This discography contains information about Paramount Records and three other record labels produced by the New York Recording Laboratories (NYRL) of Port Washington, Wisconsin: Broadway, Famous, and Puritan. All records included in the discography are in the collections of the Wisconsin Music Archives of the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin.
NYRL was active from about 1917 – 1932, and Paramount was clearly its premiere label. Recordings which originally appeared on Paramount were routinely and systematically issued on the other labels, although Broadway and Puritan contain unique material as well. For an overview of each label, see Allan Sutton’s American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia(1891-1943) or Brian Rust’s American Record Label Book. For a history of the company, see Paramount’s Rise and Fall by Alex Van der Tuuk or the articles by Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow noted in the bibliography below.
Paramount Records has received considerable attention because of its series devoted to blues and jazz, particularly label numbers 12000 – 13000. In addition to its holdings of original 78 rpm records in this series, the Mills Music Library also has a substantial collection of Paramount blues recordings as reissued on compact disc. Search MadCat to locate information on these recordings.
The musical styles represented on the four labels are quite diverse. In addition to its famous blues recordings, Paramount had an Old Time or Hillbilly 3000 series, part of which was replicated in a Broadway 8000 series. Popular song and instrumental dance music was released on all the labels. Puritan offered German language music in its 70000 series while Spanish music appeared on a Paramount 6000 series and Polish music on a Broadway 100 series. Classical music, band music, and songs from musical shows can be found as well. The Wisconsin Roof Orchestra, Bill Carlsen, Joie Lichter, Sig Heller, Bob Tamms, and Jack Penewell are among the Wisconsin performers whose music may be found on these labels.
For a time, the Puritan label was simultaneously issued by the New York Recording Laboratories and the B. D. & M. Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, using identical issue numbers. However, this practice eventually faltered. See the online article “Sorting Out Puritan” by Allan Sutton for a thorough explanation of the Puritan connection between NYRL and B. D. & M. Both companies also issued recordings on a Broadway label. It must be noted that the Broadway and Puritan recordings in this database, with some exceptions, are those issued in Wisconsin.
The library has acquired the recordings from a variety of sources but is particularly indebted to the late John Steiner of Milwaukee who made significant donations to the collection. Excluding duplicates, the total number of individual discs in this collection presently numbers nearly 1700.
The Paramount Record Collection forms part of the Wisconsin Music Archives, a non-circulating special collection in the Mills Music Library. Users wishing to listen to any recordings in the collection should contact the library in advance. Typically, the library makes a copy of the desired recording to facilitate listening. This process may require several days preparation.
Additional information on the four record labels can be found in the publications cited below. When the periodical or book is held by the Mills Music Library, the call number is indicated at the end of the citation. A brief annotation is included as well.
Allen, Walter C. “Discomania: Puritan.” Jazz Journal 9 (May 1956): 2-3.
Analyzes the numerous label styles produced by Puritan Records. Distinguishes recordings released by New York Recording Laboratories of Port Washington and those of the B. D. & M. Company of Bridgeport, CT. Notes relationships of record numbers among these companies and their subsidiaries.
Bakker, Dick M. “Duke Ellington and the Paramount Re-Issue Series.” Names & Numbers (January 1986): 8-10.
Provides a listing of Paramount issue numbers 14001 to 14032 and notes some “recordings not mentioned in Rust Jazz Records.”
Calt, Stephen. “The Anatomy of a ‘Race’ Label – Part One.” 78 Quarterly 1/3 (1988): 9-23. ML1 A174
A history of Paramount Records. Describes the origins and formation of the Wisconsin Chair Company of Port Washington by Fred Dennett and the factors which led, in 1917, to its subsidiary companies, the United Phonograph Corp. and the New York Recording laboratories. Profiles the principal personalities and their roles in the business. Places this in the national context of the phonograph and recording industry to the early 1920s. Photos and illustrations.
Calt, Stephen. “The Anatomy of a ‘Race’ Label Part II.” 78 Quarterly 1/4 (1989): 9-30. ML1 A174
Covers primarily the years 1923-1927 when Mayo Williams, a black man based in Chicago, acted as Paramount’s main record producer. Discusses the formation of Chicago Music, a publishing company formed to issue music sung by Paramount’s blues singers. Looks at Williams’ personality, his business acumen, relationships with his singers, and his discovery of talent like Ida Cox, Ma Rainey, and Charlie Jackson. Notes Paramount’s fraudulent activities. Photos and illustrations.
Calt, Stephen, and Gayle Dean Wardlow. “The Buying and Selling of Paramounts (Part 3).” 78 Quarterly 1/5 (1990): 7-24. ML1 A174
Describes the manual production process at the plant in Grafton and accounts for the fact that Paramount records are a low quality product. Looks at the company’s approach to advertising and sales with particular emphasis on the sales approach used by Harry Charles throughout the southwest. Analyzes wholesale distribution. Photos. and illustrations.
Calt, Stephen, and Gayle Dean Wardlow. “Paramount Part 4 (The Advent of Arthur Laibly).” 78 Quarterly 1/6 (1991?): 8-26 ML1 A174
Arthur Laibly takes over as Paramount’s sales manager and recording director. Article explores his inability to recognize and garner quality talent for the “race” series. Laibly often relied on Harry Charles and others to scout for new talent. Notes company intrigues, dishonesty, and the departure of Mayo Williams. Photos and illustrations.
Calt, Stephen, and Gayle Dean Wardlow. “Paramount’s Decline and Fall.” 78 Quarterly 1/7 (1992): 7-29. ML1 A174
Describes changes at Paramount from the late 1920s to its demise in 1933. The company readied an electrical process recording studio in Grafton in 1929-30 where Walter Klopp served as recording engineer. Arthur Laibly was fired in 1931 and replaced by Henry Stephany. Final blues sessions recorded in Grafton in 1932. Photos and illustrations.
Crane, Frederick. Claxtonola and National Records: A Provisional Catalog. Mt. Pleasant, IA: s.n., 2003. ML 156.2 C73 2003 Reference
A catalog of the Claxtonola and National record labels, both drew heavily on Paramount masters. The volume is not widely available in libraries, but can be purchased directly from the author (Frederick Crane, 601 N. White St., Mt. Pleasant, IA, 52641).
Dembinsky, Rick. ” ‘Paramount’ Always a Contender.” Record Finderno. 127 (March/April 1997): 52.
A brief look at the formation of Paramount and the development of its “race” series.
Filzen, Sarah. “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records.” Wisconsin Magazine of History 82/2 (Winter 1998-99): 104-127. F576 W7 (Wisconsin Historical Society)
A History of the company stressing its involvement as a race label. Photos and illustrations.
Hatfield, Michael. “The Paramount Story. Part One: The Sheboygan Genesis.” In the Groove 25/2 (February 2000): 4-6, 20-21. ML1 I386
A concentrated look at the Sheboygan connection. Photos and illustrations.
Luhrssen, David. “Blues in Wisconsin: The Paramount Records Story.” Wisconsin Academy Review 45 (Winter 1998-99): 17-21. AP W812 A169 (Memorial Library)
A brief history of Paramount and its blues recordings. Illustrated. Full text available online.
Olson, Robert R. Country Music on 78s. s.l.: s.n., 2001. ML156.4 C7 O47 2001z Reference
Contains lists of the Paramount 3000 series (reprinted from JEMF Quarterly with some additions) and the Broadway 8000 series.
“A Preliminary Paramount 3000 Series Numerical.” JEMF Quarterly 12 (Spring 1976): 29-39. ML1 J1
An incomplete discography of the Paramount 3000 “Old Time Tunes” series. Contains key to reissues on other labels, particularly Broadway.
“A Preliminary Vernon Dalhart Discography. Part XI: Paramount Recordings.” JEMF Quarterly 9 (Summer 1973): 83. ML1 J1
A slight discography. Paramount masters released on a variety of labels.
Rust, Brian. The American Record Label Book. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1978. ML156.2 R83 Reference
Contains an overview of the Broadway, Famous, Paramount, and Puritan labels.
Sutton, Allan. American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891-1943). Denver: Mainspring Press, 2000. ML18 S9 2000
Contains background information on the Broadway, Famous, Paramount, and Puritan labels.
Sutton, Allan. “Sorting Out Puritan” The Mainspring: A Free Online Journal For Collectors of Vintage Records.
Van der Tuuk, Alex. Paramount’s Rise and Fall. Denver: Mainspring Press, 2003.
Van der Tuuk, Alex. “(P)redating Grafton’s L-matrix Series.” VJM’s Jazz and Blues Mart, no. 127 (Autumn 2002)
Von Arx, Rolf. “Broadway 5000 Series.” 78 Quarterly 1/10 (1999): 105-111. ML1 A174
A discography of the short-lived Broadway race series.
Vreede, Max. The Paramount 2000, 30000, 50000 and Related Series. photocopy, n.d. ML156.2 V74 1970z Reference
A collection of discographies including most series issued on the Paramount, Puritan, Broadway, and Famous labels.
Vreede, Max E. Paramount 12000/13000 Series. London: Storyville Pub., 1971. ML156 P22 V97 1971 Wisconsin Music Archives
This is a discography of the “race records” produced by the Paramount Record Co. of Port Washington during the 1920s and ’30s. Supplementing its numerical listing are indexes by song title and performer. The verso of virtually every page in the volume reproduces a Paramount advertisement for records in its race series.
Vreede, Max E. “Puritan-ism in Discography.” Storyville, no. 89 (1980): 178-184. ML5 S75
Discusses the relationship of recordings on the Puritan label issued by the New York Recording Laboratories of Port Washington and those released by the Bridgeport Die & Machine Co. of Bridgeport, CT. Numerous photos of sample labels.
Vreede, Max, and Guido Van Rijn. “The Paramount L Master Series.” 78 Quarterly 1/9 (1996): 67-87. ML1 A174
A list of the known Paramount L matrix series. These recording were produced in Grafton from November 1929 to July 1932.
Whelan, Pete. “The Man Who Bought Paramount.” 78 Quarterly 1/7 (1992): 30-41. ML1 A174
Interview with John Steiner centering on his purchase of Paramount records, his impression of former company executives, and reissues of recordings. Photos.
Wright, Laurie. “Dating Paramount’s Chicago Recordings 1923 – 1926.” Storyville (1996/1997): 58-72. ML5 S75
Wright, Laurie. “Dating Paramount’s Chicago Recordings 1923 – 1926 — Concluded.” Storyville (1998/1999): 80 – 87. ML5 S75
Wyler, Michael. “A Glimpse of the Past.” Storyville, no. 13 (1967): 14-15. ML5 S75
A brief look at the Famous label.
This discography is the product of the efforts of several people: Mary Seim initiated it as a student project; Steve Kurr subsequently expanded and modified it; and Jaeyeon Nam gave countless hours of her time inputting and revising it into its present form. All these efforts were overseen and subsequently continued by Steve Sundell. Technical support was provided by Kirstin Dougan, Charles Dean, Sue Dentinger, and Adi Shrivastava.
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