THE EARLY YEARS,1901-1909,

Archeophone Records 5004 (,

$17.50 plus S & H.

by Dudley Heer

This cd contains 31 tracks and a 30-page booklet which is quite detailed. A number of the songs are presented in both a long and short version. Source recordings are both records and cylinders. Bert Williams sings solo on most of the tracks but there are several by Williams and Walker and George Walker solos on two.

The sound quality is surprisingly good despite the age of the source material and its previous use. Although there is still noticeable surface noise, the voices are quite clear which is most important. Thus, this cd may be listened to in a relaxed manner and still receive the benefit of Mr. William’s baritone voice and the lyrics he sings, especially on “Nobody,” his signature tune.

This cd is recommended for those interested in early vaudeville and do not mind hissing in the recording in order to gain the benefits of listening to Bert Williams.

AVM Recommends:


(DVD), Inkwell Images (,

$21.95 plus S & H), is a documentary on the work of Dr. Lee deForest in developing sound-on-film technology well before Western Electric. As a result of Dr. deForest’s pioneering work, filming of performers began as early as 1919, including many vaudeville artists. Some of the latter are included on the DVD including Eva Puck and Sammy White, Eddie Cantor and Weber and Fields. Thus, the viewer is offered a heretofore unavailable look at performers at or near the peak of their popularity.

The picture quality is very good despite some evident film deterioration. The running time is about 60 minutes, divided one-third documentary, two-thirds performances. During the documentary portion there are brief glimpses of unidentified performers indicating there is much more available to be shown. Most of the performances are in black and white but three are hand tinted, single color.

Maurice Zouary, listed as a film archivist, is the executive producer of the DVD. Mr. Zouary donated the Zouary/DeForest Phonofilm collection to the Library of Congress in 1969. But, it would appear, Mr. Zouary still controls the use of the films. In his book, DeForest, Father of the Electronic Revolution, are listed on pages 227-228 the films made between 1922 and 1924. These include Downey(Morton) and Owens, Chic Sale, Yorke and Adams, Burke and Burke, and Barber and Jackson. Let us hope Mr. Zouary will see his way clear to make more of the DeForest Phonofilms available in the not too distant future.

Anyone interested in vaudeville should purchase this DVD as should anyone interested in American popular culture of the early decades of the 20th Century.

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