Centuries of Sound
Centuries of Sound


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Listening chronologically to music in this way, one of the things I have noticed is that there are sudden lurches forward in certain years. 1911, for all its quality, is not one of those years. Most of what you can hear in this mix sounds pretty much like the music of 1909 or 1907, but there are a few things here which seem completely out of their time, premonitions of aspects of music from the 1920s. A little later on, the growth in record labels and home consumption of music will mean that new trends catch on like wildfire, but for now these novelties will fade comfortably back into the background until they finally find their moments.

Young Sophie Tucker

Sophie Tucker was born Sofya Kalish in 1886 to a Jewish family in Tulchyn, Podolia Governorate, Russian Empire, now Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine. She emigrated to the USA as a baby, and grew up in Boston and Hartford, Connecticut, where her parents opened a restaurant. At a young age, between serving customers, she started singing for tips. In 1903, she eloped with Louis Tuck, a beer cart driver, but in 1905, shortly after their son was born, the couple separated. Tucker found jobs in cafés and beer gardens, singing for food and tips from the customers and in 1907 made her first theatre appearance. Always a large woman, she was at first made to wear blackface during performance, as she did not fit the mold of the waifish white girl singer, but later managed to lose the makeup, telling her audience “you all can see I’m a white girl. Well, I’ll tell you something more: I’m not Southern. I’m a Jewish girl and I just learned this Southern accent doing a blackface act for two years.” Her first recording, “Some of These Days” on Edison Records became her signature tune and was later the title of her autobiography. Calling it “the first blues song” would be complete hyperbole, and yet it sounds more like the barrelhouse mamas of the early 1920s than anything of its time. Female vocalists have up to this point been an exception (their voices allegedly not coming through as well on a wax cylinder) and reedy-voiced Victorian vaudeville singers like Ada Jones are hardly standard-bearers for the near future. Sophie Tucker, however, a white woman from the north, really is a sea change towards the black music which will eventually sweep away most of what we hear in 1911.

Alexander's Ragtime Band

Alexander’s Ragtime Band is more interesting perhaps for what it isn’t than what it is. Despite the name, it isn’t a ragtime song at all, more a standard Tin Pan Alley vaudeville piece, which wouldn’t particularly sound out of place in 1900. A good case could even be made for calling it a “coon song” – ‘Alexander’ being the kind of old-fashioned upworld name which would allegedly be comical if given to the leader of a low-class black musician (if this sounds unlikely, bear in mind that this was pretty standard content.) It was Irving Berlin’s first huge hit – and while it wasn’t ragtime it did as much for the genre as it did for Berlin – from this point on songwriters seem to feel that making references to ragtime is more likely to make a song a hit,. How this relates to the ragtime dance band craze of a year or two later is hard to say, but it certainly made it famous around the world. Later on the song became something of a jazz standard, its lack of syncopation allowing spaces for expression and improvisation, and hit versions from Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Judy Garland and many others would make it perhaps the song from this era which lived longest in creative and popular consciousness.


According to one of those enduring myths of Jazz, Louis Armstrong invented scat singing on February 26th, 1926, when, during the recording of ‘Heebie Jeebies’, his sheet music fell off the stand and he was forced to improvise a vocal solo without lyrics. This story is roundly refuted by the existence of “King of the Bungaloos,” a fairly odd humorous vaudeville recording by a jobbing performer called Gene Greene from Chicago. The innovation was not particularly noted at the time. It was long after Greene’s death in 1930 that the incongruity of its very existence came to light, and for this reason the origins of the performance are unclear, though some say he picked it up from Ben Harney, a songwriter who billed himself as “The King of Ragtime.” While Harney did more than anyone to popularise the genre, he seems to be more of a borrower than a creator, so presumably scat singing came from the same well of undocumented black culture that ragtime did.


Sophie Tucker – Some of These Days 0:00
Arthur Pryor’s Band – Canhanibalmo Rag 2:08
Collins & Harlan – Alexander’s Ragtime Band 3:47
Six Brown Brothers – The Bullfrog and the Coon 6:41
Ada Jones & Steve Porter – the Piano Tuner 7:32
Ada Jones – Grand Baby Or a Baby Grand 10:41
Gene Greene – King of the Bungaloos 12:20
Fisk University Jubilee Singer – The Old Tunes / I Know the Lord Laid His Hands 14.52
Ignace Jan Paderewski – Chopin- Nocturne in F, Op. 15,1 17:56
Agustín Barrios – Milonga 19:45
Po Sein and Ma Kyin U. – Romantic Duet 22:26
Mingala Ma Thein Nyunt, Ma Sein Thin, Ma Sein Thi a Ngyeint, Lay Pyay Htoh Lu Byet Ka, Ma Sein Hkaw – Welcoming Ma Thein Nyunt 23:34
Surat Band (Mr. Razak’s) – Bagesri 26:29
Uncredited Chinese Wedding Ensemble – Pengantin Berarak 27:57
George Bastow – Captain Gingah O T 28:58
George P. Watson – Emmett’s Favorite Yodel , Alpine Specialty 30:18
Manuel O. Campoamor – Joaquina 32:36
Manuelita Tejedor ‘La Preciosilla’ – Chiqui Chiqui 33:37
Flora Gobbi Con Orquesta – Minguito 34:16
Banda Municipal De La Ciudad De Bs as – a Mí…Manís! 35:38
Venetian Instrumental Trio – Dear Heart 37:56
Orquesta Tipica Genaro Esposito – Felicia 38:17
Bransby Williams – The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God 39:45
Joseph Solinski – Rum Nische Fantasien (Pt. 1) 40:02
Yangos Psamatyalis – Zmirneikomanes 41:06
Ma Kyin U, Ma Gyee, and Duck Oh – the Crying Princess 42:04
S. Kosh – Doina (Pt. 2) 43:25
Al Jolson – That Haunting Melody 44:42
Tom McNaughton With Orchestra – The Three Trees (Part 1) 46:18
Fred Van Eps – Red Pepper (A Spicy Rag) 46:54
Tom McNaughton With Orchestra – The Three Trees (Part 2) 49:05
Eugene Jaudas National Promenade Band – Virginia Reel 49:59
Dolly Connolly – Red Rose Rag 52:11
Maurice Burkhart – Ragtime Violin 54:15
Pipe Major Forsyth and Drums – Hundrerd Pipers 55:41
Cal Stewart – Fourth of July at Punkin Center 56:49
Arthur Collins – Chicken Reel 57:30
Harry Champion – I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am 58:34
Paul Lack – La Coca Kola 59:28
Ignace Jan Paderewski – Paderewski- Humoresques De Concert, Op. 14 – #1 Minuet in G 1:00:51
Enrico Caruso – Core ‘ Ngrato (Catarii Catarii) 1:02:51

2 thoughts on “1911”

  1. Great stuff as always. Part three of “The Three Trees” appears to be missing from the playlist above.

    1. Thanks! The third part is missing because Mixcloud doesn’t like me having more than two tracks from the same artist, however I might as well add it on the blog here.

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