Monday, July 13, 2009

What We Play - Part 2

Before moving on to explain how MusicMaster Oldies works, I thought I'd take a break and brag some more about what we play!

We're at 109,793 songs right now, and climbing.

There are 25,319 different artists, from a group called "A B And C" to a guy named Paul Zuma. The Beatles have the most songs at 421, followed by Elvis Presley at 365 and Ricky Nelson at 220. Others that are way up there include Bobby Vee, The Supremes, Paul Simon, Connie Francis, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, Frank Sinatra, Neil Sedaka, The Monkees, Lesley Gore, The Ventures, Ann-Margaret, Annette Funicello, Nat 'King' Cole, The Drifters, Patti Page, The Temptations, Bobby Darin, Ray Charles, Johnny Rivers, Bobby Russell, Jan And Dean, Jimmy Page, The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, Eddy Arnold, Fats Domino, Pat Boone, Patsy Cline, James Brown, Paul Revere (aka Mark Lindsey), Buzz Cason, Cliff Richard, The Challengers, Smokey Robinson And The Miracles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Art Garfunkel, Dean Martin, Bill Haley, Paul Anka, Roy Orbison, B B King, Dion, and so on... All the ones I mentioned have more than 100 songs in MusicMaster Oldies!

Sorted by title, the songs on MusicMaster oldies range from "1 2 3" by Len Barry to Zwischen Den Bergen by Geschwister Fahrnberger, a German record from 1960.

The songs come from 7,522 different record labels, from "002" to "Zyx Records." The label with the most songs is RCA, followed by Capitol, Columbia, Decca, Mercury, MGM, Dot, Liberty, ABC-Paramount, Liberty, Atlantic, Epic, Coral, Warner Brothers, United Artists, King, Roulette, Reprise, and many more.

The music comes from over 60 different countries from Argentina to Yugoslavia. Most of them, well over half in fact, come from the United States, followed by England, Canada, Australia, Germany, and France. The list of countries includes Cuba, China, India, Iceland, Kenya, Guyana, Russia, and many more.

The music actually comes from 94 different years, with an average year of 1962.3. There's a reason it spans so much time. I've also included the biggest hits of the 1940's through 1954, and also as many "original" versions I could find of songs that became hits when they were redone in the 1950's and 1960's. The earliest of these Original Versions so far was "Henry The 8th" by Harry Champion from 1911 which I own on the 78 RPM Columbia 1621 pressing. Harry was a British singer and I believe this Herman's Hermits hit started out as a drinking song heard in pubs all over the UK -- and yes, you WILL hear that song played on MusicMaster Oldies! You'll also hear the two original recordings of Are You Lonesome Tonight, by either Henry Burr or Vaughn DeLeath (The Radio Girl), both from 1927, and both quite similar to the Elvis Presley hit. I'm not actually sure which of these came out first, but I can tell you that Vaughn DeLeath's version came from a very thick Edison disc which turns at 80 RPM and was vertically cut, which was quite different from the 78 RPM lateral cut standard that dominated the record industry before the introduction of the 45 RPM single and 33 1/3 RPM albums in 1949.

There are about four songs featuring male vocalists for every one that features a female singer. In addition, there are well over a thousand instrumentals. The styles and genres of music vary widely and include Pop, Blues, Country (and Western), Classical, Doo Wop, Electronic, Middle Eastern, Folk, Garage Rock, Gospel, Children's Music, Show Tunes, Reggae, Jazz, Lounge, Modern Classic Rock, Motown, Novelty Records, Psychedelic, Swamp Rock, Rock And Roll, Rockabilly, Bluegrass, Surf Music, Teeners, Bubble Gum, Urban, Soul, R&B (Rhythm and Blues), Funk, Polka, Celtic, Dixieland (aka Trad Dad), Cajun, Zydeco, UK Beat, and much more!

Most of the music came from vinyl records. The songs were recorded from a Technics direct drive turntable using a Shure V15 Type V phono cartridge, or an ELP Laser Turntable (that uses five blue laser beams to read the groove and never comes in contact with the actual record). I've also begun using a USB turntable that is 100% digital right from the Stanton phono cartridge into the computer. I clean up the audio using Adobe Audition 3.0. I still do this on Windows XP, even though I've recently become a "Mac" guy. I just haven't found audio recording and editing software for the Mac that can do all the things I can do on Windows -- yet. I am searching, and I'm open to whatever suggestions you may wish to offer.

Many of the records you'll hear on MusicMaster Oldies are highly prized collectables these days. In some cases, only one copy is known to exist in the entire world. Some of the best songs I play came from artists who only had a few hundred records pressed to hand out to their friends and family, or to sell to kids at the high school record hops where they performed.

I've been collecting records since around 1960 when my Uncle George, a part-time disc jockey at a Country and Western radio station in Akron, Ohio, gave me a bunch of rock and roll 45's he couldn't play. Having worked in radio since the 1970's, I was also lucky enough to be able to salvage several record libraries that were thrown out by radio stations after the transition to CD, and later to digital automation systems. I've attended hundreds of vinyl record collector's conventions and visited a ton of used record stores, yard sales, resale shops, antique stores, in at least a dozen different countries. I became an eBay "junkie" a few years ago, back when it was still easy to get a great bargain on really obscure vinyl records. I guess you could say I'm a recovering vinyl addict, and that's an addiction that's harder to kick than opium! At one point I owned a used record store with an inventory of over two million vinyl records. I still own about 300,000 records, including all five of the original Sun recordings by Elvis Presley in like-new condition (worth just under ten grand apiece). I've got a sealed copy of the infamous "Butcher Cover" Beatles album. The collection also includes several records that would probably fetch $50,000 or more in a live collector's auction!

I've also got several book shelves filled with price guides, discographies, and books about music and records from all over the world, including a collection of pre-1970 radio station weekly playlists that fills a very large binder. All of this resource material has helped me catalog this music and learn more about the artists and songs you'll hear on MusicMaster Oldies. These days, however, I'm learning even more from Google searches. I've found hundreds of blogs that discuss music from the 1950's and 1960's in great detail and feature interviews with even the most obscure artists. I've also tracked down and interviewed many artists myself, and plan to post some of my notes about those people here on this blog.

MusicMaster Oldies has been called a music museum. Actually, it's more like an exhibit in a music museum that one might call Pop Music Circa 1955-1973. Thanks to some special music scheduling tricks, it doesn't sound like a playlist of over a hundred thousands songs on Shuffle. You do not have to wait for 100,000 other songs to play before you hear the good songs again. The better songs play a lot more often, with some of them repeating every four or five days.

I'll explain more about that later...

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