Thank you everyone for the responses about the Robert Johnson recording
session equipment. I'm sorry this email is so late, and I hope I haven't let
this thread die out. I've been following up on the leads, and have some
additional questions. I'm going to try economizing and put this all in one
email. I hope this is ok.

New questions:
* I've found a few leads for 1937-era metal-based lacquer discs (assuming
this was the equipment used for the original recording session.) However, we
need the equipment to be in operating condition, so that we can do an actual
sound recording (of a musician singing and playing the guitar, like the
Robert Johnson recording). Also, we need someone to actual operate the
equipment during the documentary shoot.

The film shoot would take place in June. We'd need to have both the
recording equipment and technician/engineer at our film shoot location; of
course, we would pay for transportation/shipping costs, and negotiate fair
rates to cover other expenses (equipment rental, labor, etc.)

Is there anyone on the list who would be interested in this, or can you
recommend anyone? Please feel free to respond to me off list at
[log in to unmask]

* If we're able to pull this off, we will also need to stamp a record from
the master for playback (I fear my terminology is all wrong...) Does anyone
know if this can be done, and any other details (where, how long it would

> ARC was using the new metal-based lacquer discs (maybe Presto?)
> for master recordings on the November '36 sessions in San Antonio,
> so it would be surprising if they reverted back to the extremely
> cumbersome beeswax masters for the June '37 Dallas sessions.
> Andrew Brown

Andrew, is it known for sure that metal-based lacquer discs were used for
the 11/36 session in San Antonio? Do you know the source for this info? It
is intriguing that there's so little certainty about the Dallas session...

> Visit the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting , which has a large portion of the Jack
> Mullin Collection. Sound recording technology  - They have a good websight as
> well.
> Also try the Antique Wireless Museum  - also has a websight.
> Best of Luck !!
> Bob Hodge
> Syracuse University Belfer Audio Archive

Thank you! I got in touch with Pavek and the Antique Wireless Museum, and
they both have examples of the metal-based lacquer disc equipment. Still
looking into finding equipment that is fully restored...

> Indeed.  The lacuer disc as we know it was introduced at the Fall, 1934
> National Association of Broadcasters  show.  I have a copy of the ad.
> No professional travelling the south to make recordings would have used waxe
> blanks with their extra logistical requirements, i.e., an oven to heat them
> and  after recording, measures to keetp the results from melting.   The
> lacquer disc was less expensive and more efficient.
> Steven Smolian

Thank you!!! This is really helpful information.

> Ann, in light of the information you already have, you probably already
> know this (and I don't know if it will lead anywhere anyway), but FWIW
> Johnson was recorded by a guy named Don Law, who went on to become a
> leading country producer for Columbia. He's long gone, but his son
> (whom I believe to be named Don as well) became a prominent music
> promoter in Boston and might still be around. Might be a lead - what
> kid wouldn't want to know how his Dad recorded Robert Johnson? Good
> luck.
> Andy Fowler

Thank you for this lead too; I got in touch with Don Law, he doesn't know
the details of the equipment used for the session. Alas...

> Ann--as Andy says, Don Law supervised the sessions for ARC. He later was a
> producer for Columbia in Nashville. I beleive his papers (notebooks, etc.) are
> in the archives at the Country Music Foundation there. Whether they go back
> that far, I don't know, but probably worth a query to them. Good luck.
> Bruce Nemerov
> Center for Popular Music
> Middle Tennessee State University

Bruce, Thanks for this info; I got in touch with the Country Music
Foundation's library, but they didn't have any details about the recording
session in his papers. Although it would be ideal if I could go there in

> This raises a question that I'd never before thought about.  Assuming that
> its use of Western Electric electrical recording equipment by U.S. Columbia
> and its affiliated labels was initially exclusive, by when were they able to
> use their own designs, or other manufacturers' equipment?
> Here's another question about pre-tape recording sessions: playback on site
> / in the studio of the masters.  I have a SMPE Journal circa 1929 which
> describes a W.E. playback arm & pickup that was specifically designed to non
> destructively playback wax masters to assure quality control prior to
> plating and pressing.  Was this done  by commerical record company
> engineers?  Did the practice apply to lacquers once they replaced wax?  Was
> it done in non W.E. equipped studios?
> Shiffy

Shiffy, Thank you for your very concrete suggestions. Unfortunately, I don't
have access to actual trade journals from the era, so I won't be able to do
that level of research.

I didn't see responses on the list to the questions you posed. My
understanding is that ARC wasn't purchased by Columbia Broadcasting
Corporation until 1938

Since the Robert Johnson recording session was in 1937, does this mean ARC
would have been free to any brand for the recording equipment? Or were there
other restrictions going on at the time?

Thank you!

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