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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

Moonshine: 1920

Moonshine: 1920

"Jordan Piano Co., moonshine window." Circa 1920, another fall-themed window display at Jordan Piano in Washington, D.C. National Photo Co. View full size.

 

The Moon Shines on the Moonshine

Hm, it's looking like I'm the only one replying to this who actually listens to old records from this era? (I mean the actual records, not digital copies found online.)

The record of "The Moon Shines on the Moonshine" by Bert Williams is indeed justly famous and found reproduced widely over the Internet. It sold over a quarter million copies for Columbia Records, not Victor.

Columbia had two hit records with this early Prohibition song. In addition to the classic Bert Williams vocal rendition, the hot instrumental version by Ted Lewis's Jazz Band also sold well.

Edison Records had a decent cover version by vaudevillians Jones & Hare.

The Victor Talking Machine Company issued a forgettable cover recorded by Sidney Phillips. That's what this display window is trying to sell. Not many people seem to have fallen for this bait-and-switch, judging by the rarity of the Victor compared to the Bert Williams version, or even the Ted Lewis and Jones & Hare discs.

Bert Williams

Bert Williams was a well-known black comedian who did a series of recordings during the Prohibition era. "Moonshine" is about the backwoods types who ran stills making moonshine: "But in the mountain tops, far from the eyes of cops, oh how the moon shines on the moonshine."

An aged neighbor left me a Victrola when I was maybe 8 years old (1945) and a collection of 78s, including Bert's "Possum Hunt," "Somebody" and "When The Moon Shines on the Moonshine."

Victor IV

The Victor IV in the photograph IS the internal horn style. Note how the tone arm curves down, into the cabinet.

Good use of old horns!

The store owner's made good use of outdated stock...the phono horn used in the "still" is actually an out of date cylinder phono horn, probably unsold store stock. By 1920, the only cylinder machines still for sale were internal horn ones, such as Edison's Amberola line. 1920 was also near the end of outside horn machines for flat record phonos also...the Victor IV advertised in the window sign was definitely considered an out of date model, since housewives preferred internal horn Victrolas...even though the external horns gave better sound reproduction!

His Master's Voice

I love the Nipper statues in the display, but it's odd not having them positioned in front of a gramophone horn.

The Hillbilly's Gun

That's the first hillbilly I ever saw with a World War 1 German Mauser! It looks like it has a cork in the barrel.

Moonshine

Amazingly, Bert Williams singing "When the Moon Shines on the Moonshine" is available as an mp3 all over the web. I expected a hillbilly tune but it sounds like a torch song.

 
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