78 records

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Victrola model G: the outtakes Sept. 30, 2016

Published October 1, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1

In all of my nine plus years of amassing a huge 78 collection that vary in condition from playable to excellent, there are a certain few that fly under my radar that are in extremely poor to terrible condition. There’s surface noise and that’s to be expected for a 78 that was released eighty-eight years ago. There’s no buyer’s remorse on my part. I buy 78’s if I feel they are in ‘playable’ condition at the very least. Condition-wise, I’m not too terribly picky if the 78 is near mint, very good, excellent condition, etc. And I do realize I could be doing my Victrola more harm than good opting for the undesirable 78s. So long as there’s no needle drops, huge scratches or gouges that would render the 78 unplayable, then I will buy it if the price doesn’t exceed $5 per record and even at that I find that’s a tad steep for the more common 78s.  Oh, yeah, if they’re cracked, don’t waste your money just some helpful first-hand experience. 😉

I don’t know what possessed me to stop in a used furniture store on a day I had to be somewhere. Normally, I don’t like to browse when I know I really can’t make the time. But it was the same place I acquired my Victrola model G. I was very excited that I finally got it fully repaired from the mainsprings to the sound box that required an overhaul and new rear flange gasket. That much about it was well worth it and I knew it would require some extensive work that was beyond my capabilities since I haven’t serviced any of my antique phonographs in over nine years. Yet again, none of them require any work since I had them restored professionally eons ago.

I glance at my wrist watch, counting off the minutes. I appear to be in a hurry, but I still have time to look around before I head off and start my day. I always try to make it a point to take in the beauty of various antiques at least once a day. I always use antiques in my daily life. Its what brings me happiness. Some people can’t start their mornings off right without their favorite cup of coffee or a latte, maybe even a cappuccino. And other folks probably don’t get off on the right foot without their nicotine fix before their lunch break.

 

I don’t smoke. I don’t consume caffeine. I will, however, pack some toothpicks on me and some steeped hot tea for when its cold outside. Otherwise, I keep my creature comforts to a minimal when I have to be at work. I reward myself when I do arrive home after work. And here I found myself in the small second hand store on the corner. I browse through the books and a dusty, massively thick Webster’s dictionary catches my eye. The binding has come completely loose from the spine. The pages are all there and in tact. I gingerly remove the antique dictionary. It was an “Original Webster’s Unabridged” dictionary published in 1874. The price scared me. $39.99, holy mackerel! Are they serious? :O

I scrutinize the antique dictionary for a long moment, then glance at the time. I needed to be on my way. Another day, another dollar so the saying goes. I return the dictionary to the bookshelf and get ready to leave when something small catches my eye. I’m gazing at two 5 ½” Little Wonder one-sided disc records from 1909. These were actually tiny shellac records made for a child-sized upright antique phonograph. However, I couldn’t say for certain whether or not they’d play on Victrola since I didn’t have any Little Wonder discs in my collection to say for certain. I know from past experience I had difficulties with similar 7” Parakeet shellac records manufactured sometime during the early 1900 to mid-Teens, so naturally, I wrongly assumed the same would hold true for these Little Wonder records. And there was a Cameo 78 that called out to me.

I ask the man at the counter how much for the 78’s and was told $2.99 per record. Uhm… I feel that is asking a bit much. I politely thanked him, placed the records back and waited until I could do some research. Depending on the rarity of the Little Wonder records and who the artist was that recorded the song(s), I surfed onto eBay and did some price-comparison. $2.99 was looking okay for what these tiny records are. And so I bide my time. I return to the store when another person is working. I’m quoted a steeper price for the records. Again, I kindly thanked the person and went on my way.

Yeah, they’re one of a kind. Okay, they’re “special records”, but Cameo 78s are common to run across although inferior in sound quality and material-wise. Little Wonder shellac records don’t turn up all that often, so I’ll give credit where its due on that for being extra special. But the prices for the Little Wonders online vary in price and their condition were no less than what I discovered in this store. I think about it for a long while. If they’re still there come some other time then I’ll know it was meant to be.

And they were there when I returned, so I bought them and the Cameo 78. Another Fox Trot song and who is the artist this time? Sam Lanin and His Orchestra “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” and the flipside “He Ain’t Never Been to College” by the Varsity Eight. Both songs were released in 1928. And last night I finally made the time to do more recordings, something I haven’t done in quite a while. But the recording process doesn’t always run smoothly, thus the outtakes and bloopers happen.

Oh, the Little Wonders played excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed the songs, “I Want to Go Back to Michigan” duet disc No. 60. It sounded a lot like Ernest Hare and Billy Jones from the Edison Diamond Discs I have of them. And the other song, “Beets and Turnips” – [Little Wonder] Band disc No. 30. Both songs were released sometime in 1914. The Michigan song dates somewhere between 1914-15. The flipside of the one-sided Little Wonders have patent dates of Nov. 1909. These are some incredibly old tiny disc records pushing 107 years old (if going by the patent dates, that is). The sound quality of the Little Wonders exceeded my expectations. I was satisfied and my little one-bedroom was full of cheerful music for a little bit. I tried the Cameo 78 next. The song He Ain’t Never Been to College recorded nice in one take, no problems there.

 

Then the unexpected happened and it worried me when I played the flipside of the Cameo 78. It sounds very worn out due to the surface wear and tear that’s common for a record that’s likely been played many times over. But until last night I never encountered a 78 that would make the sound box lag and the turntable slow down and eventually stop all together. Worried doesn’t cut it. I was almost heart sick thinking of all the problems that can happen to a Victrola. The mainsprings might have hardened grease, but this would have been eliminated since the machine was completely overhauled by a professional in July. Another troubleshooting idea popped into my head; maybe the mainsprings slipped out of alignment in their barrels. Yikes! That’s an invasive and costly repair. Then I decided to try playing the same 78 on a different baby upright Victrola of mine that’s been my secondary recording machine. Surely, two machines are not alike.

Well, same problem occurred on the baby Victrola. And I couldn’t figure it out.

How can two machines encounter the same exact problem? Was this particular song cursed? Is the past deceased owner of said 78 trying to send me a message from the great beyond? What about the… oh, heck. Just try a lighter weight reproducer and so that’s what I did. Now the final recording didn’t come from the Victrola G as I had planned. I had to record the 78 playing it on my Edison C-19 with the proper 78 Ken-Tone attachment and it played okay. Not good, but its late. I’m tired. I want to get this last song uploaded to my MP3 player so I can call it a night. Edison has always been my ‘go-to’ phonograph when making recordings. In the beginning I didn’t always have a Victrola to fall back on. Therefore, my Edison C-19 picked up all the slack of my recording processes. I was relieved to know that my expensive Victrola G didn’t fall to crap after all and neither had my baby Victrola. Do I care to try Cream in My Coffee Fox Trot on my other upright?… Nope. So, hopefully I haven’t bought a cursed 78 and if I did, then eh, oh well. I suppose if the darned Fox Trot is cursed it wouldn’t be the first song to go down infamy for that. Thanks for reading, commenting, blogging, sharing, tweeting. I truly appreciate it a lot! 🙂

 

 

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Something old, something new: One Victrola’s mysterious journey.

Published December 29, 2015 by AntiqueMystique1

Vic VVXIV for wordpress Picture of a Victrola VV-XIV.

There’s a poor behemoth Victrola VV-XIV tightly wedged between a long metal filing cabinet and a tiny portion of bookshelf space in a used furniture store. I promised myself, “no more” in regards to restoring these beautiful wind-up antique phonographs simply because the cost to restore them can outweigh the price you pay for the machine.

And it was only twice I seen a gold-plated Victrola model. The last one I had seen at a thrift store was beat to heck and back. There was rust all over it and it reeked of stagnant mold damage like it had been dredged up from the depths of a leaky basement– or worse, perhaps. And the thirft store was charging $368! There were 78s adhered to the storage shelves. It was a pitiful mess of Tetanus waiting to happen. And that baby upright Victrola didn’t stay in the thrift store very long. Don’t know if it was ever bought or sold, or made its way to the landfill.

But this large upright gold-plated Victrola was in far better condition. The cabinet was clean (although dusty), and it requires some major and minor TLC. It’s a labor of love I’d happily accept.

And this Victrola’s provenance (history of its previous owners and what state it came from) is completely N/A (non-applicable). This Victrola didn’t come with any paperwork and that’s to be expected. There was no instruction booklet (sometimes these do surface).

I have no clue who owned this antique talking machine, but it likely dates around Aug. 1, 1913 (checked the sticker on the back at the lower left hand corner). And I did some cross-reference from this fantastic site: The Victor Victrola page before I decided to return to the store.

This talking machine has been around a day or two. Sure the cabinet has a few nicks, a minuscule white paint speck here and there. Overall the ornate carved moldings are present and appear to be in good condition for their age. And nope, it’s not even close to being museum quality or even pristine condition. Most antique phonograph collectors with disposable incomes won’t even consider these less glossy talking machines or rather, let me say, cosmetically-challenged Victrolas that have veneer loss and/ or alligator-like cabinets due to separation of the original gloss. The stain appears to be red mahogany or something similar. And my Christmas present finally arrived yesterday morning.

I had the sales person give me an in-store demonstration long before I ever decided to get this particular Victrola. I cringed when I heard “At the Pawn Shop” by Guy Mitchell. I have nothing against this artist. For the love of Nipper, (Victrola’s mascot Fox Terrier), don’t ever play a 1950s 78 on a Victrola—ever. I stress this because the record grooves are different and can’t handle the heavy weight of a talking machine’s reproducer nor that of the steel needle that will act like a pumice stone thus causing groove walls of the 78 terrible wear and tear. Plus its very damaging to the mica diaphragm and creates an unpleasant shrill to the ears. Also, 78s recorded on or after 1935 is the cut-off point due to differences in the recording/cutting processes.

And I will always have Guy Mitchell’s song stuck in my head from now on whenever I lay eyes on this once proud, stunning glorious talking machine that was one of two flagship models in the Victor-Victrola line. It was $200 brand new back in 1913 or thereabouts. It is well over $4,000 in today’s money according to the Federal Reserve inflation calculator.

And it’s going to need critical TLC. As I suspected (and scrunched my shoulders when listening to it play in the store), the mainspring(s) were broke, possibly. They weren’t thumping per se, one—perhaps all three mainsprings are possibly weak which is very common on nearly all un-restored Victrolas nowadays if not well cared for by its former owner(s). I suspected such and figured up additional costs it’s going to take to get this beautiful talking machine to perform as it once did.

Three red flags went up in my mind aside from the common potential mainspring breakage, the internal horn shifted inside the cabinet. Also, there was scoring to the main board bolts likely due to someone using the wrong type of screw driver. And its missing four tiny gold-plated screws from its lid, which indicates to me the lid had been removed at some point.

Regardless, I’m happy with the new Victrola. It came with its own record duster (not often found with these machines), three packs of old original needles, and the cabinet key that’s original to the machine as well. The folks in the furniture store told me that a man tried to walk off with the cabinet key. This is because they are extremely hard to come by, very pricey when found, and seldom if ever, are retained with the phonograph.
I don’t plan to get into a massive rush to get the mainsprings repaired nor do will I have the Exhibition reproducer overhauled anytime soon. I decided to take the leisurely (or lazy approach) with this machine. The talking machine plays, but the mainsprings violently protest while it plays a 78 and sounds like one of the springs is uncoiling inside the barrel. And no, it’s not the ever common “thump,” “thump”, “thump” from dried grease in the mainspring barrels, its more than likely broken. I know since I own and serviced my own talking machines in my younger days and can detect by listening if its going to be something major that will require professional assistance or something minor like dried grease in the mainsprings.

I froze outside yesterday without a coat on so I could clean the caked on grease from the governor and worm drive shaft. And I remembered to put a few generous drops of Hoppie’s oil in the bushing and tips before I re-assembled it. That’s the extent of my main board adventure. There’s a few things I didn’t mess with simply because the majority of it calls for a professional, something of which, I’m not.

The cabinet was cleaned using Murphy’s Oil Soap and a clean cloth and cotton balls for the more intricate wood carvings. I then vacuumed inside the machine after I extracted ten or so needles, both steel and Fibre (bamboo kind). I didn’t stumble upon any hidden treasures. There was no Prohibition alcohol stuffed inside, no money either. But, hey, one can always dream. I heard various stories of people finding peculiar things inside these antique phonographs when they go to restore them that is.
And something tells me my new Victrola spent its life either near the Ocean in a beach front home, or elsewhere in a similar corrosive environment near salt water. The gold-plated hardware shows corrosion and has seen a lot of use as evident by the worn mark on the goose-neck tone arm. It came with a few record books that contained several 12” 78s. There were some nice one-sided red and also black bat wing label records, two dark purple Victor 78’s by Harry Lauder (a favorite of mine) and some modern 33 1/3” shoved in the books. And the other books contain…nothing. Oh, well.

Here’s how to decipher the types of music commonly found on a Victor 78 (I didn’t get around to covering the Orthophoics or the “VE” (Victor Electric) series because its been a lazy, cold, blustery day:

Red bat-wing label one-sided (included double-sided) 78’s will have classical, instrumental, sentimental, operatic ballads for example Enrico Caruso, Erinestine-Shumann-Heink, Fritz Kriesler, John McCormack, etc.

Black bat wing one-sided (including double-sided) 78’s will generally include Vaudeville, Fox Trots (jazz and waltzes), country, etc.

Purple bat wing one-sided 12” 78s will contain Opera in most cases, unless the singer happens to be Harry Lauder, then the song(s) would fall into a Scottish sentimental song category. Harry Lauder was a vaudeville comedian and music hall Scottish singer.
Now I believe the record binders themselves were manufactured during the 1940s since they have “RCA Victor Victrola” and the legendary Nipper trademark image in gold. But they appear later produced, not earlier like that of my embossed record binders from eons ago (same company). When the Victrola Talking Machine company was bought out by The Radio Corp. of America (RCA) in 1929 after the stock market crashed, they then changed the company’s name to include “RCA Victor” and the like. Thanks for liking, sharing, re-blogging, commenting, I truly appreciate it. 🙂