Sunday, August 12, 2007

"His Master's Voice" And The First 33 1/3 RPM Record I Ever Owned

FIFTH IN A SERIES FOR WXPN'S 885 MOST MEMORABLE MUSICAL MOMENTS

Today, Sunday, August 12, 2007 is the 130th anniversary of the phonograph. To celebrate this worthy occasion on Vinyl Record Day a group of bloggers have agreed to share some of their vinyl memories. This endeavor was organized by one of the very best music blogs on the web, The Hits Just Keep On Comin', where you will find a complete list of all the participating bloggers. This homage to vinyl just happens to coincide with WXPN's 885 Most Memorable Musical Moments listeners poll so this article will be my contribution to both projects.

First, I want to salute something that really isn't a moment at all even though it is truly memorable: "His Master's Voice," the trademark of RCA Victor Records for almost a century. It was simply the best record company logo ever designed and it appeared on all of RCA's record labels.

Nipper was a real dog who lived in Liverpool, England in the 1880's. He used to do exactly what his master's painting depicted here because the dog was fascinated with the human voice emanating from the large cone-shaped speaker. The painting eventually caught the eye of an RCA executive and the rest is history.

By the end of the 80s RCA Records went into decline. They were eventually absorbed by Sony BMG and Nipper was retired. RCA's consumer electronics division continued to use "His Master's Voice" as a trademark but today most people who grew up in the digital age are probably unfamiliar with this relic of the vinyl era.

I'm sure I didn't know who Nipper was when my Mother gave me A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra, (Golden Records GLP-1) as a gift, probably in 1958, the year it was released. It was my first 33 1/3 RPM record and for a few years it was the only album I owned. I played it regularly along with all of my children's 45s and I loved it.

Each instrument was introduced by a male or female singer whose voice was a suitable representation of the instrument. The lyrics for each song directly pertained to how it was played and it's place in the orchestra. Each piece usually ended with a solo by the featured instrument. The album opened with "Antoinette the Clarinet" followed by "Newt the Flute." Some of the other titles included "Max the Sax," "Lucy Lynn the Violin," "Nola the Viola," and "Mike Malone the Slide Trombone."

This very educational record lived up to its title. For instance, we learned that the clarinet has more notes than any other instrument in the orchestra. Side 2 ended with a very short symphony. A narrator taught the listener how each of the four movements were related to each other.

The music was composed by Alec Wilder. The orchestra was conducted by Mitch Miller.

Learning all about a symphony orchestra didn't stop me from listening to the electric guitar crunch of bands like Led Zeppelin when I got older but the album went a long way in sparking my interest in lots of different genres of music. It was also the reason I played the clarinet for few years after I became old enough to take lessons.

At such a young age I was too young to properly care for an album so as time went by the disc clearly showed its age. My last memory of it isn't pretty and the record has been gone for many, many years. I don't know what happened to it. However, after a diligent search on the Internet I found the cover to the album on a website called Children's Vinyl Records Series that features old children's records, and the complete album is there for download on mp3.

8 comments :

  1. I've actually got a print of a classic RCA "His Master's Voice" ad. It's printed on metal (I believe high-grade aluminum to be specific). I found it for sale at a discount store in Sandusky, OH for about $5. My father bought it for me as a "house-warming gift" for my first apartment. It's come with me on every move and now is hanging in my garage next to each of the license plates that have graced my various different cars over the years. I doubt I'll ever part with it. It truly is a classic image.

    When I was young I owned a Disney Record player with a collection of 45 RPM records featuring songs from various different Disney movies/films/shows over the years. My favorite was the 45 of The Ballad of Davy Crockett/Swamp Fox. I actually preferred the Swamp Fox theme over The Ballad of Davy Crockett.

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  2. Holy cow - someone else remembers "A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra." I used to take that record out from the library in the early 70s when I was very young, and a few years ago found it on Ebay.

    Listening to it now, I hear the obvious "easy listening" tone quality of the female singer. The pieces are for the most part informative, too, as you've said. I always remembered Peter Percussion and the poor double bass who didn't get to sing very long. (The bass had an unfortunate name from the perspective of a 70s kid.) The oboe solo, played by Mitch Miller, is gorgeous. I'd love to hear an update with more modern-sounding singers.

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  3. A FRIEND OF MINE WANTED ME TO HAVE 3 DIFFERENT NOTEBOOK TYPE OF ALBUMS CHECKED OUT FROM AN INDIVIDUAL THAT WOULD HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF THE OLD VINYL RECORDINGS OF HIS MASTERS VOICE FROM 1904: FROM ALBUM #1-OKeh LABEL-SONG TITLED:ANSWER TO YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE-VOCAL DUET WITH STRING BAND ACC.-SUNG BY:BOB ATCHER & BONNIE BLUE EYES-BACK TO BACK ALBUMS THROUGH ALBUM #8-VICTOR LABEL-SONG TITLED:I WONDER HOW THE FOLKS ARE AT HOME- TENOR WITH ORCHESTRA BY PAUL REIMERS. THE OTHER 2 THAT I NEED INFO ON ARE: MARY MARTIN,EZIO PINZA SOUTH PACIFIC WITH ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST,MUSIC BY: RICHARD ROGERS-LYRICS BY: OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN 2nd- DIRECTED BY: JOSHUA LOGAN - PRINTED ON: mm850-COLUMBIA MASTERWORKS 1949 - LAST BUT NOT LEAST - NELSON EDDY & RISE' STEVENS: THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER - SET M-482-COLUMBIA RECORDS. ANY IMPUT ON THE MUSIC,VALUE OR KNOWLEDGEABLE INFO WOULD GREATLY BE APPRECIATED.THESE ALBUMS ARE IN GREAT CONDITION. THANK YOU.

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  4. Leslie Rizzo Armstrong11:16 PM, May 24, 2008

    Thank you! I thought that I'd only get to remember "Peter Percussion" and "Lucy Lynn" in my memory. We had them on Golden records 78s and my last memory of them was long before I entered puberty.

    My sisters and I played them until we wore them out!

    Thank you!

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  5. One of my earliest childhood memories were of listening to "Antoinette the Clarinet," "Bobo the Oboe," "Mike Malone the Slide Trombone" and the rest of the brass and woodwind pieces by the hour on my 78-rpm record player as a kid in the early 60's. I only had the records for the woodwinds and brass sections -- and because they were on 78's, they didn't include the wonderful instrumental solos at the end. Sadly, though, when our family moved to a different town in the mid-60's, my 78-rpm record player -- as well as most of the records -- were left behind.

    For years, I wondered if I would ever be able to hear these wonderful gems again -- and wondered how they did with the strings and percussion section, since I didn't have either of those records. I had no idea where to look -- or even if they were part of a compilation. I thought they would only live on in my memory.

    Just for kicks, not too long ago, I did a Google search for "Bobo the Oboe," and found out that it was part of "A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra" by Alec Wilder. I was even able to listen to it online -- and it was just as wonderful hearing it as a middle-aged adult as it was as a young child!

    Even though various websites have listed the instrumental soloists, I have always wondered who did the vocal solos. They are really good!

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  6. My mom played this for my siblings and I during our early years. I've never forgotten it. It certainly shaped our families love for music. When my mom took us to concerts in the park, yes we were bored but we also knew the various instruments. I would highly recommend to parents who are introducing their childre to music.

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  7. A few days ago I saw this album on Ebay. I was totally excited since I had been looking for it for a number of years with no results. I had figured that the songs that had stayed in my head for the last half century (Puba the Tuba!) would remain there. Imagine how my hopes were dashed when the Ebay seller informed me that, after checking the condition of the record, he wasn't going to charge me! Having played my copies to death as a child, I knew what that meant. I was bummed but not surprised. Today, I googled it one more time and found this great post with the link to the mp3 version online. They're back! I'm glad to know others listened and enjoyed this LP in those weirdly quiet late 1950's. Now I'm in my late 50's, singing along with the instruments and loving it.

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  8. I have a series of 3 books of RCA 1904 His Masters Voice mint condition Victor & Columbia
    10 records per book by h. benne henton, arthur pryer band, charles gnost, best price???

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