Friday, October 28, 2011

The first vinyl LPs - Sinatra and others

Sinatra Not Alone in LP Format
by Jerry Osborne ("Mr. Music" syndicated column)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 28, 2011

Q: I know Columbia introduced the long-play format in 1948 with a 10-inch Frank Sinatra LP. But it doesn't make sense that they would release just one selection. Are there others that we don't hear about? -- Joel Knight, Johnstown, Pa.

A: Yes, there are exactly 100 others you don't hear about -- until now.

At a two-day Columbia Records convention (June 21-22, 1948), they proudly announced, and previewed for the media and distributors, a debut catalog of 101 microgroove LPs. Two months later, they went on sale nationwide.

For this initial offering, Columbia stuck with their most popular styles and genres.

The biggest chunk of this first batch of vinylite (soon shortened to "vinyl") is the 70 classical music albums in their Masterworks series.

The masters featured, and number of LPs if more than one, are: Bach; Beethoven (12); Bizet; Brahms (4); Bruch; Chopin; De Falla; Debussy (5); Dvorak (2); Foster; Franck; Gershwin (2); Gilbert and Sullivan; Grieg; Haydn; Khachaturian (2); Mahler; Mendelssohn (2); Mussorgsky-Ravel; Mozart (4); Prokofiev (2); Ravel (2); Schubert; Schumann (2); Shostakovich; Sibelius; J. Strauss; R. Strauss (2); Stravinsky (2); Tchaikovsky (6); Wagner (2); and Wieniawski (3).

Another 20 LPs are in the light classical and show tunes category:

Casts: "Chocolate Soldier"; "Finian's Rainbow"; "Porgy and Bess"; "Showboat"; "Student Prince"
Andre Kostelanetz: "Grand Canyon Suite"; "Kostelanetz Concert"; "Kostelanetz Favorites"; "Music of Cole Porter"; "Music of Jerome Kern"
Lily Pons: "Paris"; "Waltz Songs"; "Pons-Kostelanetz Concert"
Christopher Lynch: "Minstrel Boy"
Morton Gould: "Showcase"; "South of the Border"
Oscar Levant: "Popular Moderns"
Philadelphia Orchestra: "Six Dances"
Rise Stevens: "Songs of Victor Herbert"
Helen Traubel: "American Songs"

That leaves just 11 LPs to be spread out among Columbia's many pop stars. Besides Sinatra (CL-6001), they include:
Frankie Carle (CL-6002)
Dorothy Shay (CL-6003)
Dinah Shore (CL-6004)
Xavier Cugat (CL-6005)
Marek Weber (CL-6006)
Buddy Clark (CL-6007)
Les Brown (CL-6008)
Harry James (CL-6009)
Eddy Duchin (CL-6010)
Ray Noble (CL-6011)

The main reason you hear more about "The Voice of Frank Sinatra" is because his is where the pop numbering began, giving the impression it came ahead of the others. What is not widely known is that all 101 of these albums -- specifically 30 10-inch and 71 12-inch discs -- came out at the same time.

By the end of August, some 500 Columbia record retailers had their starting inventory. With the records, stores also received Philco 33-speed album players (retailing for $31.50), needed to demonstrate the new microgroove format.

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