Charlie Carson Records in the Far East

Last month’s piece in this column was on Charlie Carson and his partner in crime Russell Hunting. This month will be a continuation of Carson’s story, but detailing his extensive travels in the Far East. Between 1903 and 1906, Charlie Carson was engaged by the Columbia phonograph company to travel to China to make some of the first recordings ever captured there. Pioneering engineer Fred Gaisberg, working with the Gramophone Company, famously preceded Carson in recording in East Asia, but Carson’s efforts were believed to be of better quality. Because of his efforts, music of Japan and Eastern China could finally be etched onto the immortal record. While reluctant to travel so far at first, Charlie had not much else he could do at Columbia. Since his jail time in 1896, he couldn’t get work many places other than Columbia. Between 1897 and 1902, he spent his time making sure that Columbia records sounded as good as they could, personally handling a large portion of the records they made in that period. His name was stamped on many paper record slips, each indic
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R. S. Baker has appeared at several Ragtime festivals as a pianist and lecturer. Her particular interest lies in the brown wax cylinder era of the recording industry, and in the study of the earliest studio pianists, such as Fred Hylands, Frank P. Banta, and Frederick W. Hager.

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