DEAR JERRY: One of your very interesting columns a few months ago dealt with old-time 78s. This caught my attention, as I have quite a few 78s from the first half of the 20th century.
You pointed out that most records from the early years have next to no value, and I would agree with that. You also indicate that there are some exceptions, especially among blues and country titles.
I have one that I hope is also an exception, though I have no idea when it came out. The title is “Steal Away,” and the group credited is the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet. The manufacturing company is Victor.
Does this 78 have a value more than a dollar or two? Did this group make any other recordings, or was it a one-shot act?
Unfortunately, I have no player for thick discs like this.
Orville Cranbrook, Evansville, Ind.
DEAR ORVILLE: You are not alone, I doubt that anyone reading this has a player for recordings such as these and not just because of the thickness.
The primary obstacle is the playing speed. While these appear in all respects to be 78 rpms, they are actually intended to play at approximately 75 rpm. So until someone with variable pitch capabilities remasters these tracks for a CD, none of us will hear this music, which, by the way, is of the gospel variety.
The appeal to collectors of the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet releases has little to do with rpms, or whether the style is blues, gospel, or something else. It is because this foursome is believed to be the very first black vocal group to have commercial record releases, which they made for Victor, and also for Monarch.
The time frame of this event is approximately 100 years ago, as all of their records came out between 1902 and 1905.
Among the Quartet's other titles are: “Down on the Old Camp Ground; Poor Mourner; My Way Is Cloudy; Gabriel's Trumpet;” and “We'll Anchor Bye-and-Bye.”
I have no facts to confirm it, but I suspect they may have been from Dinwiddie County, near the southeast corner of Virginia. Fortunately, we do have the D.C.C.'s names: Sterling Rex; Clarence Meredith; James Thomas; and Harry Cruder.
All of the Dinwiddie discs have significant value, ranging from $250 to $500 and that's more than a dollar or two.
Who is the singer, and what is the name of the song? What year did it come out, and was it a hit?
Scott H. Waltermeyer, Etters, Penn.
DEAR SCOTT: I have not heard the commercial you mention, but the song you heard is surely “Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy.”
To quickly answer all four of your questions in 1946, this became a Top 10 hit for Dinah Shore (Columbia 36943).
For those unfamiliar with these tasty treats, Shoo Fly Pie is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dessert. The name supposedly comes from the need to shoo away the flies from the pies that were cooling in an open window.
Apple Pan Dowdy, or Pandowdy as it is sometimes shown, is about the same as the dessert we commonly refer to as an apple cobbler.
The recipes for these goodies are plentiful on the Internet, as well as in dessert-oriented cook books.
IZ ZAT SO? Dinah Shore ranks as the top-selling female vocalist of the pre-rock era (1900-1954), and is the only female solo act in the Top 30 artists of that period.
Making this feat even more impressive is that Dinah accomplished it in just 15 years: 1940 through 1954.