There's a lot of things from different people, so I'll try to cover
everything without cutting and pasting. Both Victor and Columbia were
doing their own separate and secret electrical recording experiments in
the early 20s with no relationship to Western Electric's experiments.
Columbia was working with Guest and Merriman -- I have a tape of their
test pressings and they are HORRIBLE.
But while I am mentioning them, here is the answer to the question which
started all this: THE first electrically recorded record to be sold to
the public is the Memorial Record that contains two excerpts from the
funeral ceremony of the burial of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster
Abbey, Nov 11, 1920. The labels do state recorded "By Guest & Merriman
Electrical Process" "Published for the Westminster Abbey Fund by
Columbia Graphophone Co, Ltd." Completely unnumbered 12-inch pressings.
Haven't any of you read Ed Moogk's "Roll Back the Years"?
Victor's tests were done by Albertis Hewitt who took over in 1922 from
the late James W. Owens who had jointly filed for an electrical
recording patent in 1916 which was not granted till 1924. In late 1922
Hewitt had a visit from Charles Hoxie who was doing sound-on-film
recording for GE and WGY, and loaned Hewitt some of the equipment.
Parts of this system was later the basis of the Brunswick Light Ray
Recording process which is not such a mystery as Dave Lewis seems to
think! And because GE was part of RCA, parts also became the RCA
Photophone system, and some of this seems to be what was licensed to
There is no evidence that Western Electric ever showed their system to
either Victor or Columbia before Nov or Dec 1924. It certainly would
have been mentioned in the Hewitt lab notebooks. Columbia signed the
contract with Western Electric on Feb 26, 1925 -- and this contract has
just been published in facsimile by Geoffrey Wheeler in his new book
about the legal (and illegal) history of Columbia Records. It looks
like four masters by Art Gillham beat the contract by a day, but he did
record one more on the 27th! I suppose the Victor contract was also
signed around that date. The Miniature Concert by the 8 Popular Victor
Artists and the Cortot recordings were among the first issued but there
were a few others recorded but not issued. The ledgers show these with
a prefix E for a few weeks before going over to VE. These have been
posted already by the Victor Project, but I find the ledgers themselves
The Associated Glee Clubs recordings were line-checks of the WEAF
broadcast of March 31, 1925 just like the NY Philharmonic-Symphony
recordings of 1923-24 and the Defense Test Day broadcast of Sept 12,
1924. I have a feeling that the Western Electric team worked with
Columbia engineers for this recording. I disagree with Don Tait on his
opinion of these recordings. "The astonishing listening experience is
John Peel. The dynamic range is incredible. The climax is extremely
realistically loud." It is not realistically loud -- it is OVERLOADED.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to listen to the entire set of
recordings of this broadcast. AFR Lawrence made vinyl tests of them and
they are in the Library of Congress. As you listen to these unworn
vinyls it soon becomes evident that the condenser microphone capsule is
blasting or the pre-amp in the mic is overloaded. Compton MacKenzie was
correct when he panned them in The Gramophone. There is only one master
in the set that is not distorted. It is a short speech by Walter
Damrosh from the stage where he makes the now politically incorrect joke
about how nice it is to not hear any women's voices. This recording is
crystal clear with no distortion.
Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Early electrical disk recording
From: Donald Tait <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Mon, October 08, 2012 4:42 pm
To: [log in to unmask]
I might be incorrect about this, and would welcome being corrected, but
I have understood that the earliest commercially-released electrical
recording was from March 1925, live:
US Columbia 50013-D (Black Label)
Trad. arr. Mark Andrews: "John Peel"
Associated Glee Clubs of America
The label reads "850 Male Voices"
"Recorded at their performance at Metropolitan Opera House, N.Y."
The other side:
Associated Glee Clubs, Met.Op. Hse.1925 (as above)
850 Male Voices
"Augmented by the audience of 4000 voices at the Metropolitan Opera
House, N.Y." Matrix 98166
Nowhere do the labels indicate that a new or different recording method
The astonishing listening experience is John Peel. The dynamic range is
incredible. The climax is extremely realistically loud. I've had at
least three copies over the years and have never found one without a
degree of wear in the climax, probably due to the heavy old pickups
plowing through the heavily modulated grooves and creating grooves of
I have read that after wear tests on a few early electrical recordings,
the companies compressed their dynamic ranges to "cope." Is that
correct? John Peel would rather seem to demand it for 1925/6 pickups.
And did Victor beat Columbia with their Cortot and Stokowski
From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
To: ARSCLIST <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Mon, Oct 8, 2012 3:00 pm
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Early electrical disk recording
This brings up a question -- what is the earliest commercially-released
Also, what is the oldest surviving test recording of an electrical
Something from WECO? From
GE (the optical-film system)?
Is any of the pre-commercial electrically-recorded material online?
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Stamler" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2012 3:25 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Howard Scott Dies
> On 10/8/2012 11:36 AM, Mickey Clark wrote:
>> I have electrical issues on Columbia as early as January 1925- by Art
>> Gillham and The Associated Glee Clubs of America waxed electrically by
>> March. I've issued discs by both these artists - Mickey
> And I transcribed a couple of Irish records, both by the same artist, recorded
a few weeks apart,
> onw acoustic, one electric. Again, early 1925.
> But according to the information I've read, Western Electric first approached
Victor in late 1923
> or early 1924, and Columbia shortly after. It took the two companies a year
(and a disastrous
> Christmas sales season) to decide they would adopt the new system.
>> Follow me on Twitter
>> M.C.Productions Vintage Recordings
>> 710 Westminster Ave. West
>> Penticton BC
>> V2A 1K8
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "David Lewis" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Monday, October 08, 2012 8:45 AM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Howard Scott Dies
>>> In all due respect, while Victor and Columbia readily embraced electric
>>> recording, the smaller labels did resist, mainly as they didn't have the
>>> capital resources to make the switch.
>>> Brunswick had it's "light ray" process which, though a mystery, seems to
>>> have been used by others as well as a way to dodge the equipment upgrade
>>> and hefty licensing fees.
>>> Gennett's electrical system, such as it was, was terrible sounding at
>>> first. You would think that Marsh Labs, with its earlier, inferior
>>> electrical system, would have prospered as a
>>> result. But it didn't. Homer Rodeheaver closed his own acoustic studio in
>>> Chicago in the fall of 1925 rather than to upgrade. I think BD&M went
>>> route also.
>>> There was a little economic slump in 1925-26 that also wreaked havoc
>>> the smaller labels, so it wasn't just that. But the changeover to
>>> was a major contributing factor
>>> to the disappearance of certain labels in those years.
>>> Dave Lewis
>>> Lebanon, OH
>>> On Sun, Oct 7, 2012 at 8:13 PM, Dennis Rooney
>>> <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>>>> Dear Tom,
>>>> No. Western Electric demonstrated their system to both Victor and
>>>> Each signed and began releasing electrical recordings by spring 1925.