This 1924 recording of this top-selling “Hillbilly-marketed” song became public domain in January. Recorded by Country Hall of Fame Honoree, Vernon Dahlhart, who was born Marion Try Slaughter, for Victor Records, this recording became one of the biggest selling singles of the 1920s. Written by Vernon but copyrighted in the name of his cousin, Guy Massey, it has been re-recorded by many famous artists such as Hank Snow and Bill Monroe. This single “The Prisoner’s Song” was #1 on the charts for over 12 weeks and sold over 9 million copies.
1924 and Jazz’s early recorded history are now converging. This Jazz classic, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey’s See See Rider Blues, was written and performed in 1924. It also features Louis Armstrong on trumpet. The best part is it’s yours, Or should I say ours?
I want to be first in 2020 to share some music that arrived in the public domain. Can you believe George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” is ours to use!?
The composition was commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. It was considered modern in 1924. I selected a performance done in 2011. It still sounds modern whenever it’s performed.
So far this year there has been much written and published about the Public Domain. The concept of copyright expiration for the good of mankind has been around since the advent of copyright protection. This might be an old concept, but it has only come to being this year in the U.S. There have been many articles. This is a good one, about why and what comes into public ownership this year, so the public can use or enjoy the content without copyright restrictions. I try to make some of this music known. I’ve become interested in the roots of rock and roll, the Delta Blues. Son House, born in 1902. He was in his 20s when his songs were recorded by Alan Lomax.
Son House was discovered and promoted as a young man by reigning Delta Blues king, Charley Patton. House’s style would greatly influence Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, and later Bonnie Raitt, John Hammond, Jr. and The White Stripes. Released in 1930, the 78 RPM vinyl of “Clarksdale Moan” was long considered a “Holy Grail” of lost blues recordings. Here’s an mp3 from an original copy found by an ecstatic collector in the 1990’s. An absolute treasure.
I first heard a Theremin used in rock music by Rev. Paul Jackson of The Uptones. The instrument was easy to record, but you looked lame playing it. Not much later I saw Aron Mardo not looking lame using this all electronic instrument in an inspired performance with his brother in their band Mardo. I fell in love with the unlimited possibilities of this electronic instrument. As I looked further, into this instrument’s roots, I also found some Public Domain music using all electronic music instruments. As you guessed, it wasn’t made before 1925, it was made in 1960 in a no-copyright-law USSR! This video features Russian Thereminist Konstantin Kovalsky, performing with Vyacheslav Mescherin’s ensemble of electro-musical instruments. I find this a mind-boggling display of electronic instruments. Konstantin makes the theremin sound almost human in his solo. I found this video fascinating.