John McCormack's Earliest Recordings

Most of McCormack's cylinder recordings predate his vocal training in Italy. Other than the aria from The Lily of Killarney (Edison Bell 6447), all of them were Irish ballads and parlor songs, many of which McCormack recorded repeatedly for the different companies. The Edisons and Edison Bells were all recorded within a two month period in the fall of 1904.

The nine known published Edison cylinders were two-minute black wax records in the gold-molded series. Presumably there was only one take of each of these. The first Edison cylinder has the following information on the edge in raised letters: "(Title). J. McCormack. Thomas A. Edison. Pat'd 13124." The remaining eight cylinders have this information incised on the surface of the cylinder, and the word "Patented" is spelled out in full. A small Arabic number (1, 2, 3, or 4) is located immediately after it. These are most likely manufacturing codes and not indicators of multiple takes. Spoken announcements are by John McCormack.

The Edison Bell cylinders were also two-minute black wax and were recorded in sets of four takes per title over a two day period. The separate takes may be distinguished (visually) by small Roman numerals following the catalog numbers incised on the surface of the cylinder. Some examples of a first take omit the numeral. The recording date (3 or 10 November 1904) is given following the take number. The issue number, title, and artist's name ("J. F. McCormack") are found on the edge of the cylinder in raised block letters.

No date is shown on the cylinder of "Home to Athlone." This title was recorded later than the others, either in the summer of 1905 or in 1906. (In I Hear You Calling Me, Lily McCormack states that John came back from Italy in the summer of 1905 and "returned to Milan at the end of September 1905.) The voice is much better than on the other cylinders made by this company, and it was packaged in a newer style container than the others. On this cylinder all of the recording and title information is given on the edge in white letters. The separate takes for this cylinder are designated "A," "B," "C," or "D." Spoken announcements are most likely by J. E. Hough, who made them for many recordings by this company. It must be noted that until copies of all of the actual sets of four takes are located, it is uncertain that four takes of all titles were issued for sale.

In the case of the Sterling cylinders, probably only one take of most of them was made. These were "Special" three--minute black wax cylinders, one half inch longer than the standard length. Title, catalog number, and an alphabetical manufacturing code ("A," "B," "C," or "D") are engraved on the edge of the cylinder. All Sterling cylinders were recorded originally on larger master cylinders, the cylinders offered for sale being dubbings from these masters. Two of McCormack's Sterling cylinders were also dubbed onto discs and marketed by Pathe. The Pathe recordings seem to be different takes from their cylinder counterparts, suggesting that alternate takes of some sterling cylinders may exist (see notes below).

Opal Compact Disc CDS 9847

This important set of two compact discs was issued in 1991. Until that time McCormack's cylinder and Gramophone & Typewriter recordings were largely unavailable to the public, except in cases where collectors had made tapes of individual items in their collections for other collectors. The community of McCormack fans and record collectors owes a debt of gratitude to Pavilion Records and to Brian Fawcett-Johnston, who coordinated the project, for this important part of the McCormack Re-issue Series that have streamed forth from Pearl/Opal/Pavilion since 1977.


Guide to Cylinder Issue Numbers


Recorded for the National Phonograph Company, UK.
With Orchestra conducted by Hubert Bath (?).
With spoken announcements by John McCormack.
Two minute black wax cylinders; one take of each. 160 rpm.

Fall 1904. London:

                                              Edison      Opal CD
                                              Issue #     Reissue #
                                              -------     ---------

The Snowy Breasted Pearl (Traditional)       13124      CDS 9847

The Meeting of the Waters (Traditional)      13142      CDS 9847

When Shall the Day Break in Ireland (Fox)    13143      CDS 9847

Molly Bawn (Lover)                           13144      CDS 9847

The Irish Emigrant (Barker)                  13145      CDS 9847

Avourneen (King)                             13146      CDS 9847

Killarney  (Balfe)                           13152      CDS 9847

The Green  Isle of Erin (Roeckel)*           13153      CDS 9847

Love Thee, Dearest, Love Thee (Traditional)  13154      CDS 9847

Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young
    Charms (Traditional)                        13191**    -----


McCormack's recordings for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company (G & T)
were also made in September 1904, after the Edisons, and prior to the 
Edison-Bell cylinder recordings.

*On Cylinder Phonograph Division, Thomas A. Edison, Incorporated memo
dated 15 August 1929 listing moulds to be preserved "for historical reasons."
**Possibly unissued, no known copies.


Recorded for the Edison-Bell Consolidated Phonograph Company.
With Orchestra. Spoken Announcements by J.E. Hough (?).

3* and 10 November 1904. London.
Two minute black wax cylinders. 160 rpm.
Four takes of each title were apparently made; some takes were perhaps unissued.
Multiple takes of at least five titles have survived.


                                              Ed.Bell      Opal CD
                                              Issue #      Reissue #
                                              -------      --------

The Dear Little Shamrock (Shield)

take I*                                        6442         -----

take II                                        6442         CDS 9847 

take III                                       6442         CDS 9847

take IV                                        6442         -----

The Green Isle of Erin (Roeckel)

take I*                                        6443         CDS 9847

take II*                                       6443         -----

take III                                       6443         -----

take IV                                        6443         -----

Eileen Allanah (Thomas)

take I*                                        6444         CDS 9847

take II*                                       6444         CDS 9847

take III                                       6444         -----

take IV                                        6444         CDS 9847

Killarney (Balfe)

take I*                                        6445         CDS 9847

take II                                        6445         -----

take III                                       6445         -----

take IV                                        6445         -----

Kathleen Mavourneen (Crouch)

take I*                                        6446         CDS 9847

take II*                                       6446         -----

take III                                       6446         CDS 9847

take IV                                        6446         -----

 Once would my heart with the wildest emotion
 (first line); Eily Mavourneen (title 
 given by announcer; also part of refrain).

take I*                                        6447         CDS 9847

take II*                                       6447         -----

take III                                       6447         -----

take IV                                        6447         -----

The Minstrel Boy (Traditional)

take I*                                        6448         CDS 9847

take II*                                       6448         -----

take III                                       6448         -----

take IV                                        6448         -----

Once Again (Sullivan)

take I*                                        6449         -----

take II                                        6449         CDS 9847

take III                                       6449         CDS 9847

take IV                                        6449         -----

Come Back to Erin (Claribel)

take I*                                        6450         CDS 9847

take II                                        6450         CDS 9847

take III                                       6450         -----

take IV                                        6450         -----

The Wearing of the Green (Traditional)

take I                                         6451         CDS 9847

take II                                        6451         CDS 9847

take III                                       6451         -----

take IV                                        6451         -----

Cylinders marked * were recorded on 3 November; remainder were recorded
    on 10 November.
Cylinders numbered 6442, 6446, and 6449 were privately issued on a long-
    playing LP (GJR-7), without announcements. This disc has long been

1905 or 1906. London.
Four minute black wax cylinder. 160 rpm.

                                              Ed.Bell      Opal CD
                                              Issue #      Reissue #
                                              -------      ---------

Home to Athlone (Greene)

take A                                         10085        -----

take B                                         10085        -----

take C                                         10085        CDS 9847

take D                                         10085        -----

Some sources previously attributed this song to McCormack.  It is not
certain if all four takes were issued.


Recorded for the Russell Hunting Company.
With Orchestra. Spoken Announcements by Russell Hunting (?).
Three minute black wax cylinders. 160 rpm.

1905 or 1906. London.

                                         Sterling   Pathe     Opal
                                         Cylinder   Disc      CD     
                                          Issue #   Issue #   Reissue #
                                          -------   -------   ---------

God Save Ireland (Root)

(take 1)                                   612      -----     CDS 9847

The Boys of Wexford (Johnson)

(take 1)                                   613      -----     CDS 9847

A Nation Once Again (Johnson)

(take 1)                                   614      -----     CDS 9847

The Croppy Boy (Traditional)

(take 1)                                   615      -----     CDS 9847

Come Back to Erin (Claribel)

(take 1)                                   682                CDS 9847

33511 M.S. (re-recording onto disc master)          77686     CDS 9847


The Dear Little Shamrock (Cherry)

(take 1)                                   683                CDS 9847
33517 M.S. (Re-recording onto disc master)          77687     CDS 9847


Final refrain of A Nation Once Again has chorus join in.

Pathe discs were re-recorded from Sterling cylinder masters at various
speeds.  The matrices shown for these dubbings play at 86 rpm (33511 M.S.)
and 81 rpm (33517 M.S.).  The 77000 series were single-face discs, while the
8000 series were double-face discs.  Opal CDS 9847 includes dubbings from
both cylinders and discs of the two titles issued on Pathe discs.  It is
apparent that the take which is the basis for the Pathe disc recording is NOT
the same as the take used for cylinder 682.  Both performances end with two
renditions of the chorus, but the singing on the disc version (to this
listener) is more spirited and dramatic that that on the cylinder.  The same
audible differences in performance are evident in The Dear Little Shamrock. 
Thus it seems that there were multiple takes of at least some of the Sterling
cylinder recordings.

Cylinders numbered 612, 613, and 682 were also reissued on the long-playing
disc (GJR-7) noted above, also without spoken announcements.

Some of the dubbings on Opal CDS 9847 are composites, with announcements (not
McCormack) apparently taken from a different cylinder than the sung portion
by McCormack.

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