Hawthorne’s Encore Time with Major J. Andrew (Andy) – White – March 23, 1952 – KNX – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
If 1952 listening to music and hearing anecdotes about 1922 seemed strange and distant at the time, you can only imagine what it seems like now.
Here we are; 2022, listening to 1952 reminiscing about the goings-on 1922 (and earlier as well as later). I would venture to guess that none of the names and voices ring any bells whatsoever, this March in 2022.
Kind of sad, actually – even though the records are primitive, even by 1952 standards, the glimpse back in time as given by Major J. Andrew “Andy” White, the original founder of CBS and who was billed as “the man with a million memories” are intriguing and loaded with historic information. Probably not that far from the truth. But how are we to know?
Fascinating are the anecdotes about recording, when recording was in its infancy and stories about the Stars of Vaudeville. All to an audience trudging into Studio X at KNX in Hollywood each and every Wednesday to sit captivated by the recollections of one of the important figures in early broadcasting, who seemed to have his hands in many endeavors at the time – and a wealth of stories about the early days of recording. One of those that stand out is a story about how a producer (or engineer) would physically move a singer back and forward in front of the large recording horn in order to get the soft notes as well as compensate for the loud ones.
The records themselves exist pretty much as curios of an age. The music itself is as strange and foreign to current ears as no doubt it may have been to the people hearing these recordings for the first time.
We’ve come a very long way, even since 1952. Remember, the people in 1952 listening to these early recordings from the 1920s consider them to be nostalgic glimpses into a past of their youth, or even the music of their parents. So we have no frame of reference, save for the examples and the recollections, some 100+ years later. Which is why this series of broadcasts, heard live at the time, are vitally important to those wanting to find out how it happened – who were these people – and were they household names at the time. It was a different world then and sometimes it’s an education to see just how different.
Fortunately, for a lot of people, Archive.org has been actively preserving and making recordings from this early era available. And even The Library of Congress has released a considerable amount, since those recordings are no longer copyright, but in the public domain.
So maybe history isn’t as dim and distant as one might think.