Sep 19, 2014

Now See Hear! Phonofilm on the radio.

The Library of Congress now has a blog associated with its National Audio-Visual Conservation Center: "Now See Hear!" Today's post to the LOC blog is something I worked on with Head of the Moving Image Section, Mike Mashon, and another person whose work I love, James Irsay, best known from his years of radio programming at WBAI-FM in New York. A treat to get to share the space with such a learned, generous wit (who I've never met).

Our post of September 18, 2014, bears the title "78 RPM Records, Internet Radio, Phonofilms, and a Blog: Now That’s Media Convergence!" Its subject is the media career of a once popular but now obscure musical entertainer, Charles Ross Taggart.

It was a curious set of circumstances that led to this curatorial encounter. 
Later I will post a longer historical piece -- to appear here at the Orphan Film Symposium blog -- about this short sound film that I heard tell of on the radio: 'The Old Country Fiddler' at the Singing School (De Forest Phonofilms, 1923).  There's a surprising postscript to this story, but too long to recount just now. 

Please have a look and listen to "Now See Hear!"   


p.s. The song Taggart sings in the film is "Cousin Jedediah," written in 1863. He sings, as he tells us, only the first verse and chorus. Lyrics to all four verses can be found at the Public Domain Music website ( 

Oh! Jacob, get the cows home and put them in the pen, For the cousins are coming to see us all again, The dowdy's in the pan, and the turkey's on the fire, And we all must get ready for cousin Jedediah.  
CHORUS Cousin Jedediah, There's Hezekiah, And Asariah, And Aunt Sophia, And Jedediah, All coming here to tea, Oh! wont we have a jolly time, Oh! wont we have a jolly time, Jerusha put the kettle on, We'll all take tea.

Images from the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection,
Sheridan Libraries Special Collections, Johns Hopkins University.

And "Morning Irsay" airs live from 10:00 am to 12 noon, Fridays, on WBAI-FM and (NB: Recordings of the program are streamable, but only archived for two weeks before disappearing!)