Tales and Places Around Denver & Beyond
From Paul Payton – August 13th, 2017:
“My father had a suitcase Wilcox Gay Recordio and cut many records of me as a kid aged in the single digits. I have to find a 78 player to play them; I gave the unit to a voice-over client in Massachusetts whi had a small museum of classic audio and video items. While they were happy to give it a good home, I sort of wish I had it back! I still have the 1957 Wilcox Gay tape recorder we had then; its motor was always noisy and I had to hold the mic up to the radio speaker to get anything prerecorded, but I need to digitize those tapes too before they turn to powder. Thanks for sharing your personal memories, Craig – I can relate!”
I recently unearth’d a bunch of old home-recorded hit records, my family’s ‘greatest’ hits so to speak. My dad loved to spend what little extra time he had when not working after World War II, recording radio broadcasts with his home recording console.
Now that I am seeing these recordings – one dated as early as 1944, I realize that he obtained his console which cut discs on “Recordio”, “Wilcox-Gay”, etc vinyl blanks during the final couple of years of World War II when he was stationed in San Diego, California where he served as a radar technology instructor for Navy flight crews.
He had a pretty high level security clearance as “radar” was still a more-or-less protected and secretive technology. I remember my mother talking about the day the war ended. She and my sister were in downtown San Diego where thousands of civilians and thousands of soldiers – mostly sailors – had taken to the streets repeating a scene which was occurring all over the United States and beyond.
Amazingly, my then four-year old sister got loose from my mother’s grip, and toddled off into the celebrating throngs, where in short order, lo and behold – a sailor bent down and picked her up – It was Dad! Among those thousands……
At any rate – Dad cut one our earliest family “hit” records shown here and titled “Christmas from San Diego”. Since the war ended in September of 1945 – I’m thinking this record was cut during the Holiday Season of 1944 since I am quite sure my family headed home not long after the war was over back to Denver, Colorado.
The record console – which I owned for several years – but finally dispatched – was probably a Philco model similar to some of these models. My dad had a long love of the “big bands” going back to his time as a young boy in Kansas when he would listen to “Blue Steel” (his favorite), Lawrence Welk and many others on his family’s vintage radio in Woodston, Kansas.
The Philco would make the journey with my family to first Longmont, Colorado and next to Greeley where my dad worked as a Colorado State Patrol Dispatcher. It was there that most of the discs below were recorded. My mother was big on Christmas messages to her mom, dad’s mom and so on. Mom was also big on gathering friends at parties and having a sing-a-long with her accompanying on piano.
I remember “Goodnight Irene” and “On Top of Old Smokey” two Weaver hits from the day, being two of her favorites. My father cut a bunch of home discs based on old radio broadcasts but I can’t seem to find any of them. They could be buried in our storage closets and probably won’t be recovered until I make my exit from the world.
When my family made the move back to Denver the Philco was still in tact although I don’t believe my dad ever recorded again. I would spend many Saturday mornings listening to 78 rpm story book record collections on the machine – the ones I can recall are “Bozo Goes to the Circus”, Disney’s “So Dear to My Heart”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” – that one terrified me as much as “Mr. Din Din” and some gruesome story featuring all birds where a big Crow comes to the “bird circus” and spreads – yes – more terror still! I can’t remember how that one turned out.
We brought the Philco along with us after our return from a 4-year stint in the Service coming from Merced, California – Picked up the console from my folks home – We ended up taking the guts out and using the lower part for storage. It looked a lot like the model shown above.
But the glory days were gone forever, and finally the Philco’s doors were closed forever and it was off to a lonely landfill……
There was also a “Tweety Bird and Sylvester” story 78. Tweety always managed to just drive Sylvester the cat insane. But I do remember at the end of that record they actually became friends singing the “I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat” together in harmony.
They also kept the unit active recording piano rehearsals by my sister and duets with she and my mother. I managed to show up on just a couple of these old discs – and it appears only one has survived – my “Naughty Prayers” hit records (“Now the Prayers”).
PS: I did cut another track which had to be my greatest hit, titled “Howdy Do Mr. Din, Din” a recalling of a day my family spent in Estes Park, Colorado in late 1940’s and my impressions about my meeting a wooden cigar store Native American statue mounted outside the shop’s door.
My hit record is a smooth and calm recollection of a friendly meet-up with the cigar holding “Din Din” – when in fact – according to my mother, who said in fact – I was terrified.
Blue Steele was born in March of 1893 in Arkansas Eugene Staples. He started off with “Watson’s Bell Hops” before forming his own orchestra recording for Victor Records. He had a reputation of being difficult to work for and with – often displaying a bad temper and at times “beating” band members! He was severely wounded in World War I – a head wound – and this has been cited as a reason for his behavior.
One report claimed that Steele murdered an IRS agent in Atlanta, Georgia – a story never corroborated.
He formed a group in the 1950’s called “The Rhythm Rebels”. Steele died on July 1st of 1971.