THE DUOPHONE D4000 SERIES -
AMERICAN MUSIC FOR THE BRITISH
By Arthur Badrock
various companies bearing the Duophone name had a long & complex history
from their inception in 1921 and I will endeavour to cover this at length
elsewhere. For the purposes of this series I will start in May 1928. By this
time British Brunswick was experiencing financial problems, primarily it was
claimed, because of the high charges made by American Brunswick for the mother
plates sent over to England. To make matters worse the mainly locally recorded
100 catalogue series was not selling well.
took place with Noel Pemberton Billings of the Duophone & Unbreakable
Record Co. and a pooling of interests took place between the two companies.
Brunswick acquired substantial funds from D.&U.R. Co and the latter had
the use of factories at Shepherds Bush, Feltham, Slough & Southall in
addition to another factory it had purchased at Shannon Corner on the Kingston
By-Pass Road in New Malden, Surrey. This was the site of the former Rapson
Tyre Works and would be used initially by British Brunswick. They would share
the same London offices in Cavendish Place W.1.
In September 1928 Duophone
began making recordings in a DB matrix series which would be used for the D500
catalogue series launched in November 1928 at the same time as the D4000
series. The D500s were solid stock pressings.
Billings displayed his usual high energy and dedication, frequently sleeping
overnight at the Feltham factory and working on one of the record presses in
his pyjamas, dressing gown and carpet slippers. He began distributing Duophone
Sample Records that bear no details of artist or titles, the label merely
stating Duophone Record, Sample Not For Sale. The anonymity is understandable
as, in addition to examples of the DB matrix series, with no matrix numbers in
the wax, PB also pressed some of his ‘Samples’ from Brunswick plates.
These bore the Brunswick catalogue numbers and PB would ensure that when the
stampers were made the numbers would be very carefully altered so that when
they appeared in the wax on the Duophone samples they bore no resemblance to
Brunswick catalogue numbers should anyone in the factory examine them. Thus
171B became X9XB and 3806 became 8806 though I do have one example pressed
from the stampers for British Brunswick 3813 by the Six Jumping Jacks where
the numbers have not been altered.
do not know what talks took place prior to American Brunswick starting to
record specific titles for British Brunswick in September 1928 nor whether the
charge for the mother plates differed from the norm. Nor do we know why they
ended up on Duophone rather than Brunswick.
two new series were launched in November 1928 and the price was 1s6d, half the
price of the Brunswicks. By this time PB and his fellow workers had moved from
Feltham to Shannon Corner. The D4000s were available both as solid stock or
laminated, and you could have the latter sent to you direct from the New
Malden factory in one of Duophone’s special circular cardboard mailing
covers, postage sixpence, and they arrived safely!
the D4000 series only reached D4059 some catalogue numbers were used more than
once and some ‘reissues’ were from 1929 Duophone recordings and others
from Worldecho masters issued on Worldecho in November 1929 and, strictly
speaking, not available to Duophone until January 1930 after Worldecho had
gone into liquidation.
final series in the summer of 1929 commenced at F2001 and reached F2012 and,
apart from one American title which had appeared in the D4000 series the
remainder were local recordings in the DF or DFR matrix series. (Duophone
British Brunswick went into compulsory liquidation in January 1930 and the Duophone & Unbreakable Record Co. followed in March 1930. The New Malden factory had already been sold to the New Malden Holding Co. the previous year and would ultimately produce Decca records but that, as they say, is another story.
TO THE LISTING
first listed this series in the Matrix magazine (issues 62-64) in 1965/66. In
the intervening years although I have been able to identify more of the obscurer
sides, I have been unable to fill in the few remaining blanks nor have I come
across any of the alleged issues from December 1928, which I mentioned in
Matrix. These were sent to me
during the late 50s by a correspondent whose identity I could be mistaken about
after all these years. I had almost decided it was a hoax but then Frank Andrews
saw a known Duophone D4000 issue with the name Moss Syncopators handwritten
under the label. This is one of the band names on these suspect issues and is
yet another name for a Meyer Davis unit. This would make sense, as a man called
Joe Moss was working for Davis as New York Manager & Musical Director from
1926 to at least January 1929. I have come to the conclusion that these issues
were scheduled but never materialised
writings on this series have sometimes claimed that all the recordings were
especially done by American Brunswick for the Duophone Company.
This isn’t correct. Starting in September 1928 with matrix 28191 by the
Six Jumping Jacks, the American Brunswick ledger sheets frequently state `See
British Brunswick’ as the only entry against the matrix number. If there was a
separate `British Brunswick’ ledger in the American vaults it no longer
misleading statement regarding this label is that, on every record, you will
find handwritten under the label, the correct identity of the artist together
with the tune title, matrix number and take. While this is true for some issues
it is certainly not true for all issues or all copies of some issues where you
can find these details. Unfortunately the myth persists and when in 1996 Frank
Dutton wrote on my behalf to the noted American Brunswick researcher Steven
Lasker he replied `surely someone local has pressings you can check for this
sort of data’ (If only it were that easy!).
Fortunately Steven did send us what information he could find.
added complication is the fact that some issue numbers were used more than once
for different couplings therefore we can never be certain that we have traced
every single issue.
the absence of any information on the Brunswick ledger sheets or on the Duophone
records we are left with several sides where we have no idea of the identities
of the bands involved. Meyer Davis was responsible for many of the recordings
issued on Duophone and is probably responsible for some of the unidentified
Orr, the biographer/discographer of the singer Smith Ballew, obtained a lot of
detail from Ballew on the Meyer Davis Brunswick sessions on which he sang.
I recall reading somewhere that Davis controlled or owned over 115
orchestras through his agency.
the case of the alleged December 1928 issues, I have entered the details in
italics, with (Dec.1928) against the issue number.
recording dates frequently differ from those given elsewhere. Mine came either
from the Br ledger sheets courtesy of Steven Lasker or from Smith Ballew via
Geoffrey Orr. Those which Richard Johnson had planned to include in his revision
of the American Dance Band Discography are noted (rj).
abbreviation ulh means that the information appears in handwriting under the
It would overstretch my memory to recall the names of all those who have given me information over the past 50+ years. Some names are acknowledged in the text and I am grateful to those and also to :- Mark Berresford, the late John R.T. Davies, Johnny Hobbs, Dan Mahony for copying out all the American Brunswick file cards, Peter Seago, Eddie Shaw, Bernard Shirley, my old junking partner Derek Spruce, Trevor Tolley and Bert Whyatt
E28195A THE WABASH
DANCE ORCHESTRA That's
My Weakness Now ftvc duet (Green-Stept)
E28303- THE MAJOR CLUB
Where The Shy Little Violets Grow ftvc (Kahn-Warren)
Red Nichols Orchestra vc duet in file as Charles Small & Richard Roberts, (=
Paul Small & Dick Robertson) arr. Red Nichols, (Br Ledger)
Sep 11 1928 (rj) Sep 21
Br 4058 Colonial Club Orchestra, (the name ulh on the Duophone); BrE 3885
"King" Solomon & his Miners. (Bob Haring
session vc Jack Parker). Sep 21 1928 . The English Brunswick
3885 was issued two months after the Duophone (rj) The Duophone is
said to be a different take to the Br issues.
THE MAJOR CLUB ORCHESTRA
Lonesome In The Moonlight ftvc (Russell-
E28402B THE MELODY
Ramona wzvc (Gilbert-Wayne)
Br 4088 Colonial Club Orchestra; BrE 3900 "King" Solomon & his
Miners.(Bob Haring session, vc Jack Parker). The Duophone is said to be a
different take to the Br issues. Again, BrE 3900 is a later issue than the
William F. Wirges Orchestra probably Ed Ruffner vc. This side has no take in the
wax and -B on the label.
(2) Labelled as for D4002 (1) but the second side,
Ramona, is pressed from DF24-2, the September 1929 version of the same tune by
Lew Stone's Orchestra on Duo F2011
(Dave Dodd owns a copy)
E28191B THE VICTORIAN
I Don't Care ftvc (Dowell)
THE WABASH DANCE ORCHESTRA
Because My Baby Don't Mean "Maybe" Now ftvc
(2) Red Nichols Orchestra ?Sep 14 1928 Eddy Thomas vcl
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