It all started with Thomas Edison. Edison, who was almost deaf, found
that a piece of tin-foil wrapped around a cylinder produced a sound. A
needle on the inside vibrated and made a groove. Then a needle on the
other side could play back what was recorded. It was sort of an “ah”
moment as Edison was actually trying to improve his telegraph
From then until the 1990s phonographs were the norm
for bringing recorded music into the home. Most of us who were into
music prior to the advent of tapes and CDs are very familiar with the
vinyl records used when we were kids. First the 78s, then the 33 1/3s
and 45s. Who didn’t have a small record player to spin those 45s and
dream of the future?
Edison invented the first phonograph in 1877.
Those first recordings wore out quickly but later recordings were put
on cylinders. Even later they were put on discs. The old 78s, made
between 1889 and the late 1950s, played at a speed of about 78
revolutions per minute and were made using shellac.
During and after WWII shellac supplies were limited and manufacturers
turned to vinyl discs. Earlier recordings were made with the artist
singing into a horn which directed the voice to the recording stylus
cutting the wax for the master discs, described as acoustical.
Electrical recording started in 1925 when the first microphones and
amplifiers were used to cut the master record. After that more and more
sophisticated methods were used to produce the high fidelity and stereo
records we know, making them much more pleasurable to listen to.
hops using the old 45s were held weekly when I was in high school,
often with Bob Seivers and Jack Underwood as disc jockeys. They would
play the most popular 45s, one after another, for a night of dancing and
listening. Those old vinyls were susceptible to dust and scratches and
could get pretty worn if played very often. And such songs, like
“Running Bear” sung by Johnny Preston in 1959, or “El Paso” by Marty
Robbins of the same era were played. Then there was “Charlie Brown” by
the Coasters, or Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” or “Dream Lover.” Also
played were “Sixteen Candles,” by the Crests, and “Lipstick On Your
Collar,” and “Who’s Sorry Now?” by Connie Francis. The list could go on
Record album clubs also became popular. You could purchase
one record per month at a discounted price. This was when stereos were
real pieces of furniture made with attractive wood cabinets and side as
well as detached speakers. My husband purchased a large stereo in 1959
with an attractive wood cabinet that played both 45s and 33 1/3 records,
compete with a radio. It was a major piece of furniture in our home for
many years. Record cabinets, which held the record collection, were
also attractive pieces of furniture made with wood.
later years, due to space issues, it was put upstairs in storage. There,
our then teenage sons took out the speakers and put them in the trunk
of their cars to make boom boxes. After they left home the speakers
finally returned to their rightful place inside the stereo.
I was ready to get rid of the whole thing when we moved into our new
home, but suddenly it appeared in the basement and has been there ever
since, complete with a record collection that still seems to be growing.
Record cabinets still hold the 33 1/3s and each is carefully put back
into its sleeve after playing and dusted off prior to being put on the
player with its diamond needle. If you take care of them they seem to
last forever, although they are susceptible to scratching and breaking.
Fingerprints and dirt deaden the sound and cause skips in the music, or
make the needle get stuck on repeat, but keeping them clean and
fingerprint free is not that hard.
Nowadays we can go downstairs
and listen to the songs that were so popular during our youth and
remember those simpler times. With additional speakers the stereo
quality of the records makes it seem we have piped in music to every
room in the house. Even our grandchildren enjoy the music and ask for
specific records. Now they say vinyl records are making a comeback.
Vinyl collectors have argued that the groves on a record yield a better
sound and more depth over a CD’s digital code. Many DJs prefer the vinyl
as well. So new vinyl records are still being released. I have yet to
see many in a store, but will be watching in case we find one to add to
Edison never knew what an industry he started with his invention.
Roediger has lived on a family farm all her life, first as a farmer’s
daughter and now as a farmer’s wife. She writes weekly for the Times
Bulletin and enjoys gardening, quilting, cooking, bird watching and