Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Current Bibliography

Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Current Bibliography

Article excerpt

"Current Bibliography" is an annotated index to research on recording history that has appeared recently in specialized journals. To be indexed here an article must be in English, be reasonably substantive, and deal with recording history--as opposed to musicology, sociology, or contemporary subjects such as collecting or record reviews. "W/D" or "discog." means that the article was accompanied by something at least remotely resembling a discography.

Issues covered this time were received between March and August 2011. If you contact one of these publications or authors, please mention ARSC and "Current Bibliography." Corrections or suggested entries may be sent to the compiler at

News of Publications

One of the most interesting aspects of scanning through all these publications every few months is coming across the occasional, truly unexpected tidbit. Another article on Charles Ives or "how to replace a wingnut on a Columbia Q" is always nice, but it's the unexpected that we really enjoy. (I miss the late, lamented Antique Phonograph Monthly, which regularly delivered such believe-it-or-not articles as "Elephant Foot Phonograph," "Balloon Fell on Him" and "Elam Gilbert: An Insane Person." Not to mention the one about a proposal in the late 1800s to place a gigantic horn phonograph in New York harbor, to warn ships in case of danger). These days the "Words, Words, Words" column in Blues & Rhythm, in which Chris Smith deciphers old lyrics, is always good for a surprise. For example I direct your attention to the April 2011 issue in which he spends two pages on songs about gold teeth--from 1926s "Fat Mouth Blues" ("She's a long, tall woman with coal-black curly hair (x2)/With one gold tooth, then you'll know her anywhere") to 1959s "Love Potion #9" ("I took my troubles down to Madame Ruth/ You know, that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth"). Mississippi John Hurt wailed "Goin' back to Pensacola/Gonna buy my babe a money molar." Other recent subjects have included the meaning of "monkey man" (June 2011), "I've got my habits on" (August 2011) and "under the viaduct" (September 2011). Many of these have surprising nuances.

Another surprising article, one with an olfactory component, is Rick Elinson's "Emile Berliner and Muddy Jim" in In the Groove (April/May 2011). In the early 1900s, it seems, Emile published a full-color comic book promoting child hygiene via the story of young "Jim," who was indeed muddy.

The same issue of In the Groove marked the launch of "In the WAV," a column by Don Walizer containing helpful advice on how to digitize your collection. In the following issue we find a charming, illustrated article by middle school teacher Melissa Ricci about her experiences recording the school band on a wax cylinder, using a restored Edison Standard. There were many stops and starts, but the kids are, of course, adorable. Exclaimed young Steven, "I couldn't believe a machine that old could do anything at all!"

"Don't you say showdown to me!"

As five-and-a-half of you may know my latest book was published in May 2011. It is a collaboration with collector Merle Sprinzen called Little Wonder Records and Bubble Books, and if you think you're going to get through this column without hearing about it, you're crazy. I'll leave it to others to review, but suffice to say it updates both the story and the discography of those remarkable little discs, which sold more than 40 million copies between 1914 and 1923, and led to the launch of Emerson and many other budget-price mass-distributed labels, as well as spin-off phonographs, piano rolls and the ubiquitous "Bubble Books." Anything that successful is bound to cause behind-the-scenes fights over profits, and Merle uncovered fascinating testimony in court papers documenting the lawsuits that surrounded the venture. My favorite moment came in 1915 when Victor Emerson, the Columbia executive who "invented" the concept, confronted Henry Waterson, his business partner who ran the label, over his share of the moola. …

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