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Thread: Seeking Grandfather's record

  1. #1

    Default Seeking Grandfather's record

    My grandfather, Peter Koeln, played the mandolin in a string orchestra. The group was founded in 1915 under the name, “Brilliant Mandolin Orchestra”, but his children fondly nicknamed the group, “The Ding-A-Ling Band”. In 1974, Grandpa Peter said they played at “fine affairs” such as weddings, community meetings, clubs, and several times on the radio. They performed until 1945. Three records were cut from tapes of their performances.

    I am seeking at least one of the records that was cut from those tapes.

    Any suggestions for finding one?
    I've emailed the three historical societies in St. Louis where he lived.
    Set up a saved a search on eBay.

    I so appreciate your help!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Big stab in the dark but did you try the Library of Congress? If they do not have it they may have ideas of where to try.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Mead View Post
    Big stab in the dark but did you try the Library of Congress? If they do not have it they may have ideas of where to try.
    What a great idea, Steve! I will contact the Library of Congress asap.
    Thank you for your help!

  4. #4
    Registered User rnjl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Hi, may I make another suggestion? I don't know if you can edit the thread topic, but "seeking Grandfather's record" might not spark as many people looking or asking around as "seeking info: Brilliant Mandolin Orchestra."

    There are some major scholars (not necessarily academics) of the mandolin in America who might know something but that's more of a specific grabber of a title.

    You might ask Walter Carter @ Carter's Vintage instruments in Nashville, he wrote a book about the mandolin in America.

    If you google "history of mandolin orchestras in America" or related titles you get various hits to events, articles, lectures, etc. Contact some of those folks and see what they know.

    Google all kinds of related terms, like "mandolin groups in the 20's" or "mandolin groups in St Louis" or whatever you can think of, and if anything comes up- a reference, a lecture, a record- contact the folks involved and ask them what they know. Most people are happy to help if they can, or refer you to someone they think has the goods.

    Google Scholar is for scholarly references, and if you put in "mandolin orchestra" you get hits for articles, books and histories. Again, see if you can track down some of the authors. Academia.com, facebook, linkedin, and info embedded in the papers themselves will help you find people.

    Happy hunting.

    n

  5. #5
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    I don't know if Neil Gladd still posts here or not, but he works in the Copyright Office and has been through all the classical mandolin recordings in the Library of Congress, so he's your guy.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    A technique that collector's of rare records use is too locate other band members, if possible. Or, their heirs, in this case. More than likely someone has a copy. Since you know the city and your grandfather's name, you can go from there with social media. Keep in mind, the recording was probably a 78, so that increases the likelihood of breakage and fewer copies surviving. Unless, you can find a family member related to the band, the chances of finding one are slim. The age of the band members is working against you. There may be one for sale at a local record store or flea market, but chances are they are not catalogued and organized in a way that makes it easy to find. Many rare record dealers have their inventory listed online, but usually their motivation for doing so is financial, so only the rarest ones get listed. Many of the $1-5 titles never get listed since it is too time consuming. Another thing to keep in mind is that collectors sometimes spend years searching for certain records before finding one. But, you might get lucky.

    I should add that even though it sounds morbid, obituaries can be useful since they remain online for years and can give you the names and cities of children or grandchildren who may still be alive and can be contacted with a little effort.

    You may also try university library collections in that area, they are probably better set up for searching. Of course, it wouldn't be for sale, but you might get to hear it. Good luck!

  7. #7
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    If the Brilliant Mandolin Orchestra was performing up to 1945 there would not have have been 'tapes' of their playing. The only way of recording live performances at that time was direct-to-disc recordings onto lacquer discs. These recordings could have been done in a recording studio, in a radio studio as a performance was going live-to-air or a recording that was done off-air from a broadcast. The lacquer discs could be copied by playing the disc and recording an another copy or by a more complex industrial process which ended up with a master disc from which multiple copies could be pressed at a disc pressing plant. A custom pressing for a local market was quite common.

    The three recordings which the mandolin orchestra had made into discs could have been one-off recordings on lacquer or a limited pressing of a few dozen or hundreds onto shellac discs done by a local record pressing plant in the 1940s. After 70 years any lacquer discs are going to be very fragile and would require specialised transfer to a digital recording. Even a custom pressing 78 shellac disc (which are less fragile) will need someone who knows what they are doing to get a good copy.

    Lacquer discs at that time were a layer of nitrocellulose lacquer (the same stuff that was was sprayed on mandolins and guitars and cars) usually on an aluminium disc base which then had the wiggly groove cut into to it by a disc cutting lathe which were a machine which every radio station and recording studio had. The discs were never meant to last for a long time, and deteriorate on each playing. I hope you can find a playable copy somewhere. It does sound like a wonderful quest to go on, and such hunts often lead to finding really interesting people along the way. Good luck with your search.

    Cheers

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  9. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    For one, try contacting the Classical Mandolin Society of America (CMSA).

    Second, see if there is any mention of the group in older magazines, some of which are in archives. For instance, the NY Public Library has a digital archive of the Cadenza magazine where many mandolin groups were mentioned. You can also look in archives of local papers for mentions of the group.

    My guess is that it was a limited run and probably more for the members and their families than for the public.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is searchable online back to 1874. There could be interesting articles there.

    https://stltoday.newspapers.com

    Lots of hits for “mandolin orchestra”. It requires a subscription to see the details though. NFI from me.
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  11. #10

    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Thank you EVERYONE for your thoughtful and HELPFUL replies! You are amazing!
    I'm copying each of your messages, and will follow up!
    Again, Thank you!

  12. #11

    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Messaged the Library of Congress and currently I'm awaiting a reply!

  13. #12
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Please keep us informed of your progress.
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  14. #13
    Registered User Murphy Slaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Very cool, and wishing the best of luck.

    I wonder if anyone will search me out 100+ years from now.
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  15. #14

    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter's granddaughter View Post
    They performed until 1945. Three records were cut from tapes of their performances.
    Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
    The only way of recording live performances at that time was direct-to-disc recordings onto lacquer discs.
    I would not argue with the general point. More than likely, if discs were made, they were made by recording the live performance directly onto the disc.
    This was not the only way of recording live performances at that time however. Wire recordings, both amateur and professional/commercial were somewhat common in that era.
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  16. #15

    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    A great resource for looking through old local newspapers is Chronicling America from the Library of Congress. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any references to the Brilliant Mandolin Orchestra on a quick search, but you might try some other searches, including your grandfather's name. Additionally, a quick search on WorldCat (a catalog of library catalogs around the world) did not give any results for Brilliant Mandolin Orchestra. That does not mean these recordings do not exist, but it does suggest that they are not held in any major libraries including the LOC, which supports Graham's suggestion above.

    Best,

    Barry

  17. #16
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter's granddaughter View Post
    Messaged the Library of Congress and currently I'm awaiting a reply!
    The Library of Congress website has a search function. I’d use it, because you might wait a long time before hearing back from them.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Seeking Grandfather's record

    I have thought there was enough information hidden out there in hundreds of different archives it would be cool to bring it all together and publish book on detailed and exhaustive history of mandolin orchestras in America. A coffee table book, with photographs, reminiscences, advertising, a comprehensive index of orchestras by state and city and year. The whole thing. Nine inches long, four inches thick. Have to buy a coffee table just for it.

    Something imposing looking, that drops with a heavy thump, to emphasize that we do no little thing when we play orchestral mandolin.
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