heard nothin' yet.

    Remember, during the recording ban of 1942-44, the major labels went back in their vaults and repressed from the original stampers the best of country, jazz and pop from the 1920's-30's. It's a cheap way to get the SAME SOUND as your $250.00 scroll Victor, Okeh Louis Armstrong Hot Seven, Columbia Potato Head Whiteman or Bob Wills Vocalion for just a few bucks.
  13. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    Bennie Moten's 'South' (b/w 'She's no trouble') was recorded 7 September 1928. Originally issued on Victor V-38021, then re-issued in 1934 on Victor 24893. A classic!
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Please note that the actual metal master for SOUTH and SHE'S NO TROUBLE BROKE some time in 1934 so some of the reissues are from the real stamper and some are dubs. You have to play it to find out. If it's a dub you can hear the old record actually starting before the music. A little tidbit that Richard Hite told me about. Forget that one!

    I've never seen a clean one on the "Race" 38,000 label but there are many minty on the '34 reissue. Just make sure it's not the dub version and enjoy.
    McLover likes this.
  15. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    Wouldn't the dub copies be those with a spiral leadout groove like they began using in 1931? My copy of 24893 (late-30s circle label) has the spiral leadout on 'South', with the oval VE logo in the dead wax, whereas 'She's no trouble' has the eccentric grooves right at the end of the regular grooves just like any later-1920s Victor normally has.
    McLover likes this.
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Not necessarily. Depends on what lathe it was cut on, doesn't it?

    But please note that "She's No Trouble" on my 1934 pressing is already a dub and looks just like the real thing visually. I can't imagine a "real" version all those years later. Best play it.

    Sorry for the sidetrack, folks.
  17. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Boston MA
    Must beg to differ. Especially if a record was a big-seller, their stampers and mothers etc. would have become worn out; what they most often did was make "recuts" by playing a disc in good shape onto a mastering machine. These can be told apart both visually and sonically (usually).

    Prewar Victors of the Scroll variety are virtually guaranteed to be originals, however. C.1940 Columbia began recording onto 16" 33rpm master discs (8-10 min/side or sometimes more) from which 78s were cut (recut really) and later LPs.

  18. kt66brooklyn

    kt66brooklyn Senior Member

    brooklyn, ny
    I am lucky to have a few of those Victors. One of the lowest bass records in my collection is Duke Ellington's Flaming Youth/Doin' the Voom Voom. Voom Voom has killer bass, it is a thoroughly modern sounding recording.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Made with only one microphone. Shows you what a great musician (and recording engineer) can do with very little.

    Their cutting amplifier probably had like 3 watts.
  20. kt66brooklyn

    kt66brooklyn Senior Member

    brooklyn, ny
    Look for lead in grooves on 20's material, if they are present, the disk is a dub.
  21. kt66brooklyn

    kt66brooklyn Senior Member

    brooklyn, ny
    On several of my Victor's, there is a high pitched sound like tube ringing. Whenever I hear it, I think about their primitive, but very good, equipment. Do you know what causes that sound?
  22. kt66brooklyn

    kt66brooklyn Senior Member

    brooklyn, ny
    On Victor's, there's stamper and mother info in the dead wax, up through the early 1930's or so. This info can be invaluable for identifying pressings. The same thing is true for Columbia family pressings (Later Okeh's, Brunswick's, ARC's etc.)
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Clark and all,

    Don't know about classical but the pop stuff reissued in the 1930's or 40's for the most part is either an alternate take from an original part or a new stamper made from an original part. Trust me on this, I've studied these for 30 years. Yes, there were plenty of dubs of older stuff but I have hundreds of "VE" 1940's pressed reissues that sound wonderful. It's all in the leadout groove. The red Columbias will have the original OKEH or VOCALION matrix number in the old style on there and bingo, that's a keeper. The dubs are not that many of this stuff (which sold in low numbers originally, mainly to college kids).

    But, MANY of my 1930's Bluebird lower price reissues of 1920's and early 1930's Ellington, etc. are already DUBBED by 1938. Why? Not because they wanted to but because the music was not considered "important" enough to save in the early 1930's. In the Victor 20 minute movie "COMMAND PERFORMANCE" you see the metal parts for Enrico Caruso, etc. safely tucked away in the vaults. I doubt they saved many McKinney's Cotton Pickers sides that way.

    Milt Gabler once told me that it was with extreme reluctance that Decca did a few dubs of some Jimmie Noone Apex Club Orchestra Vocalion sides from 1928 for reissue in 1943. He knew (as did the A&R men from Columbia and Victor) that the sound really went to hell when the did a "D" as they wrote in the books. They hated doing it but had no choice. One couldn't release a Jimmie Noone Apex Club retrospective 78 album without "My Monday Date", the master being long gone (lost). So, they dubbed that one and it sounds it. Most of the others in the set are original part pressings and boy, they sound 75% better.

    Sorry for the long blather but so many of my "buff" Bluebird Ellingtons from 1935 are ALREADY DUBS from music that was less than 4 years old at that time that one really has to know what they are doing in order to collect this stuff. I made many blunders until Richard Hite gave me the true scoop; it's all in the leadout groove (just like in the LP era) but YOU MUST PLAY AND JUDGE BY EAR. The matrix can be misleading especially when the record was a dub made on a lathe that was from the 20's. These early dubs HAD NO LEAD IN GROOVE so it can really throw you off. When you play it you can hear the surface noise of the dubbed record come in. There is really no other way to do it.

    And please note, collectors. Some stuff like later Boswell Sisters Brunswick reissues from the 1940's are indeed from the original 1931 parts even though they HAVE A LEAD IN GROOVE; the groove was added by hand in the 1940s and if you look carefully you can see it does not really connect with the actual groove of the record; it just guides the arm to the playing area. So, don't pass one of those dark brown and gold label cheap-o Brunswicks up just because of that; it is the real thing for no money.

    :) Sorry for the ramble; I don't want any newbie collectors getting burned out there on this stuff. If you have a question about the pop or jazz stuff, ask. Find Clark J. to ask about the classical side of things back then; he knows all!
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    And read Clark's famous book "The Wood Effect"; it will change how you listen to music.
    Lurgan Lad likes this.
  25. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey

    Isn't that from a wax master not being warm enough while being cut?

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