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History of Record Albums

78 Record out of its album sleeve

Have you ever wondered where the term "Record Album" came from?

Originally, 78 rpm records were normally sold individually in brown paper or cardboard sleeves that were plain, or sometimes printed to show the producer or the retailer's name. They were extremely generic.  Just imagine great musical works packaged in plain thin cardboard, not very pleasing to the eye, huh.  Generally the sleeves had a circular cut-out exposing the record label to view. Records could be laid on a shelf horizontally (not recommended) or stood on an edge, but because of their fragility, breakage was common.  As 78s became more popular it became clear that something needed to be done to make storage more safe, consistent and reliable.

We can thank Germany for the idea of the "album."  The German record company Odeon pioneered the album in 1909 when it released the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky on 4 double-sided discs in a specially designed package.  Deutsche Grammophon had also produced an album for its complete recording of the opera Carmen around the same time.  For the first time, a collection of music was packaged together for easier storage and organization.

Record Album Cover
Generic Record Album Cover
By about 1910, bound collections of empty sleeves with a paperboard or leather cover, similar to a photograph album, were sold as record albums that customers could use to store their records (the term "record album" was printed on some covers). These albums came in both 10-inch and 12-inch sizes.  In most cases, the inside cover provided an index area to write down information about the recording as well as where the record was located within the album. The covers of these bound books were wider and taller than the records inside, allowing the record album to be placed on a shelf upright, like a book, safely suspending the fragile records above the shelf and protecting them.

Record Album Index
Record Album Showing Index
In the 1930s, record companies began issuing collections of 78 rpm records by one performer or of one type of music in specially assembled albums, typically with artwork on the front cover and liner notes on the back or inside cover. Most albums included three or four records, with two sides each, making six or eight tunes per album. When the 12-inch vinyl LP era began in 1948, each disc could hold a similar number of tunes as a typical album of 78s, so they were still referred to as an "album", as they are today.

Glenn Miller Record Album
Glenn Miller Record Album Containing 78s
To learn more about this I encourage you to read the Wikipedia article on The Phonograph Record.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

The Duke's Ideas by Charlie Barnet

The Duke's Ideas by Charlie Barnet Album Cover

What a fantastic album and one that I highly recommend.  I got my hands on this LP just before the holidays and is well worth the $1 purchase price.  I truly love that you can still find gems like these in used record stores at bargain prices.

"The Duke's Ideas" Volume 1 (1939-1941) was the first in a reissue program dedicated to Charlie Barnet.  The album, as the liner notes state, is built around themes by Duke Ellington or compositions inspired by the Duke's style. Charlie was a very big fan of Duke Ellington and it shows through in these recordings.

I've added the majority of the songs contained in this album to the Swing City Radio normal playlist including the tracks The Duke's Idea, Harlem Speaks and Midweek Function.

Like I said, if you have a chance to pick this up somewhere, do it!  It's a keeper.

I included a link below where you can purchase the MP3s of this album from Amazon.  It's a different cover but the song listings appear to be the same so I'm trusting they are the same versions as well.  And please, please remember, the small commissions made from purchases go to the station and help us continue to "Bring the Swing!"

Recommended: (Affiliate Links)

Charlie Barnet

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

Happy Birthday, Ray!

Ray turned 98 today

Warm Birthday Wishes go out to Ray Anthony!  Ray turned 98 today and by all reports is still going strong.  Ray Anthony is the last surviving member of the original Glenn Miller Orchestra and had  a very memorable solo career as well.

Swing City Radio wants to thank you for all the great music you have provided us over the years.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.


1942–44 Musicians' Strike

American Federation of Musicians Logo

On August 1, 1942, the American Federation of Musicians, at the instigation of union president James C. Petrillo, began a strike against the major American recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments. This strike seriously hurt Big Band artists and helped bring on the denise of the era.  Beginning at midnight, July 31 1942, no union musician could make commercial recordings for any commercial record company.  That meant that a union musician was allowed to participate on radio programs and other kinds of musical entertainment, but not in a recording session. The 1942–44 musicians' strike remains the longest strike in entertainment history.

The strike did not affect musicians performing on live radio shows, in concerts, or, after October 27, 1943, on special recordings made by the record companies for V-Discs for distribution to the armed forces fighting World War II, because V-Discs were not available to the general public. However, the union did frequently threaten to withdraw musicians from the radio networks to punish individual network affiliates who were deemed "unfair" for violating the union's policy on recording network shows for repeat broadcasts.

The strike had a big impact, since at the time, union bands dominated popular music. After the strike, and partly as a result of it, vocalists dominated popular music.

Petrillo had long thought that recording companies should pay royalties. As head of the Chicago local chapter of the union in 1937 he had organized a strike there. Petrillo was elected president of the American Federation of Musicians in 1940. When he announced that the recording ban would start at midnight, July 31, 1942, most people thought it would not happen. America had just entered World War II on December 8, 1941, and most newspapers opposed the ban. By July, it was clear that the ban would take place and record companies began to stockpile new recordings of their most popular artists.

Several months passed before any effects of the strike were noticed. At first, the record companies hoped to call the union's bluff by releasing new recordings from their unissued stockpiles, but the strike lasted much longer than anticipated and eventually the supply of unissued recordings was exhausted. The companies also reissued long deleted recordings from their back catalogs, including some from as far back as the dawn of the electrical recording era in 1925. One reissue that was especially successful was Columbia’s release of Harry James’ "All or Nothing at All", recorded in August 1939 and released when James' new vocalist, Frank Sinatra, was still largely unknown. The original release carried the usual credit, "Vocal Chorus by Frank Sinatra" in small type. It sold around five thousand copies. When Columbia reissued the record in 1943 with the now famous Sinatra given top billing, and "with Harry James and his Orchestra" in small type below, the record was on the best–selling list for 18 weeks and reached number 2 on June 2, 1943. In 1942, the song "As Time Goes By" became immensely popular after it was featured in the Warner Bros. film Casablanca. Rudy VallĂ©e recorded the song for RCA Victor in 1931, and the reissue of his 12 year old record became a number-one hit.

As the strike extended into 1943, record companies bypassed the striking musicians by recording their popular vocalists singing with vocal groups filling the backup role normally filled by orchestras.

One unexpected result of the strike was the decline of the importance in popular music of the big bands of the 1930s and early 1940s. The strike was not the only cause of this decline, but it emphasized the shift from big bands with an accompanying vocalist to an emphasis on the vocalist, with the exclusion of the band. In the 1930s and pre–strike 1940s, big bands dominated popular music; after the strike, vocalists dominated popular music.

During the strike, vocalists could and did record without instrumentalists; instrumentalists could not record for the public at all. As historian Peter Soderbergh put it, "Until the war most singers were props. After the war they became the stars and the role of the bands was gradually subordinated."

Before the strike began there were signs that the increasing popularity of singers was beginning to reshape the big bands. When Frank Sinatra joined Tommy Dorsey's band in 1940, most selections started with a Tommy Dorsey solo. By the time Sinatra left in 1942, his songs with the band began with his singing, followed by any solos by Dorsey or others.

The other major cause of the decline of the big bands was World War II itself—and the resulting loss of band members to the military, curtailment of traveling by touring bands because of gasoline rationing, and a shortage of the shellac used to make records.

If you'd like to learn more about this strike visit the full article here.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.


Girls in the Band

Video of Girls in the Band

Here is a short video documentary that explores the history and impact of all-female jazz and big band groups.  Includes interviews and music.  I found it very interesting.  Enjoy!



Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.



This Week on Live at 5


This week we have some great Big Band performances on Live at 5 including:

Monday (01/27): Freddy Nagel: Live from Empire Room - Sep 21, 1947

Tuesday (01/28): Sammy Kaye: Live from Hotel William Penn - June 10,1940

Wednesday (01/29): Gene Krupa: Live from The Meadowbrook -Jan 31, 1940

Thursday (01/30): Glenn Miller: Live from The Paradise Restaurant - Dec 30, 1938

Friday (01/31): Ella Fitzgerald: Live from The Roseland Ballroom - Feb 2, 1940

Please keep in mind, some of the recordings featured on the show are almost 100 years old. Time has been spent trying to clean up some the audio, but the quality at times, on some of these recordings can be a little sketchy.  There may be some audio garbles, a brief volume drop or two and some pops, but they shouldn't take away from the enjoyment of the recording.  That being said, the content of these shows are classic, so if you need to adjust your volume a bit, I hope you'll find that it's worth it.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA

Tell Your Friends About Us

Logo

Hi everyone!  I hope you have been enjoying the music and the programming we've been playing on the station.  If you have any friends, family or co-workers who enjoy Big Band and Swing Music then please share the station with them.  Don't keep us Swing City Radio your little secret.  :)

Adding a steady flow of new listeners allows us to continue to "Bring the Swing in 2020!"

Thank you all for listening and your continued support.  Again, please share us with your friends, I've provided some links below to make it easy to post our station on your social media.  It would be very cool to have you spread the word about Swing City Radio on your Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts.





Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.



Got Swing Fever?

Clip from Swing Fever

Here's a clip from the 1944 movie, "Swing Fever."  It's a pretty good dance scene and hope you all enjoy it!  The music is provided by Kay Kyser and His Orchestra. 


Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA



Jammin' for the Jackpot

album cover

A very entertaining and interesting album I recently picked up is "Jammin' For The Jackpot: Big Bands and Territory Bands of the 30s."  The record features a collection of music performed by some nearly forgotten regional bands of that decade mixed in with songs from some well known names like Cab Calloway and Chick Webb.  It's the lesser known bands that make this album worthwhile.

Some of the more obscure territory bands included are:

  • Boots and His Buddies - They were based in the Southwestern portion of the U.S.
  • Hunter's Serenaders - The band was popular in the Omaha, Nebraska area
  • Grant Moore and His New Orleans Black Devils - They were ironically NOT based in New Orleans. The played out of Milwaukee and through Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.
  • J. Neal and His Orchestra - Prominent in the Atlanta, Georgia region
  • Zach Whyte's Chocolate Beau Brummels - Made recordings in Indiana


I was able to get my hands on a very good, well preserved record and the sound quality of some of the songs can be a little sketchy.  This isn't due to the vinyl condition, it's more of a result of the poor recording of the original performances.  This is probably because many of these session took place in smaller town studios.  Still, the music holds up and it's a fun record to listen to.  I will not be able to play some of the songs on the station because of audio quality issues, but listen out for the songs I do include because they are worth the listen.

The album also came with some great information about some of the bands in a booklet included as part of the original design and packaging of the record.  A very nice find and a fantastic look at some of the lesser known Big Bands of the 1930s.

Inside bookletInside Booklet


Listen for songs from "Jammin' For The Jackpot: Big Bands and Territory Bands of the 30s" on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.


Video of Raymond Scott performing "Powerhouse"

Raymond Scott

Here is a video of the Raymond Scott Quintette performing "Powerhouse" live on the show Hit Parade in April of 1955.  I just simply love Raymond's compositions.  They were so creative and so different.  Check out the video below.  Enjoy!


Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.


Just Like Heaven

Natalie Angst

Glenn Miller was famous for his "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue" medleys.  Well, Glenn would have proud of this "Something New" version of "Just Like Heaven" performed by The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra.  "Just Like Heaven" is a song from the late 80's by an alternative rock band named The Cure.  (I was a big Cure fan growing up and have seen them in concert many times!)  I simply love this cover since and I'm quite a fan of the original as well. As much as I have listened to this song in the past, I never imagined how it could be converted into a Big Band style. I think I like this version better than the original now.  :)

The lead vocals are handled by the magical voice of Natalie Angst and the orchestra is directed by Nick Hilscher.  Nick has been doing a fantastic job directing the Glenn Miller Orchestra for years now.  Give it a listen!  I've included the video below.

The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra is constantly touring and I encourage you to go out and see them live!  It's a great show and the band is very tight.

Enjoy!


Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA

Wild Bill Davison: That's A Plenty

Wild Bill Davison on Swing City Radio

Just before the holidays I did my rounds of the local used record stores looking for music to feature on the station.  There are times I go out looking and come back empty handed.  That's just how it goes sometimes.  But this trip I found many interesting records.  One of those records is "That's a Plenty" by Wild Bill Davison.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with Davison, he was a fantastic cornet player that started out in the 1920's but didn't start to make an impact until the early 40's.  He also had a reputation for heavy drinking and womanizing, hence the nickname "Wild Bill."

This album features many great musicians including Pee Wee Russell and Eddie Condon.  Davison plays both the cornet and trumpet on different tracks on this album.  If you like your Big Band music to have a dixieland feel to it, then you'll enjoy this record.  You can hear the songs "That's A Plenty", "Panama", "Muskrat Ramble" and "Clarinet Marmalade" right here on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Have a Healthy and Happy 2020 Everyone!  ...and thank you for listening to Swing City Radio!

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

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