KNOWN RADIO RECORDINGS 1925-1927
Recordings exist of several selections and a speech by Walter Damrosch from a performance by the Associated Glee Clubs Of America on 3/31/25 at the Metropolitan Opera House. Four selections were commercially released on the Columbia label (50013-D and 384-D). This concert was broadcast by WEAF, but it has never been positively determined if the recordings were made from that broadcast by air or by line, or if the recording was made from a seperate microphone in the Opera House itself. While these recordings were made from an event that was broadcast, there is no way to know for sure if they are actual recordings of the broadcast.
1/15/25--"Victor Hour" excerpts. WEAF network. Recorded by Victor Talking Machine Company. Musical sequences only. Not in my collection but known to exist.
3/4/25--Inauguration Speech by President Coolidge. Broadcast over WEAF-WCAP network. Line check recorded by Western Electric. The recording includes the Oath Of Office, administered by Chief Justice William Howard Taft and the inaugual address itself. Preceding the Oath, the voice of announcer Graham McNamee can be recognized proclaiming "We are ready." This is the earliest known recording of McNamee's voice. The speech is incomplete, since only one 78rpm disc recording machine was used, and parts of the speech are missed between the sides recorded. A total of twenty-four minutes of the speech have been preserved. The audio quality of the recording is excellent, certainly on a par with other early electrical recordings, and disc noise is slight. Since this is a line check and not a recording made "off the air" its difficult to say how well the audio represents what a typical radio listener would have picked up at home. Part of this recording -- omitting the Oath -- is included on a boxed collection of Presidential speeches released by Rhino Records in 1997.
3/14/25-- International Rebroadcast from London. WJZ aircheck, recorder unknown. The first relay of an overseas signal survives in a series of test pressings of undocumented origin, formerly owned by Dr. Albert Goldsmith of RCA., and now held by the University of Marylands Library of American Broadcasting. Ten sides were recorded, most likely by placing a radio horn speaker next to a microphone. This hypothesis would explain the hollow, metallic tone of the recording. Much of the thirty-seven minute recording is unintelligible, due partly to the poor recording quality, but also due to the poor quality of the shortwave reception. There are frequent crashes of static punctuating a fairly constant roar of atmospheric noise. However, there are short passages of recognizable dance music from London, with "Alabamy Bound" one of the selections heard most distinctly, along with brief phrases from the BBC announcer. Much more clearly, announcer Milton Cross of WJZ can be recognized toward the end of the sequence, breaking in to explain what is happening, and to deliver a station identification. Interestingly, newspaper accounts from the broadcasts relay point in Belfast, Maine indicate that the BBC material was heard very clearly by listeners there, who picked up the signal directly from the RCA relay station. This would indicate that perhaps much of the interference was encountered on WJZs end of the relay circuit. Although this is a very difficult recording to understand, it is nonetheless an invaluable window into the past. It preserves, as perhaps no other early recording does, the sound of a broadcast as it actually sounded to a listener in 1925. For that reason it stands as a true historical treasure.
7/31/25-- WEAF Broadcast Excerpts. Experimental airchecks recorded by Western Electric. Selections by Billy Jones and Ernie Hare and by blind pianist Edwin Searle. A female announcer -- possibly Rosaline Greene -- is heard on the Searle recording. The Searle recording is cut at 33 1/3 rpm -- the earliest surviving recording at this speed. Metal parts exist in the Lucent Technologies corporate archives -- which holds the Western Electric files -- and vinyl test pressings exist in the A. F. R. Lawrence Collection at the Library Of Congress.
8/9/25--Hymns from the American Presbyterian Church of Montreal church service, as broadcast by a Montreal station, likely CKAC. Recorded by Herbert Berliner for commercial release on the Apex Radia-Tone label, #25000. Musical selections only, no announcements. Not in my collection but known to exist.
10/19/25 -- Speech by Hon. W. L. MacKenzie-King. A short campaign talk by King from the Montreal Forum. Another Canadian broadcast recorded by Berliner for Apex Radia-Tone, probably airchecked from station CKAC, Montreal. Kings rather tedious election speech is suddenly disrupted when an opposition political operative switches out the lights, and confusion reigns. "Live" radio at its best! Only one turntable was available for the recording, and the two sides contain non-continuous sections of the speech. Recording quality is rather thin, with the sound limited by the quality of the microphone used.
A number of "Sam and Henry" recordings are in collectors circulation with 1926 dates. These are not recordings of the WGN broadcasts, but commercial discs released on the Victor label and widely distributed. They are not radio recordings, and are not representative of the actual nature of the Sam and Henry series. The Victor discs featured vaudeville style comedy routines, whereas the series itself was a continuing serial which did not emphasize such comic patter.
Also, no authentic recordings exist of the inaugural NBC broadcast of 11/15/26. Some sequences were recreated for a tenth anniversary special in 1936, including a speech by NBC president Merlin Ayelsworth, and these excerpts have been muddying the waters ever since. It might seem odd that no recording was made, given the early WEAF recordings noted above...but keep in mind that AT&T was no longer involved with the station and saw no need to document its activities any further. RCA, the new owner, had yet to purchase Victor Talking Machine, and thus did not possess recording facilities of its own.
1/1/26--New Years' International Broadcast excerpts. WJZ linecheck recorded by Victor Talking Machine Company. Musical sequences and some announcements, including a lengthy sequence relayed by shortwave from London. Performers include John McCormack and Lucrezia Bori. Portions of this program were originally recorded on twelve 12 inch 78rpm sides, but several are lost. In addition, it is evident from listening to the recording that the recording apparatus was stopped occasionally within the broadcast itself. The full broadcast, according to newspaper schedules, ran for several hours. The quality of this thirty-three minute recording is far superior to the 1925 international broadcast, with the stateside material being on a par with any electrical recording of the day, and the shortwave material, originating at station 5XX, Daventry, while still affected by the reception quality, is distinct and enjoyable. There are cut-ins by WRC, Washington, where the Marine Band performs a number, as well as spoken passages by Calvin Childs of the Victor Company, by WJZ announcer Milton Cross, and by an unidentified announcer with a New York accent who delivers the station ID about halfway thru the program.. The discs are now owned by the Library of American Broadcasting.
Again, the waters are muddied by many recreations purporting to be of broadcasts from 1927. The oft-heard Lowell Thomas and George Hicks sequence reporting on the Lindbergh flight is from the "I Can Hear It Now" record released in 1950. The commonly -circulated sequence of Graham MacNamee describing the Dempsey-Tunney "long count" fight appears to be from the 1936 NBC Tenth Anniversary Broadcast, but a small Wisconsin recording company did release a set of 78rpm records containing an authentic aircheck of this broadcast. This extremely rare series of recordings is described below. Recordings claiming to be of Babe Ruths 60th home run in September of 1927 are entirely spurious. That game was not broadcast. Regular-season broadcasts of Yankee games did not begin until 1939.
6/20/27--Lindbergh Return Ceremonies. NBC Red and Blue Networks. Recorded by Victor Talking Machine Company. These recordings are undoubtedly the most common pre-1930 radio sequences, having been commercially released by Victor as three twelve inch and one ten inch 78 rpm records. The twelve inch discs include the speech by President Coolidge presenting Lindbergh with the Congressional Air Medal, and brief remarks in response by Lindbergh, and Lindberghs speech to the National Press Club. The ten inch disc is a compendium of other material aired that day, including Graham McNamees breathless description as the aviator comes down the gangplank from his voyage home. Many thousands of copies of these discs were sold, and many survive. However, Victor recorded considerably more material than was released, about ninety minutes all together, a total of twenty one matrices. The unreleased material includes a lenghty description of the Lindbergh procession by John B. Daniel and Milton Cross, as well as additional commentary by McNamee and Phillips Carlin. Vinyl pressings of the complete matricies are held by the National Archives and the Library of Congress.
7/1/27 -- Sequences from the Canadian Confederation Diamond Jubilee Broadcast. CNR aircheck recorded by the Compo Corporation for commercial release on the Apex Records label. Ten excerpts from this lengthy broadcast inaugurating coast-to-coast network service for the CNR Radio Division. Announcements are included in both French and English, including another speech by King. This time, the lights stay on. The Canadian arm of Victor also recorded portions of this program, but brought recording apparatus directly to the site rather than making a recording of the broadcast. The Victor sides are reportedly of better quality than the Apex recordings, but technically, they are not radio recordings. The Apex recordings are of a substantially better quality than the 1925 King recording noted earlier.
9/22/27 -- Dempsey/Tunney Fight. NBC Red/Blue aircheck recorded by "New York Recording Laboratories" of Port Washington, Wisconsin. The most memorable sports broadcast of the Twenties survives on a series of 10-inch 78rpm pressings released on the obscure Paramount label. No relation to the film company of the same name, Paramount was a small, Wisconsin-based operation notorious among collectors today for the indifferent quality of its recording work, even as it recorded material by artists who are now very much in demand. Despite its pretentious name, the company did not own its own recording studio until 1929, and up to that date depended on facilities rented from other companies, mostly in the Chicago area. The recordings of the NBC broadcast by Graham MacNamee of the Dempsey-Tunney fight are among the rarest to be released by this company. Ten sides were cut, with each round taking up a single matrix. The sound quality is hollow and distant, leading to the conclusion that the recording was made by simply placing a microphone before a radio tuned to a station carrying the broadcast, most likely one of NBCs Chicago outlets. The recording is not continuous, since the between-rounds commentary by MacNamee and co-announcer Phillips Carlin were not included. The recordings of each round begin and end abruptly, suggesting that only one recording machine was used to cut the masters. A tape dub of rounds 7 and 8 is in my collection, but only one complete set of these discs is currently known to exist. It is held by a private collector who has thus far not released a full tape.
Elizabeth McLeod's Documenting Early Radio Page.