Saturday, February 07, 2009

78-rpm Records Were Prized, Delicate Possessions, Pt. 2

Originally published in the January, 2009, Old Radio Times.(
78-rpm Records Were Prized, Delicate Possessions
Bob Cox

Many of the old record players had “changers” on them, allowing a stack of records to play automatically. A two-record set would have sides 1 and 4 located on the first record and 2 and 3 on the second. Side 1 would be placed on the changer spindle first, facing upward. In like fashion, side 2 would be placed on top of the first record. The unit’s stabilizing arm would then be placed over the top record. Once both records played, the listener would remove them from the changer, flip the stack over and place them back on the spindle, allowing sides 3 and 4 to play. Radio disc jockeys “cued” a record for instant play by placing it on the turntable, rotating it by hand until sound was detected at the needle and reversing it about a quarter turn.

As record formats changed, their producers began issuing records utilizing both formats. There was a time when 78s and 45s were manufactured for the same recording and artist; the same was true for 45s and multi-selection 33.3s. Unfortunately, some 78s ended up in carnival sideshows, where people threw balls at them to win prizes. Fortunately, many records survived by being stored in attics, basements, garages and closets. These records became a good source of history. Vernon Dalhart, in the early part of this century, regularly recorded tragedy songs ranging from the Titanic sinking in 1912 to Floyd Collins’ untimely death in a Kentucky coal mine in 1925.

A visit to an antique store often reveals these nearly extinct tube model record players sitting idly in a corner, not having been played for decades, missing a needle, often without power and seemingly begging to perform again. Sadly, these dusty relics of yesteryear have had their day in the big spotlight of progress. Except for a few avid collectors, their time has come and gone.

- This article was first published in the Johnson City (TN) Press on August 7, 2006 and is reprinted with their kind permission and that of its author.


Post a Comment

<< Home