Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I am a long time music lover who still learns a lot from your answers to questions asked by other readers.

For example, 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 just don't hear about?
—Joel Knight, Johnstown, Pa.

DEAR JOEL: 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 line (CL-2000 and ML-4000 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 & Sullivan; Grieg; Haydn; Khachaturian (2); Mahler; Mendelssohn (2); Moussorgsky-Ravel; Mozart (4); Prokofiev (2); Ravel (2); Schubert; Schumann (2); Shostakovich; Sibelius; J. Strauss; R. Strauss (2); Stravinsky (2); Tchaikowsky (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); and 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 ten-inch and 71 twelve-inch discs — came out at exactly the same time.

By the end of August, some 500 Columbia record retailers had their starting inventory. Here are the suggested retail prices, which might have seemed a bit costly in 1948: $4.85 for 12-inch Masterworks (4000 series); $3.85 for 10-inch Masterworks (2000 series); and $2.85 for pop titles (6000 series), all of which are 10-inch.

Along with the records, stores also received Philco 33-speed album players (retailing for $31.50), needed to demonstrate the new microgroove format.

Each month following, Columbia, and other labels, added dozens of new titles to their LP catalog.

Though Columbia didn't unveil microgroove LPs until mid-1948, their research into that area actually began in 1939, around the time the Second World War began. They did not resume the project until the war ended in 1945.

DEAR JERRY: I have a 78 of “The Chipmunk Song,” and want to know if it is the last No. 1 hit released here on 78, as well as 45?

I know some other countries made 78s for years after the U.S. dropped that format.
—Sam Pruitt, Turlock, Calif.

DEAR SAM: “The Chipmunk Song,” released in November 1958, is among the last U.S. 78 singles; however, Wilbert Harrison's “Kansas City” came along four months later, on 45 and 78 rpm. It reached No. 1 in mid-May 1959, and is the answer to your question.

Between “The Chipmunk Song” and “Kansas City,” two other No. 1 hits were available on 78: “Stagger Lee” (Lloyd Price) and “The Happy Organ” (Dave 'Baby' Cortez).

IZ ZAT SO? Inspired by both of this week's topics, let's answer a question that, though not yet submitted by anyone, is probably on someone's “to ask” list:

In May of 1950, about two years and 100 albums after Columbia introduced the long play, one of their own became the first LP to reach No. 1 on the album charts. This honor belongs to the soundtrack of “Young Man with a Horn” (Columbia CL-6106), featuring Doris Day with Harry James and His Orchestra.

Then in March 1951, the original cast recording of “Guys and Dolls” (Decca DL-8036) became the first 12-inch LP to hit No. 1.

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