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RCA Victor record find. What exactly have I got here?

Discussion in 'Radio' started by Maj.Nick Danger, Sep 13, 2006.

  1. Yesterday it was my distinct pleasure to rummage through the basement of my latest and greatest vintage junk store. I was like the proverbial kid in a candy store, and needless to say, I will frequent this place. :D
    Anyway, I found 2 albums full of RCA Victor 10 inch records from such artists as Count Basie, Tex Beneke, and Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra on vocals. I think I might have Sinatra's first record with the Dorsey band here, also one of his first solo recordings.
    Is it possible to play these recordings on an Edison machine? Or do I have to use a Victrola? Also, does anyone know of a web resource for information on Victor recordings by number?
    Thanks very much FL music experts, for any assistance you can provide. :)

  2. What you have here are some very nice mid-forties Victor 78 rpm records. You can play them back on any 78 rpm turntable using a 2.7 mil (or "78" marked) stylus. They would work on a Victrola or other common acoustic phonograph, but its not a good idea to play 78s of this vintage on pre-electrical machines -- there will be excessive wear and the sound will be distorted. They can't be played on Edison machines -- Edison used an entirely different system of groove modulation.

    Victor began using its 20-xxxx numbering scheme in October 1942. A good basic guide to dating Victor discs is at http://members.tripod.com/~Vinylville/faq-9.html

    Nice find!
  3. She's right! These are mid 40's re-releases that were from an album. They can't be played on Edison players because the Edison machines were known to use a "Hill and Dale" styled groove pattern. And, you can play these on earlier acoustic machines but, as Liz says, they wear down the record faster because of the weight of the reproducer and such on that small needle point. Some what like an elephant on a broom stick... it's a lot of pressure to be putting on a piece of thin shellac!

    As for the sound... it's fun to hear the old players but, I much prefer the later electric reproducers of the late 30's to early 40's... they sounded so much nicer and they're also more user friendly... your records will thank you.

    As for the first hit of Frank's, I believe it was "All or Nothing at All" that he recorded with Harry James Orch. in 1938... it's a beautiful song if you've never heard it! But, "I'll Be Seeing you" was a big hit of his during the war years.

  4. Thanks.

    Great news and great advice! :D I won't try playing these on a wind up machine, that's for sure. And an amplified electric machine will of course sound way better.
    In all I scored 21 discs that seem to be in playable condtion and I have some Red Seals from a previous score also, so I have to get myself a turntable.
    Is it possible to play them back on a modern turntable through a modern stereo system?
  5. Absolutely -- just be sure you have the right size stylus. An LP stylus is far too small, and will produce poor sound in the wider groove of a 78. Many older stereos came with a flipover needle, so if you have one of these, just flip it to the 78 position. Some of the current "retro style" players also have this type of stylus.

    A lot of 78 collectors like the big classroom style record players -- the Califones and similar brands. These are often very very cheap at school equipment sales, and give excellent sound for the money.
  6. Tony in Tarzana

    Tony in Tarzana My Mail is Forwarded Here

    If you're used to Frank Sinatra's voice from the 1950s and '60s, you may not recognize it on those records at first. Frank suffered a vocal cord injury in 1952 and was afraid his career was over. After he recovered, his voice became the one we know from the Rat Pack days, lower and edgier.
  7. Yeah, I've heard some of those early recordings and I didn't know it was him until the anouncer mentioned it. But now that I know, I can just barely tell by the underlying vocal characteristics if I listen carefully. I think the injury actually helped his career by lending a much more distinctive sound to his vocals.
  8. Cool. Thanks again Lizzie. I seemed to recall from the dim recesses of my mind that long ago a different stylus was required for the playback of 78s, but I wasn't sure in this age of new-fangled CDs. :)
  9. Tony in Tarzana

    Tony in Tarzana My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Oh, very much so. His voice after the injury was The Voice.
  10. McPeppers

    McPeppers One of the Regulars

    And just for on the go convenience, theres a couple of modern turntables that will turn those bad boys into CD's.

    Not saying its a replacement but...I know i cant lug those things everywhere i go :p
  11. That's a good idea, not only from a practical standpoint, but also for preservation of the music. I used to just tape all my albums right away and then just put them away, saving wear and tear on the vinyl.
  12. Or you could go buy a CD of Tommy Dorsey and have the same songs on them... only $11.00 or so.;) I'm all for transferring rare and un-released music... I have over 300 78's and I have stuff that very few have heard and songs that aren't released on CD.

    There is a box set you can buy of the complete Sinatra years with Dorsey... they're very good... in my opinion, I liked his voice pre 1952... his earlier work was pure and clean, I like it better... he was a huge sensation even in the early days mind you! He was a thin bowtie wearing crooner that slayed the ladies at every concert! Like I mentioned, it all started with the 1938 recording with Harry James "All Or Nothing At All" that is a wonderful song and to me beats his later work to a pulp. But, that's one music buff's opinion.

    Crosley makes some good portable 3 speed tables... they look like an old suit case and open up to be a retro player... they're not that much money. Or, you could hold out and get a restored original 40's 78 player... I did and I'm so happy I have it! A 1941 GE radio/phono combo... beautiful wood cabinet and rich deep tone!

  13. The Califone schoolhouse phonographs that Lizzie mentioned are a good buy, they tend to reproduce the older 78's better than more modern equipment.

    I use a Califone to play some of my collection, they are built like a tank, and will outlast a lot of other turntables.
  14. McPeppers

    McPeppers One of the Regulars

    Well (some) "modern" players actually use lasers to read the LP or SP and produce great sound quality and never damage the vinyl as theres no contact... And it is nice to always back up that disk with a burned CD. Sure you can buy CD re-recordings for around 6-11 dollars but... you can get vinyl for much less...have the original article... AND get a pack of 50 CD's for less than $3

    The only difference is that the CD's you can buy from the Recording companies will last about 100x longer than the burned CD's. Thats because those are written by a much better machine than your DVD-R(W) or CD-R(W).

    However for the cost it takes to reburn the CD after 5 - 10 years its still pretty inexpensive lol
  15. Cousin Hepcat

    Cousin Hepcat Practically Family

    Great find Major Danger! You've hit the "sweet spot" of the golden era with those. :D

    Agreed 100%, that's the way to go.

    - they're easy to find,
    - sound Great for 78s w/ tube-sounding rich bass,
    - are cheap (about 5 years ago round here, there was a huge "Califone wall" like bricks, $1 each),
    - made for public schools, built like a tank (can fall down a flight of stairs),
    - majority of them (up till about mid-80s) all have the 78 needle you want,
    - fresh replacement Astatic "bullet" needles are abundant for around $10
    - Brand names to search for on eBay: Califone, Audiotronics, Rheem, Newcomb

    nuff said... look for this kind of needle so you know it's the 78/LP flip kind:


    Definitely, I'm with you there Root (although I also really enjoy & listen to his later 50s voice a lot too).

    Swing High,
    - C H
  16. If you end up using a phonograph with an old-fashioned needle stylus, be sure to buy a whole lot of replacements. Those needles are meant to be replaced after several plays. Otherwise, they'll start to gouge out the grooves in the records.

    You can find stylus needles on the Internet. They also turn up at antique malls and flea markets.

  17. I was going to say the same thing! The electronic reproducer cartridges are pretty easy on records... they give the record a longer life and don't need to be changed for a year or so. There is a place some where on the East coast that sale brand new cartridges with a ruby tipped needle... they're small and can fit in side of the original tone arm! I'll have to dig that info up.

    The later Big Band recordings from the late 30's to the late 40's should be played on an electric player... the records that sound good on an acoustic player are pre-1935 or so... the electronically recorded music is best suited for electric players which need very little care once restored.

  18. Another note about playback on acoustic phonos -- very often the reproducers have rubber gaskets and other parts that have dried and hardened with age. Not only will this compromise the sound, it'll put a lot more resistance on the needle as it travels thru the groove -- the result being drastic wear on the records.

    There are specialists who rebuild reproducers with new, live rubber parts -- and this makes a tremendous difference in both the sound quality and record wear. If you use an acoustic phonograph -- a Victrola or a suitcase portable -- it's a good idea to look one of these specialists up.
  19. I need to find my portable in the Garage... it's in there some where but, need to dig it out and get it rebuilt.


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