Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Tuck's Gramophone Record Postcard and its relation to the Durium acetate

Since the early 1990s, when I started to research the 1930s US flexible, unbreakable card board records, published by Durium ( like the Hit of the week and numerous Durium labels), people asked me if the rare Tuck's Gramophone Records - post cards with a small playable gramophone record on it -  were made of "durium" too - an acetate. I've never found any proof for that, but later I found out that in both "stories" the name of the British record company Worldecho was mentioned. 
Thanks to Jos I could add a 1920s Tuck's Post Card to my collection. These rare items were published by the Tuck Company, based in London, which started to publish regular post cards since 1898 in numbered series - a few years later it also opened an office in New York City.  
Tuck made post cards in a period that it was very popular to send this kind of messages.  Isn't it cute I found an old post card in my archive, sent to my grand mother, from the Marble Arch in London, which happened to be a Tuck's Post Card. It's a pity that the stamp ( or other marks to date the card) have disappeared, but a small search on internet learned me that the photo itself must have been made early 1900s. ( First issue 1906). 
Tuck used its photos several times and sometimes even inserted extra items, like cars or pedestrians to update the photo ( like this 1918 version). I told about some rumours that Tuck and Durium had to do with each other. Not so strange as it seems, as I found out that the material of the Tuck Record ( the actual record) seems to be from the same material as the "Durium" record. 
In 1929 Tuck started to produce Gramophone Record Post Cards. It was made by Worldecho and this small short-lived record company has been suggested as a company that used a kind of Durium-like acetate to cover its (thick) cardboard records. In a previous blog about the 80th birthday of the Durium record I posted some information about this obscure record label: Durium Records 80 years old (1930 - 2010) 
It is said that the Durium acetate was developed in Europe during the First World War, to protect aeroplane noses agains dust, heat, cold and moist and it seems that after the war new uses were found - I saw once advertisements for rain coats and garden furniture made of Durium. During the 1920s it seems that the durium acetate was used to make unbreakable gramophone records like Worldecho - a rather stiff cardboard layer with a durium surface,  produced in England. These records were produced for only six months and then it was withdraw from the market, as the records easily split into two halves if you dropped it.
The Tuck's Gramophone Record I got in my collection is catalogued as series D no. 14 and its matrix number is P 58   - It belongs to one of the first series as it was first mentioned in a september 1929 magazine entitled Musical Opinion and Music Trades, which reads in its regular column:  Messrs. Raphael Tuck are responsible for an amusing and interesting innovation in the shape of gramophone record picture postcards. Measuring 3-inch, these discs play for one minute and cost 3d each.  Several series are already available, and I have heard admirable demonstrations of  „Auld Lang Syne“, „Ye Banks and Braes“, „Annie Laurie“, „Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond“.  Besides these songs there are orchestral records and cornet and saxophone solos.  One immediate result of these postcards has been the installation of portable gramophones in the smaller stations to demonstrate them!   
Mine is one of those "cornet solos" and I played in once at my 1930s portable Columbia gramophone.  Its sound is rather low-fi and it plays for almost one minute.  
There is one remarkable point to mention.  Like I told before about the regular post card with the London Marble Arch photo from early 1900s which were still used during the late 1920s, Tuck liked to recycle ....  And even the postcards, used to stick on the small gramophone record, were published before and might have been dead stock for years. These early Tuck's Gramophone records were recycled copies too .....
I found a copy of the original post card, entitled Watching for Father, a painting of the Scottish artist Scott Rankin, who was active in Scotland as a painter late nineteen century. 

If you compare the reverse sites of both cards ( without and with the record at the  front)  you'll learn that the blue lettering was printed later and  features information about the record itself - the red/brown print learns more about the original Oilette Post Card no. 3368 which must have been dead stock from the 1910s or later. 
  The Tuck's Gramophone Record Post card - one of those ephemeral hypes from 1930.

Hans Koert
author of the Hit of the Week-Durium Discogrqphies

This blog will also be published at the Flexible Records blog  and the Keep (it)  Swinging blog. ( in Dutch and English)  

Due to severe health problems this will be one of my last publication at the Hit of the Week blog, which started eight years ago, February 2006. Thanks for reading it!

Keep (it) Swinging

Hans Koert

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The process of Durium record stamping

 Mr. Hal T. Beans demonstrates the flexible Durium record
At the introduction of the 1930s cardboard Hit of the Week, a series of weekly released unbreakable flexible Durium records, the 1930 newspapers loved to praise its new cheap 78rpm record as an epochmaking invention, which made it possible to produce gramophone records a hundred times faster and much cheaper than the regular shellac records. 
In the Baltimore Afro-American an article was published, that I won't with hold you. The title was: Process Speeds Record Stamping 100 Times. Date: 24th of May 1930.
 (source: Baltimore Afro-American May, 24th, 1930)
The article reads: Phonograph record making has been speeded 100 times by the discovery of durium, figures announced today by the makers of the "Hit-of-the-Week" record show.
While 700 ordinary records are being made, 70,000 of these new durium-processed discs can be turned out, it is shown. This article was published a few month after the release of the first Hit of the Week records February 1930 in New York City and fits into the advertisement campaign of Durium in newspapers and sponsored radio programs (like the Durium Hour) . Its cardboard records were an invention of a Columbia University professor Hal T. Beans and Joseph Reilly, who invented a way to produce gramophone records on a piece of cardboard covered with a resorcinol-formaldehyde resin, better known as Durium.

 The manufacturing of paper records at the Durium Products Inc. factory in Slough)(GB)
 The making of an ordinary shellac record was a semi-automatically labour-intensive process. Thanks to this new invention the productive capacity could be increased. Unlike ordinary records, which require time for hardening, the Durium records can be made at the speed of a printing press, for the Durium of which they are made of, hardens so rapidly it is impossible to time the action. As a result the discs can be stamped out fifteen at a time from metal dies, instead of requiring molding. Two years later, new printing machines  in Slough (Gb) could produce 12 discs in one time.
A Durium printing press (Slough)(Gb)
Research has given me information about the process of how these records were made. I found detailed information and some pictures from the machines itself, used for printing. The Durium factory in Slough, near London, started its production early 1932 and pictures of the factory have been archived. It guess that the machine must have been like those used in the US, although a pictures show only 12 dies for one plate and the US patent shows 15 dies.
The impressed numbers info the Dutium surface: 1199 B 2
If you have a look at the matrix number pressed into the surface, it gives you some detailed information about the process. Let’s take my copy of Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees with his Was That The Human Thing To Do, recorded February 1932 and released March 3rd, 1932, that could set a good example. 

Hit of the Week C-1-2 (Hans Koert collection)If you have a copy of this record take it and have a look at it. It has a promo picture on the reverse of Rudy Vallee with necktie, made by Hal Phyfe, which reads : Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees are now Recording Exclusively For HIT-OF-THE-WEEK RECORDS and you can find at the label side the printed catalogue number C-1-2 ( which means that it was released the Thursday of the first and second week of the third month (C ) (of 1932) and below the label the impressed number 1198 B 2 -  which means that the matrix number, the actually wax-recording was number 1198, in a range of matrix numbers which started with some test records (prob. 1000 and higher) and with the 1019 as the first actual commercial (promo) record  “Tip-Toe Through The Tulips With Me” by Don Voorhees Orchestra (Recorded ca. December 1929).

Drawing from a Hit of the Week ad (1932)
The B suggests that the second recording take was used to make the dies for the actually record and the 2 means prob. that my actual copy was printed ( Durium records were printed not pressed, they said) at the first machine that could make 15 records in one movement a time ……
Part of the US Durium trademark
My copy was the second record on such a right-angled shaped cardboard sheet, covered with the Durium acetate …..   Your copy may have another dies number, like 24 ( 2nd machine – 7th record) or 50 ( 3rd machine, 5th record) … The highest die I found at an European Durium record was 120 which means that in the factory in Slough ten printing press machines must have been used ….. in the US – a small research learned, that in the US too the capacity must have been equal to ca. 120 dies, which means that the number of printing machines in the US must have been ca. 8 …..   What’s you highest Hit of the Week  dies number? Let me know: f.i.:  1155 C 12
The Slough printing press - 12 records simultaniously)
Hit of the Week records were printed ….. like a news paper, not pressed ….like regular gramophone records … the Durium firm wanted to let the world know that. It refused to pay for royalties, as they said that Durium records were paper work ….. newspaper work. The US judges, finally, didn't agree with that and it was one of the reasons Durium was broken.
The factory in Slough, a few years ago (photo: Peter Tanner)
The process of making Durium records has also been described extensively in A Brief Introduction to Hit of the Week Record I wrote for the liner notes of The Complete Hit of the Week Records - cd-1 released by Archeophone. 

Song "Alma Mater"(Lawrence University)
We do have some limited information about the actual recording proces ….. It is known that Durium had his own studio at the old MCGraw-Hill Building, West 42nd Street near Ninth Avenue, New York City, but it is unknown if the actually factory was located there  too - the place where the records were produced - printed ….  Thanks to the archive of the University of St. Lawrence which had decided late 1929 to release a small cheap cardboard record to raise money to  build a new dormitory, we know that Durium could work fast and was very flexible in its organisation - it even seems that the recordings could be made on location …… In two previous blogs: Alma Mater - Preparations  and Alma Mater: the record you can learn more about the process.

The power of Durium was, that they could produce a large amount of records and distribute 350,000 up to 500,000 records all over the States within a few days. Unfortunally its ledgers are lost, like its administration, so we can only guess  about the period between the firs idea for a new project, its first contacts with the musicians (studio-musicians), the actual recording ( stock arrangements) and finally the release ....
It would be great if visitors of this site who have knowledge of this process could help me to find additional information about Durium's
time schedules ....

Deze blog is ook in het Nederlands gepubliceerd als: De fabricage van de kartonnen Duriumplaat.

Hans Koert
autor of the (online) Hit of the Week-Durium discography

Monday, September 03, 2012

The making of .... Leola Felton and Connie's Inn

 Connie's Inn ( photo: nycago.org)

Last year the final album of the Complete Hit of the Week-Durium Recordings, a four 2cd-set has been released – the crowning glory of 20 years collecting and research. In a monthly article at the Hit of the Week blog I love to look back to The Making of ….. One of the rare private recordings that was released at the Durium label was a live (?) recording by Leola Felton, who, according to the spoken intro, must have played at the Connie’s Inn
 The labelless cardboard Durium record, prob. released for the Connie's Inn (NYC) or as a private record for Leola Felton. ( photo courtesy: Ross Shore)

  This Leola Felton has been a mysterious piano player, but thanks to Robert Ford and Howard Rye, who recently published an article in Names and Numbers, entitled Leola Felton, A Forgotten Stride Pianist, unknown information was found ….. Although the article is not a complete biography of her musical career, thanks to some isolated facts it is possible to learn more about her career during the first half of the 1930s when the “private” record was made.

 Connie's Inn at the 2221 Seventh Avenue at West 131st Street - New York City ( photo: nycago.org)

  In a previous blog, entitled The making of … Leola Felton reveals her secrets, I told you about her early career as a piano player and her cooperation with Fats Waller and Fletcher Henderson. Today more about her work at Connie’s Inn. Fletcher Henderson, as was told in the previous blog, played in the Connie’s Inn with his orchestra for almost a year (late November 1930 up to September 1931) and Fats Waller, who took over the bandstand for two months ( October - mid november 1931), also joined Fletcher Henderson’s band for some weeks late 1930.

Manhattan ( 1930s)

 Leola Felton must have moved to New York City somewhere during the late 1920s and she is mentioned for the first time in New York City at an appearance at the YWCA on the 14th of May, 1930 … A year later, November 1931, she played the organ at the funeral of Mrs. Luler R. Shepherd, in fact the grandmother of Fats Waller’s wife Anita Rutherford, he had married in 1926. Maurice Waller, who wrote a book, in cooperation with Anthony Calabrese, about his father, was their son …..
The fact that Leola was invited to play the organ at that funeral seems to be an entry that learns that she must have been (closely) befriended with the Waller’s.  Fats Waller himself is not mentioned to be present at this ceremony – fact is that he was playing at Connie’s Inn during that time in one of his last weeks at the club. Leola Felton must have been working at the Connie’s Inn during the period that Fletcher Henderson and Fats Waller were the leading bands there – mind that the bands had to play both the floor show and at the dinner dancing.        Each week the Fletcher Henderson’s Connie’s Inn Orchestra  was part of a direct broadcast by CBS Network (WABC) and WMAQ.  Maybe that explains the spoken words on the record, which seems to be part of a radio program: This is a Durium record. Again we bring you Leola Fenton from Connie’s Inn and this time she’s going to play for you her favorite number the St. Louis Blues …  Could she have been one of the artist to perform at one of those live broadcasts?  The host suggests that it isn’t the first time that she was part of this specific or a previous radio broadcast ………
 Hal Bakay or Bacquet ( source: Keepyouposted)

Leola Felton again plays the organ late November 1931 when Hal Bakay, also listed as Bacquet, who was wounded during a fight between Spencer Williams and Jesse Coleman about a chorus girl, named Consuella Harris about a suggested lesbian relation between Consuella and another chorus girl. 
Hal stepped between the two fighting men. It is said that Spencer Wiliams set up Bakay after his show at the hallway of a house at 220 W. 131st St. and wounded him with a knife.  Hal was brought into hospital and was unable to indentify his attacker …. Hal Bakay, 21 years old, was a popular headlining singer, dancer and master of ceremonies ( Emcee) of Connie’s Inn - a respected vaudeville artists of the Leonard Harper revue , ….. up to the attack by Spencer ( 7th of November 1931) and his death four days later …. (12th of November, 1931)

 Thomas Fats Waller ( 1904-1943)

Leola Felton seems to have been one of the musicians part of the Connie Inn’s cast in the early 1930s …. And the rare, unlabeled Durium record might have been part of one of the live broadcasts with Fletcher Henderson ……. Mind that Howard Waters mentions a sponsored radio program, early 1930, entitled Durium Hours, of which I haven’t found any information except that Bert Lown’s Hotel Biltmore Music was one of the bands broadcasted (April 1930) and you might understand that it could be possible that the record of Leola Felton was recorded during one of those sponsored radio programs … – if true, they could have been broadcasted too from Connie’s Inn ………. I’m sure there must be experts in early 1930s radio programs who can inform me about those Durium hours shows …..
Mrs. Olive Blackwell-Bakay, widow of Hal Bakay faints at the funeral.  Who's the lady in the doorpost? (source: Keepyouposted)

  We still haven’t found any photo of Mrs. Leola Felton – It would be great is an image of her would turn up ….. but we have a photo of Bakay’s widow who fainted during the funeral and was brought out by a few friends ….. inside, invisible for us, Leola Felton must have been behind the organ ……  maybe she’s the headless woman in the doorpost - Isn’t that thrilling?

This contribution will be published in Dutch at the Keep (it) Swinging blog as: The making of .... Leola Felton en Connie's Inn

Hans Koert
author of the online Hit of the Week-Durium Discographies

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The making of ..... Leola Felton reveals her secrets

As part of a series of monthly contributions about the birth of the Hit of the Week-Durium Discographies and the release of the Complete Hit of the Week Recordings by Archeophone I introduced you last month  to some .... loose ends, like the  mysterious piano player Leola Felton who recorded for Durium on a (private) recording. This record brings ...... Leola Felton from Connie's Inn ...... , as the spoken introduction of the record says, playing the well known St. Louis Blues.  Up to that entry this was all information we knew about this mysterious piano player - Who was Leola Felton?
The labelless cardboard Durium record, prob. released for the Connie's Inn (NYC)or as a private record for Leola Felton. ( photo courtesy: Ross Shore)

Thanks to Chris Smiths I received a copy of the 1926 Stenton directory, where she is mentioned as a pianist living in 249 N. Willow in Trenton (NJ) and this information was an opener to find some info about a few gigs she must have had during this period with her Troubadours. I wondered if someone could help to solve this puzzle.

This week I was surprised with an article, published last month (!) by Names and Numbers entitled Leola Felton, A Forgotten Stride Pianist, written by Robert Ford and Howard Rye. The latter sent me a copy of that article which throws light on this mysterious pianist. 
Connie's Inn ( photo: nycago.org)

She was born as Leola M. Felton in New Jersey, probably at Madison, around 1901 and she passed away, 63 years later in New York City as Leola H.F. Carter.

Her career, described by Ford and Rye is still as a mishmash of facts and assumptions .....   

Fletcher Henderson - the great band leader ( 1897-1952)

Without enter into details, as the article does, she is labeled as a talented piano player while at High School, accompanying Sidney Woodward, a tenor from New York City. In 1926 she lived in Trenton (NJ), as the register already told us, and she played late 1920s every Saturday night with her Troubadours at the steamer Wm Penn's Moonlight, for a three-hour cruise ... as an advertisement in het Trenton Evening Times of August 1927 suggests. This information was proved by some paper advertisements I published last month.

Young Maurice Waller gets some drink by his father Thomas Fats Waller. (Source: illkeepyouposted.typepad.com)

She moves to New york City and she is mentioned as the organist at the funeral of Mrs. Luler R. Sheperd, the grand mother of Anita Rutherford, who married Thomas Fats Waller in 1926, the mother of Maurice Waller.

 Fragment with some biographical info about Leola Felton I overlooked ( source: Hendersonia - Walter C. Allen)

In  February 1964 she told Harry Pilch, that she ..... had worked on arrangements for many entertainers including Fletcher Henderson and Fats Waller. ( see Hendersonia - Walter C. Allen - p. 499). Fact is that both Fletcher Henderson  and Thomas Fats Waller played at the Connie's Inn. Fletcher Henderson played with his orchestra from the 27th of November ( or 30th of November 1930) up to the 9th of September 1931, while broadcasting for CBS Network (WABC) and WMAQ ( Henderonia p. 262  ); Fats joined him during the last months of 1930 and succeeded in September 1931 in Connie's Inn for some weeks.  Fletcher Henderson had to play during this one year (!) gig, both the floor show ..... and for dinner dancing. They played tangos, waltzes, fox-trots, college songs, current hits, excerpts from the classics in dance tempos, just about everything, Russell Procope remembers. (Hendersonia - p. 253).
 Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra - ca. 1932. (Photo courtesy: Frank Driggs Collection)

Although this steady gig, a good deal, especially at a time when the entertainment business was dropping to its lowest ebb, Henderson excepted several profitable one day gigs, described in Hendersonia ( p. 262). When Fletcher Henderson stopped in Connie's Inn,  September 1931, Fats Waller took his place. The New York Times reads: Fats Waller, co writer of  My Fate Is In Your Hands and other hits, has expended his activities thru organizing a dance orchestra. He has placed his unit at Connie's Inn, replacing Fletcher Henderson's Band. ( Fats in Facts - Laurie Wright (p. 69). Waller's gig at the Connie's Inn ended on the 15th of November, 1931, when he was replaced by Leroy Smith's Orchestra.
Connie's Inn at the 2221 Seventh Avenue at West 131st Street - New York City ( photo: nycago.org)

The second part of this review will be published as The making of .... Leola Felton and Connie's Inn
  Thanks to Howard Rye for forwarding me this information. Congratulations to Names and Numbers, the Dutch magazine, for publishing this in its July edition.(July 2012)  
Deze bijdrage zal ook geplaatst worden in het Nederlands in de Keep (it) Swinging blog als The making of .... Leola Felton onthult haar geheimen.

Hans Koert
 author of the (online) Hit of the Week-Durium discographies hitoftheweek@live.nl

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The making of ..... loose ends

 Information needed: Miss LEOLA FELTON
Searching for a needle in a haysteck 
Hans Koert

In the summer of 2011 the final 2cd album of the Complete Hit of the Week Recordings has been released by Archeophone Records - the crowing glory of twenty years of collecting and research. Except the regular commercial Hit of the Week releases numerous custom or promo records must have been released - many have been listed, but a lot are l unknown. Often the information about musicians is very sparse or musician even stay anonymous .... without a face or identifcation!: searching for a needle in a haystack .... Thanks to the project we could trace the members of the Paull Sisters, but the unknown Leola Felton still needs a face ...........: The making of ..... Loose ends. 

A sleeve for a Hit of the Week record which features the Paull Sisters: But who were these Paull Sisters? ( archive: Hans Koert)
Twenty years ago I started to collect the Hit of the Week - Durium records and during those two decades the Hit of the Week - Durium Discographies were born. When the books were published in 2005 there were still some unanswered questions. I'm thinking about the one loose end I haven't tied up. In the May 2005 version I wrote: I'm anxious to know who are the members of the Paull Sisters or the Club Men Trio.
 Julia Brock and Ruth Brock ( aka: Julia Paull and Ruth Paull: The Paull Sisters) ( Hans Koert archive)
Well, , thanks to Bill Schoerner the members of the mystery vocal group The Paull Sisters got a name .....: Julia Paull and Ruth Paull.  A few months later  I got into contact with Julia's daughter Judye Talbot, who was Julia's daughter. She told me that her mother Julia recently passed away - 104 years old and she could offer me some photos of the vocal duo. Judye told me, that their own family name  was Brock, but that they didn't want to call them selves the Brocks Sisters as another vocal duo in those days was labeled as The Brox Sisters. The Paull Sisters, two L's, so that no-one would read it as a surname ...........
The labelless cardboard Durium record, prob. released for the Connie's Inn (NYC)or as a private record for Leola Felton. ( photo courtesy: Ross Shore) I received, years ago, a copy of a private or custom recording on a Durium cardboard record from Russ Shore, without any label information, which was part of a live recording, made in Connie's Inn (New York City) by a pianist Leola Felton. On the record a spoken introduction, which says: This is a Durium record. Again we bring you Leola Fenton from Connie’s Inn and this time she’s going to play for you her favorite number the St. Louis Blues. followed by a piano version of St. Louis Blues. As, in the early 1930s numerous radio programs were made from the club by WBC, it could be part of an airshot.   
 Connie's Inn  at the 2221 Seventh Avenue at West 131st Street - New York City ( photo: nycago.org)
The information suggests that this was a custom record, sold or given away at the Connie's Inn and, as the intro suggest, her second ones ........

Connie's Inn ( photo: nycago.org)
Who was Leola Felton? A search in my handbooks and on the internet didn't work and Leola became a mysterious and anonymous piano player. A few weeks ago I received a copy of the 1926 Trenton directory, a list of names of residents of the city of Trenton ( NJ) which reads: Leola Felton - pianist - a resident who lived in 1926 at the address 249 North Willow. Of course I know this is not the firm proof that's she is the recorded artist in the Connie's Inn, but it could be.  I found some more minor details, like that she must have had her own band, entitled the Troubadours ( Trenton Evening Times) and in another news paper ( Jersey Journal ) she is labeled as Miss Leola Felton, of Madison, accompanist.

Part of the 1926 Trenton directory ( Thanks to Chris Smiths)
  I hope to get into contact with record collectors or journalists, who can help me to learn more about this piano playing lady, Miss Leola Felton, her gigs in the Connie's Inn 1930 or early 1931, or more about her airshots for WBC radio maybe ......; that would be great, giving her a face by sending me a photo of her or her band .......... to solve the puzzle .....

Part of an article or advertisement in the Jersey Journal (Hans Koert archive) 
If you have more info about Leola Felton, her recordings, her first recording at the Connie's Inn ( other then the St. Louis Blues), feel free to share it with the visitors of this blog: hitoftheweek@live.nl

This blog will be published in Dutch too at the Keep (it) Swinging blog

Hans Koert
author of the Hit of the Week-Durium discographies
Twitter: #hitoftheweek  Facebook group Hit of the Week-Durium Project

While making the Hit of the Week-Durium discography a lot of unknown promo or custom records were found. Some clubs or holidays cruises offered their customers records of the artist they had heard, or offered those records for sale. One of those unknown promo records was made by Leola Felton, who was a piano player, who had a gig in the well known Connie's Inn in New York City - but ....Who was that miss Leola Felton? She seemed to be a 1926 resident of Trenton NJ, later she could have lived in Madison accompaning vocalists ...... and she might have had her own band: the Troubadours.  Can any help me with additional information about this piano player? And it would be great if we could give her a face .........
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Connie's Inn ( ca. 1930) ( photo: nycago.org)