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As long as I've been playing they never say I done anything. They always say that some white guy did it - Miles Davis

Author Topic: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded  (Read 382 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« on: February 23, 2021, 05:52:54 PM »
Hi all,
We know that Lemon Jefferson had more than one version of several songs released, done at different recording sessions (as opposed to doing two takes of a song at the same recording session). My understanding has always been that the record company did this because the master of the original version was worn out from having been used to press so many records, and that since the demand for the song was still reflected in sales, the company had Lemon record a follow-up version, with no particular attempt, apart from playing the song in the same playing position/tuning, to duplicate the original version of the song.
Does anyone know for certain if this understanding of the reason for multiple versions of a song being released is either correct or incorrect, and if so, could you flesh out a little background information in either instance? It would be most appreciated. It would be very helpful for me to know for a book I'm in the process of writing. Thanks for any help with this question.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2021, 12:39:46 AM »
Hi John - I remember reading the explanation you give, that songs were often re-recorded when the master disc of the original pressing wore out. I can’t remember the source, but I think it was in respect of the different takes of West Coast Blues by Blind Blake. I imagine John Tefteller, John Heneghan, Bruce Nemerov or Joe Bussard would provide expert opinion.

Offline TenBrook

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2021, 07:14:22 AM »
John,
While I can't speak directly to your question I can recommend the pdf version of the book 'Talking Wax or the History of the Phonograph' which has some info in Chapter 11 on the pressing of 78s including the below quote, which indicates that it was likely possible for record companies to create a backup stamper in the advent that the initial one wore out or was damaged. I suppose the real question is whether Paramount did that as a rule.

You can download a copy of 'Talking Wax' here: http://www.gracyk.com/talkingWax.html

Here's the relevant bit. Unfortunately the chapter in question doesn't have much more in the way of info on pressing 78s but I do recommend the book in general as a great introduction to the history of early recordings and recording technology:

"After the music has been recorded upon this wax disc, the surface of the disc is given coating of
graphite or bronze powder to make it current conducting. The wax disc is then immersed in a plating
bath and given a plating of copper approximately 1/32 inch thick or more. When the plating operation
has been completed, the copper plate is lifted from the surface of the wax and properly trimmed and
mounted so as to produce records. This copper plate, of course, is a negative or the reverse of the wax
from which it was made, and where the music was in grooves on the wax, it is now in ridges. This
copper plate, or matrix, as it is known, may be suitably nickelled and used for the pressing of records,
or copies may be made and used. Quite frequently, a “mother” in turn is used to make other masters or
stampers, which are utilized in the presses to make our commercial records; the original matrix being
filed and preserved for future use, if accident should occur to the “mother” and stampers."
« Last Edit: February 25, 2021, 08:05:07 AM by TenBrook »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2021, 09:27:33 AM »
Hi John:

I've read the same thing over the decades, and as has been mentioned, it wasn't limited to Lemon. But other questions arise, such as was this specific to the materials and processes that Paramount and perhaps some other labels used or was it industry wide? I can't recall reading anything definitive or something that mentioned an authoritative source for the info.

I'm sure the information is available somewhere, but a quick search last night didn't turn up any histories that included the manufacturing side of the music business.

Years ago Elijah posted a question to the PWBG re: an article in a trade journal from back in the 20s or 30s, IIRC. By chance I was going to the UW and stopped by the Music Library and asked the librarian about it. She said that the trade publications contained a treasure trove of info, but unfortunately they were not publications that libraries subscribed to and even the subscribers didn't hang on to them. And the ones that were discovered and donated were far down on the list of materials waiting to be scanned and archived. But I digress...

In addition to the collectors mentioned, you might check out the websites devoted to 78s. People there might be able to point you to sources that will help you with your question.

As an FYI:

https://great78.archive.org/

https://archive.org/details/78rpm




Offline eric

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2021, 10:05:24 AM »
The old listserv 78-L is still active I think.  When was collecting, this was the place for early recording days esoterica.
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Eric

Offline waxwing

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2021, 01:56:12 PM »
Here are a few old documentaries which can help those who don't have a real understanding of the recordmaking process in the early 20th Cent.







Interestingly two are silent films.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline Johnm

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2021, 03:15:10 PM »
Many thanks to all who have responded to my question so far: Prof, Lew, Stuart, Eric and Wax. I will follow up some of the leads and post any kind of definitive answer I'm able to find to my original question.
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2021, 03:41:07 PM »
Sorry to be late to this.  I've heard the same thing, that the masters wore out.  I'm sure I have the details of how and why somewhere.  I thought it would be in Goodrich and Dixon's Studio Vista book Recording The Blues, but it's not.  I'll look further and see what I can come up with.

Offline dj

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2021, 04:50:39 PM »
I think I've got it.  Alex van der Tuuk's Paramount's Rise and Fall (2003 edition), on page 34 and following, states that Paramount's master pressing disks were cast from copper-coated wax "mothers".  The early masters would apparently wear out rather quickly, and repeated recasting would wear out the mothers.  Then, p. 113 states:

"His first major seller came with the release of "Got The Blues," baked with "Long Lonesome Blues," on Pm 12354.  This appeared in the Chicago Defender of May 1 and was so successful that the NYRL must have run out of mothers within a few weeks, as Jefferson was back in Chicago in May or June to re-record the titles."

So a bit of supposition there, but I think that's as close to nailed down as we're going to get.

(By the way, NYRL stands for New York Recording Laboratories, a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company and the parent company of Paramount Records.)

Offline Johnm

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2021, 04:54:18 PM »
Thanks very kindly for that citation, dj, it more than satisfies my curiosity and the need to feel like I'm more certain about the reason for the multiple versions of Lemon's hits, before stating a reason for them in the book I'm writing. Thanks so much!
All best,
Johnm

Offline blueshome

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2021, 03:54:52 AM »
It’s also reported that the same situation occurred with Leroy Carr’s How Long. unfortunately I can’t find the reference.

Offline eric

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2021, 06:36:16 AM »
John, can you tell us a little about your book?
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Eric

Offline Johnm

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2021, 07:42:28 AM »
Sure, Eric. The book will be titled "The Guitar of Blind Lemon Jefferson", and it will be a repertoire book with a lot of additional information, similar in its format to the John Hurt, East Coast, and Texas books I've written in the past couple of years, as well as the forthcoming "Mississippi Fingerstyle Blues Guitar" book which will be published in the next 6--8 weeks.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline eric

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2021, 08:36:49 AM »
John, that's great.  Lemon was just a fantastic and unique  player and singer.
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Eric

Offline Johnm

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Re: Query re multiple versions of songs Lemon Jefferson recorded
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2021, 04:06:01 PM »
I couldn't agree more, Eric. Lemon was spectacular in every way, musically, I think.

 


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