A Preliminary Billy Golden Discography

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There are those who would wonder why anyone would bother with documenting the work and career of Billy Golden (1858-1926). Golden is seen in some quarters as representing everything that’s repellent and socially unacceptable in the early phonograph industry; a racial pariah whose work amounts to no more than serial abuse of African-Americans. However, I am forced to deal with Mr. Golden as he is a Cincinnati native, born William B. Shires, and though it is said that he grew up in St. Louis it appears that he made his theatrical debut in his birthplace as well, in 1874. Historically, Golden arrives in the annals of Cincinnati recording artists right behind the advent of James Andem and the fellows who ran the Ohio Phonograph Company. Golden was also the first recording artist whose very name on a record helped to sell it, even before the advent of other early recording stars such as Arthur Collins and Enrico Caruso. Moreover, the role of the A&R man in the phonograph industry seems likewise to have begun with Golden, who worked in such capacity for Emile Berliner. If it were not for Golden, then it is entirely possible that the flat disc record would have failed and we would still be listening to recordings on cylindrical media.

In order to speak on in an informed way on Golden I felt that I needed to know the extent of his output, which in sheer numbers of records issued is impressive, but in terms of selection, somewhat limited. While Golden had more routines in his trick bag than the two that his contemporary George W. Johnson possessed, like Johnson he recorded them over and over again for the early phonograph companies, particularly his signature piece, “Turkey in the Straw.” Once the more durable, and easily replicated, flat disc gained some traction in the market, and cylinder manufacturers found ways to mass reproduce their products, then Golden’s services were not needed as before and he was forced to diversify. This he did by working with collaborators, and managed to extend his recording career from 1895 all the way to 1921, a full 26 years. While the records may be many, the routines are not so numerous, and I have decided to organize this listing by artist — whether Golden solo, or in collaboration — selection, date, matrix (when known) and issue. When a release is known on a particular label, but not the stock number, the label name alone is given. Dates can be somewhat flexible; the date of “1896-1899” for the Columbia cylinder of “Medley of Negro Songs” may refer to one record made within those years or several versions of the same thing recorded within those poles. Recording data is more definite after 1900, but as cylinder companies found ways to mass produce cylinders, some issues from the 1890s were circulated anew. It is in some cases unclear whether a cylinder issued, say, in 1903 might have been a reissue of something originally made in the ’90s.

There is considerable confusion out in the field, even now, about Golden, particularly in regard to his collaborative records. Discogs.com tells us that he recorded with Arthur Collins, which he certainly never did, though one of his records was mistakenly issued under Collins’ name. Arthur Collins was the “King of the Ragtime Singers,” and represented current, contemporary repertoire; he easily adapted to the first years of the “Great American Songbook” as it emerged around 1910. By contrast, most of the material Golden recorded in terms of songs — usually crammed into the end of a comedy routine, or interrupted by spoken patter — have a terminus ante quem of about 1880. He was an old school entertainer even as began recording in 1895 and represents a holdover from the mid-nineteenth century, both his greatest value historically and most damnable curse socially. He preferred old material, and the entertainers he collaborated with were old timers like himself. Joe Hughes was Golden’s regular partner from the vaudeville stage and joined him on records from about 1907. In 1914, Joe Hughes decided to retire, and was replaced by James Marlowe, who died unexpectedly in the spring of 1917. As a short term replacement, Golden tapped Billy Heins, with whom by chance he had made a collaborative record in the early 1900s, but their relationship was more that of competitors, rather than collaborators. Eventually, Hughes was coaxed out of retirement and rejoined Golden’s act, but in the last phase of Golden’s recording career it appears that he worked interchangeably with both Hughes and Heins.

Confusion about Golden is due to assumptions and neglect; an assumption that his output is much larger than it actually is and neglect owing to the kind of material that he recorded. This list is necessarily “preliminary” as it does not include everything Golden did; although we are much better off with the state of research on early labels like Berliner and Columbia cylinders than we were 20 years ago, there is still plenty of information about late nineteenth-century releases that we are lacking. Moreover, Golden worked quite a bit for the 1910s hill and dale disc companies where information can be scant as well. Nevertheless, it may be complete in terms of the recorded routines that he employed. My experience in going through it one last time and adding information did not yield any new titles, even as I was able to add matrices and other data to certain records, everything else was already there.

Despite this effort, the societal animus towards Golden’s stereotypical bill of fare is still the rule, and this is unlikely to change. It is a clear case of judging the past through the lens of the present; today, all such material is “racist,” and racism is viewed as the product of hate, unacceptable in our society. Golden’s work, however, was not the product of hate. It was a conventional standard of entertainment in America established just short of 50 years before Golden entered the business, a milieu that was inclusive of both white and black entertainers. The blackface associated with minstrelsy served as both a variety of clown makeup and also to create an onstage unanimity of appearance before an audience that either way could not bear to witness a mixed race troupe, which the minstrel groups invariably were, especially by Golden’s time. Golden’s material was a distillation of both African-American and Anglo-American routines, and for a listener of my middle age what is striking about it is its familiarity: some of these jokes survived throughout the age of black vaudeville, Amos ‘n Andy, Pigmeat Markham and down through Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons.

Knowing that does not take the sting out of Al Jolson’s image on the movie poster for “The Jazz Singer” with its ludicrous representation of blackness and the implication that the Russian-Jewish Jolson and his hammy, over-the-top delivery could somehow qualify him as a “jazz singer.” By the time that film ushered in the era of talking pictures in a public sense, Golden himself was dead and the more modern generation of “coon shouters” represented by Arthur Collins was soon to follow. Will Friedwald is more correct in assigning to Jolie the appellation of “The Moses of Popular Culture” which he certainly was; perhaps the most appropriate question therefore is why our popular culture continued to hang on to such images even as they were already outdated. The Victor books of the 1910s show that Victor was beginning to reject some of Golden’s routines as objectionable even as some of the same ones were appearing on other labels. Golden’s retreat into the hill and dale disc concerns during this time may have been caused by the fact that the majors were growing tired of his act, though apparently not the Edison Company, which — as Gerald Fabris has shown — existed by this time mainly through servicing customers in rural areas.

Even as we see ourselves as more enlightened in regard to race, and more sensitive, we do lack a more granular kind of understanding of the evolution of the perception of race in these historic periods. It all seems “racist” now, but Golden’s recordings document the “Ethiopian” phase of dialect humor that existed well before the advent of recording itself, representing an historic trend we might otherwise would know very little about outside of sheet music and broadsides. If my listing below helps to provide access to scholars to Golden’s time and milieu then perhaps I have done my job. I do not censor titles used on the records despite how objectionable they may seem in the current context. When it is possible to combine title variants for the same routine across different releases, I have done so. — David N. “Uncle Dave” Lewis

Guide to abbreviations:

cyl = cylinder

Edison 4M = Edison Amberol cylinder

Edison BA = Edison Blue Amberol cylinder

Edison DD = Edison Diamond Disc

Edison GM = Edison Gold Moulded cylinder

PM = Victor “pre-matrix,” i.e. Victor discs issued before they established their matrix system

Section A: Billy Golden as soloist

Bye Bye Ma Honey

  • 1895-11-4                                                                                Berliner 727
  • 1896-12                                                                                   Berliner 727-X
  • 1899-9-27                                                                                Berliner 0543-V
  • 1900-6-5, PM A-68-1                                                               Victor A-68
  • 1901-10-31, PM A-68-2                                                           Victor 68
  • 1901-10-31, PM B-68-M1                                                        Victor 68
  • 1902-5-2, PM A-68-V6, V7                                                      Victor 68
  • 1902-5-2, PM B-68-M3                                                            Victor 68
  • 1902-11                                                                                   Columbia 1102, Climax
  • 1904                                                                                        American Record Co. 30503
  • 1904                                                                                        Edison GM 8629
  • 1905                                                                                        Zonophone 236, Oxford 236
  • 1906-9-25, B-3832-1                                                               Victor 68, 16747
  • 1906-9-25, E-3832-2                                                               Victor 68

Crap Shooting

  • 1901-1-9, PM A-617-1                                                                       Victor A-617
  • 1901-10-31, PM A-617-V3                                                                 Victor 617
  • 1901-10-31, PM B-617-M1                                                                Victor 617
  • 1902-5-2, PM A-617-V6                                                                     Victor 617
  • 1902-5-2, PM B-617-M3, M4                                                              Victor 617

Hot Time Medley

1897-4-16                                                                                          Berliner 731

I’m a Nigger That’s Living High                                                 

1903, 1109D                                                                                      Columbia cyl 32045D*

*credited as “An Evening with the Minstrels”

Listen to the Mockingbird, aka The Mocking Bird

  • 1896-1900                                                                                          Columbia 7701
  • 1897-2-17                                                                                           Berliner 403-ZZ
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-618-1-2                                                                     Victor A-618
  • 1901-10-31, PM B-618-M1                                                                  Victor 618
  • 1903-9-1, A-378-1                                                                               Victor 618
  • 1919, 1-266                                                                                         Federal 5050, Silvertone 2050
  • 1920, 41039                                                                                        Arto 3016, Bell S16
  • 1920-6, 41167-4, 1144                                                                       Emerson 10291, Regal 9390, Banner 2062

Medley of Coon Songs

  • 1903                                                                                                    Edison GM 8491

Medley of Negro Songs

1896-1899                                                                                           Columbia 7713

Mixed Ale Party

  • 1896-12-19                                                                                         Berliner 729
  • 1900                                                                                                    Zonophone W9288
  • 1904                                                                                                    American Record Co. 30502

Rabbit Hash

  • 1895-10-10                                                                                         Berliner 635W
  • 1899-9-27                                                                                           Berliner 0545-V
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-622-1-2                                                                     Victor A-622
  • 1901-10-31, PM A-622-V3                                                                  Victor 622
  • 1902-5-2, PM A-622-V7                                                                      Victor 622
  • 1902-11, 1103                                                                                    Columbia 1103, A-290, Oxford 1103
  • 1903-9-1, A-381-1                                                                              Victor unissued
  • 1903-9-1, B-381-1, 2                                                                          Victor unissued
  • 1903                                                                                                   Edison GM 8328
  • 1905-5-10, A-381-3                                                                            Victor 622
  • 1905-5-10, B-381-3-4                                                                         Victor unissued
  • 1905                                                                                                   Columbia cyl 85031
  • 1908-11-24, B-381-5                                                                          Victor 16199
  • 1920-12, 7694-A                                                                                Okeh 4249
  • 1921-5, 5122                                                                                     Brunswick 2117

 Roll on the Ground, aka Roll on de Ground

  • 1896                                                                                                   Berliner 725
  • 1898                                                                                                   Columbia cyl 7709
  • 1900                                                                                                   Zonophone W9290
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-616-2                                                                        Victor A-616
  • 1901-3                                                                                                Columbia 67, Busy Bee 67
  • 1901-10-31, PM A-616-3                                                                    Victor A-616
  • 1901-10-31, PM B-616-M1, M2                                                          Victor 616
  • 1902-5-2, PM A-616-V7                                                                     Victor 616
  • 1902-5-2, PM B-616-M3                                                                    Victor 616
  • 1903-9-1, B-377-2                                                                             Victor 616
  • 1903-9-1, A-377-1                                                                             Victor 616
  • 1904                                                                                                  American Record Co. 30507
  • 1904                                                                                                  Zonophone 5784
  • 1905-5-10, B-2544-1-3                                                                     Victor 616
  • 1905-5-10, B-2544-3                                                                        Victor 16804
  • 1909                                                                                                 Indestructible 1131

Sisseretta’s Visit to the North

  • 1904                                                                                                 Busy Bee 5417
  • 1906-9-25, E-3832-1                                                                        Victor 4887
  • 1906-12                                                                                            Columbia 3581, A-508, A-3582, Oxford 3581, Star 5147, Climax

Turkey in the Straw

  • 1896-12-19                                                                                       Berliner 726-X
  • 1896-12-19                                                                                       Berliner 726-Z
  • 1896-1897                                                                                        Columbia cyl 7703
  • 1896-1899                                                                                        Edison cyl 4011
  • 1899-9-27                                                                                         Berliner 0541-V
  • 1900                                                                                                  Zonophone W9287
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-65-2                                                                         Victor A-65
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-65-3                                                                         Victor A-65, Berliner Canada 587
  • 1901-10-31, PM A-65-V4, V5                                                             Victor 65
  • 1901-10-31, PM B-65-M1                                                                   Victor 65
  • 1901-12                                                                                              Columbia 501, Busy Bee 501
  • 1902-5-2, PM A-65-V7                                                                       Victor 65
  • 1902-5-2, PM B-65-M4                                                                       Victor 65
  • 1902-11, 1101-1                                                                                Columbia 1101, A-295, A-1291, Oxford 1101
  • 1903-9-1, 376-3                                                                                 Victor 65
  • 1903-9-1, A-376-1-2                                                                          Victor 65
  • 1903                                                                                                   Edison GM 8293
  • 1904                                                                                                   American Record Co. 30501
  • 1904                                                                                                   Columbia cyl 33065, Busy Bee cyl 452
  • 1904                                                                                                   Busy Bee D27
  • 1904                                                                                                   Zonophone 5789
  • 1905-5-10, A-2543                                                                             Victor 4515
  • 1905-5-10, B-2543-3                                                                          Victor 4515
  • 1905                                                                                                   Columbia cyl 85030
  • 1905                                                                                                   Zonophone 172
  • 1906-9-25, B-2543-5                                                                          Victor 4515
  • 1906-9-25, E-2543-1-3                                                                       Victor 4515
  • 1906-10, 30041                                                                                  Columbia cyl 30041, A-5031
  • 1907                                                                                                   Columbia cyl 33065
  • 1908-11-25, B-2543-8                                                                        Victor 4515, 17256
  • 1908                                                                                                   Indestructible 941
  • 1908                                                                                                   U.S. Everlasting 307
  • 1912-8, 38215                                                                                    Columbia A-295, A-1291
  • 1918                                                                                                   Emerson 729
  • 1919, 2-263                                                                                        Federal 5050, Silvertone 2050
  • 1920-10-15, B-2543-12                                                                      Victor 17256
  • 1920-11, 7694-A                                                                                 Okeh 4249

Uncle Jefferson, aka Ole Uncle Jefferson

  • 1896-12                                                                                              Berliner 728
  • 1896-1899                                                                                          Columbia cyl 7720
  • 1899-12-1                                                                                           Berliner 0775-V
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-621-1                                                                        Victor A-621
  • 1901-10-31, PM B-621-M1                                                                 Victor 621
  • 1903-9-1, A-380-1-2                                                                           Victor 621
  • 1903-9-1, B-380 -1-2                                                                          Victor unissued (?)

Up on the Golden Shore

  • 1900                                                                                                    Zonophone W9294
  • 1904                                                                                                    Zonophone 6080

The Wedding over the Hill, aka De Wedding ober de Hill; The Wedding o’er the Hill                    

  • 1896-12-19                                                                                          Berliner 730
  • 1899-9-27                                                                                            Berliner 0546-V
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-619-1                                                                         Victor A-619
  • 1901-10-31, PM B-619-M1                                                                  Victor 619
  • 1903-9-1, A-379-1                                                                               Victor 619
  • 1903-9-1, B-378-2                                                                               Victor 619

Yaller Gal, also Laughing Song Yaller Gal

  • 1899-9-27                                                                                            Berliner 0542-V
  • 1901-1-9, PM A-620-2                                                                         Victor A-620
  • 1901-10-31, PM A-620-V4                                                                   Victor 620
  • 1902-5-2, PM A-620-V6                                                                       Victor 620, Oxford 5333*
  • 1904                                                                                                     Edison GM 8681
  • 1905-5-10, B-2545-1                                                                            Victor 620
  • 1906-9-25, B-2545-3                                                                            Victor 620
  • 1906-9-25, E-2545-2                                                                            Victor 620
  • 1908-11-25, B-2545-9-10                                                                     Victor 16164

*Oxford 5333 credited to Arthur Collins

Section B: Billy Golden & Joe Hughes

An Easy Job on the Farm

1912-4                                                                                                  Edison 4M 958, BA 1907

Aunt Mandy

  • 1911-9-7, B-10934-2                                                                            Victor 17011
  • 1913-6-6                                                                                               Edison BA 2192

Back Home on the Farm

  • 1919-4, 78416                                                                                      Columbia A-2859
  • 1919-10-8, 6967-C                                                                               Edison BA 3912, DD 51082-L
  • 1919-11, S7099-B                                                                                Okeh 4201

Bear’s Oil

  • 1909-8                                                                                                  Edison 4M 178, BA 1948
  • 1909                                                                                                     Indestructible 1111
  • 1910-6-23, B-9126-1-2                                                                        Victor unissued

The Bell Boys aka Bell Boys; Two Bell Boys; The Bell Hops

  • 1919-10-7, 6962                                                                                  Edison BA 3942, DD 50866-L
  • 1919-10, 78731-2                                                                                Columbia A-2974
  • 1919-11, S7100-B                                                                               Okeh 4201
  • 1919, 7096                                                                                          Starr-Gennett 9006

Clamy Green, aka Clammy Green

  • 1913-2-11, C-12903-3                                                                        Victor 35294, Gramophone 04104
  • 1913-5-27                                                                                           Edison BA 1837
  • 1913-10, 36849-5                                                                               Columbia A-5614

The Colored Doctors

1910-8-18, B-9357-1                                                                          Victor 16698

Comic Epitaphs, aka Epitaphs, or Two Darkies in a Cemetery, Epitaphs

  • 1910-5-24, B-8985-3                                                                          Victor 16547
  • 1910-11                                                                                              Edison 4M 546, BA 2006
  • 1911                                                                                                   U.S. Everlasting 1138

A Coon’s Attempt at Suicide, aka Coon’s Attempted Suicide

1917, 833                                                                                           Rex 5290

Darktown Eccentricities

1912-11                                                                                              Edison BA 1571

The Darktown Editors

1912-12-6, B-12679-2                                                                        Victor 17300

Darktown Poets, aka Two Darktown Poets; The Two Poets

  • 1909                                                                                                   Lakeside Indestructible 1352*
  • 1911                                                                                                   U.S. Everlasting 1352
  • 1911-4                                                                                                Edison 4M 663, BA 2101
  • 1911-9-7, B-10936-1-2-3                                                                   Victor unissued
  • 1911-9, 19565                                                                                    Columbia A-1085
  • 1911-11-7, B-10936-5                                                                        Victor 17020

*The Lakeside and U.S. Everlasting issues are probably the same, however my source gives a 1909 date for the Lakeside. As all other issues of this selection date to 1911 it seems sensible that the “1909” date is merely in error, but I have been unable to confirm it.

Darky School Days, aka Darkie’s School Days

  • 1909                                                                                                    Edison 4M 171, BA 1712
  • 1910-3, 30406                                                                                     Columbia A-5251
  • 1910-6-21, B-9099-2                                                                           Victor 16557
  • 1910-8-18, B-9099-4                                                                           Victor 16557

Doctor’s Testimonials

1911-2                                                                                                 Edison 4M 609, BA 1880

Down in Turkey Hollow

1910-7-23, B-9127-2                                                                           Victor 16540

Fishing and Drinking

1919-4, 78412                                                                                     Columbia A-2859

Going Back to Arkansas, aka Gwine Back to Arkansas, I’se Gwine Back to Arkansas

  • 1914-1-19                                                                                            Edison BA 2308
  • 1914-2, 36982                                                                                     Columbia A-5578
  • 1914-5-29, B-14913-1                                                                         Victor 17612

The Hotel Porter and the Traveling Salesman

1913-5-27                                                                                            Edison BA 2074

Jimmy Trigger, aka Jimmie Trigger, or The Military Hero, Jimmy Trigger Boy Hero

  • 1912-1-17, C-11464-2                                                                         Victor 35307
  • 1912-5, 19892                                                                                     Columbia A-1193
  • 1912                                                                                                     Edison BA 1024
  • 1912                                                                                                     U.S. Everlasting 1538

Jimmy Trigger’s Return from Mexico, aka Jimmy Trigger Returns from the War

  • 1914-5-28                                                                                            Edison BA 2429
  • 1914-5-29, C-14915-1                                                                         Victor 35518, Gramophone 09304

Jinin’ the Church, aka Joining the Church

  • 1909                                                                                                     U.S. Everlasting 1136
  • 1910-6-21, B-9121-1-4                                                                         Victor 16653

The Liars, or My Uncle’s Farm, aka My Uncle’s Farm

  • 1908-11-28, B-6622-2                                                                         Victor 5664, 16547
  • 1908-12-2                                                                                            Edison 4M 111, BA 1511
  • 1910-3, 30405                                                                                     Columbia A-5173
  • 1911                                                                                                    U.S. Everlasting 1137
  • 1919                                                                                                    Gennett 4534

The Life Insurance Policy

1920-5-28, 7374-A                                                                              Edison BA 4192, DD 50896-L

Matrimonial Troubles, aka Matrimony Difficulties, Matrimonial Mixup

  • 1912-1-17, 11463-3                                                                            Victor 17047
  • 1912                                                                                                    U.S. Everlasting 1541
  • 1919-10, 78729-6                                                                               Columbia A-2974
  • 1919-11-26, 7035-A                                                                            Edison BA 3957, DD 50644-R
  • 1920                                                                                                    Arto 9043, Bell 043

The Rival Salesmen

1913-2-11, C-12902-1-2                                                                     Victor unissued

School Days in Truckmuck

1909                                                                                                    U.S. Indestructible 1187

The Servant Girls

1914-5-29, B-14914-2                                                                        Victor 17612

The Shipmates, aka Shipmates

  • 1908-11-28, B-6615-5                                                                        Victor 16141
  • 1908, 30183                                                                                       Columbia 30183, A-5080
  • 1909-2                                                                                                Edison 4M 72, BA 2045
  • 1919, 6950                                                                                         Starr-Gennett 9006

That Minstrel Man

  • 1911-11-7, B-11196-1-2-3                                                                 Victor unissued
  • 1911-11-7, C-11196-1                                                                       Victor unissued

Turkey Specialty, aka Turkey in the Straw

  • 1909-10                                                                                             Edison 4M 219, BA 1769
  • 1910-5-24, B-8986-2-3                                                                      Victor 16681

The Two Doctors

1919                                                                                                   Gennett 4534

The Two Happy Darky Boys

1909-1910                                                                                          Edison 4M 403

Unlucky Mose

  • 1912-12-6, C-12678-1                                                                        Victor 35280, Gramophone 04101
  • 1913-10, 36848                                                                                  Columbia A-5578
  • 1912-12-3                                                                                           Edison BA 1644

Whistling Pete

  • 1911-9-7, C-10933-1                                                                          Victor 35202
  • 1911-12                                                                                              Edison 4M 842, BA 2382
  • 1911                                                                                                    U.S. Everlasting 1351
  • 1912-8, 38214                                                                                     Columbia A-1291*

*This item remained in print a long time, into the early 1920s. The Columbia Master Book does not differentiate remakes of records in most cases, and it is possible that some very high takes of this disc may have originated from a remake session held about 1920 or so. That should not be regarded as absolute, but remains a possibility.

Who Stole the Chickens?

1920-2-22, 7364-A                                                                              Edison BA 4529, DD 50901-R

Working on the Farm

  • 1911-6, 30850                                                                                    Columbia A-5346
  • 1911-9-7, C-10935-2                                                                          Victor 35260, Gramophone 09258
  • 1912-4                                                                                                Edison 4M 958, BA 1907

Section C: Billy Golden & James Marlowe

Bye Bye Ma Honey (as “By By Ma Honey”)

1917, E65375-2                                                                                 Pathé 29136, 30386

The Coon Mariners

  • 1916                                                                                                  Crescent
  • 1917                                                                                                  Pathé 20186

The Curio Seekers, aka The Curiosity Hunters; Curiosity Hunt; The Relic Hunters

  • 1915-7-10, 3952-C                                                                            Edison BA 2723*, DD 50280-R
  • 1915-10, 37418                                                                                 Columbia A-5752
  • 1915-10-14, C-16666-3                                                                     Victor 35518
  • 1917                                                                                                  Pathé 29126, 30369

*Although listed, BA 2723 was not released.

The Coon Waiters, aka The Darky Waiters

  • 1916-12-23, 5232-C                                                                         Edison BA 3158, DD 50532-L
  • 1916-12-28, C-18938-3                                                                    Victor 35614

A Darkey’s Oration on Women, aka Darky Oration on Women; The Darkies Oration on “Woman”

  • 1916-12-20, 5226-C                                                                         Edison BA 3255, DD 50654-L
  • 1916-12-28, C-18939-2                                                                    Victor 35614
  • 1916-12, 47264                                                                                Columbia A-2235
  • 1917, 311                                                                                         Par-O-Ket 78

A Good Friend in Rufus

1917, T65409                                                                                   Pathé 29191

Henry Attempts Suicide, aka A Coon’s Attempt at Suicide; Coon’s Attempted Suicide

  • 1915-10-20, C-16682-1                                                                    Victor 35504
  • 1915-11, 37454                                                                                Columbia A-5752
  • 1917                                                                                                 Pathé 29126, 30369

Henry Gibson’s Narrow Escape

1916-10-13, 4190-C                                                                         Edison BA 2804, DD 50321-R

The Hospital Patients, aka Hospital Patients

  • 1916-7-12, 4870-C                                                                           Edison BA 2981, DD 50376-R
  • 1916-7-17, C-18124-2                                                                      Victor 35577
  • 1916-7, 46937                                                                                  Columbia A-2235*

*It is unclear if this master was actually issued.

The Insect Powder Agent, aka Insect Powder Man

  • 1914-12-9                                                                                           Victor test, unissued
  • 1915-7-7, 3944                                                                                   Edison BA 2598, DD 50236-R*
  • 1915-10-20, C-16683-2                                                                      Victor 35504
  • 1915                                                                                                    Edison BA 2598
  • 1916                                                                                                    Rex 5286, Crescent
  • 1917, 308                                                                                            Par-O-Ket 62
  • 1917, E65347-2E                                                                                Pathé 29125, 30368

*According to Allen Sutton, a third version of BA 2598 not by Golden and Marlowe is rumored extant; no word on whom it might be performing in their stead.

Jimmy Trigger – A Descriptive Episode

1917                                                                                                    Rex 5375

The Liars

1917, 311                                                                                             Par-O-Ket 78

The Liars’ Contest, aka Darkey Fabrications; Laughing Fabricators

  • 1916-7-17, C-18125-1                                                                         Victor 35577
  • 1917, 2425-3                                                                                       Emerson 7202
  • 1917, E65346-2C                                                                                Pathé 29125, 30368

A Love-Sick Coon, aka A Love-Sick Darky

  • 1916-3-18, C-17273-3                                                                        Victor 35544
  • 1916-3-23, 4606-C                                                                             Edison BA 2943, DD 50374-R

Managing Matrimony, aka Matrimony

1917                                                                                                    Pathé 29137, 30387

Matrimonial Difficulties, aka Marriage Difficulties  

  • 1916-1, 46381                                                                                     Columbia A-1971
  • 1916-3-18, C-17272-3                                                                         Victor 35544
  • 1917, 309                                                                                            Par-O-Ket 62

Rabbit Hash

1917, T65373                                                                                      Pathé 29191

Roll On de Ground

1917                                                                                                     Pathé 29137, 30387

Sick Coon

1917                                                                                                     Pathé 20186

Turkey in the Straw

1917                                                                                                     Pathé 29128

Two New Coons in Town

1917, E65374-1                                                                                   Pathé 29136, 30386

Unlucky Mose

1917                                                                                                    Pathé 29128

Section D: Billy Golden & Billy Heins

Ambrose and Steve in Court

1918-7-31, 50871-R                                                                           Edison BA 3619, DD 6315-C

Aunt Phoebe’s Wedding Day                                                    

1921-5-27, 50820-L                                                                           Edison BA 4421, DD 8031-C

Bill’s Visit to St. Peter

1917-6-29, 50587-lL                                                                          Edison BA 3317, DD 5651-C

The Colored Recruits, aka The Colored Recruit

  • 1918-5-2, 5995-C                                                                              Edison BA 3546, DD 50478-R
  • 1918-5-22, B-21929-1,2,3                                                                 Victor unissued
  • 1918                                                                                                  Okeh 1024

A Coon ‘Possum Hunt

1918-12-13, 6505-C                                                                          Edison BA 3712, DD 50520-L

A Coon’s Dream of Heaven

1917, 2627-1                                                                                     Emerson 7233

The Darktown Editors

1918-6-24, B-21999-2                                                                       Victor 17300

The Death of Towser, aka Towser is Dead; Bill’s Dog Towser

  • 1917-5-24, C-19890-1                                                                       Victor 35641
  • 1917-6-28, 5650                                                                                Edison BA 3329, DD 50463-L
  • 1917                                                                                                  Columbia A-2461
  • 1917                                                                                                  Imperial 5500

Good and Bad

  • 1918-5-22, B-21930-1,2,3                                                                Victor unissued
  • 1918-5-26, 6081-C                                                                           Edison BA 3559, DD 50605-R
  • 1918-6-24, B-21930-4,5,6                                                                Victor unissued
  • 1919-2                                                                                              Okeh 1164

Henry’s Attemp’ at Suicide

1921-5, 5122                                                                                   Brunswick 2117

I’m a Nigger That’s Living High 

1902-12, 1109-D                                                                             Columbia 1109

In a Bird Store

  • 1917-9-7, C-20646-3                                                                      Victor 35639
  • 1917-9, 77363                                                                                Columbia A-2461

Jimmie Trigger

1917, 2626-1                                                                                  Emerson 7233

The Liars, or My Uncle’s Farm

1918-12-16, B-22472-1,2,3,4                                                         Victor unissued

New Colored Recruit

1918-1, 77655                                                                                 Columbia A-2551

A Scheme to Enter Heaven

  • 1918-6                                                                                             Okeh 1066
  • 1918                                                                                                Imperial 5478

She’s Mine, Mine, Mine, aka Mine, Mine, Mine

  • 1918                                                                                                Imperial 5527
  • 1919-2                                                                                             Okeh 1164

Sniping ’Possum

1918-12-6, B-22451-1,2,3                                                               Victor unissued

Stingy Coon

1918-12-16, B-22471-1,2,3                                                             Victor unissued

A Trip to Paradise

1917-5-24, C-19889-2                                                                     Victor 35681

Up for Sentence

  • 1917-9-7, C-20647-2                                                                        Victor 35659
  • 1917-9, 77361                                                                                  Columbia A-2551

Would-be Recruits

1918-12-6, B-22450-1,2,3,4                                                             Victor unissued

Section E: Billy Golden in the Spencer Trio

Spencer Trio: Len Spencer, Billy Golden, George Graham

Jokes Between Interlocutor and End Men

  • 1903, 1109E                                                                                     Columbia cyl 32045E*
  • 1903, 1109G                                                                                     Columbia cyl 32045G*

*credited as “An Evening with the Minstrels”

Spencer Trio: Len Spencer, Billy Golden, Steve Porter

Alpine Specialty

  • 1903-6-2, PM A-1947-1                                                                    Victor 1947
  • 1903-6-2, PM B-1947-M1                                                                 Victor 1947
  • 1904-9-26, A-1706-1-2                                                                    Victor unissued
  • 1904-9-27, A-1706-3-4                                                                    Victor unissued
  • 1904-9-27, B-1706-5                                                                        Victor 1947

Amateur Night on the Bowery

1904-9-27, B-1711-2                                                                        Victor 4093

In Front of the Old Cabin Door

  • 1903-6-2, PM A-1948-1                                                                    Victor 1948
  • 1903-6-2, PM A-1948-1                                                                    Victor 1948
  • 1904-9-26, A-1707-1-2                                                                    Victor unissued
  • 1904-9-27, B-1707-4                                                                       Victor 1948

The Mocking Bird Medley

  • 1903-6-2, PM A-1946-1                                                                   Victor 1946
  • 1903-6-2, PM B-1946-M1                                                                Victor 1946
  • 1904-9-26, A-1705                                                                          Victor unissued
  • 1904-9-26, B-1705-1-4                                                                    Victor 1946

Spencer Trio: Len Spencer, Billy Golden, Billy Williams

Alpine Specialty

1906                                                                                                Columbia cyl 7708

The Mocking Bird Medley

1906                                                                                              Columbia cyl 7705

9-28-2015: I have changed the date on these items to 1906, as in order for comic Billy Williams to be involved these couldn’t be earlier than that. However, these two pieces were originally recorded by Columbia, under these numbers, in the latter half of the 1890s and these would be later remakes. This casts some doubt as to whether Golden was involved in the Spencer Trio that recorded the originals, though it is certainly possible.

Section F: Billy Golden Miscellany

George Graham & Billy Golden: Negro Oddity

1897-3-22                                                                                          Berliner 732

George Graham & Billy Golden: Virginia Camp Meeting

1897-3-18                                                                                          Berliner 670

Billy Golden & Unknown: Hospital Patients

1919-7, 78604-R                                                                                Columbia A-2235

This is a remake of a Golden and Marlowe disc, and is credited as such on A-2235. But Marlowe had died in 1917, so this 1919 date could not have involved him. In all likelihood the second in this case would have been Joe Hughes, but it is not confirmed, nor is it known for sure if the earlier disc with Marlowe was issued under this number.

Billy Golden and the Empire Vaudeville Company: A Scene on the Levee

1921-12-16, 7687-B                                                                           Edison BA 4271, DD 50765-R

Billy Golden and the Empire Vaudeville Company: A Scene on the Old Plantation

1921-2-17, 7804-C                                                                             Edison BA 4304, DD 50747-L

According to the Edison cash books, the Empire Vaudeville Company consisted of Golden, Al Bernard, Charles Hart, Steve Porter, Harry Donaghy, Edward Meeker and “Bryan.”

Brilliant Quartette
Billy Golden, alleged – other members unknown

The Brilliant Quartette recorded for Columbia cylinders and Berliner discs from 1891-99. Only one source places Golden in this group. Three recordings of the Brilliant are on the web, and the Columbia cylinder of “Blind Tom” is the best candidate of the three for a possible appearance by Golden. The Columbia of “Way Down Yonder” might include him, but he is definitely not present on “Mary-Ann Medley.” I have decided to add this listing in case he is present on one of these discs, though I suspect that the membership of the group was somewhat fluid and Golden may not be present in every instance. The issue numbers on the Columbia cylinders listed below are not now known.

Blind Tom
1894 Columbia cyl
1896-7-2 Berliner 851-Y
1898-12-30 Berliner 851-V
1899-10-24 Berliner 0647

Grandfather’s Birthday
1896-6-10 Berliner 853-Z
1898-12-30 Berliner 853-W
1899-10-24 Berliner 0654

Hear Dem Bells
1896-6-12 Berliner 858

Imitation of Steam Calliope
1899-10-24 Berliner 0653

I’se Gwine Back to Dixie
1896-6-11 Berliner 856
1899-10-24 Berliner 0658

Mary Ann
1896-6-11 Berliner 857

Mary-Ann Medley
1893 Columbia cyl

Nearer My God to Thee
1896-7-2 Berliner 863

Remember Poor Mother at Home
1896-6-12 Berliner 859

Silver Moon
1899-10-24 Berliner 0657

Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield, aka Down Yonder in the Cornfield
1891 Columbia cyl
1898-3 Berliner 869-YY
1898-3 Berliner 869-XX
1897-10 to 1899-3 Berliner 869-ZZ

POSTSCRIPT: I have decided to dispense with the customary audio sample placed at the end of the article in this case, as ample numbers of Billy Golden records already appear on the web. Here is a short list of places where you can hear Billy Golden, whose entire recorded output is in the public domain. These sites alone will likely yield more Billy Golden than a reasonably sane person can stand to listen to. Personally, I find Golden’s duets with Joe Hughes to be generally among his best subjects, more so even than his solo records. “Bear’s Oil” seems to encapsulate what is best, and also some of what is worst, about Billy Golden.

The Encylopedic Discography of Victor Recordings or EDVR: Golden made many records for Victor, though later on Victor exercised more discrimination about what they were willing to release from him. The EDVR is based out of the University of California, Santa Barbara and is supported by audio files provided by the Library of Congress. These same files can be found on LoC’s site as well, but in order to access them by artist I find the EDVR interface to be a bit friendlier. http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/

The UCSB Cylinder Digital Preservation Project: This is another project of the University of California, Santa Barbara devoted to cylinders, and one may find several of Golden’s Edison recordings here, plus a few Columbias and Indestructibles. http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/

The Internet Archive: Many to most of the Billy Golden files on the Internet Archive are unceremoniously harvested, without credit, from the UCSB sites. The phrase “grinding noises removed” are a dead giveaway to the culprit of this dubious enterprise, and files from this poster should be avoided, and their sources sought out elsewhere. Nevertheless, one must not discount the possibility that at least some Billy Golden selections on the Internet Archive may be unique. https://archive.org/

YouTube: There is not the embarrassment of Billy Golden riches that one might expect on YouTube, and there are relatively few examples of his work up there at present.  This includes the spectacle of a contributor playing an ultra-rare, important and already badly worn Berliner disc on a vintage phonograph, the worst thing one could do with it short of breaking the thing in half. Nevertheless, Billy Golden has a YouTube presence and should be sought there if you just can’t get enough of him under separate cover. http://www.youtube.com/ — UD

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11 thoughts on “A Preliminary Billy Golden Discography

  1. Craig Ventresco kindly informs me that Zonophone 253, “Lion Tamer Medley” credited to “Zonophone Orchestra” has Golden and Heins on it. He also suggests that there may have been a later version of it with the prefix “C”; his is an etched, 9″ disc. I also take note of a Cal Stewart bio at gregssandbox.com which reads, “One artist to make Uncle Josh recordings after Stewart’s death was Billy Golden, whose “Uncle Josh’s Birthday” was issued on Emerson 10291 in September 1922.” This is the result of a misunderstanding of the recording data; One side of Emerson 10291 is “Uncle Josh’s Birthday” and is Cal Stewart, not Billy Golden, recorded at the very end of his career in September 1919. However, the flip, “The Mocking Bird” is Golden, and is listed above under “Listen to the Mocking Bird.”

  2. Here is another version of “Roll on de Ground,” credited to “Negro Shout” but likely by Golden; American Record Co./Busy Bee 67. This is a 7″ disc probably made in 1904.

  3. It occurred to me that most biographical sketches for Golden state that he began his recording career in 1891, but at that time the phonograph industry was still divided into regions along the directives of the Edison-Bell-Lippincott combine and none of the sources that I’ve seen which place Golden in a recording studio in 1891 happen to mention which territory he was recording in. There is nothing listed here that predates his time with Berliner in 1895. If anyone knows of a Golden recording that is older, please contact me. I am aware that cylinders from the nickel in the slot phonograph era are extremely rare, and the reason I have not found a listing from that time is that we have not found a cylinder to provide it.

  4. “The Colonel” on YouTube offers a disc previously unknown to this list, a version of “A Mixed Ale Party” issued on Imperial 44764. He dates it to 1906; I think it’s more likely 1904 and it may be related to the ARCo version of same. Nevertheless there is very little information to be had on Golden’s work as represented on the early 1900s “pirate” labels such as Imperial, so I am grateful to The Colonel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCarZYWDYdw

    Also, if you will be in Cincinnati on April 9, 2014 please consider coming to my free talk on Billy Golden, which will be held at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, at 800 Vine St. It will commence at 7pm. Uncle Dave Lewis

  5. I found a Victor Record “The Liars or My Uncles Farm” Golden and Hughes #5446. It is one-sided.
    Plays on my Victrola. Please get in touch with me if anyone would like to purchase it. It is in rough shape but plays. I will email you pictures if interested and discuss value.
    Thank you,
    Marilyn

  6. I just found something relevant to Golden’s biography and discography.

    The source for his presently accepted death date is a record in New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948 for William B Shires
    Age: 63
    Birth Year: abt 1863
    Death Date: 29 Jan 1926
    Death Place: Manhattan, New York, USA

    However, I just found a burial card for William Caldwell Shires in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery.who died January 17, 1918. His parents are listed on this burial card as William and Imogene Shires, who we had agreed were the parents of Billy Golden.

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