One of several gimmicks that record companies used to try to drun up sales during the Great Depression was the picture disc.
Victor tried to push the picture dis as a premium item. They marketed dance bands, operatic singers, and various Spanish-language artists, with this newfangled technology. They even put out one genuine “Hill billy” artist. And this record, by Jimmie Rodgers, got a four-figure price tag when auctioned off on Ebay.
And, Victor put some children’s records in this format.
Victor marketed children’s discs only now and again–not as regulary as they would after the Second World War,when their “Little Nipper” series would be competitive with what other companies were marketing at the time.
At lest two sets of three seven-inch discs–that’s a little larger than a CD, DVD or MP3 discs, if you’ve no old 45s to use for comparison–priced at two dollars the set. One was a set of Winnie-the-Pooh songs, long before anybody else essayed these numbers.
The other–which concerns us here–was a set of Walt Disney songs connected with the “Mickey Mouse” and “Silly Symphonies” cartoons.
The artist that Victor chose for these platters was someone who had done almost everything that a clear-voiced light tenor could do. He’d sung vocal refrains with dance bands. . . sung top tenor in a concert quartet . . . and had recorded countless pseudo-Countey numbers, both sentimental and comic. And he had done this not only for the Victor, but for every company operating out of New York at the time.
He had not done many–if any!–children’s records up the time of these sets.
On November 3, 1933, Frank Luther, accompanied by a pianist, a “trapman” (trap-drummer) and multi-instrumentalist Frank Novak, recorded “Mickey Mouse And Minnie’s In Town”, “Dance of the Bogey Men” and “Lullaby Land of Nowhere”.
A week later, they all met at another of Victor’s New York studios, to record a two-part “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?” and something called “In A Silly Symphony”.
Over the next couple of months, Victor tried several sessions of “transferring”–that is, dubbing–these records, so that the finished product would have a deeper groove.
The records were released in early 1934–and they didn’t sell at all!
Copies of the discs are not known to exist in the hands of collectors who are known to your correspondent. And, when they have shown up on Ebay, it is my understanding that they show up in such a condition that they cannot be played.
Pictures of the discs circulate widely. But the discs themselves have not, to the best of my knowledge, been uploaded onto any of the reputable file-sharing sites.
Frank Luther would, in due course, become the King of the Kiddie Record–but not before he put out more records of various other types.
Next: Max Fleischer gets into the act.