Friday, November 20, 2015

An early Zonophone Rag - Creole Belles

Here is one of the oldest records in my collection - probably the second oldest, in fact. It's Hager's Orchestra playing my favorite "cakewalk" rag, "Creole Belles." (The cakewalk rhythm, eighth note/quarter note/eighth/quarter/quarter, can be heard at the beginning of the first strain, just after the introduction.) This is an early Zonophone record with an embossed label, partially highlighted with white paint. The recording was probably made in 1900 or 1901, the record issued in 1901 or 1902.

Like early Berliner records, early Zonophones were recorded at around 71 RPM. J. Bodewalt Lampe's fine composition was published for piano in the key of G, but is and was usually arranged in the more wind instrument-friendly key of F for bands. (And this is a wind band, no matter what the label implies.) This one-sided, nine-inch record pitches in F when played just faster than 71 RPM. The playing surface is not in good shape; the announcement at the beginning of the record is mostly unintelligible. But the music is intact, and quite listenable above the surface noise; the sound even improves as the record progresses.

Fred Hager, who served as music director and what we would now call "producer" at Zonophone, was still in his twenties when he conducted this spirited rendition. He went on to serve in similar capacities at Columbia and Okeh, and for the latter company produced the early Mamie Smith records which led to the "blues craze" of the 1920s. Zonophone also issued a seven-inch record of Hager's Orchestra playing "Creole Belles."

Enjoy a favorite of mine, "Creole Belles," from Zonophone 651.

Creole Belles

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