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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Yellow Dog Blues: 1919

Yellow Dog Blues: 1919

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "S. Kann Sons & Co. phonograph department." I count at least a dozen Nippers here, and one Yellow Dog. S. Kann Sons & Co. was a department store on Eighth and D streets at Pennsylvania Avenue ("the Busy Corner"). National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Kann's in Arlington

The Kann store in Arlington was in the Clarendon section off Wilson Boulevard. In the mid-1950s the children's shoe section featured a glass wall behind which Capuchin monkeys frolicked. I would often go watch the monkeys while my mother or grandmother shopped.

You're Welcome... Ha Ha Hah Hahhh!

I doubt that Handy himself is laughing along with that weird "Laughing Trombone," but it's possible. There are other examples of "laughing records" from this period, but don't ask me what the fad was about. Ninety years from today, people will be just as puzzled by hip-hop.

That is the same record that's shown in the newspaper ad, it has the same Victor serial number.

I don't know how Dave feels about us plugging our own sites here, but there's plenty more ancient music at,

"Your Headquarters For Scratches, Ticks, Skips, and Pops." (TM)

Kanns in Arlington

During the time my family lived in Alexandria, Va., in the late 50's-early 60's, Mom always took us to Kanns to have our pictures taken with Santa Claus.

One More Generic


Yellow Dog Rag

The crossing of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad with the Southern at Moorehead was something of a sacred spot known to Handy and Robert Johnson:

This makes me wonder if the much debated crossroads where Johnson sings of trying to flag a ride could be this place. Flagging could mean hitchhiking, but it is also has a railroad context. Johnson wrote another song about the "Yellow Dog" railroad as well.

Thanks, Pilsner Panther!

Terrific! Thanks for making the music come to life. (Wonder who is doing the laughing on the track...W.C. Handy himself?)


Victrola might as well have been a generic name. The customers in the 1950s asked to see a Victrola but would go right to a Magnavox on the showroom floor. The other near generics were Frigidaire (or Fridge), Bendix and Foodarama (a Kelvinator product) for a side by side refrigerator.

Hear "Yellow Dog Blues"!

Heavy Listening

Those old records are very heavy. My mother has a Victrola in her living room with roughly 50 records stored in the lower cabinet. They pretty much have to be taken out if you want to move it because they make the whole thing so very heavy.

My favorite song from them is "Listen to the Mockingbird" and any of the big band music.

It really is amazing how very loud it can be too!


Could that be an Edison talking doll on the right?

27 Nippers is my count!

Enlarging the image a bit on my iMac I count 27 Nippers in various parts of the photo. Which brings me to Apple's logo. Among others, at least as recognizable as Nipper was them, probably more so within the current generations.

Try Before You Buy

Listening (or preview) booths in record stores were phased out by the mid to late 1950's. A very few remained until the mid 1960's. Listening booths existed because the records were expensive. Most 78's sold for between 75 cents and a dollar. That would be $9 to $12 in today's money. Nowadays your larger retailers have headphones to listen to certain recordings.

Forget Waldo, where's Nipper?

Nipper was such a great logo. I can't think of anything in today's advertising world that could compare. The Geico gecko is cute, but they don't have gecko figurines at insurance agencies. [Actually they do. Just sayin'. - Dave]

Pigtailed Wendy of the hamburger chain doesn't really have anything to do with hamburgers the way the Victor Talking Machine/RCA dog was hearing "his master's voice."

And though one would have to "hoe, hoe, hoe" to plant the jolly Green Giant's vegetables, that is about the only thing he has to do with cream style corn.

I love Nipper (and all the Nippers in this photo).

Technical marvels

...these glass plate photographs. The detail they can capture is just astounding. Beautiful tonal range, incredible sharpness and resolution.

Yellow Dog Blues

The sheet music cover for Yellow Dog Blues helps to date the photo. Written in 1915 by W. C. Handy, this was a song with a racetrack theme originally called "Yellow Dog Rag." It didn't sell too well, and in 1919 he retitled it "Yellow Dog Blues," to take advantage of a new fad for blues songs. It had been written as an answer to the 1913 Shelton Brooks song "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone?" Here's the Yellow Dog cover with its original title, and the same illustration of the hapless easy rider Jockey Lee.

[The other thing that helps date the photo is the "New Records January 1919" poster on the wall. - Dave]


As a collector and Victrola enthusiast (Victrola being a brand of phonograph, not a generic name for all crank phonographs), I find this pic amazing. Every time I look at it I see another Nipper. The little terrier is very highly prized among collectors of antique music machines.

Listening Booths

I think those might be listening booths on the left behind the Victrolas, where patrons could play a record before they bought it.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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