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Good God, why doesn't that man yodel and be done with it? - A woman in the audience commenting on Peetie Wheatstraw's signature "ooh, well well", recounted by Teddy Darby, quoted in Paul Garon's The Devil's Son-In-Law

Author Topic: Blind Lemon and recording technology  (Read 5258 times)

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Offline bnemerov

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  • Posts: 235
Re: Blind Lemon and recording technology
« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2008, 09:43:44 AM »
More from ARSC Journal:
"There is very little information about Orlando R. Marsh. Even his name is a point of confusion since some printed sources present his name as Orlando B. Marsh. Consequently, recordings issued by Marsh Laboratories are typically treated by collectors as unique and special. We know that Marsh was a pioneer recording engineer. In 1924 he located to room 707 in the Lyon & Healy Building at 78 E. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL. Lyon & Healy was a well known store that attracted music lovers and for years sold sheet music, records, pianos, and the famous Lyon & Healy harp. The move to the Lyon & Healy Building put Marsh close to music customers, as well as close to the Chicago Symphony, and a variety of theater venues.

Marsh produced a number of commercial 78-rpm labels including Autograph, Electra, and Messiah, as well as recordings for Greek Record Company, and Wallin's Svenska Records. He also sold or leased matrices of his recordings to other labels such as Paramount, Silvertone, and Gennett.

In 1923, the January 13th issue of The Billboard, under the heading of ''A New Invention,'' showed a photo at Marsh Laboratories of a recording session which used a baffle-covered sound collection device. The accompanying write-up pointed out the ''simplicity of the recording device'' and how the new method at Marsh Laboratories ''opens up new possibilities for lyceum and chautauqua artists''.15. Presumably this was the fabled electrical recording system used later for the Jesse Crawford and Milton Charles theater organ recordings. As radio grew and his recording techniques improved, Marsh made electrical broadcast transcriptions of programs such as ''Amos 'n' Andy'' in 1928 on the Electra label and ''Eskimo Pie Time'' in the early 1930s.

The fact that electrical recording methods were around in 1924 is not a surprise. Radio was becoming more competitive with the phonograph. E.R. Fenimore Johnson reported in his father's biography that in February 1924 Victor Talking Machine Co. personnel scheduled a round of visits to David Sarnoff, Lee DeForest, as well as to Kraft and Jewitt of Western Electric.5. He stated: ''It became evident that electrical recording of records with vacuum tube amplification and perhaps electrical reproduction of records was on the way even though it was not already there.'' However, by April 1925 when Western Electric Co. personnel demonstrated to Victor the Orthophonic phonograph, Fenimore Johnson wrote that, ''the W. E. Co's electrical recording system was not the only one in existence''.

The essence of Johnson's statement is confirmed by Geduld's work concerning how sound cinema was born.4 There were many efforts to electrically record sound: magnetic sound patented by Poulsen in 1900, optical sound invented by R?hmer and demonstrated in 1901, and groove-on-film sound by Madaler in 1916. Lee DeForest was very active in the film sound field and in 1919 filed patent applications for methods using vacuum tube technology.

For all we know, Orlando Marsh perhaps as early as 1922 may have machined an electric earphone to operate a cutting stylus from the amplified microphone signal. Regardless, we've found no documentation on how he actually mastered the recordings of Jesse Crawford and Milton Charles. We know that Marsh's electric Autograph Records were not produced like those of Columbia and Victor using the Western Electric process of 1925. The Columbia and Victor records of this vintage can be readily played back with a bass turnover of 250 to 300 Hz and a 10 kHz rolloff of-5 or -8.5 dB producing a reasonable sound balance of bass, midrange, and treble.7. ,8. Also, recordings by Marsh from the late 1920s and early 1930s have much less of a ''squeezed'' tone and more bass. In contrast, the Marsh theater organ recordings in this project required a turnover of at least 700 Hz. With our post-equalization, the true bass turnover was closer to 2 kHz. Still, bass was lacking. On the other side of the spectrum, a treble rolloff of zero dB seemed to work well.

Somehow Marsh was able to minimize many of the distortions caused by resonances and obtain relatively clear recordings by 1924. This was a notable accomplishment since Maxfield and Harrison of Bell Telephone Laboratories presented details on how they controlled cutter resonances in their 1926 paper.14. The Bell inventors showed amplitude vs. frequency plots for three kinds of record cutters ( Fig. 4 ). The top curve shows the cutter response with resonances damped by means of a special laminated ''rubber line''. This was the kind of cutter used in the Western Electric system by Columbia and Victor in 1925. The middle graph shows irregular response for the lump loaded kind of cutter. At the bottom is a curve for an early cutter with a prominent resonance."

I'll stop now, I promise.
Bruce N.


Offline Stuart

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  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Blind Lemon and recording technology
« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2008, 11:54:53 AM »

Thanks for taking the time to post this info. It helps to shed light on the nature of the "horn" at Grafton, as well as to fill us in on some interesting developments in the history of recorded sound.

The teens and twenties were a very exciting time for the development of radio, recording, and EE in general.

J. Baxter

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Re: Blind Lemon and recording technology
« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2008, 06:16:41 PM »
I don't know if anyone has gone to the link I also posted below the picture, the caption may be illuminating:
in 78 Quarterly # 10, page 10 Gordon Simons of Milwaukee provided an illustration of a parabolic microphone which may have been used in the studio. Check the article by Wardlow and Calt: Paramount's Decline and Fall. I then checked newspapers from that period and it appeared that such a recording device was mainly used for broadcasting purposes and to record operas. Hence theNYRL studio being part of an acoustical experiment? By a guy named Fertington, possibly from the engineering department of U. of Wisconsin at Madison. The newspaperclipping is from The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh), dated December 13, 1930. When Sig Heller recorded in July 1932 they had mikes on a stand, I will see if I have a decent picture of that. In all: NYRL was following the latest techniques!

Also from the Paramount site:

local fim takes over Black Swan 1924
Here's the (incomplete) article as it appeared in the Port Washington Herald of April 2, 1924, front page!

Found this too:

1932 NYRL studio- used type mike
Here's the illustration Sig Heller gave me in 2003 when I visited him and asked him about the type of microphone used in the studio. He came up with this one. It's not the best but maybe we can find a better illustration of this device on the internet.

« Last Edit: September 18, 2008, 06:33:27 PM by J. Baxter »

Offline jostber

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  • Posts: 653
Re: Blind Lemon and recording technology
« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2008, 10:03:36 AM »
Here are all the great articles on Blind Lemon from Black Music Research:

Editor's introduction
by David Evans

Blind Lemon Jefferson: the myth and the man
by Alan Govenar

Blind Lemon meets Leadbelly
by Kip Lornell

The language of Blind Lemon Jefferson: the covert theme of blindness
by Luigi Monge

Musical innovation in the blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson
by David Evans


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