Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have an unusual question for you in honor of your 25th year of Mr. Music.

Has there ever been a commercial 78 rpm recorded in stereo? I believe both technologies were mutually exclusive, but I could be wrong.
—Scott Vroegindewey, Kansas City, Mo.

DEAR SCOTT: How could the answer be no, which it is, along with your being wrong regarding the mutual exclusivity of the two technologies?

Strange but true.

Knowing your question pertains only to records from the true 78 era — pre-1961 in the USA — we shall dismiss microgroove 78 rpms made years later, either as a gimmick or for 78 rpm juke boxes. All but a few of those are monaural, and they play using a modern-era stylus made for vinyl and polystyrene record play.

Manufacturing a multi-channel (binaural) shellac disc was impossible, but even if it could have been made, no one could faithfully reproduce it with the existing, horizontal-only tracking, 78 needle pick-up systems. Stereo requires both horizontal and vertical pick-up.

Necessity is so often the mother of invention, but in this matter there was no need, and no demand.

Regardless, during a Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra session (February 3, 1932) at the Victor studio in New York City, the two technologies had a close encounter of the enduring kind.

Ellington's only recording that day would be a lengthy (7:46) three-song instrumental medley, combining “Mood Indigo”; “Hot and Bothered”; and “Creole Love Call.”

In what today's technicians might consider an antediluvian experiment, engineers set up two separate lathes, or disc-cutting machines, with each one picking up the sounds on its side of the studio. A brilliant idea at the time.

There is very little separation and nearly all of the mid-room audio is heard on both recordings, but some instruments are more noticeable on the left and right sides. That qualifies as true stereo, though they didn't call it that at the time.

Unfortunately, hearing both the left and right recordings required two separate players, and the playing of both discs at the exact same time. Definitely not something a consumer would ever consider, but they managed somehow and the events of that day provided something historic for remastering in 1999.

That's when the complete STEREO “Mood Indigo-Hot and Bothered-Creole Love Call” medley appeared on “The Best of the Duke Ellington Centennial Edition” compact disc (RCA Victor 090266345922). This 18-track sampler is easily available from all the usual outlets.

Oh yes, thank you for the silver anniversary nod.

DEAR JERRY: When Margaret Whiting died earlier this month, it reminded me of a list you ran several years ago, of the living top Pop stars of the pre-rock era.

Now, how many on that short list are no longer with us?
—Sue Catchings, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR SUE: Since the list first appeared (October 2006), we have lost four of the original 10: Frankie Laine (March 30, 1913 - February 6, 2007); Jo Stafford (November 12, 1917 - July 16, 2008); Margaret Whiting (July 22, 1924 - January 10, 2011); and Eddie Fisher (August 10, 1928 - September 22, 2010).

That leaves us with Tony Martin (December 25, 1912); Kay Starr (July 21, 1922); Doris Day (April 3, 1924); Tony Bennett (August 3, 1926); Patti Page (November 8, 1927); and Vic Damone (June 12, 1928).

Still performing are: Tony Martin (98); Kay Starr (88); Tony Bennett (84); and Patti Page (83).

IZ ZAT SO? Here is a list we have not previously compiled, of 35 more living singers and musicians, each of whom is at least an octogenarian:

Wade Mainer* (103 as of February 7, 2011)
George Beverly Shea (102 as of February 1, 2011)
Johnny Wright (96)
Honeyboy Edwards (95)
Ralph Stanley (94)
Patty Andrews (92)
Pete Seger (91)
Kitty Wells (91)
Dave Brubeck (90)
Ravi Shankar (90)
Little Jimmy Dickens (90)
Wilma Lee Cooper (90)
Jimmy McCracklin (89)
Johnny Otis (89)
Kitty Kallen (88)
Slim Whitman (87)
Bonnie Guitar (87)
Earl Scruggs (87)
Roger Williams* (86)
B.B. King (85)
Ray Price (85)
Ferlin Husky (85)
Mac Wiseman (85)
Stan Freberg (84)
Chuck Berry (84)
Ed Ames (83)
Andy Williams (83)
Jimmy C. Newman (83)
Fats Domino (82)
Sonny James (81)
Leroy Van Dyke (81)
Bobby Bland (80)
Joni James (80)
Jan Howard (80)
Liz Anderson (80)

*Deceased since this column was originally posted.

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