Uncategorized

Stereo part 1: Accidental and early disc experiments

On February 9, 1932, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra were in a studio in New York to make some records. For some reason lost to history, two separate recording setups were used beginning with the microphone continuing through to the disc-cutting lathe. No one thought about it until the 1980’s.

According to a 1985 article in the Chicago Times, Steve Lasker had a test pressing he had just received from a collector in Belgium. Lasker’s friend, Brad Kay, noticed that the master number on that disc was different than the number on the released performance owned by Kay. They thought perhaps that the test disc may have been an alternate take.

The two met again at a later date and listened to both the test disc and Kay’s disc of the released performance. As they listened closely, they noticed that the performances sounded the same. The same phrasing, the same mistakes, and so on. Knowing that no two jazz performances were the same they realized that the two discs were recordings of the same performance. They did notice, though, that there were acoustical differences between the two. They synchronized the two recordings on the two channels of a stereo tape recorder and discovered that they had a stereo recording, albeit an accidental one.

This led to further research on the part of Brad Kay and he discovered other “accidental stereo” recordings going back to as early as 1929 such as this recording of Igor Stravinsky’s Right of Spring as conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

It took until 1934 before progress was made on a disc that carried both channels on a single disc. Experiments by the Bell Telephone labs used vertical modulation of the grove for one channel and lateral modulation for the other. I find the lateral modulation seemed to give better separation than did the vertical. One channel almost seems mono whereas the other was only on one side.

Inasmuch as “accidental” stereo would not even be noticed for almost fifty years and the depression probably was not the time for anyone to pursue such a novel concept as stereo discs, stereo was to go nowhere for several years until until the industry that made the silver screen flicker thought they would give it a try..

Next: STEREO PART 1-1/2: ACCIDENTAL AND EARLY DISC EXPERIMENTS — addendum

Let’s raise a toast

Charles and Betty were on their honeymoon in 1932 in Phoenix, Arizona. In their hotel lobby, from a back room they heard a piano player play a song that the couple had never heard before. They immediately fell in love with it. The piano player said it was something he had written and the newlyweds asked him to write down the lyrics. The piano player obliged but did not write his name on the paper.

Twenty or so years later, Dave, a student at Stanford, and his friend Bob were driving down highway 99 from Stanford to Los Angeles. Dave thought he would stop by and see his girlfriend Katie in Fresno. Katie was not home at the moment, so her mother, Betty, thought she would entertain the two young men by playing the song she first heard on her honeymoon over twenty years before. The two men loved it.

A couple of years later, Dave, Dave Guard, and Bob, Bob Shane, got together with their friend Nick Reynolds and formed the Kingston Trio. Their first album, The Kingston Trio, was released in 1958. One of the songs on that album was Scotch and Soda — the song first heard by Charles and Betty in 1932. Bob Shane’s voice lent itself to the song so he had the honor of singing it. Since the piano player did not write his name on the paper with the lyrics, Dave Guard took credit as the composer although the group tried for years to find the original composer. It was released as a single in 1962 but the single did not sell that well — after all, it had been on an album for four years at that point. The song proved to be one of the Trio’s most loved songs.

I don’t know what happened to Katie. Betty lived until 1986. Charles lived until 2004.

Among other siblings, Katie had a younger brother, Tom. Tom liked to play baseball. He played it rather well, as Charles and Betty — Seaver’s — youngest child helped the New York Mets win the World Series in 1969. Tom passed away this week at age 75.

What you know and what you don’t know

Years ago I had an opportunity to fill in at a Big-Band radio station in San Francisco. I was excited about being on a high-powered radio station in the big city. The problem was that I really did not know the music. At one point I played something by the Glen Miller Orchestra. Before the song ended I practised how to say the name of Miller’s vocalist/saxophone player, Tex Beneke. I said to myself several times, BEN-eck-key, BEN-eck-key, BEN-eck-key. I turned the microphone on and said Ben-ECK-key. A listener called up. “You’re a young kid, ain’t ya.”

A few years later I was listening to an oldies station in Seattle. The song “Dirty Water” played. The announcer came on and said it was by the STAND-dills. I was incredulous. How could anybody working at a large market station not know the that the song was by the Stand-DELLS? Then I remembered that Sunday evening in San Francisco thirteen years before.

Sometimes when you are young and just starting out, you are not going to be as smooth as you would like. You need to be easy on yourself — and just as easy on others.

I love music trivia quizzes, especially about music from the ’60’s. However, many times it is clear that the people who make some of those quizzes do not really know what they are talking about. I would think, though, that someone who takes the time to make such a quiz and post it on line would research to make sure their answers are correct. There are two quiz questions from over the years that really got my hackles up.

One question went something like this:

In what City does Bobby Bare want to sleep tonight?

A. Detroit City

B. Abilene

C. (A third city)

D. (Some other city)

I could eliminate two of the choices right away. Of the other two, I knew that George Hamilton IV had a version of Abilene and was not aware that Bobby Bare had a version.

That left Detroit City, but anyone who had ever heard the song knew that Bobby Bare wanted to be almost anywhere but Detroit City. Any song that starts out with “I wanna go home. I wanna go home. Lord how I wanna go home” tells you the person singing the song is someone the Chamber of Commerce wants to keep out of sight.

So unless the question really meant “Where is Bobby Bare stuck but is hoping he does not have insomnia tonight?” then Detroit City was not a good answer to the question. I chose Abilene hoping that Bobby Bare did have a version that I was not aware of.

I was wrong. I guess the person who wrote the quiz had never really heard the song, or it had been so long that he forgot what it was about.

Another question that bothered me was this one:

Which of these is the official (emphasis mine) name of a Beatles album?

A. Red Album

B. Blue Album

C. Green Album

D. White Album

E. None of the above.

In 1968, the Beatles released a two record album. It had an all-white cover on the outside (except for maybe some small black print here and there) with the name of the album embossed on the front cover. While the album is commonly referred to as The White Album, the name embossed on the front simply said The Beatles. I choose E, None of the above.

They said I was wrong and that the answer was D. They made an incorrect assumption.

I am sure I will make some mistakes from time to time here. I try and verify what I write, but sometimes I go by memory if I am unable to verify. Feel free to let me know if I get something wrong.