By the summer
of 1929 radio had become firmly established as the primary entertainment vehicle in the
USA and it had already begun making a significant impact upon the record industry in the
form of lower sales. The reasoning then was why buy phonograph records when similar
entertainment could be had for free via radio - including the very same performers.
Record sales peaked in the early 1920s and declined through much of the decade, though
there was a slight bump in the 1927-8 period. With that in mind, and with radio reaching
more and more households, executives of the Brunswick Balke Collender Co., hit upon the
idea of using radio to advertise its products - phonographs and records and radio
Broadcasts by phonograph record artists was not a new idea. Victor artists had
periodically begun to broadcast several years earlier as had artists from other record
companies. Brunswick however, decided to handle their broadcasts differently. In mid-1929
the company decided to use its own resources of contract talent and facilities to produce
their own series of broadcasts, to advertise Brunswick talent and, especially to produce
Brunswick records and Brunswick radio-broadcast combinations. Instead of live
programs, Brunswick pre-recorded its programs for future or varied time slots. In many
cases these recordings for radio purposes could be made while the talent was at hand in
the studios for regular recording sessions.
Brunswick called its own series of broadcast programs Brunswick Brevities and produced
about 26 of the shows, each containing almost 30 minutes of entertainment and advertising.
Ultimately this format would be copied by others, particularly Columbia a year or so later
in the fall of 1930. The Columbia offerings were called Tele-Focal Radio Series and used
dubbings from commercial recordings with added announcers and advertising. Brunswick,
however, did not use dubbings. The broadcast series therefore often contained performances
that were very different from the commercially-released versions of the selections.
Additionally - and significantly - the Brunswick artists occasionally did their own
announcing and sometimes performed selections that they did not record for commercial
The premier Brunswick Brevities went on the air, August 19, 1929 and were broadcast weekly
until February 1930. Al Jolson, then Brunswicks top artist, was featured on the
first program. Jolsons recordings for the program had been made during his July 25,
1929 recording session which produced Liza (Brunswick 4402). It was therefore no
coincidence this same number was one he recorded for the broadcast. It is believed the
Colonial Club Orchestra recorded the non-vocal parts of the program as they were in the
studio nine days earlier. That session included a medley of songs made famous by Jolson as
well as an instrumental version of Theres a Rainbow `Round My Shoulder, another
Brunswick advertising in its own publications shortly after the series began listed the 28
stations that carried the weekly programs. Trade advertisements later stated that 32
stations, blanketing the country, were airing the programs every week. These
advertisements for Brunswick Brevities - Radios Greatest Entertainment
proclaimed such Stars of the First Magnitude as Al Jolson, Belle Baker, Red
Nichols, Abe Lyman, Nick Lucas, Ben Bernie and Zelma ONeal.
I have acquired or heard more than 50 individual parts (12 records) for
these Brunswick Brevities programs which give us a tantalizing glimpse of what the series
contained. Performances by Jolson, Libby
Holman, Red Nichols and Irving Mills Hotsy Totsy Gang, featuring Hoagy Carmichael, are
outstanding and amazing.
Numerous other program parts for this series remain missing and the writer would be
anxious to hear from other collectors and dealers who have records from this series. All
recordings for the Brunswick programs were made between July, 1929 and January, 1930
although the company continued to record and press other programs for several years. Some
of these other programs have come to light, most of which are in the 1929 - 1931 period.
Most pressings have plain labels with sparse information printed or typed on them. In many
cases, Natl Radio Adv. Co., appears on the labels (this appears on some Brevities
programs as well). Such pressings include a 15 minute program for the Jantzen swimwear
company featuring radio versions of then-current Warner Bros -First National film
productions; programs of Maytag broadcasts featuring Ted Fioritos Orch (Chicago,
1929); Bremer-Tulley programs featuring recordings of the Vitaphone Orch.; Household
Finance Co. programs and other miscellany. Some programs merely feature dated comedy
routines; others featured popular or classical musical selections. The content varied
greatly, from quite good to dreadful, as did the Brevities.
Ross Laird of Australia has recently completed a 4-volume set of books, covering the
entire scope of Brunswicks recording activities from the beginning of the company
through 1931. This work will cover all of Brunswicks recording activities including
private, personal, unreleased recordings, recordings for radio broadcast in every field.
Much of the information will be published for the first time.
TO ARTICLES HOME PAGE