Friday, May 3, 2019

A Special Post for Pete Seeger's 100th Birthday: The Weavers and Mahalia Jackson, Live on TV, January, 1958

Today is May 3rd, 2019.
This is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pete Seeger. I consider Pete to have been the greatest vocalist ever recorded - and I don't think it's close, with John Lennon as a distant second. His voice can move me to a degree unmatched by anyone else I've ever heard. It was a natural instrument, a clear extension of his speaking voice, and unencumbered by training, artifice, pretention, smarm or anything else that might interfere with simple, direct, emotional singing.
On top of that, I consider Pete Seeger to be the single most important American musician of the 20th Century, when one takes into account all of his work: musical, social, political, environmental and more. I can certainly argue this point, but I doubt most of you have all that much interest, and it would take far more time and typing than I'm going to expend here and now. Feel free to disagree, but I'm not trying to start a debate, just telling you where I stand.
In addition, The Weavers are indisputably one of the most important groups of the second half of the century. Without the Weavers - and particularly Pete - there's no folk revival, no folk rock, and that's just for starters. So it was with GREAT interest, about 30 years or so ago, when I found the following label on an otherwise nondescript reel of tape:
In addition to just wanting to hear this, immediately, the date on this session intrigued me. January 13th, 1958. Most articles on the Weavers would have it that they were blacklisted from TV after 1951. AND: from reading a few books by and about Pete Seeger, I knew that he quit the Weavers in the winter of 1958. Was this a live performance on TV, during their blacklist? And was their very last live performance with Pete as a member (prior to reunions)?

Now I have the answers, and both answers are "yes" and "sort of". These answers come from a recent biograph of the Weavers, "Wasn't That a Time". This book documents that the WGN appearance captured here was their first TV appearance in years, and also indicates that, while in Chicago, they took part in a jam session at the then-brand-new Old Town School of Folk Music - the latter seemingly not a scheduled appearance in the evening after the TV program. This was certainly their last pre-arranged live performance.

What happened next was an studio attempt at making a rock-and-roll flavored single, which was panned by everyone involved, then a vote on whether or not to record a commercial for L & M cigarettes. Pete was outvoted, three to one, worked on the commercial with the group, then immediately quit.

That means this is undoubtedly the last recording of the original Weavers prior to the split. And there does not appear to be a copy of this performance anywhere online (it can be viewed at the Museum of Broadcast Communications Museum in Chicago, and I have seen it, but you can't take or get a copy).

A big additional benefit of this recording is the presence of the great Mahalia Jackson, who sings a few songs, including teaming up with the Weavers at the end of the hour long recording.

A huge deficit of this recording is the presence of the consistently and severely insufferable Richard Dyer-Bennett, a performer whose pretentiousness truly knew no bounds. I can imagine plenty of 1950's and 1960's people being unable to take folk music seriously, if they'd first been presented with Dyer-Bennett as a purveyor of the genre. He even manages to ruin "O No John", a fun, playful little number which was in my mother's repertoire. The Anti-Seeger, if you will. (I will add that the effect is even worse if you can see him in this performance which (as I've mentioned) I have.) Again, I'm sure there are those of you out there who's mileage varies. Such are the vagaries of taste.

But enough about him. Way too much.

This is probably the tape from my collection that I consider the most valuable. I would include the Merigail Moreland tapes and the raw tapes I own from an unreleased Dora Hall Dixieland album. The latter two, though would have a tiny, and a small audience interested, respectively. The audience for this one, I'm guessing, is quite large, and I've considered trying to sell it at times. But when it comes right down to it, I'm never parting with this tape, and if that's the case, I might as well share it with the world, or whatever part of the world is reading and listening to this.


Download: Various Artists - The Hour of Music, January 13, 1958, Part One

Download: Various Artists - The Hour of Music, January 13, 1958, Part Two

Happy Birthday, Pete! I miss you.

Friday, April 19, 2019

WNOR, Norfolk, Virginia, 12/20/67

Today, I have something very special to share, something which was dropped into my lap some months ago, with a follow-up confirmation that it was okay to feature it here. A man who greatly enjoys my site named Scott, from Texas, offered to send me four hours of vintage AM Top 40 radio from late 1967, in Norfolk, Virginia. I have a couple of things to say about this recording, but first, here's how he described what he was offering (and later sent) me:

I found all of the tapes that my friend sent to my dad while he was serving in the Navy from 1962 to 1968. In finding these I found a tape of a full 4 hour show of Bill Adams on 1230 AM.......nothing is cut out except for the turn of the tape at the end of the sides (4 track mono on wonderfully ammonia stinky Kodak tape......3 tracks at 1250 feet at 3 3/4 IPS........) I have transferred this (and all of the tapes sent to the U.S.S Lawrence during my father’s tenure) to Variable Bit Rate MP3 for my archives. 

That pretty much sums it up. I will just add that I was amazed at the number of commercial breaks and live reads that take place during this four hour show. I don't believe that there are any more actual commercials than were likely present on other stations in this era (and I have not only several other tapes from this general period, but also my own memories), but here in Chicago, at least, I think the commercials were run together in packages of 3-4 minutes. In this segment, it is rare for two songs to be played back to back without significant DJ chatter and at least one live read, if not an actual recorded commercial. And I'm not sure there are ANY segments where more than two songs run back to back without commercials in between. 

That doesn't take away from the enjoyment at all - even the commercials are quite entertaining - but I did find it odd. And of course the music is often just glorious, and there's the added benefit of featuring a few records I've never heard before. 

That's really all I have to say aside from a giant THANK YOU to Scott. The tape is divided into three segments, all of which are posted below: 



Saturday, April 6, 2019

A Vacation! Ed Sullivan! Mike Wallace! The Brooklyn Dodgers! All on One Five Inch Reel!!!

Hello everyone!

Before I get to this weeks remarkable reel of tape, here is volume two of my series covering the evolution of tapes from the Minnesota Mining Company, aka Scotch Tapes. Last time, I shared what has been confirmed to me as the first design they used, a very attractive and busy Scottish plaid theme that was in place from around 1948-1949.

Fairly quickly, they appear to have modified this box considerably. Perhaps someone in marketing decided it would be a good idea to have an image of the tape right on the box. The plaid theme is relegated to the background, and is well under a quarter of the box, the reel is the dominant part of the image, and in a new feature, there is a little box near the bottom telling you whether you've purchased the paper-backed tape which had initially been the only choice, or if you've bought the new, plastic-backed version (which would soon become the industry standard). This box appeared in perhaps 1949 or 1950, and was replaced by at least 1951, if not earlier. By the time the next design came along, paper-backed reels were a thing of the past.

Incidentally, the timing chart seen here as part of the reel, was indeed part of the reel, although it must have been easy to dislodge - I've only ever seen two or three of them. And finally, for seven inch reels, 1200 feet seems to have been the only choice at this point. As different (and thinner) plastics would be employed, going forward, this would eventually expand into a choice of 1200, 1800, 2400 and even 3600 feet on a single seven inch reel.

What a fascinating and fantastic time capsule I have for you today, all captured at 3 3/4 inches per second in glorious mono, on a single five inch reel of tape. Here's what the back of the box (a Scotch box, by the way) looks like: 

Incidentally, in reference to my comments on tape length, above, by the tape this tape was bought (1956 at the latest), the industry had figured out how to use thinner plastics. This tape lasts an hour or so on each side, meaning it's an 1200 foot reel, the same length as on the seven inch reel pictured at the top. In 1951 or 1952, they probably would only have been able to fit 900 feet onto a five inch reel. 

These are the things I think about. Don't pity me. 

The tape is dated 1957, as you can see, and virtually all of the recordings do appear to come from that year. But the tape had also obviously been used previously, as the last thing on the tape - and the most wonderful of the four segments - is clearly something recorded in the fall of 1956, then partially erased by the material earlier on that side. And I sure wish that erasing hadn't taken place. But still the material that is here is mostly great, so let's dive right in. 

The first segment of the tape is the one I find the least interesting, even though it contains a genre I usually love - the home recording, with family and friends. In this particular case, the 16 minute recording just isn't all that interesting, starting as it does with someone breathing into a microphone, and dominated as it is, later, by a woman reading a Mad Magazine article without much humor or character in her vocal delivery. The entire recording is essentially some folks from Massachusetts finishing up their yearly visit to the home of friends. 


Next up, a reel treat for anyone who enjoys recordings of vintage variety TV. The remainder of side one, except for a tiny bit at the end, contains the broadcast of the Ed Sullivan show for March 3rd, 1957. I suspect that this was recorded first, then the opening section was by the vacation material, which seems to date from later that year, in summertime. 

The show is billed as a tribute to My Fair Lady, on the first anniversary of its debut on Broadway, and there are several acts (and comments) related to that show, but there are other, unrelated acts as well, including a lengthy, sort of pathos-laden bit at the end by a comedian, as well as a lot of commercials, particularly those featuring a special offer/contest, which you'll hear about as the tape unspools on your listening device. 

On the one hand, this is not an episode of "The Ed Sullivan Show" that I would have particularly enjoyed watching, compared to some of the episodes which have had segments excerpted on specials over the years, but on the other hand, it sure is a fascinating listen!

(the last two minutes or so are what's left of an even earlier-recorded business meeting of some sort. I'm not sorry that this recording was mostly erased.)


Side two begins with a split second of the same meeting, followed by someone starting to sing "Stardust", before quickly segueing into an episode of a show Mike Wallace hosted during this era, "Night Beat". Virtually the entire show is here - 51 minutes - missing only what Wallace indicates at the start were going to be some theatre reviews. 

There are three segments here, first a news round up, then an interview with the former ambassador to Russia, George Kennan, and finally Garry Davis, proponent of one-world government. It's an interesting listen. For one moment, mid-show, the recordist stops the tape and picks up again a few feet forward on the tape, and we teasingly get to hear a few moments of a pivotal Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game. Ah, well. 

One more thing; in four spots early in this segment, whoever was recording did <something> which resulted in lengthy and loud, high pitched whines. I have edited these out, leaving just a split second of the start of the whine. They will sound like edits, because they are. I am sparing your ears. 


And finally, the pièce de résistance.
What we have here is a tantalizingly brief (eight minutes) recording of the Brooklyn Dodgers, at the start of their locker room celebration, just after beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, on September 30th, 1956, to win the National League Pennant on the last day of the season. What a great little hunk of tape.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Local Variety Show, Plus the Start of a New Series

I thought I'd start an occasional series about something that's always interested me. I'll admit right off the bat that this might not interest all that many others, but I think it's worth presenting.

What's behind it is this: When I look through the tapes I have bought (and the tapes my family bought and used from before my birth through the 1980's), I notice that, for much of the period when reel to reel tape was a relatively common thing for people to buy and use (1950's through the 1980's, I'd say), the Scotch brand was the dominant company producing the product people wanted to buy.

And the Scotch brand made more changes to their packaging, especially in the 1950's (when they also made particularly attractive boxes), that I thought I'd try to capture the evolution of the Scotch Reel-to Reel Recording Tape box, starting today, and continuing now and then.

The very first box into which Scotch placed its product, circa 1948-49 - and that product would have the paper backed tape (I don't believe there would have been any plastic backing yet) that I've written about from time to time - is this wonderfully colorful plaid pattern:

I have seen very few of these over the course of the many years I've been collecting reel to reel tapes. The tape contained in the above box, appears (based on the writing on the back) to have, at one point, contained classical recordings (radio, records, live? I don't know), made in 1949, 70 years ago. But some misguided person has bulked erased that material. The bulk eraser is an item which should be banned from existence.

Hopefully, this strikes at least a few of you as an interesting sidelight to the main focus of this blog.


A little side business here: First, thank you, as always, for all of the comments. I encourage people to go back and read the comments that have been made, because they often feature someone fleshing out the text I've provided, or adding further information that I didn't know or didn't occur to me. Most of you choose to post without a link back to your e-mail account, which is fine, but please know that if you do make it so that your posts can be responded to in e-mail, I often do respond.

Anyway, after my recent "compendium of comedians" post, someone asked who the comedian was who punctuated his act with repeat cries of "Oh, Yeah!". That's Timmie "Oh Yeah" Rogers. In fact, if you want to hear a fun and ridiculous record, look on youtube for the hit "Back to School Again" by Timmie "Oh Yeah" Rogers, from 1957, perhaps my favorite year for nearly all types of popular music. That it's fun is not in question. What makes it ridiculous is that Timmie Rogers was 42 in 1957.

And now:


Here's a lovely tape I came across a few months ago, featuring a recording of a local talent show. I believe it's held by some sort of lodge or organization or some such - I picked up some clues when I listened all the way through, but failed to take notes, and having spot checked it just now, I didn't find the spots in question, but I'm sure someone out there who enjoys this sort of thing might be able to identify it.

There's a lot to digest here, some of it wonderful, some of it wonderfully awful, some of it admittedly tedious. And it is just over 90 minutes long. I hope that you'll give it a chance, or at least skim through it looking for something sweet or ghastly, depending on your taste. The end of the show is gone, erased by something far less interesting, about halfway through the second side of the reel. I shame, as the last performance is one of the more ridiculously incompetent ones on the the tape.

Download: Various Artists - Yesterday and Today: A Talent Show


As a bonus, here is a short reel of tape containing two Public Service Announcements about learning CPR, from star Soccer goalie Scott Manning and from a baseball player of someone less stature, Ed Ott.

Download: Two Sports-Related CPR PSAs

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Ed Sullivan Meets the Wounded Soldiers

Okay, here's a truly remarkable tape. I have, on several occasions here, and at WFMU, shared the bounty of a massive purchase I made well over a decade ago, featuring a variety of network recordings, including many raw tapes, sound effect reels, foley material, etc, primarily from CBS television. This one might be the most amazing of all.

It takes a moment to get going, but when it does, this recording features recordings made during a visit by Ed Sullivan to an Army hospital (or some such)  - apparently in Denver, according to the box, circa 1969 or 1970. Presumably, a camera crew was following, and some segment of this recording was used in a broadcast, whether on his show or elsewhere. But what's captured here is a good part of the visit - 25 minutes of it, anyway - Ed being taken from bed to bed and room to room, being told about the soldiers and their injuries (most of which occurred in Vietnam or in training to go to Vietnam), and then sharing a few words with each of the young men.

I don't think more needs to be said.

Download: Ed Sullivan - Ed Sullivan Meets the Wounded Soldiers


Traveling further west, and another tone and attitude entirely, is another fairly unique tape. I have to believe this was made for a High School project, as there are lots of clues that a group of High Schoolers made this tape, and it seems unlikely that they'd have gone to this much trouble just for kicks. It's an imitation radio broadcast, from the mid '70's, complete with news reports, sports updates, lots of current and recent music, and other hallmarks of top 40 radio. Except the stories and ads are snarky and filled with lame jokes, a song by Paul McCartney is mis-identified (write album, wrong song), and the radio "staff" are clearly amateurs. All that could just point to this being a high school radio broadcast, but the kicker - and the proof that this never aired - is that the station is identified as K-R-A-P radio.

If I'm hearing it right, this seems to come from Turlock High School, which is in Turlock, California. And I really wonder if these students pushed things past their teacher's comfort level with that KRAP stuff.

Download: Unknown High Schoolers - K-R-A-P Radio



And finally, for you advertising fans, here's an endless series of attempts to record the same hard-sell copy for "Cannon Flex-O-Matic", one of which you can see here.

Download: Unknown - Recording an Ad for the Cannon Flex-O-Matic

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Huge Collection of Comedians, As Recorded Off Television, and More!

Almost exactly a month ago, I posted a lengthy compilation of recordings off of TV, a series of Huntley & Brinkley "tag" stories from the end of their newscasts.

Today. I have the work of another obsessive tape compiler/collector. In this case, whoever made this tape labeled it "Comedians", and captured over two hours of stand-up comedy off of his or her TV set, in what sounds like the early to mid 1960's. The Ed Sullivan Show is no doubt the source of a good percentage of this material, and sure enough, ol' Ed can be heard from time to time.

Not everyone here is identified. Several of these voices are clear to me (I am also a collector of comedy albums, and have hundreds of them), a smaller number of them are mysteries to me. But rather than break this down into a who's who, I'll just share the whole 125 minute recording with you, both sides of a 1200 foot reel of tape, recorded in monaural on both sides of the tape:

Download: A Collection of Comedians on TV.


We'll stop now for a brief commercial announcement from Playtex. Anyone else find the announcer addressing himself to "Mother" to be weird?:

Download: Playtex Nurser Bottle Ad


Finally, a tape which may be of interest to only a few of you, but which is important to me just for the fact that it exists. It is on a paper reel. I've written about these before, but the earliest home recordable tapes were made with paper backing. They tear just like a piece of paper. Then, for a time, you could get either paper or some sort of plastic backing, and very quickly, the much more durable plastic backing won out. I'm sure someone out there could correct me, or improve my knowledge about this, but paper backed tape seems to have been available from the dawn of home-sold reel to reel machines in the late 1940's through about 1952.

Unrecorded paper reel tapes make a weirdly excessive amount of noise - white noise - when played through modern machines (and perhaps through their contemporary machines, too). But once recorded, they sound as good as any other reel, and they generally sound just about as good today, 70 years after having been recorded, as they did the first time they were played.

So this is a recording which is almost certainly in the neighborhood of 68-70 years old, and as it captures an FM radio broadcast, it represents a recording of music put over the airwaves at the dawn of FM broadcasting. I only wish the material it captures was more interesting. What is heard, with a couple of interruptions for concert notes by an announcer, is an approximately 30 minute performance by The George Steiner String Trio, heard in a series of classical performances, Mr. Steiner having been a violinist of some minor note, based on a quick web search (which also turns up two completely different dates of death for the gentleman). It is nothing of import, aside from its very existence, if that makes sense. This is labeled part one - next time around, I will include another paper reel of the same vintage, with more stone-age FM recordings.

Download: Very Early Recording from a Paper Reel, Volume One

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Family Tree, A Young Family, and Some Advertising Odds and Ends

First, I had a request to post all of the documentation from the Huntley-Brinkley tape from a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to make sure that I mentioned that I have added the two other parts of the list to the previous post, here.


I've got another trio of tapes for you today! Starting with this one:

That box is from a tape which is, in certain ways fascinating, while at the same time, fairly tedious. Here's the story: On January 27, 1963, an elderly woman named Martha Hogan was interviewed by family members, primarily one of them, about her family tree. For just a hair under one hour, she answers with various aspects of the story, going back well into the 1800's.

That alone would usually make this gold for the archivist, the tape hound and the genealogist. And while there is material to intrigue and delight everyone who would expect to find that gold... well, unfortunately, the person interviewing her is far from an expert in such a task. I'm no expert either, but in my hearing of this material, I find that he frequently asks questions in boring ways, and gets fairly boring responses, asks the same things multiple times, and fails to follow up on more interesting side trips into the lives of the people who Martha Hogan knew and/or knew of. Far too much of this tape is simply a recitation of who was born when, was related to who, and died when. That's important stuff, but there is so much more I hoped to hear.

I'm thinking with the information on this tape box, and on the tape, it would be easily for someone to come up with more information about these people.

Anyway, it's still very much worth a listen for those who were with me by the end of the first paragraph up there. And here it is:

Download: Martha Hogan and Family - Martha Hogan's Family Tree - 1-27-63.mp3


And now, from the other end of the life cycle, here is a short (five minute), sweet little tape featuring a small child, named Paulie, heard enjoying a nursery rhyme with his mother, then offering up some family names. Then, in the last 75 seconds or so, daddy comes in and asks some even more detailed questions about who Paulie is. (And again, although it would be harder, I'm guessing it would not be terribly difficult to find out exactly who these people were/are, from this tape.)

Download: Paulie, Mommy and Daddy - Paulie with Mommy, then Daddy


And finally - and perhaps the most appealing to a good number of readers/listeners - I have a motley collection of various ads and attempts at ads, over half of which originated in Hawaii. I'm offering up this 17 minute hodgepodge exactly as it rolls off of the reel. First up, some weird promos attempting to promote local merchants by indicating their support for a local shipping strike, including a breakdown or two.

After about five minutes of this, we hear what was being erased by those recordings - some attempts, both successful and (mostly) not so successful, at recording some voice over ads for local Hawaiian businesses (specifically, O'ahu). That section ends suddenly, with an obscenity. This is followed by a brief excerpt of someone - sounding very much the amateur to me - attempting to get part of a newscast just right.

Perhaps best of all is the last six minutes, which do not appear to come from Hawaii. Instead, this sounds like a demo reel for an advertising company, with some delightful, old-fashioned 1960's style ads, in something of a medley. Locations advertised here are found in Alabama and Texas, among others. There's even a sales pitch near the end, followed by some perky jingles for WABI, a station which was in Bangor, Maine.

Presumably, the demo reel ended up in Hawaii at some point, and the first portion of it was reused and reused by multiple staff, leading to this wonderful hodgepodge.

Download: Various - A Collection of Ad Demos and Attempts at Recording Ads

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Compendium of Chet Huntley - David Brinkley Tag Stories


So here's a tape that is really something. For those who enjoy media recordings, in this case, specifically vintage news reporting, you will probably find this amazing. I know that there are others who will not listen at all, or who will bail out a few minutes into this two-hours-plus recording.

What I have here is someone's collection of the "tag" stories from the end of each night's broadcast of the legendary Huntley-Brinkley report. This was the NBC television news broadcast, from the mid-'50's through 1970, that first gave us the concept of the dual anchor newscast, and which was, along with CBS' Walter Cronkite broadcasts, where a large percentage of Americans got their nightly news during the 1960's.

Then, as now, most newscasts ended with a short "tag" story. With few exceptions, these were usually lighthearted, whimsical, odd or otherwise not as serious as the rest of the evening's news. Our mystery reel to reel enthusiast made it his or her job to record these stories - and only these stories - every night, for God knows how long (I'm guessing that this is not the only tape this person made - this particular tape is from 1962). There are a few other reporters filling in (on vacations and such) here and there, but mostly, the voices you will here, telling the stories and commenting, are those of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

I really wonder just how amazing this is - it seems to me at least possible that this material does not exist - at least to this level of completeness - anywhere else.

Download: Chet Huntley and David Brinkley - A Compendium of Huntley-Brinkley Tag Stories

Oh, and our intrepid documentarian also kept detailed written records of the shows he or she taped. Here is just one of THREE handwritten logs found inside this tape box.

UPDATE: I had a request to post all of the documentation from inside the box, and so there are now two scans and a picture, below, the picture being from the inside of the tape box, so it is a little less clear than the scans. There are more tape files after these pictures:


For those of you who like your sound clips shorter (32 minutes), and those who like Slide Show narrations, I have one of those narrations which is particularly unsuited to listening without the slides. Isn't that fun? This is a slide show meant to accompany a presentation of the winners of a photography contest! There's something I can't quite explain, that I enjoy about this tape - something in the detail that the narrator goes into, about the contest, the photographs and the photographers. I hope you enjoy it, too:

Download: Unknown - A Slide Show for a Photography Contest