Recording Pioneers

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.

Banta at Edison c.1899

The Original Frank Banta

Record collectors may be familiar with the name Frank Banta—a name usually associated with hot novelty and jazz piano of the 1920s, and rightfully so.

Hager mason program(Hager scrapbook)

Fred Hager’s Scraps and Scribbles

In the field of collecting acoustic era recordings, many scholars carry on their research and listening with the idea that items like diaries and scrapbooks

Stoneman Bristol

Fred Hager and the Birth of Country Music

The recent release of Ken Burns’ multi-part documentary Country Music has sparked much conversation in the music history community. Just a few months before this

Columbia Band, c.1902-04

When Prince Ruled Columbia

Charles Prince is a domineering character in the world of record collecting. If you see a pile of early records, the chances are pretty good

The Hager Brothers (illustration by R.S. Baker)

James: The Other Hager Brother

In this column, I often speak of the studio pianists that were the driving force on thousands of records made from 1889 to 1925. Perhaps

Hager(July 1898) phonoscop

Fred Hager tangles with Victor Herbert

In 1895, a twenty year old Fred W. Hager organized his military orchestra of 26 musicians. At that time, Hager was the youngest professional bandleader

Arthur Pryor and another bandmember

Arthur Pryor and the Birth of Ragtime

In 1893, twenty two year old Arthur Pryor performed his first trombone solo with Sousa’s Band. The time and place couldn’t have been better. The

Justin Ring 1903

Justin Ring’s Fifty Years on Record

Some folks are content to run things from behind the scenes, Justin Ring was one of these. Just as with Eddie King, Ring’s name appears

the guest conductor 1904King detail - The Mysterious Mr. King

The Mysterious Mr. King

If you ever find yourself thumbing through discographies of Victor records from the 1920s, one name shows up more than most. You’ll see him listed

Issler portrait

Edward Issler: The First Studio Musician

We all know about studio musicians, the unsung, mostly forgotten heroes of the recordings we love. But what about the first studio musician? Going all

Fred Hylands - Who Was Fred Hylands?

Who Was Fred Hylands?

This is a face that few will recognize. Even over a century ago his face was not well known. Despite this, most people who own


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