Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vocalion Catalog - September, 1934

Not only do I collect 78s, but for the past couple of years I have been collecting record catalogs from the 78 era.  I find them fascinating; like 78s themselves, the catalogs are windows to a lost world.  And while any record collection is formed by the taste of its owner, record catalogs give a fuller picture of the taste of the record-buying public of the time.  And of course, it's fun to find records from your collection listed, as well as listings of particularly rare or collectible records.

Most of the major labels issued complete catalogs of their in-print records annually, with supplements containing new releases printed monthly, or at least several times per year.  This post features the September, 1934 Vocalion catalog, listing new releases for that month, along with highlights from previous releases.

The history of the Vocalion label is fairly complex; here I'll just say that at the time this catalog was published, Vocalion was a subsidiary of Brunswick.  Both were owned by the American Record Corporation (ARC), which also owned Columbia at this time.  Vocalion was one of ARC's lower-priced labels; as you can see on the first page of the catalog, their records sold for 35 cents each, or three for a dollar.

This eight-page booklet is a delight to look through, especially for collectors of "race" records, as records marketed to African-Americans were called in the 78 era.  The "Vocal Blues" section in particular has listings for mouth-watering records by Blind Willie McTell (just called "Blind Willie"), The Georgia Browns (a group which included Buddy Moss), and the daddy of the blues, Charley Patton.  (Vocalion spelled his name "Charlie.")  In various instrumental categories you'll find records by Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band, the Beale Street Washboard band (a fabulous little group which included New Orleans jazzmen Herb Morand and the Dodds brothers, Johnny and Baby), Fletcher Henderson, Clarence Williams, and Joe Robechaux's hot little New Orleans swing band.  There's a Blind Joe Taggart listed in the "Sacred Race Records" section.  Some black artists, like Cab Calloway and Jimmie Noone, apparently had enough crossover appeal to warrant listing their records in the "Popular and Standard Records" section.  The country section, "Old Time Tunes," is not quite as stunning as the Race section, but there are still some interesting names there - (Clarence) Ashley & (Gwen) Foster, Ernest Stoneman, and the Carolina Tar Heels, for example.

I'm posting scans of all eight pages of my fragile copy of this catalog.  Click for a larger view, and in most browsers, and can right-click, choose "view image" and click on the resulting image for an even larger view.  Enjoy the Vocalion record catalog from September, 1934

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