BABY ODEON. See ODEON.
See Frank Andrews, HD 215, 1997. Some time between 1912 and 1915, Gramophone retailer Walter Barber & Co., 115 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London W, had records made for them. Two, or possibly three sorts are known. (1) Pressed by Kalliope in Saxony, (e.g. those above), from masters of Blum & Co., who had the Diploma, Pioneer and Victory &c. labels. (2) The Disc Record Co. in Harrow, Middx. might have pressed some Barberphones after the outbreak of the Great War (August 1914); these may or may not have master numbers in the same 1000 series. (3) Barber is also known to have bought up surplus stocks of records and over-stuck his own labels on them. The colour or shape of these labels is not known to us, However, Grammavox and Popular are known to exist over-stuck as Barberphones. All are very scarce.
See Frank Andrews, HD 215, April 1997, p247. Appearing probably in 1921, Beacon records were made by the Sound Recording Co., who had registered the trade mark in 1913. SRC would usually keep some names ‘in stock’ for future clients. Whether any use was made of ‘Beacon’ before ~1921 is not known; we guess not. They were 5.375″ (13.5cm) diameter, carried masters common to Little POPular and Mimosa, which were other SRC ‘mini-discs’. Later the size of the last two labels was increased to 6″ (15,25cm), but it is not known whether there are also Beacons of this size – it is a scarce label, and the proprietor is unknown. Crystalate pressed them.
See Frank Andrews, HD 215, 1997. A rare label. Ray Stephenson believes that the proprietor was a dealer named Lloyd Thomas. They date from about 1913 & 1914. Several sources of masters are known: Bel Canto, Invicta, ILCO and Operaphone – all German concerns. Frank draws our attention to the oddity that the face number on the label is a combination of the catalogue number with the master number embedded in it. E.g. on Beatall 451, we have cat no. 451 and master 3243 and end up with: 4532431. The source of master 3243 is not known to us; but if there was a composite number like 4551996, the 5000 series number embedded in it would almost certainly indicate a Bel Canto master.
See Frank Andrews and Bill Dean-Myatt, “Beka – Lindström Records in the United Kingdom”. CLPGS Reference Series No.11, 2011. This is an extremely important publication, being among the first of what we call the ‘New Wave’ in discography. It is compact, inexpensive (at £15), and above all its accompanying CD-ROM carries a searchable database of over 6,000 entries. CLPGS Reference Series No.11, 2011. Get it from the CLPGS bookshop at: www.clpgs.org.uk
The above 22 page A5 booklet contains a full history of the Beka and Lindström companies, and in addition has with it a CD-ROM which carries a 170-page listing of all the thousands of known masters that appeared here, both on Beka itself, and many other labels too. Included are the 35000/36000 masters that continued in use after Lindström had been shut down in 1916 under the ‘Trading With The Enemy’ Act. An invaluable and incredibly information-packed publication on these two very important companies and their products. Beka records were sold in the U.K. from 1905 to 1916; now, thanks to this publication, you can know as much as you want!
Find Franks’ reference. The gorgeous design features a male silk-moth, probably a member of the Saturniidae, but my enthusiasm for Lepidoptera is only exceeded by my unfamiliarity with its complex (and indeed frequently-changing) nomenclature; so let just call it ‘a silk-moth’. A very short-lived and seldom found label, c. 1912; probably in existence for just a few months. Who sold them is not known to me. They were of course made in Germany, and while the titling is in English, much German influence remains. For example, on 5078, H.M. Grenadier Guards Regiment is not ours, but His Imperial and Royal Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Grenadier Guards; and the composer on 5092 is given as ‘Strauß’. Oddly, the first ‘N’ in ‘Made In Germany’ is backwards on the first three examples. A series of masters in a 5000 block appear to have been prepared for it. These were by no means wasted (practically nothing was discarded in those days), but were utilised on very many other labels: e.g. Aga, Beatall, Britannic, Besttone, Burlington, Dacapo, Invicta, John Bull, Jlco,Operaphone, Pickofall, Soundwave, The Stars, Triumph, Turmaphon and doubtless others. Many of these, even, are much more frequently found than the source label. But it must not be imagined that these 5000 ‘Bel Canto’ masters appeared all at the same time on all these labels, still less that those labels were contemporary with each other. These assets changed hands at different times and so were available to different concerns over a period of several years; and that was a very long time indeed in this hectic & difficult period of the British Record Industry.
See Arthur Badrock, TMR 92, 93, 994; 1995-96; also Frank Andrews, HD 143, 1985. The ‘Edison Bell’ concern revived the name Bell (see below for the original Bell Disc) in November 1921. These were just over 5.25″ diameter (13.5cm), but later 6″ (15.25 cm). The initial price was 1/3d (6p). At first they were generally intended for children, but later on standard light repertoire, including dance bands, appeared. The catalogue series ran up to around 700, but the name of the label was changed to Crown from about 600. At that time, the copyright royalty on a record was 5% of the selling price. In the case of Bell, selling at 1/3d, it should have been ¾d. But, the minimum royalty allowed under the 1911 Act was was ½d per side, i.e. 1d in all. This was the equivalent of a 6.7% charge on a Bell. The maker considered this unfair, and quite soon it became commonplace to have a copyright work only on one side, backed with a non-copyright one. There was plenty of such material around, and as a halfpenny royalty on a Bell was only 3.3%, what was sauce for the goose… Edison Bell also used these masters on a variety of other contract labels, such as Little Briton, Savana, Fairy, Dinky, and Marspen. The Bell back catalogue was ‘mined’ for suitable material – often for non-copyright stuff; e.g. Little Briton 371 (a client label of 1924) has ‘Shine’, the popular tune by Ford Dabney with a copyright stamp, backed with the old 1873 song ‘Silver Threads Among The Gold’, without a stamp. Bell records are found occasionally; but some of its clients are quite scarce.
See Frank Andrews, HD 215, 1997. In his indefatigable researches over a period of over 40 years, Frank Andrews has always recorded marques that may not have actually ever appeared – this excellent procedure is just to be on the safe side. In the case of Bellaphone, he found slender evidence that they might have existed. There certainly was a Bellaphone Co. Ltd.; it was located at 10 Brook Green, Hammersmith, London W6. In March 1920 it was reported that the company was advertising its records at the British Industries Fair nearby at the White City. Whether this was done; or whether any Bellaphone discs were ever made; and if so, ever appeared anywhere; or if any were actually sold; all this is quite unknown. So if you have one, or find one, do please let us know!
The C.L.P.G.S. Reference Series booklet No.41 carries a detailed written history of Edison Bell, by Frank Andrews and Bill Dean-Myatt. It contains a CD-ROM having nearly 17,000 Edison Bell masters (Bell Disc, Electron, Radio &c as well as Winner) listed in a MS Excel file, fully searchable & sortable. It costs just £16. Go to https://www.clpgs.org.uk/reference-series.html for more info & other such ‘new wave’ label listings.
Frank Andrews’ original research appeared in HD 141, 142, 143, 145; 1984-1985. Also FA, BRI. The company often loosely called ‘Edison Bell’ had a long, often distinguished life – but which also had its ups and downs; and the concern that made them had several different names, even in our time period of 1898-1926. ‘Bell-Discs’ first appeared in May 1908. They were 10.25″ (~26 cm) diameter, started their catalogue numbers at 1, and had attained just over 500 issues by December 1912, when the company terminated the label, its new 10″ ‘Winner’ disc having become even more successful. Bell-Disc masters were used to make ‘stencil’ records for quite a number of clients, some of them now very scarce. They are usually well-recorded, and the quality of the pressings, variable at first, soon became very good. Bell-Discs are not uncommon. You also see both sides of a paper packet for the records. ‘Discaphone’ was the name given to the machines produced by the company, because the word ‘Gramophone’ was then the copyright of The Gramophone Company. The second side advertises an early home-recording device. This originated with the Neophone Co., and when they were wound up, ‘Edison Bell’ purchased a large stock of them and sold them under the name ‘Eureka’. It recorded on wax discs, and is extremely scarce today. Note that the last two labels illustrated do actually use the word ‘Gramophone Record’ – The Gramophone Company was very peeved in 1910 when a court ruled that the word ‘Gramophone’ had become generic, and so anybody could use it; naturally, ‘Edison Bell’ (which had existed long before the Gramophone Co. set up here in 1898) made speed to do so!
See Frank Andrews, HD 215, 1997. Here is another of Frank’s remarkable quests. Blum & Co. had many labels. In December 1912 they acquired yet another trade mark: Bellerophone. Apparently no examples are known, but Frank infers their existence from legal records in the Court of Appeal, when Blum accusedKalliope Muskwerke of Saxony of offering to press up discs for the U.K. market using his own masters which were kept at the Kalliope factory, and were for his exclusive use. One of the labels mentioned by Blum was Bellerophone. Again, if you have one, please let us know – you will of course receive full credit.
BELTONA, BELTONA BAIRNS.
A complete history and listing of Beltona Records 1921 – 1960 exists: ‘Beltona – A Label Listing and History’ by William Dean-Myatt, M. Phil. It was originally a 307-page book in A4 format. This has sold out, but the author has prepared a revised version incorporating much extra information, including recording dates. It is in the CLPGS Reference Series, No. RS-37. These are A5 format. The listing itself is in the form of a DVD-ROM which you view on your PC or laptop. This has the great advantage of being searchable, and you can of course sort the data in various different ways.Go to http://www.clpgs.org.uk , click on ‘Shop’ and then ‘Reference Series’.
Only the first few years of this long-lived label are relevant to our project. The first Beltonas – those with the pale blue label – appeared transiently about 1921. Only four are known, and William Dean-Myatt, M. Phil. believes they may have been intended for export only, possibly to Australia. They were never mentioned in the British trade press. Two of these proto-Beltonas were derived from the ‘Popular’ label which belonged to the Sound Recording Company, and were pressed by Crystalate. A third has masters that are only known from Guardsman. As Guardsman was also pressed by Crystalate at this time, there may be a connection there. The ‘main’ Beltona record was made for Murdochs, a wholesale firm tending to specialise in musical items. They were pressed by what collectors loosely call the ‘Vocalion’ company at Hayes, Middlesex. The first lovely red label was soon replaced by the equally nice blue-green one. Issues began in late 1923 with a large release. Similarly-labelled 12″ discs in an 8000 series were issued, but some of them carried Guardsman masters dating back to around 1917 – one such is illustrated in its original packet. Because Murdochs had strong Scottish connections, they soon issued Scottish material. In the long run, this was very successful, and Beltona evolved into a company that specialised in that repertoire to the virtual exclusion of all others. A more expensive ‘De Luxe’ series also appeared. As remarked, its long & fascinating history is related in the above book.
See writings by Peter Adamson, the acknowledged expert on British Berliners. E.g. TMR 65-66, 1983, where he comments on a closely-printed 32-page list appearing in TMR 63-64, 1982, contributed by the late Brian Rust. Also TMR 24, 1973, in which Peter writes about Berliner ‘labels’ and reproduces 20 varieties & types of them very well indeed. In these pages, we are very liberal in our definition of ‘a record label’. Strictly speaking, ‘Emile Berliner’s Gramophone’ discs – always known as ‘Berliners’ – should not be allocated the status of ‘a separate label’. They were merely the first product of The Gramophone Company, and appeared late in 1898. They were followed in 1902 by ‘Gramophone & Typewriter’ records, and again in 1912 by ‘His Master’s Voice’. Yet were you, as someone who so far knew little about old records, to find a Berliner, a G&T and an HMV all at the same car boot sale (and I fervently hope you will do so!), there is very little, superficially, to identify them as products of the same company. Hence this entry. Ironically, Berliners don’t even have labels: the necessary information is etched and/or hand-written with a stylo in the middle of the disc. They are 7″ diameter and single sided, except for a few very late issues which are 10″ diameter, still single sided, and very, very rare indeed. We are most indebted to Bob Lilley, who contributed this image of a 10″ disc. Even 7″ Berliners are eagerly sought after and poor, worn & even cracked copies will not be had at under £20 – £40 these days. They are, one might say, the incunabula of disc records. At an auction a few months ago, one fetched £500; but that was by the noted Music Hall artiste Gus Elen. It wasn’t in very good condition though. All the history of The Gramophone Company is widely available on line, so nothing else need be recorded here.
BESTTONE (RIFANCO &c.)
See Frank Andrews, HD 217, 1997. Besttone is one of several labels of which Leon Liebowich was the proprietor. See Pickofall below for details, and alsoPlaywell – Regent. It is thought that no original material appeared on any of these 3 labels – they were all derived from pre-existing masters. For example, the first two above are both related to Invicta. 20140 is on (German-made) Invicta 183, and 20157 is on (German-made) Invicta 222. They would date from about 1912-1914. What ‘Rifanco Brand’ or ‘Marble Brand’ mean is unknown to us. However, it is notable that the Canary, Eagle and Lion brand labels appear related to the catalogue numbers, almost as if every so often, Liebowich changed the ‘theme’ of his label. The last two examples merely have a curved sticker on top of a Diploma record, and a Famous record; both of these marques belonged Blum & Co. Ltd. Blum folded in 1915; perhaps Liebowich bought some or all of his remaining stock? An elusive set of labels.
These labels are over-stuck on Edison Bell Winner records, destined, rather obviously, for the Australian market. They carry the correct artiste credit. Winner 3266 was issued in January 1919, and the Beta used the same number. The others use the last three digits of the Winner catalogue number. ‘Blue Blazes’ was on Winner 3338 of September 1919, and The Versatile Three was on Winner 3360 in January 1920. It is rather likely that these were surplus ‘old stock’ Winners sold off to an entrepreneur who had the labels made. If so, Beta records may date from circa 1922. Special thanks to Adam Miller of New Zealand who sent the scarce red label variety.
See editor John Booth’s column ‘Looking at Labels’, TMR 93, p2908, and TMR 94, p2925, 1996. (The page numbers of this magazine ran cumulatively). In TMR 93, the Australian discographer Don Taylor reported a ‘Black Diamond’ record which had been found by Frank Robertson in South Australia. The label is of simple design, being black with gold printing, stating: ‘Made in England’, and thus qualifying for these pages. In TMR 94, John reported that the ArthurBadrock had traced the master – 821 – to Guardsman 610, which dates to about November 1916, adding helpfully that the same master appears on another Australian label Phoneto LO-149. Evidently another product of the Invicta Record Co. Ltd., for export to Australia in difficult times! Obviously a very scarce label, even in its place of sale. Thanks to Ray Stephenson and Ian McPherson, you can now see a photocopy of the label. The fragmentary copyright stamp is Australian.
See Frank Andrews, HD 220, 1998. It was always possible to create your own record label simply by buying in some obsolete or bankrupt stock, and sticking over the original label, one of your own. There are several examples of this on these pages, including Blue Seal. The machine and record dealer F P Wykes had a shop in The Arcade in Northampton, and did exactly that. The labels concerned were Pioneer and Coliseum. The one above is over Pioneer. We have 12 other Pioneer records, all of which say: ‘Pioneer Record Co., London’ at the foot of the label. Here, it has somehow been obliterated – the larger scan clearly shows the bottom of the label has been abraded. Wykes was evidently a meticulous chap! The coat of arms is naturally that of Northampton. I once saw another which I think had a crescent-shaped white sticker with blue printing covering just the upper part of a green label which must have been a Coliseum. When was Blue Seal active? Frank tells us that they were mentioned in the trade press in January 1915. Needless to say, Blue Seal records must be very scarce indeed.
THE ‘BOB’ RECORD.
See Frank Andrews, HD 220, 1998. As the label indicates, these were made for a shop at 4 Howard Street, Glasgow, Scotland. They cost one shilling (5p), the colloquial name for which was ‘a bob’. They were first mentioned in the trade periodical “Talking Machine News”, July 1913. An extremely scarce label. The few known all share catalogue numbers with Invicta, and therefore must have been made by the same (or a closely related) company. The same applies to Triumph, except in that case their catalogue numbers are 20,000 higher.
See Frank Andrews, HD 220, 1998. Another American ‘mini-disc’ at 7″ diameter double sided, two of which came with books; either ‘talking books’ or ‘singing books’. They appeared in the U.K. in November 1922, and were handled by the Thomas A C Gilbert Co. It must be emphasized that the books were an adjunct to a small gramophone that had been produced, in New Haven, Connecticut, by a company called Gilbert. They were not issued ‘in isolation’, as were the rather better-known ‘Bubble Books’. It is not known whether the gramophones came to this country, or just the books. I rather think just the books. As yet, no label image to hand, but we do have an advert from ‘The Sound Wave’, a trade magazine.
See E78PB, Don Taylor. Manufactured in or near Tonbridge, Kent, by Crystalate for Payne’s ‘Bon Marché’ Drapers store, Bourke Street, Melbourne. The discs are scarce, even in Australia, so thank a lot to Ern Taylor and Jonathan Collins for sending examples. The colouration of the two labels looks quite different, and Jonathan believes that somewhere down the line, Ern Taylor’s image has become, inadvertently, a ‘colour changeling’. Jack Gould is a pseudonym for Geoffrey Gelder’s Kettner’s Five. Though recorded in December 1926, it is still a mechanical recording; Crystalate did not adopt the electrical system until 1927 – probably the last company to do so. ‘The Rosary’, actually by the celebrated Scottish bass Tom Kinniburgh, was recorded 16th March 1927, and first appeared on Imperial 1746.
BON TON RECORD.
See E78PB, Don Taylor. These were British Regals, overstuck with an orange top sticker extending down to just short of the centre hole. Don Taylor’s illustration is Regal G-6897, one of a batch of six Wingate’s Temperance Prize Band, issued in June 1915. Columbia (Regal’s parent) disposed of very many surplus discs around 1917-1919 by selling them cheap, as long as they were overstuck. Alas, the Bon Ton sticker gives no indication of where or by whom the discs were sold; but as Don’s book was compiled in Tasmania, we will assume that they were exported to Australia from the U.K. May 2021: Many thanks to Adrian Smith for the image of this scarce label.
See Frank Andrews, HD 184. In about 1922, Boots the Chemists, a manufacturing chemical company who also had (& still do) a huge nationwide chain of pharmacies, had records made for them by the Universal Music Company – often loosely referred to as ‘Vocalion’. They were small discs, and came in two sizes: 5.375″ (13.5cm) and 6.5″ (16.5cm). It is not known which came first. Mike Thomas tells us 6.5″ is a most unusual diameter for ‘mini-discs’; possibly unprecedented. They were double sided. They are hardly ever seen, so the venture probably didn’t last very long. Indeed originally, the very few known, all had the Boots logo defaced, and this gave rise to the theory that they may never have been put on sale, and may have been given out as ‘freebies’ once the Boots mark had been obliterated. B-1001 was a reconstruction, as noted. However, in 2018 Bob Lilley kindly sent in images of un-defaced labels. We leave the reconstruction in place to show how nearly accurate it was! Later, Boots sold other records, but those are beyond our time period.
See Frank Andrews, HD 220. Bosworth were music publishers. In order to promote their works, in about 1916 or 1917 they had records made for them. They were derived from the Guardsman masters of the Invicta Record Co., and were pressed by Crystalate. The label bears the slogan ‘Best Novelty Records – ask for list’. Few people can have done so, for this type of Bosworth record is incredibly rare. Whether or not the Invicta Co. recordings were custom made for Bosworth, or were simply derived from Bosworth publications already recorded by Invicta is not known. Surely the former would be more likely? This ‘Tristesse d’Amour’ was issued on Guardsman 769 as National Citizen Orchestra. Later, Bosworths had another label which acted both as a sampler for their scores, and also for ‘Library Music’. But that was 10 years beyond our period.
Jan Onderwater, a Dutch collector and discographer, kindly sent much information about this British made label. The proprietor was Louis Bouwmeester (1884-1931). He was a Dutch actor, but also very much involved in producing revues, and was also the manager of two theatres. One of them, in The Hague, was called The Scala. This is probably why he chose the British Scala company to manufacture records for him. Many of his issues featured artistes from his own revues and theatre companies. They appeared in a 3000 series, with the same colour label as above. Their masters were in an AR-150 or 200 block. There was also a 12″ (30cm) 6000 series; their labels were red on white, and their masters in an AR-1000 block. In addition, some material was supplied by British Scala from masters of their own, or masters they had leased, as in the case above: Bouwmeester 474 is the same as U.K. Scala 474. The band is Joe Coleman’s President Orchestra, recorded by Gennett in New York in early 1921. Jan tells us that Bouwmeester records first appeared in 1921. There was a two-way traffic in masters, for several sides by violinist Jacques Benavente, recorded for Bouwmeester, also appeared on the British ‘Scala Ideal’ label. The label is often referred to as ‘Bouwmeester Scala’, but to be pedantic for once, it is obviously just ‘Bouwmeester Record’; the prominence given on the label to the word ‘Scala’ doubtless accounting for its being ‘rolled into’ the name. More images, including the 3000 and 6000 series may be seen at: https://www.discogs.com/label/1005829-Bouwmeester-Record
This example of a Brechnerphone Record is clearly derived from the same source as early Scala records – in fact, this disc is a clone of Scala 317, bearing S317A and S317B in the wax. Scala were at this time made by Beka, and though no master numbers appear on this disc (or indeed on the Scalas), we’re pretty sure that ‘Roses’ is Beka master 40739, sung by Philip Ritte which appeared on Beka 297 in May 1910. The reverse, ‘Nirvana’ would be 40735, again by Ritte, from Beka 263 issued in February 1910. They were eventually paired on Scala 317, which coupling then appeared on Brechnerphone. So we know really quite a lot about these sides. But who had these discs made, and where and how they were sold, is a complete blank. This is the only one we have ever seen.
See Frank Andrews, HD 221, 1998. Frank writes extensively about these two types of Britannic record. Although their labels are very different, it was, effectively, the same company that made them, though it drastically changed its marketing strategy, and the company directors came and went with bewildering rapidity. And the whole thing occurred in a period of slightly over two years: early 1912 to April 1914. The original proprietor was Julius Maurice Weitzner of Camden Town, London NW. Frank reports that Weitzner had been one of earliest people to sell records on the ‘tallyman’ system. (See Glossary for explanation – basically on a door to door basis). The records were derived from two main sources. First, they were pressed by ‘Edison Bell’ from their Bell Disc masters. These are easily distinguished in three ways: slightly larger in diameter than usual, at 10.25″ (26cm); they carry an artiste credit – even if in small letters; and have the same number on each side, which is therefore a genuine catalogue number. 619 above is such a disc. As remarked, they appeared in early 1912. In September that year, Weitzner became associated with John Hawd, Henry Cowen, and a Joseph Meisner, and a limited company was formed. Hawd was important, because he had a record pressing factory in Stockport, along with a large number of masters from the defunct Nicole Record Co. Cowen was important because he made frequent trips to the U.S.A., and could cheaply obtain (or already had obtained) masters from U.S. companies that had been driven out of business because of patent infringement; for instance, the American Record Company. Hawd also had masters from the Beka concern, which was still very much an ‘up and running’ company at the time; but it is known that they sold off unwanted metalwork. Unsurprisingly, Hawd proceeded to press Britannic records using these masters, as denoted on the images above, up to about April 1913. There were then two major changes. The Britannic Record Co. gave up the tallyman system, and offered their wares to the normal gramophone trade. Also, Hawd moved his pressing plant from Stockport to an industrial site on Rosslyn Crescent, Harrow. The site was adjacent to the London & North-Western Railway & had its own branch siding for bringing heavy stuff in & out. (The site is still there today, called the Phoenix Industrial Estate, though it no longer has the railway siding.) After some vicissitudes, production finally began in June 1913. These were the violet-labelled discs, again from the various sources indicated. But the actual sales of these new Britannics can only have been very small, for they are not very common. As if to underline this, The Britannic Record Co. Ltd. wound itself up in April 1914. Perhaps it was then that John Piggott bought up the remaining stocks – his label is on some of the above. However, the Disc Record Co. continued to make custom pressings at Rosslyn Crescent for various concerns for about another year before they, too, went out of business. Still, the factory lingered on for a little time: see Defiance Record.
See Frank Andrews, HD 222, 1998. There was a company in London called The New Polyphon Supply Co. Ltd., which had originally been set up to sell the Polyphon music boxes – they ran from a metal disc with punched teeth (for the want of a better phrase). They became involved with talking machines in 1905 and had a long and active history, but suffice it to say, since the firm had always been German-owned, it was eventually closed down, probably in 1916, by the Board of Trade. The business was then put up for auction as a ‘going concern’. The auction was won by a Robert Willis, who became sole proprietor on January 1st, 1917. He had records made for him, by ‘Edison Bell’. They were drawn from both Winner and Bell-disc masters, dating back to at least 1911. The labels were green with gold printing. Frank illustrates one disc, P-6. They must be very scarce. In 1918 Willis offered £100 to anyone who could discover who was ‘bad-mouthing’ his business as being still under German control! Nonetheless, although his company continued far beyond our time period, Willis’s rare British Polyphon records cannot have lasted for more than a few months?
BRUM FILM COMPANY.
This is a very curious disc. And even without its over-stuck label, a very interesting one! It is a Bull Dog record – itself a rare label – with a poem read by its author, Horatio Bottomley (1860-1933). It was released in December 1915. He was many things – too many to list here; check out Wikipedia if you want to know more about him. But on this record he is the demagogue, reciting “Why is the Red Blood Flowing?”. He also made many speeches of patriotic fervour around the country, encouraging recruitment into the appalling tragedy of World War 1, 1914-1918. (A speech by him, also on Bulldog, may be heard on this site; click on ‘Articles about 78s’, then ‘What do 78s Sound Like?’) But much more than all this, the over-stuck label implies that Bottomley – or somebody – was to be filmed, reciting the speech, and the film was to be played back synchronously. (There was to be no effective sound-on-film for another ten years.) Queen’s was founded in 1830 as an Anglican Theological College, and since 1970 has had both Methodist and Anglican students. So far, attempts at finding out anything about the ‘Brum Film Company’ have been futile. But just to think, that if Bottomley was filmed – and if the film still exists, which to be fair, is very unlikely – the film could be reunited with its ‘sound track’ and digitised!
STOP PRESS – 4th September 2020: The indefatigable Bill Dean-Myatt has kindly sent us his research into this matter, which is given here, with grateful acknowledgements.
BRUM FILM COMPANY. 53, Queens College, Paradise Street, Birmingham. Founded ca. 1914/1915 its general manager was Gordon Hewitt. It produced a number of films, many set in Birmingham, that were well reviewed in ‘The Bioscope’, journal of the early film industry. However, what is of particular interest to us is a series of 6 x 3000 feet films, entitled “Truth and Justice” starring the con-man, M.P., founder of ‘John Bull’ magazine, company promoter, swindler and jail bird, Horatio Bottomley (1860-1933), and directed by Bert Haldane, which were produced by Brum Film Company and filmed at Homeland Studios, Kew Bridge in September 1916. In these Bottomley appeared in court room scenes where he highlights social injustice.
However, interesting as this may be, it would seem that the speech referred to on the record label was filmed separately as part of some agreement between the two parties. It’s obviously another attempt to synchronise a gramophone record with film but, unfortunately, no copy of the film seems to exist, certainly no copy is held at the British Film Institute. Bulldog 201 was issued in December 1915 and would have been recorded ca October of the same year.
(Brum is the West Midlands name for Birmingham, a Brummie being an inhabitant. On no account should one confuse a Brummie with someone from the Black Country. We not only have our own accent and dialect, but we are a different species!)
Brunswick was destined to be a very long-lived and important label. It appeared in 1923. Hardly noticeable on the thumb-nail is the fact that the ‘sole concessionaires’ for this U.S. label (which had existed there since 1919) were the London music publishers & piano makers Chappell. They had already tried their own records, apparently with little success, 10 years before. In association with the ‘Cliftophone’ gramophone, this marque was to flourish, albeit slowly at first. The luxurious gold labels of their classical issues are hard to scan. The catalogue numbers were the same as the U.S. issues, though later this was not the case. The reverse of 50022 bears a copyright stamp for 2½d, which enables us to derive the retail price of the disc: 8 shillings (40p), which was expensive for the time. Only U.S.-recorded material appeared on Brunswick until 1927. Initially, the discs were pressed by the British Pathé company. The history of the label after 1926, fascinating though it may be, is beyond the scope of these pages; but much information will readily be found on line.
See Frank Andrews: FTR 36, 37, 38, 2010-11. Frank has written a wonderful and extensive series of articles on this fascinating and elusive label and its proprietor. No meaningful abstract is possible; you must read this detailed story yourself. Suffice it to say that the label was promoted by William Ditcham, a long-active musician and ‘recording expert’ (as recording engineers were known at the time). The Bull Dog Record company was founded in October 1914 and continued as late as 1920 with vicissitudes, as was only to be expected in the war years & their aftermath. The catalogue numbers began at 500 and seem to have attained 686. The master series began at 100. All were 10″. The other catalogue series, just 200 and 201, were by Horatio Bottomley, a charismatic politician, patriot, demagogue and archetypal ‘hustler’ who ended up in prison. Ferdinand Hill, violin soloist on 591, also had an early ‘modern-type’ dance band at theTrocadero which recorded for Bull Dog. Some sides of Norwegian origin appeared on Bull Dog: 675 is one such. Those masters are in a K-2000 series, K signifying Kristiania, the capital of Norway (it was changed to Oslo in about 1925). Crystalate pressed Bull Dog, eventually acquired the rights to the masters. Some of them were used on their Imperial label, including Norwegian ones. See also SOL, a Norwegian label manufactured here by Bull Dog for the Norwegian market. Also, see BRUM FILM COY, above.
See Frank Andrews, HD 222, 1998. In spite of its extreme rarity, Frank has written an enormous amount about this label, and as usual, incorporated much other information on source companies and their inter-relationships. However, even he has not yet discovered the name of the proprietor; or at least, he had not in 1998. But the pressings were certainly made by the Disc Record Co. at their factory in Rosslyn Crescent, Harrow. Middx., which went into production in June 1913. One of the four Burlingtons above bears the tell-tale DRC ‘MADE IN ENGLAND’ stamp in the wax; more diagnostic still, is the heterogeneous mix of masters from Nicole (1903 – 1906), American Record Co. (1904 – 1905), plus newer Beka and Joseph Blum sides. No other company possessed such a mixture! The latest master on Burlington Frank dates to October 1914. And as the DRC went out of business in spring 1915, the life of Burlington records can confidently be ascribed to somewhere between June 1913 and spring 1915.
See Frank Andrews, HD 222, 1998. ‘Real’ Butterfly Records – those with pressed-in labels, as with the first 2 above – are very scarce. It was a label belonging to The Sound Recording Co., whose main label was Grammavox. Frank tells us that the SRC applied for the trade mark in October 1913 – but it was not granted for thirteen months, as opposed to the usual three months or so. Frank speculates, very reasonably, that there might have been a problem by virtue of the fact that the Bel Canto and Triumph labels had (the same, gorgeous) image of a lepidopteron on their labels – even though their design was never registered here. In fact, the insect on the Bel Canto and Triumph labels was a moth, not a butterfly. I don’t think the public would have flocked to buy ‘Moth Records’, no matter how lovely the label was. Come to that, they showed an equal indifference to the allure of Butterfly Records; their scarcity attests to that! But more seriously, it is likely that the SRC put out these first Butterflys as early as 1912, for the ‘Listed for Copyright’ stamp is a very early form, and peculiar to Grammavox. The requirement for the copyright stamp began in 1912, and the labels do not say (as Frank emphasises) ‘Registered Trade Mark’. No; Butterfly records are most commonly – and indeed to this day, occasionally – encountered in the form of a label sticker, crudely printed, stuck over the top part of a Grammavox, or more commonly over a Popular record. Popular was another, cheaper, label of the SRC. All these were pressed by Crystalate. We do not know what ‘Registered EXPRESS Reserve Stock’ may mean – but it certainly sounds impressive. Incidentally, I found Butterfly P-299 in the U.S.A! See also Criterion. The time-span of the original discs involved is quite long; something like 1912 – 1919. The unusual Butterfly on the red ‘Olympic’ 118 is a post-Great War item. Did some entrepreneur buy up surplus Popular records over a period of many years? Possibly; or, there might have been a mass clearance of old stock late on, say around 1920-21. And yet, Frank tells us that Butterfly stickers may be found over Imperials (also a Crystalate product) as late as 1928; the Blue Imperial kindly sent by David Mason would date from about 1924. Perhaps all of these conjectures are valid? We shall probably never know.