Recorded music was part of family life at the Knott house. Remnants of wind-up cylinder players and Victrolas are still in the house. We can get an idea about the Knott’s early listening interests from the first recordings in their collection, records now almost a century old.
The song “When the Corn is Waving, Annie Dear” is from 1860, so it was already old when the Peerless Quartet recorded it in 1921. The now forgotten Peerless Quartet is credited with over one hundred top ten records between 1904 and 1926. Give them a listen:
Written in 1873, “Silver Threads Among the Gold” was the most recorded song of the gramophone era. Here is an example by opera star Amelita Galli-Curci from 1923:
It’s not just the old material that makes these recordings sound quaint and stuffy. “Indiana Moon” was published in 1923 and recorded the next year by the great Irish tenor John McCormack. Listen for yourself:
McCormack’s popularity was second only to Caruso’s, and this material was fresh, but he still sounds old and stuffy. Partly, it’s a Victorian aftertaste lingering into the twentieth century, but it’s also the delivery required of vocalists before amplification. With a microphone, there was no need to express every sentiment loudly.
Peerless Quartet (1921)
B: “When the Corn is Waving Annie Dear”
Amelita Galli-Curci (1923)
A: Silver Threads Among the Gold
John McCormack (1924)
B: Indiana Moon