Lawrence Gellert recorded African American protest songs on 61 zinc Echo discs in the late 1920s. I seem to remember that Gellert's brother worked for Echo and that's how he managed to get his hands on a stack of them. In his notes (held by the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music), he claims that he managed to capture decent sound on them, but he had to jerry-rig a Victrola to make it work. Unfortunately, he also says that one of his assistants ruined the discs by storing them in a stack during the transcription process.
The discs were transferred as part of the first stage of Sound Directions and every once in a while I was able to make out an occasional word or enough of a melody to tell it was the same as one Gellert had recorded later on an aluminum blank. In any case, Gellert's notes would have the recording dates and additional information about obtaining and recording zinc discs in general. Also, the ATM should have info. on the styli they used to do the transfers, although I believe they had them custom made.
Ronda L. Sewald
Archives Administrator / Project Manager
Archives of African American Music and Culture
Smith Research Center, Suite 180-181
2805 E. Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47408-2601
| -----Original Message-----
| From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
| [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael Biel
| Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 11:22 PM
| To: [log in to unmask]
| Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] presumably very early pre-grooved disks
| From: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
| > Perhaps your stylus was too small?
| > Victor Home Recordings require a wide stylus, 5 mil or so.
| > Otherwise you might think a disc blank joe salerno
| These zinc Repeat-a-Voice, Echo, Rekordo, etc discs used an entirely
| different premise than the plastic Victor Home Recording Discs which
| had a narrow groove widened at the top by a rounded stylus. Those
| occasionally have good recordings on them. The zinc discs would have
| dimples lightly embossed lower in the groove by a regular steel needle
| which was supposed to be the same one to play the record back. They
| never intended you to be able to play them later on. You would really
| reused them. If you have them and an acoustical machine you can try
| them out yourself and hear that they replay practically nothing.
| Shiffy, I first reported on these so long ago it appeared in Lenny
| Kunstadt's Record Research magazine at least 35 years ago!
| Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
| On 6/12/2012 7:26 PM, David Lewis wrote:
| > I had Echo discs like this. Don't expect sound, although as objects
| > they are still interesting. I once transferred my Echo discs and
| > magnified them a gazillion times and discovered that there *was* the
| > faint sound of the piano on them, but it wasn't intelligible.
| > I look forward to the day when someone finds a disc of this type that
| > yields intelligible audio.
| > Uncle Dave Lewis
| > Lebanon, OH
| > On Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 7:24 PM, Art Shifrin<[log in to unmask]>
| >> Hi Gang,
| >> Today amongst my shelves I rediscovered a pair of 6" apparently non
| >> laminated metal disks.
| >> They're self-evidently intended for use on a acoustic phonograph.
| >> There's one sleeve. The instructions on it state "...Sing into the
| >> sound box loudly and distinctly; if possible, use a megaphone. When
| >> you have finished, play it over again and hear YOUR voice..." They
| >> have two different pre-printed labels but their layout and color
| >> (royal blue background with gold
| >> lettering) are very similar. One's "MARVEL VOICE". The other's
| >> "REPEAT-A-VOICE". They are relatively heavy: seemingly heavier (for
| >> the
| >> diameter) than if they were of the`'typical' uncoated aluminum
| >> recording blank stock of greater size.
| >> If any of you have historical information that you can provide (i.e.
| >> years offered, etc.), then it'd be nice to learn more about them.
| >> I've not yet attempted to play them.
| >> Thanks,
| >> Art (Shiffy) Shifrin
| Joe Salerno