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Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • Biography

    Henry Burr

    Henry Burr was the pseudonym adopted by Canadian-born tenor Harry McClaskey (1882–1941) when he began making phonograph records in 1902. The record business was then so poorly regarded that some performers thought using their real names in the new industry could tarnish their reputations. Burr's forward-sounding, nasal voice quality made him instantly recognizable on records, even in the midst of a quartet or chorus. ...

  • Biography

    Enrico Caruso

    Enrico Caruso (1873—1921) was widely regarded as the finest oper atic tenor of his day; he certainly was the most famous. He was probably the fir st celebrity whose fame as a recording artist equaled the renown he enjoyed on t he stage. It is estimated that 5 million single-sided Caruso discs were sold dur ing his lifetime. Caruso’s first important performance was in ...

  • Biography

    Alma Gluck

    Alma Gluck (Reba Fiersohn) (1884–1938) was a Romanian-born soprano who, after working seven seasons for the Metropolitan Opera, devoted the remainder of her career to recording and concertizing. She recorded the first of over 150 titles for Victor in 1911. Her best-known disc was "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny." She was married to violinist Efrem Zimbalist, who often accompanied her on records.

  • Biography

    Ada Jones

    Ada Jones (1873–1922) began her recording career during the mid-1890s, but did not begin recording prolifically until 1905. By 1906 she was "probably the most popular phonograph singer in the world," according to historian Jim Walsh. She was essentially a singing comedienne whose specialty was dialect comedy of all sorts. Her depictions of a lower-class New York City Bowery maiden in the company of ...

  • Biography

    Harry Lauder

    Sir Harry Lauder (1870–1950) is best remembered for comic songs and rambling monologues performed in an intimate yet sometimes rousing manner in a thick Scottish brogue. Knighted in 1919, Scottish-born Lauder worked his way up from poverty to become one of the most popular entertainers of his time in Europe and America.

  • Biography

    Harry Macdonough

    Harry Macdonough (John Scantlebury Macdonald) (1871–1931) recorded both as a soloist and as a member of the prolific Haydn Quartet. The Canadian-born tenor made his first recordings in 1900 and reportedly appeared on over 1000 titles. He also worked as an assistant recording director for Victor Records.

  • Biography

    John McCormack

    John McCormack (1884–1945) was an Irish American tenor renowned for his renditions of sentimental Irish-themed songs. He also possessed a fine operatic voice and worked steadily on the opera stage during the early part of his career. Reportedly, he was a self-admitted poor actor and for this reason chose to focus his career on the concert stage and recording studio. McCormack's voice has been ...

  • Biography

    Nellie Melba

    Dame Nellie Melba (Helen Porter Armstrong, née Mitchell) (1861–1931) was born in Australia and as a child studied piano, violin, and harp. Her 1887 operatic debut in Brussels was an enormous success and she continued to perform in Europe to great acclaim. She debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1893 and remained there until 1910. Her pure voice was described as ...

  • Biography

    Frank C. Stanley

    Frank C. Stanley (1868–1910), a powerful bass-baritone, began his career on records in 1891 as a banjoist, under his real name, William Stanley Grinsted. He adopted his pseudonym to protect his career as a singer of sacred music at a time when making phonograph records was considered low-class. Stanley was as equally at home singing sacred songs or performing "rube," or country, comedy sketches. ...

  • Biography

    Reinald Werrenrath

    Reinald Werrenrath (1883–1953) was an American baritone of great versatility who sang on several hundred Victor recordings, both as a soloist and as part of vocal ensembles. Among the groups in which he participated were the Orpheus Quartet, Lyric Quartet, Victor Light Opera Company, and Trinity Choir. Werrenrath performed for a few seasons at the Metropolitan Opera beginning in 1919. He also taught at ...

  • Biography

    Marie Cahill

    Marie Cahill (1870–1933) was an American singing comedienne who was popular both in vaudeville and on the Broadway stage. She was successful as the star of several Broadway musicals during the early 1900s, most notably Sally in Our Alley, in which she introduced the song "Under the Bamboo Tree." Among her twelve published Victor records is the first recording of a vocal blues selection ...

  • Biography

    Albert Campbell

    Albert Campbell (1872–1947), a lyric tenor, was a ubiquitous presence on recordings from the mid-1890s until 1924. He is best remembered for the many duets he recorded with Henry Burr. Campbell also recorded with Burr as part of the Peerless Quartet. Among his thousand-plus records, only a handful are solos.

  • Biography

    Arthur Collins

    Arthur Collins (1864–1933) was a widely recorded baritone whose comic songs, especially "Preacher and the Bear," endeared him to many. Much of his material was termed "coon songs," a description he detested, but he performed it with great skill. He was also well known as half of the singing duo Collins and Harlan.

  • Biography

    Len Spencer

    Len Spencer (1867–1914) was an extremely versatile performer whose somewhat cantankerous-sounding baritone can be heard on many early records, singing ragtime songs, rendering sentimental ballads, reciting speeches of presidents, or doing New York City Bowery dialect comedy sketches with Ada Jones. Spencer's performing career was chiefly based in New York City recording studios. He also operated a booking agency.

  • Biography

    Patrick Conway

    Patrick Conway (1867–1929) was a famed bandmaster whose career was strongly associated with the city of Ithaca, New York. Conway became the conductor of the Ithaca Band in 1895 and in 1908 used that group as the foundation for his own Patrick Conway Band, with which he toured. Conway made records for the Victor, Edison, Okeh, Pathé, Gennett, and Paramount record companies. He is ...

  • Biography

    Nora Bayes

    Nora Bayes (1880–1928) was a tremendously popular vaudevillian and star of the Broadway musical stage. She is still remembered for the gigantic hit "Shine On, Harvest Moon," which she co-wrote with her then-husband Jack Norworth. Although the title was a success for other artists, the only recording of it made by Norworth and Bayes was never released. Bayes, whose real name was Dora Goldberg, ...

  • Biography

    Billy Murray

    Billy Murray (1877–1954) was perhaps the most prolific recording artist of the acoustic recording era. His distinctive nasal baritonish-tenor voice, which recorded extremely well, and his perfect diction contributed to the popularity of his records. During his career, Murray recorded for nearly every company in existence, most notably for Edison and Victor. Murray's repertoire, while confined to the popular idiom, was wide-ranging. He was ...

  • Biography

    Jack Norworth

    Jack Norworth (1879–1959) was a well-known song-and-dance man who was active in vaudeville and on the Broadway stage during the early years of the twentieth century. His most famous stage appearances were made with his then-wife, Nora Bayes, with whom he composed the smash-hit song "Shine On, Harvest Moon." Norworth recorded for Victor both as a soloist and in duet with Bayes. His voice ...

  • Biography

    Peerless Quartet

    Peerless Quartet, a popular and long-lived ensemble, was organized in 1906 by bass Frank C. Stanley. The quartet's sound was built around the clear-toned and easily recognizable tenor of Henry Burr. Upon Stanley's death in 1910, Burr became its manager and was the one constant member of the group until its dissolution in 1928. The Peerless Quartet began recording for Victor Records in 1908.

  • Biography

    Homer A. Rodeheaver

    Homer Rodeheaver (1880–1955) was a trombone-playing, baritone-voiced evangelist who served as music director for the preacher Billy Sunday. Rodeheaver was known for his charismatic nature and sense of humor. He introduced jaunty, rhythmic songs into his programs and often led choirs with his trombone playing. He began recording in 1913, making many sides for Victor. He was also a music publisher and the owner ...

  • Biography

    Billy Golden

    Billy Golden (William B. Shires) (1858–1926) performed in a blackface act in vaudeville beginning in 1874. He made his first recordings for Columbia Records around 1893 and began recording for Eldridge R. Johnson and what would become the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901. Golden specialized in blackface dialect comedy, with a vivid portrayal of an old-time character full of unrestrained glee and wit. ...

  • Biography

    Byron G. Harlan

    Byron G. Harlan (1861–1936) was a versatile tenor who specialized in sentimental ballads. He also performed as a comedian and frequently recorded in the character of a "rube" in sketches with Frank C. Stanley. Harlan is best known as the higher-pitched half of the duo Collins and Harlan, with baritone Arthur Collins. He began recording for Victor Records in 1901.

  • Biography

    Haydn Quartet

    Haydn Quartet (pronounced hay-den) was a much-recorded male quartet that most often consisted of tenors John Bieling and Harry Macdonough, baritone S. H. Dudley, and William F. Hooley as bass. Later Reinald Werranrath replaced Dudley. Whereas the American Quartet generally recorded bright, often ragtime-infused popular numbers, the Haydn (later spelled Hayden) Quartet usually sang slower-tempo, statelier, sometimes religious material. They also recorded vernacular selections ...

  • Biography

    William F. Hooley

    William F. Hooley (1861–1918) was an Irish-born bass singer who recorded prolifically during the early 1900s. He sometimes recorded as a soloist, but more frequently lent his resonant basso to early recording vocal ensembles such as the American Quartet, Haydn Quartet, Lyric Trio, and Orpheus Quartet. Hooley's recording career began in the mid 1890s and lasted until his death in 1918. He also sang ...

  • Biography

    Nathaniel Shilkret

    Nathaniel Shilkret (1892–1982) served for many years as the Victor Company's musical director and was the creator of the Victor Salon Orchestra. Shilkret was a classically trained clarinetist, pianist, composer, and arranger and handled recording sessions as disparate as grand opera, ethnic ensembles, and dance music with equal skill.