Brunswick User's Guide

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

Reading the Discographical Entries | The Brunswick Matrix Number System | Non-Commercial Issues | Composer Credits and Copyright Information | Foreign Language Titles

This section provides a detailed commentary on how to interpret the discographical listings by using some actual examples from the text. The examples are followed by comments on various matters which may also be useful in understanding the discography. A list of abbreviations used for the record labels covered in these volumes are at the end of this section.

Reading the Discographical Entries


The layout and form of data provided for each session has been standardized as far as possible (with due allowance for the fact that Brunswick ledger sheets of different periods and from the various branches give a greater or lesser degree of information and/or provide such information in different ways). Regardless of minor variations, the information has been set out in much the same way throughout this discography.

Since Brunswick's ledgers became progressively more complex and detailed, it is neccessary to look at examples of session listings from various periods as shown in these volumes in order to be able to interpret the listings fully and accurately. All listings shown below are actual examples extracted from the discographical text. In all cases, listings of various New York sessions have been chosen because they usually are more complicated than sessions from other locations. However, the general principles are essentially common to all listings (although there are some variations in practice from one studio to another from time to time).

The earliest New York sessions were reconstructed from data derived from examination of the actual records because ledgers no longer seem to exist. These first listings are very basic as the following example illustrates:

Gene Rodemich’s Orchestra N.Y., ca. Sept., 1921
6493-4-95 Right or wrong Br 2183
6496-7-98 By the Pyramids Br 2183
6499-0-1 [unknown title]  
6502-03-04 Cry baby blues Br 2159
6505-6-07 Snowflake Br2169

The first line gives the artist credit as actually shown on the records. This is followed by the place of recording (NY=New York), and the date of recording (in this case an estimated date as no exact date of recording is available in the absence of original documentation from the record company).

The next line gives the master or matrix numbers, the title of the selection, and the label and record number for all known issues. For dance or instrumental recordings all titles are assumed to be standard fox-trots unless otherwise indicated.

Up until 1928 Brunswick used a system where a different master was assigned to each "take" (or each version of the selection being recorded). Usually at least two or three "takes" of each title were recorded, although only one "take" may have been selected for issue. The issued "takes" are underlined. The first master is shown in full (6493), the second master is shown only by the last digit (4=6494) unless selected for issue when the last two digits are shown and underlined (95=6495). In the first few years it was quite common for more than one master of some selections to be issued. The underlined numbers indicate that both the first and third masters (6493 & 6495) were issued. This information justifies the assumption that a second master (6494) was also recorded, even though it has not so far been sighted on any copies of the issued record (Brunswick2183). This does not mean that the second master was definitely unissued, only that this master is not at present known to have been used. There is every possibility that masters not underlined may exist on some pressings. Prior to February 10, 1923 (when file data becomes available) there are many examples where the only details known are the issued master. In such cases the issued masters are not underlined. An "X'' prefix indicates a 12" recording.

The known distribution of issued masters allows the probable allocation of masters to each title to be estimated in the absence of documentation to confirm this. If there is not enough information to suggest the probable allocation of masters, only the known (issued) masters are shown. In the above example the missing masters between the second and fourth selections suggest another title was recorded at this session. The [unknown title] notation indicates that in the absence of any original company files for these early recordings it is not possible to provide any additional information for the particular example shown above. Where additional information is available from some other source, these details are provided in a "Note" following the discographical data for each session. Unless otherwise indicated all dance recordings are fox-trots.

The next example is based on the same principles as described above, but also demonstrates how Brunswick's recording procedures had evolved over the intervening period.

VINCENT LOPEZ & HIS CASA LOPEZ ORCHESTRA, with vocal trio or vocal chorus by Jack Osterman. NY, Dec 2, 1927
Orch: 12 men. Extra: Vincent Lopez-leader. Arr: William F. Wirges (E25394-6), Einar Swan (E25397-9). Vocal trio: Scrappy Lambert, Billy Hillpot & Ed. Smalle.  P.M. Room #2
E25394-95 I never dreamed (vTrio) Br 3737*, 3704b
E25396 I never dreamed BrA7576
E25397-98 Plenty of sunshine (vJO) Br 3737*, 3704b
E25399 Plenty of sunshine BrA7576

Note: The non-vocal takes are designated as “For Germany.”

The first line continues to give the artist credit shown on the record labels. This now includes an additional credit for the vocal chorus (as shown on the record label). The place and date of the recording is shown on the same line. and access to the company files allows an exact recording date to be provided.

The company ledgers also provides additional information about the number of musicians engaged for the session and details about the leader, arrangers, vocalists, and more specific details of the time and place of recording. The abbreviation “Orch” (for Orchestra) is used on the ledger sheets to indicate the makeup of the recording group. This is usually restricted to the number of “men” on the date. Except for small groups (trio, quartet or smaller) the individual names of musicians are not provided. The “Extra” notation is used to specify participants not part of the usual personnel, such as the bandleader or studio musicians added for recording purposes only. The names of the arrangers are also included where identified on the ledger sheets. In the absence of a named leader the “arranger” sometimes provides a clue to who was responsible for organizing the session (but in many cases the arranger is a band member or simply someone hired by the bandleader to provide orchestrations either specially for the recording session or for regular use by the band). The exact status of the arranger is not specified on the sheets. The ledgers also frequently provide details on the makeup of vocal groups, which is often not shown on the record label. In the above example the label credits an anonymous “vocal trio” while the ledgers give the names of the singers involved. Finally, the sheets usually specify whether the session took place in the morning (“A.M.”) or the afternoon/evening (“P.M.”), but exact times are rarely provided. The specific studio used is also noted in most cases—with “Room #2” being Studio 2. Where the above details are not shown on the sheets this is usually specified by (---) in the appropriate place in the listing.

The same system as mentioned previously where each “take” has a different master number was still in use at the time of the session shown above. However, in many cases a non-vocal “take” was made of certain selections for release in non-English speaking countries. This practice seems to have originated at the request of the German affiliate of Brunswick so the non-vocal “takes” are often specified on the ledger sheets as “For Germany” (although in practice they must be used on a release aimed at the Spanish-speaking market or for export to South America). The “E” prefix just indicates an electric recording. An “EX” prefix indicates a 12” electric recording.

The number of releases has also increased as various Brunswick branches and affiliates have been established around the world. In the above example Brunswick 3737 is the U.S. release. The (*) symbol indicates that the same coupling with the same catalog number was also pressed in Australia. Where the Australian issue differs from the U.S. release, a specific issue number with an “a” suffix is shown. The absence of one or other of these listings indicates there is no known issue in Australia. Brunswick 3704b is the British Brunswick issue number. Earlier British Brunswicks usually used the same couplings catalog number as the U.S. release (but not all U.S. issues had an equivalent British release). From 1926 on, the British Brunswick issues began to differ from the U.S. releases and eventually the numbers were totally unrelated, so all British releases are specified in this way. The “A” series Brunswick are German issues, and these releases frequently (but not always) used non-vocal masters not issued in the United States. Where other labels used a Brunswick master, these are also listed (see the list of label abbreviations on p.xxv).

The following example illustrates how a single session sometimes included selections intended for release on both Bmnswick and Vocal ion. At this time the two labels had different master series and this session is split evenly between material for each label.

BANDA MUNICIPAL (on Vocalion)  
BANDA NACIONAL (Director, Luis Medrano) (on Brunswick 40319)  
Orch: 14 men. Extra: leader Louis Katzman. arr: Louis Katzman. A.M. Room#l
E27031-32  Himno de la Sociedad de Mejoras Publicas Br40319
E27033-34  Beatriz—Pasillo Br 40319
E7200-01  Mariechen—Waltz  
  Mariquita—Vals Vo8135
E27394-95  Mariechen—Waltz Br 57010, Pan 25608
E7202-3 Bummel Petrus (Jolly Peter)-German polka

Note: Handwritten against the second title (E7202-03) is “Remade." See Brunswick master E27396 from the session of April 22, 1928 for the remakes of this title. Note that two Brunswick masters (E27394-95) have been allocated to the two separately numbered takes of “Mariechen” despite the fact that by the time the Brunswick masters were allocated (April 22, 1928), the practice of separately numbering each take had been abandoned!

The first line gives the artist credit as shown on the record label. This is always for the Brunswick release, unless the session was made for one of the subsidiary labels (Vocalion or later Melotone). When other issues used different credits, these are listed following the main artist credit and the label or issue on which each appeared is specified. Details on the following line are as explained previously. The first two selections were made for Brunswick release as shown and the masters are numbered into the Brunswick matrix series (with the issued take specified). The following two selections were made for Vocation release and the masters arc numbered into the Vocal ion matrix series. The first of the Vocalion titles is listed three times, but all are exactly the same master. The first listing shows the original title as given in the ledgers, but it was never issued in the Vocation popular (15000) series. It was retitled in Spanish and released in the Spanish language 8000 series, and the following month a Brunswick master was assigned for a release in the Brunswick 57000 International series (later a British Panachord release used the same master). Where no issues are shown (as for the last selection), there is no known release of this master. Any additional comments relating to the recordings made at this session are given in the “Notes.”

By the time the following session was recorded, Brunswick abandoned the longstanding practice of assigning a different master number to every take. In the example below each title or selection has a unique master number, and the takes are indicated by letters.

BRUNSWICK HOUR ORCHESTRA (under direction of William F. Wirges), with vocal chorus by Frank Munn.  NY, Apr 14, 1928
ORQUESTA BRUNSWICK (on Brunswick 40355)  
Orch: 16 men. arr: Wm. F. Wirges. A.M. Room #2
E27349-A-B Ramona—Waltz (vFM) Br 3919*, 3773b
E27349-G Ramona—Waltz BrA7789
  Ramona—Vals  Br 40355
E27350-A-B Ah! sweet mystery of life (The dream melody)—Waltz (vFM) Br 3919*, 3773b
E27350-G Ah! sweet mystery of life—Waltz BrA 7789
  Oh! Dulce misterio (Ah! sweet mystery of life)—Vals Br 40362

Note: Brunswick 40355 & 40362 were cancelled before release. 

As before, the same general layout is used for this session. The first artist credit is as shown on the various Brunswick issues, except where different artist credits were used (as specified). The -A-B designations show that two takes with vocals were made of each selection. If known the take or takes issued are underlined (in the example above it is not known which take was used). The -G take is a third non-vocal take (where the -G stands for Germany) and both of the non-vocal masters were released on German Brunswick. Each of the non-vocal takes was also re-titled in Spanish for release in the Spanish-language 40000 series (but the “Note” indicates that these issues were never released). The two non-vocal takes are identical, they are just labelled differently.

Finally, the next example is from the last year covered by this volume:

JACK RICHARD & HIS MIAMI ORCHESTRA. with vocal chorus by Dick Robertson.   
MAJESTIC JAZZ ORCHESTRA (onEmbassy)  NY, Feb 17, 1931
Orch: 10 men (2 violins. 2 sax, trumpet, trombone, guitar, xylo, piano, bass). P.M. Room #2
F36086-A-B Gazing at the stars—Waltz (vDR) Me M12101, Pan P12101
E36087-G Contemplando las estrellas (Gazing at the stars)—Vals MeMSJ6036
E16088-A-B  Wabash moon—Waltz (vDR) Me M12101, Pan P12102, EmbE126
E36089-G Luna de Wabash (Wabash moon)—Vals  Me MS16036
E36090-A-B The same as we used to do—Waltz (vDR)  Me M12192, Pan P12192
 E16091-G Lo mismo que hacianos antes (The same as we used to do)—Vals Me MS16053
F36092-A-B On the winding Santa Fe—Waltz (vDR) Me M12192, Pan P12204

As this is a Melotone session, the artist credit shown is that on the Melotone label (with exceptions noted previously). The real identity of the orchestra is shown in the “Note” as this name was not used on any issued records. By this time the ledger sheets usually show the instrumentation used for each session, and this information is provided following the number of men on the date. The number of takes is indicated, but none is underlined so it is not known which takes were selected for release. The “G” (non-vocal) takes are used for the Spanish language series releases.

Most entries in the discographical section can be understood from the above examples. In many cases additional information can be found in the notes. Information not otherwise covered in these notes will be found below.

The Brunswick Matrix Number System


Prior to March 31, 1928 the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. used a master numbering system where every take of each title selected for production was allocated an individual matrix number. This meant that every title was usually two or three (and often more) matrix numbers. Accordingly, the master numbers shown in the wax of early Brunswick records (1920-1924) between the final grooves of the recording and the label are not the master number of the title concerned, but are in fact the matrix number of the specific take used for that copy. It is not unusual in this period to find copies of the same issue which use one or more different takes of the same selection. Accordingly, the small numbers which follow the matrix number are not take numbers; they are actually the number of the metal part made from the master in order to press that specific disc. These numbers have no discographical significance and will not be referred to in these volumes.

During 1924 a decision was made that the matrix number would be suppressed. Consequently, the majority of discs pressed from masters numbered after 11999 show no matrix details in the wax. A few exceptions to this exist (such as some Chicago masters numbered in the 14000s and some Los Angeles masters in the 15000s).

In 1926 Brunswick (and Vocalion) records once again began to show at least part of the matrix number. The last two (or sometimes three) digits of the matrix number are usually visible in the 12 o’clock area of the wax between the last grooves and the label. There are still many cases where alternate takes were released, and examination of the master numbers in the wax will confirm this. The same was true in the period when no matrix numbers were shown, but in these cases the only way an alternate take can be confirmed is by auditioning the record. Even when two different takes are known to exist, there is no way to know exactly which matrix numbers were used purely by reference to the record.

This procedure lasted until it was decided to use a single matrix number for each title (regardless of the number of takes made). In the New York studios this system began on March 31. 1928 at master number E27237. In Chicago it began on March 28, 1928 at master number C1812, while in Los Angeles the new system did not begin until April, 1928 at master number LAE190.

With the introduction of the new matrix numbering system Brunswick (and Vocalion) records no longer gave any indication of the matrix number (with a few rare exceptions). This continued until 1931 when some pressings began to show the complete master number in the wax.

In New York blocks of master numbers began to be allocated to different studios in November, 1928. From this point on the matrix series ceases to be more-or-less chronological. Since the different studios used up blocks of masters at different rates the next block of masters allocated might be hundreds of numbers further on in the numerical sequence due to the intervening numbers having already been assigned to other studios. When a block of numbers ran out during a recording session the next number from the new block of masters would not be consecutive. One early example is the session by Los Castilians of January 28, 1928 where the first title recorded uses the number E29149 (which happens to be the end of that block) and the second title uses the number E29200. A late example of the same situation is Bing Crosby’s session of December 21, 1931 (the last session in the old Brunswick ledgers even though officially the handover to A.R.C. had taken place on December 12, 1931). In this session the first title is master number E37474, while the next title is master number E37525. The files confirm the same recording date for both the masters, and the intervening block of masters (E37475 through E37524) had already been allocated to another studio but were not recorded until early 1932.

The first prefix to be used for Brunswick matrix numbers was “X” which was first used in late 1920 to indicate a 12” master. With the introduction of electrical recording in April, 1925 the “E” prefix was added to all recordings made by the new process. When larger than 12” masters were first used (in the Chicago studios) during April, 1930, the new formats were designated with an “IC” prefix for 16” masters, and “OC” for 17” masters (although some 17” masters are designated with the “IC” prefix in the files --- perhaps in error). The New York studios did not begin to use 16” masters until 1931, and when they did, such recordings were designated with a “YE” prefix. No 17” masters are known to have been recorded in New York prior to the A.R.C. takeover.

Non-Commercial Issues


Sessions designated as “Private Recordings” are those which Brunswick produced in their studios for a client in return for payment. Such recordings were never intended for release on Brunswick or any of the company’s subsidiary labels. Consequently no issues are shown against these masters, but in this case this does not indicate the masters were probably never issued (as usually would be the case). It simply means that the masters were not released commercially, and any pressings would have been on either Brunswick’s generic “Personal Recording” label, or (in the case of the many recordings made for National Radio Advertising Co. and similar organizations) they appeared on pressings with a blank label which showed only very basic information such as the master number and name and episode of the program.

Composer Credits and Copyright Information


To save space, and make the discographical listings less cluttered (and so more readable), details of composers and copyright holders will be found in the title index.

Foreign Language Titles


The language a song is performed in is not usually stated, but it can be assumed to be the same as the language of the title. Many Brunswick and Vocalion issues show a Spanish language translation of the English language title purely for marketing purposes (and such titles are not shown in the discographical listings). An exception is where an English language title was given in Spanish on a specific issue intended only for a non-English speaking market. These titles are also shown in the title index for vocal performances (as the lyric is sung in the language in question even if normally sung in English). As there is no such definitive difference with instrumental performances, all listings are shown under the original English-language title unless the composition was originally performed or published in a language other than English.

Many foreign language titles contain errors of spelling or style because the original ledger sheets often give no indication of the correct form (such as capitalization) and are frequently inconsistent and full of spelling mistakes as well. Generally, the form of the title on the original ledger sheets was retained and only obvious (to me) errors were corrected. I apologize for these limitations, but am sure most titles will be recognizable despite such errors.


Table of Contents | Tables | Bibliography

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