‘Scandalous Charlie’ Prince

Charles Prince could seem like a rather boring character on the surface; he led his own band and orchestra for the same label for 20 years. Despite his stable job, “Charlie,” as he was called, lived a very wild and unstable life outside of the phonograph labs. Prince was known for his seductive nature around the ladies, and this charm roped him into a complicated scandal starting in 1907. Most men of the sporting clubs around New York were aware of him, and of his talents, both musical and otherwise. Prince started working for Columbia around the end of 1902. Initially he was used as an accompanist to replace Fred Hylands, but soon he rose up the ranks from lowly accompanist to music director when Fred Hager decided to step down as the band director in early 1903. Hager made sure many of his musicians stayed employed, but now their new leader was Prince. Between 1903 and 1907, Prince established himself as one of the best studio orchestra and band leaders of the era. “Prince’s Military Band” was how he was known on Columbia records in this early period. While all this was going on he was philandering all over with high born and low born women. He had this habit going way back, at least since his first go at recording in 1892. Back in ’92, he left his wife in San Francisco to pursue this new and exciting life of the phonograph. In 1895 he met a young woman barely old enou
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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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