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Pioneer recording artists as chronicled by Jim Walsh

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:41 pm
by Harold Aherne
For most months between January 1942 and May 1985, record collectors who subscribed to Hobbies magazine could look forward to the monthly writings of Ulysses "Jim" Walsh, a Virginia-based collector of records and biographer of the artists who made them, especially those who worked during the age of mechanical (acoustic) recording up to 1925. The first 34 years of these columns are available for perusal on

What makes Jim Walsh's writings special is that he corresponded, met, and in some cases became personal friends of the vocalists who sang before the horn, some as far back as the 1890s. He loved the recorded music he first encountered as a child and spent most of his life collecting as much information about it as possible. He began his research early enough that he was able to write to or speak with artists (or their family members) that no one else was able to interview. For that reason alone, some of his research will never be repeatable, and we owe him a large debt for getting these facts into print.

His writings have the limitations of the time they were written in. (As, I guess, everyone's does.) As he noted once, two lines of information sometimes took hours to research. As many of the people he chronicled didn't lead especially public lives, he relied a great deal on record catalogues and whatever details they supplied. He wasn't a discographer as Brian Rust was, although some of his pieces do contain lists of catalogue numbers and selections. He didn't have access to the genealogical databases that now exist online, nor to the instantaneous communication of the Internet. As such, his writings are certainly a *valuable* source, but they shouldn't always be taken as the final authority.

Still, who else would devote most of a year to discussing Al Bernard?

Further details of his life are at Tim Brooks paid him a visit in 1970, and took pictures of the occasion: