Cover image for Lost sounds : blacks and the birth of the recording industry, 1890-1919
Lost sounds : blacks and the birth of the recording industry, 1890-1919
Brooks, Tim.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 634 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm.
George W. Johnson, the first Black recording artist. The early years ; Talking machines! ; The trial of George W. Johnson -- Black recording artists, 1890-99. The Unique Quartette ; Louis "Bebe" Vasnier : recording in nineteenth-century New Orleans ; The Standard Quartette and South before the War ; The Kentucky Jubilee Singers ; Bert Williams and George Walker ; Cousins and DeMoss ; Thomas Craig -- Black recording artists, 1900-1909. The Dinwiddie Quartet ; Carroll Clark ; Charley Case : passing for White? ; The Fisk Jubilee Singers and the popularization of Negro spirituals ; Polk Miller and his Old South Quartette -- Black recording artists, 1910-15. Jack Johnson ; Daisy Tapley ; Apollo Jubilee Quartette ; Edward Sterling Wright and the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar ; James Reese Europe ; Will Marion Cook and the Afro-American Folk Song Singers ; Dan Kildare and Joan Sawyer's Persian Garden Orchestra ; The Tuskegee Institute Singers ; The Right Quintette -- Black recording artists, 1916-19. Wilbur C. Sweatman : disrepecting Wilbur ; Opal D. Cooper ; Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake ; Ford T. Dabney : syncopation over Broadway ; W.C. Handy ; Roland Hayes ; The Four Harmony Kings ; Broome Special Phonograph Records ; Edward H. Boatner ; Harry T. Burleigh ; Florence Cole-Talbert ; R. Nathaniel Dett ; Clarence Cameron White -- Other early recordings ; Miscellaneous recordings.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3479 .B76 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
ML3479 .B76 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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Available in paperback for the first time, this groundbreaking in-depth history of the involvement of African Americans in the early recording industry examines the first three decades of sound recording in the United States, charting the surprising roles black artists played in the period leading up to the Jazz Age and the remarkably wide range of black music and culture they preserved.

Applying more than thirty years of scholarship, Tim Brooks identifies key black artists who recorded commercially and provides illuminating biographies for some forty of these audio pioneers. Brooks assesses the careers and recordings of George W. Johnson, Bert Williams, George Walker, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, W. C. Handy, James Reese Europe, Wilbur Sweatman, Harry T. Burleigh, Roland Hayes, Booker T. Washington, and boxing champion Jack Johnson, as well as a host of lesser-known voices. Many of these pioneers faced a difficult struggle to be heard in an era of rampant discrimination and "the color line," and their stories illuminate the forces--both black and white--that gradually allowed African Americans greater entree into the mainstream American entertainment industry. The book also discusses how many of these historic recordings are withheld from the public today because of stringent U.S. copyright laws.

Lost Sounds includes Brooks's selected discography of CD reissues, and an appendix by Dick Spottswood describing early recordings by black artists in the Caribbean and South America.

Author Notes

Tim Brooks is Executive Vice President of Research at Lifetime Television. He is past president of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections and a frequent contributor to scholarly journals
Dick Spottswood is a freelance author, broadcaster, and record producer

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In this chronological narrative, Brooks (executive vice president of research, Lifetime Television) presents a wealth of information about the first African American recording artists. Starting in 1890 with trailblazing street singer George W. Johnson, he produces significant biographies of nearly 40 African American performers and groups who delivered minstrelsy, vaudeville, theatrical songs, spirituals, jazz, poetry, and spoken word on Thomas Edison's perishable wax cylinders. While other writers have studied some of Brooks's subjects (e.g., W.C. Handy, Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, and boxer Jack Johnson), artists like Opal Cooper, Roland Hayes, Harry Burleigh, Dan Kildare, and R. Nathaniel Dett have been long neglected. Instead of providing a multilayered analysis of their larger impact, Brooks contents himself with writing the first in-depth chronicle of African Americans during the first three decades of the recording industry, relying on 19th- and 20th-century newspaper accounts plus a few interviews, census records, and older secondary sources. Chock-full of fascinating photos, this marvelously researched reference illuminates a forgotten part of African American history. Highly recommended as a seminal resource for libraries.-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A discussion of the history of black performers who made recordings almost always starts with the "race records" from the 1920s--recordings that, to the industry's surprise, attracted a dramatic amount of attention in the African American community of the day. This book pushes that history back three decades, and Brooks and Spottswood tell the story wonderfully well. The recorded material includes pre-jazz, novelty items, comedy monologues, poetry, and narration by both well-known figures--e.g., Eubie Blake, Jim Europe, Williams and Walker, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W.C. Handy--and the almost forgotten. Disciplined, fluid, and embellished with colloquial interjections, this splendid decade-by-decade accounting includes vivid details never previously assembled in one source. The authors are ardent scholars known as media discographers, but their book is a history, not a discography (although a CD discography does appear in the back matter). The thorough bibliography demonstrates the scope and intensity of the research. This is a welcome contribution to the literature on the African American story, primarily in music but in other disciplines as well. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All collections; all levels. D.-R. de Lerma Lawrence University

Table of Contents

Dick Spottswood
Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed?p. 1
Part 1 George W. Johnson, the First Black Recording Artistp. 13
1. The Early Yearsp. 15
2. Talking Machines!p. 26
3. The Trial of George W. Johnsonp. 49
Part 2 Black Recording Artists, 1890-99p. 73
4. The Unique Quartettep. 75
5. Louis "Bebe" Vasnier: Recording in Nineteenth-Century New Orleansp. 83
6. The Standard Quartette and South before the Warp. 92
7. The Kentucky Jubilee Singersp. 103
8. Bert Williams and George Walkerp. 105
9. Cousins and DeMossp. 148
10. Thomas Craigp. 151
Part 3 Black Recording Artists, 1900-1909p. 153
11. The Dinwiddie Quartetp. 155
12. Carroll Clarkp. 159
13. Charley Case: Passing for White?p. 172
14. The Fisk Jubilee Singers and the Popularization of Negro Spiritualsp. 192
15. Polk Miller and His Old South Quartettep. 215
Part 4 Black Recording Artists, 1910-15p. 235
16. Jack Johnsonp. 237
17. Daisy Tapleyp. 254
18. Apollo Jubilee Quartettep. 258
19. Edward Sterling Wright and the Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbarp. 260
20. James Reese Europep. 267
21. Will Marion Cook and the Afro-American Folk Song Singersp. 292
22. Dan Kildare and Joan Sawyer's Persian Garden Orchestrap. 299
23. The Tuskegee Institute Singersp. 320
24. The Right Quintettep. 327
Part 5 Black Recording Artists, 1916-19p. 335
25. Wilbur C. Sweatman: Disrespecting Wilburp. 337
26. Opal D. Cooperp. 355
27. Noble Sissle and Eubie Blakep. 363
28. Ford T. Dabney: Syncopation over Broadwayp. 395
29. W. C. Handyp. 410
30. Roland Hayesp. 436
31. The Four Harmony Kingsp. 452
32. Broome Special Phonograph Recordsp. 464
33. Edward H. Boatnerp. 470
34. Harry T. Burleighp. 473
35. Florence Cole-Talbertp. 486
36. R. Nathaniel Dettp. 488
37. Clarence Cameron Whitep. 492
Part 6 Other Early Recordingsp. 497
38. Miscellaneous Recordingsp. 499
Appendix Caribbean and South American Recordingsp. 523
Notesp. 531
Select CD Discographyp. 581
Bibliographyp. 589
Indexp. 595