Disc-Overy Channel

     All I need to do is claim a little progress in my struggle against the flood of information that besets me in my daily chores, and the world pushes a little harder.  Maybe I was too triumphant in my ability to discover the identity of C.M. Ziehrer, the man who composed the music on these twelve LPs. Maybe it made me a little too confident as I faced the next load of records.

     So now I have three records between 80 and 100 years old featuring the work of Bronislaw Huberman. There are two in the Columbia Ballet Series, about the same vintage, with musicians under the directorship of Ernest Ansermet. And I’m the lad who has to decide whether to put fifty cent stickers on them or put them up for sale on eBay for $3,000. Oh, and this recording of “Chimpanzee Rock” by Mike Lawing needs attention, and this 45 by harpist Robert Maxwell, and here are records by Louis and Frosty, Willy and Ruth, Chuck and Chuckles, Jack and Betty, and John and Lulu.

     How DID I price records before the Internet?

     I know I could have gone to Groves’ Dictionary of Music and Musicians and probably turned up Mr. Huberman, who recorded for thirty or forty years and encouraged Arthur Rubinstein to do the same. And Ernest Ansermet, who went on from these 12-inch shellac discs to vinyl and directed many a piece. But would it have told me the vocalist on Louis and Frosty was Louis Jackson, or that Willy and Ruth were the finest interpreters of Leiber and Stoller compositions until the aforesaid Stoller and Leiber discovered Elvis Presley?

     These five records recorded at 16 rpm had nothing to show me what they were, except that they came from the Seeburg Music Library. I might have set them aside for months while I tried to find out what they were all about. (Or I might have run into a volunteer who used to work there. Our volunteers are a trove of esoteric information.) But Wikipedia has an entry–so technical it makes my head ache–on Seeburg and its work. Seeburg sent you a record player and 25 records, and you could play this music all day long in your store or factory, thanks to tone arms that could play both sides of each disc without turning anything over. To make sure the soundtrack didn’t get old, new records were sent to replace outmoded ones every four months. They did this five records at a time: hence the five that wound up in a box of donations.

     It was on eBay itself that I was able to listen to this jazzy little Earl Backus number and hear about children’s shoes in the Fall of 1954. (I didn’t THINK Sears pressed a lot of dance records.) But I had to go hunting through the jungles of Amazon to find out about this other disc, obviously pressed in a very small quantity at a studio in Philadelphia, of a pianist identified only as LCR playing two compositions by a composer listed only as Rebe. I figured it was some nobody playing his or her own compositions, but I was only half right. LCR probably is, indeed, Louise Christine Rebe, the only composer named Rebe I could find.

     But Louise’s works are available on Amazon and other venues, and probably will be forever. Louise Christine Rebe was one of those people who move into immortality through doors most of us wot not of. There seems to be no other information on Louise anywhere, nor can I find any other recordings of her performances, but that isn’t where her immortality lies. She is immortal because in the 1930s and 1940s, she composed a string of works for beginning and intermediate piano students. This goes to eBay, of course. Surely, somewhere out there, someone who remembers playing these pieces in recital would like to hear how the composer wanted them to sound.

     How DID I price records before the Internet? Actually, you’re going to get a chance to find out. In my digging through a neglected corner, I came upon a box of records I priced before the last huge renovation at the Newberry (around 1999), but which got lost during the renovation to reappear with all my original pricetags intact. I thought about switching tags but, hey, the disc department is really all about nostalgia, isn’t it?

     (Some of Louise’s compositions were in the John Thompson piano books, by the way, so I may have played her work myself. Fortunately, no recordings of those performances exist.)

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