#1s of 1901: Discs versus cylinders

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden

Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner

I’ve listed the 14 songs that went to #1 on the charts in 1901. This wasn’t as easy as you might think. Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories 1890-1954 gives due credit to Jim Walsh. He is “the world’s leading authority on the pioneer recording age.” His columns in Hobbies magazine ran “a remarkable 40 years.”

The book also used sheet music sales and historical narratives from the record companies.

Emile Berliner, who had invented the microphone, patented the gramophone in 1887. “It utilized zinc discs rather than cylinders,” which Thomas Edison had used on his 1877 phonograph.

Technology changed rapidly. The Berliner Gramophone Company marketed the first commercial flat disc recording in 1895.

Eldridge Johnson’s Consolidated Talking Machine Company had improved sound quality compared with Johnson’s former employer, Berliner. In October 1901, the Victor Talking Machine Company was formed from the two entities of Johnson and Berliner.

The hits

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden– Harry MacDonough and Grace Spencer, #1 for seven weeks (Edison). I’ve heard a version of this song.

Ma Blushin’ Rosie – Albert Campbell, #1 for seven weeks (Gram-o-phone). Dudley had a #3 hit that year, which I found, as well as this more modern version. Al Jolson recorded this more than once.
Hello Central, Give Me Heaven – Byron Harlan, #1 for five weeks (Edison)

The Tale of the Bumble Bee – Harry MacDonough, #1 for four weeks (Victor). Here’s a newer version.
Any Old Place I Hang My Hat Is “Home Sweet Home” To Me  – Will Denny, #1 for four weeks (Gram-o-phone)

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder – Harry MacDonough, #1 for three weeks (Victor)
The Stars and Stripes Forever – Sousa’s Band, #1 for three weeks (Gram-o-phone). This is the 1926 version. The band also had a #3 hit with the finale of the William Tell Overture.
Good-Bye, Dolly Gray  – Big Four Quartet, #1 for three weeks (Edison). “Big four quartet: Arthur Collins, Byron G Harlan, Joseph Natus, and A D Medeira. This quartet only recorded for a year or so.” McDonough had a #2 hit that year with this.
Good Evening, Carrie – Dan Quinn, #1 for three weeks (Victor). I didn’t find that, but I did come across Good Morning, Carrie by the same performer. Could the sources be wrong?

Uncle Josh’s Huskin’ Bee Dance – Cal Stewart, #1 for three weeks (Edison)
When Reuben Comes To Town – S.H. Dudley, #1 for three weeks (Gram-o-phone). The photograph is of a black performer with a similar name, not the actual white performer.
Tell Me, Pretty Maiden – Byron Harlan, Frank Stanley, Joe Belmont, and Florodora Girls, #1 for three weeks (Columbia). This is a real hip-hop lineup.
Jim Lawson’s Horse Trade with Deacon Witherspoon  – Cal Stewart, #1 for three weeks (Edison)

In the Shade of the Palm  – J.W. Myers, #1 for one week (Columbia). The label started in 1890.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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