Brunswick Preface

Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931, compiled by Ross Laird.

These volumes set out to document as fully as possible the recording made by Brunswick-Balke­-Collender, its subsidiaries and subsequent corporate manifestations, between 1916 and 1931.

No attempt is made to refer (except in passing) to the recordings which appeared on the Brunswick label produced by the American Record Corporation (A.R.C.) from 1932 to 1938 as these records really belong in a volume devoted to the activities of A.R.C. Nor do these volumes cover the few Brunswick releases produced after A.R.C. was acquired by the Columbia Recording Corporation in December 1938. Columbia lost the rights to use the Brunswick name in May 1941. The Brunswick records produced by Decca from 1944 are also not covered here, as these are already noted in Michel Ruppli 's Decca Labels discography (also published by Greenwood Press).

Instead, the aim of the volumes you have before you is to reconstruct the diverse range and extent of Brunswick recordings during the first decade and a half of the label's existence. This period not only saw the emergence of Brunswick as it rapidly became one of the major labels in America (at one point around 1924 even challenging Victor as the bestselling label), but it also coincides with one of the most dynamic and fascinating stages in the development of the American record industry as well as what is definitely one of the artistic high points of popular music in the twentieth century (during which the work of so many great popular composers became known around the world).

Original recordings of works by Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Irving Caesar, Hoagy Carmichael, Sam Coslow, Benny Davis, Peter De Rose, Howard Dietz, Walter Donaldson, AI Dubin, Sammy Fain, Ted Fiorito, Cliff Friend, George Gershwin, Ray Henderson, Jimmy McHugh, Cole Porter, Ralph Rainger, Andy Razaf, Richard Rodgers, Thomas Waller, Harry Warren, Richard Whiting, Harry Woods and Vincent Youmans are prominent among the recordings detailed in these volumes, along with the work of many other less well-known composers. In the case of Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Ted Fiorito, Ralph Rainger and Vincent Youmans, they are also included as performers of their own works.

These volumes also include the most diverse range of other types of music (as well as vocal, choral, spoken-word) including classical, jazz, blues, country music, ethnic, children's, religious and other recordings.

Another important aspect of the period covered by these volumes is that it saw the record industry develop from one essentially based in New York, which had only a limited presence elsewhere in the United States, to a situation were all the major companies had studios and/or pressing plants at various points (especially Chicago and Los Angeles).

The 1920s also saw the development of alternate markets aimed at racial and cultural minorities, and a huge number of recordings were made as a result. During this decade the number of recordings made outside the big cities also increased dramatically as the major companies competed with each other to find and record a wide range of music in remote locations by sending out mobile recording units to many locations never visited for recording purposes before. Brunswick was very active in this field.

The above remarks clearly establish that the recordings documented in these volumes are of the greatest interest, and not only for record collectors and those whose research interests include discographical information. As much of the data presented here has never previously been published, and given the wide scope of the recordings listed, those with an interest in many aspects of American culture or in many genres of music will find it an invaluable resource.

My aim has been to provide a resource, which, as far as possible, was based on first-hand examination of contemporary sources (both published and unpublished). If the data provided here is at variance with information shown in previously published sources, I believe it will be found that these volumes are simply correcting errors, omissions and mistaken interpretations in existing books and discographies. The large quantity of new information published here for the first time, or which corrects material previously published will mean that very few works including any Brunswick/Vocalion recordings from the period covered by these volumes will, at the very least, require significant revision.

The discographical listings are (as far as possible) a reconstruction of the chronological sequence of the actual activity in the recording studios. The Brunswick master series was initially a model of simplicity which easily facilities a straight numerical sequence by matrix number. However, [as] the rapidly expanding Brunswick operation grew and developed a large number of variations, modifications, and extensions were made to the master numbering system, so that by the mid-1920s it had become extremely complex.

Not only was a new matrix series introduced after the Brunswick acquisition of Vocation (which was applied to all material intended for release on that label), there were also a large number of additional matrix series introduced for various regional locations. In addition many selections were renumbered into other matrix series as required (for example, when released on a different label from the original). Also, once Brunswick was using more than one studio in a particular location, blocks of master numbers were allocated to the various studios. This had the effect that before long these numbers no longer ran in sequence and the cumulative effect of all these complications is that it was necessary that these volumes be organized chronologically and by location as follows:

Vol. I New York sessions 1916-1926
Vol. 2 New York sessions 1927-1931
Vol. 3 Chicago & regional sessions
Vol. 4 Other non U.S. recordings and indexes

An introductory survey in Volume 1 covers Brunswick's corporate history to assist the reader in understanding the many changes and developments that are reflected in the discographical listings. Developments in the U.S. company are covered in as much detail as possible. Basic details have also been provided for Brunswick branches and affiliates outside the United States, but this information is far from comprehensive.

Every attempt has been made to provide the most detailed and accurate discographical data possible and where the original company documents have survived the listings published here are taken directly from these sources. The other primary source used has been copies of the actual recordings. Any corrections, additions or further information in relation to the material covered in these volumes would be gratefully received by the author at GPO Box 22, Canberra, A.C.T. 2601, Australia.

Ross Laird,



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Table of Contents | Tables | Bibliography

Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931  (4 vols). Compiled by Ross Laird. Reprinted by permission.