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Introducing No. 2 in the Brown Wax Era Recordings

We are pleased to announce the second of our Brown Wax Era recordings, ‘Why should I keep from Whistling?’ by John Yorke Atlee, with piano accompaniment by Professor F. Gaisberg.

This was originally recorded for the Columbia Company sometime in 1893 or early 1894, after the Company had established itself in a large building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington.  The announcement of the record acknowledges the presence on the ground floor of the building of a large nickel-in-the-slot phonograph parlour.

What makes the record even more significant than its early date is the identity of the accompanist, styled as Professor F. Gaisberg.  This is of course part of the early recording studio career of Fred Gaisberg who moved on to work with Emile Berliner at The Gramophone Company and from there travelled to Europe and is most obviously famous for being the man who recorded Caruso in Milan in 1902.  He retired in 1939 but continued to work as a consultant for The Gramophone Company right up until his death in 1951.

He was still a teenager when this recording was made.

Here is Fred Gaisberg’s own account of an earlier recording session working with John Yorke Atlee:

“… his pompous announcements which introduced each performance in tones that made the listener visualise a giant.  In reality he was a mere shrimp of a man, about five feet in his socks, that little Government clerk with the deep, powerful voice.  Of this and his fine flowing moustache he was mighty proud.  After his office hours, from nine to four, as a wage-slave of the U.S. Government, he would return to his modest home where I would join him.  In the parlour stood an old upright piano and a row of three phonographs lent to him by the Columbia Phonograph Company.  Together we would turn out, in three’s, countless records of performances of ‘Whistling Coon’, ‘Mocking Bird’, and the ‘Laughing Song’.  I can still hear that reverberating announcement:


I was then only sixteen.  Some professor …”

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