well, I'm still here everyone, those fires are far enough away. But you know, it's been a disaster that's really got me depressed and unmotivated to do any work I usually do and and am assigned. The one thing I for some reason have the motivation to do is a blog post. It seems the death date of this weekend is so important to motivate me to write a post. In honor of such dates as always, I wore all black and burnt incense.
of course, some of you may already know whose death date it is, those of you who follow my Facebook page know this.
104 years ago today, Fred Hylands died in a suburb of Liverpool in Britain. For some reason he left a pile of obscure sheet music while spending his final weeks in Britain. It seems strange that this is so, but there's a bunch of his music at a library in Britain, and it's either because of his investments there while a publisher with Len Spencer, or he had a bunch of sheets with him on his tour when he died. It will forever be strange to me why a bunch of very rare(some not copyrighted) pieces of his music.
However that happened, hopefully I will sometime be able to see those sheets.
Hopefully we all understand the circumstances and sequencing that led up to his death, and I have explained it in many previous blog posts. Of course it's hard for us to really know about all of that that led to his death, but one thing is for sure, he was sickly before he died.
Here's three images of him in various years to compare, and so you'll see what I mean here:
Contrary to what some might assume, Hylands became rather sickly and looked similar to how he did in 1897(kinda). But we know it's obvious that he didn't take care of himself, and it comes through rather well when just looking through the few images we have of him (so far). as expected, some are still shocked to see such the change, or transformation rather, he went through at the beginning of his time at Columbia. i still can't really believe it too well, but that unknown pianist in that 1897 Columbia picture can't be anyone else. Also keep in mind that he was 41 when he died. That's less than ten years older than the age that Banta was when he died. when calculating and analyzing the median age these recording stars died, Hylands was on the low end of the spectrum(the median age seems to be 56). Uunfortunately, it seems he forced himself to live a hard life, even with all the supposed good money coming in from working at Columbia between 1897 and 1903-1904 ish(notice that we are beginning to debate the time he was dropped from Columbia again, this has returned as an item of discussion). By this, I mean that he didn't make his life any easier, he stuck his already injured foot into every snake pit he encountered. He joined in toxic partnerships(like with Len Spencer), and messed with unstable and risky communities and endeavors, this including his job at Columbia. His job at Columbia was risky, even if it was relatively stable the first few years, the Climax/Zon-O-Phone/Victor feud proved a death scare for everyone. After all of that, he toyed with the Socialist community, and that was never proved to be stable, nor was it well-organized. By that, I mean the usual friendly neighborhood socialists, but also the mean and bitter union leaders and crowd. He joined in and helped to better organize the White Rats Actors' Union, since Columbia had been mean to him(they actually were...no joke or pun intended), and his first attempt at becoming socialist failed miserably. He soon rose up the ladder real quick and became a leading member of the White rats, and from 1905 on that's what he pledged his allegiance to. of course being the way he was he couldn't keep all those commitments and was soon breaking rules that he pledged to in the first place. In 1912, he was thrown out for being defiant and disloyal to the rules he helped to create and enforce. Hylands was dragged into court for his defiance, and was forced to testify, as indicated in a few papers I've read on the very trial, it seems that a few members of the union were tried in court that day for similar perpetrations.
With this trial, Hylands was no longer a "chief rat" as they called him, and he was no longer able to speak at gatherings of the union. And just after then, he joined with Wilbur Held, with whom he performed until his death supposedly caused directly by diabetes. There's probably more that went into his cause of death, since it's obvious that he didn't take care of himself while at Columbia. That directly led to his issues years later, and it can easily be seen, this is not just some wild theory.
So for the honoring of his death date, I not only wore black, but I also did something else that I will have become a ritual from now on.
I first got some incense, then wrapped a picture of Hylands with a little note on it around the incense, lit it on fire, let the two things burn, and once it was burnt down, I grasped all the ashes and blew them into the breeze, then out in the world.
I took pictures in sequence.
Someone suggested that I do this, and I found it a really sweet and thoughtful way of remembering. From now on, this is going to be my ritual on important death dates. Next month comes Banta's, so that will be another good time to do this, and hopefully I can get my symbolic violet incense for him.
Rest well Fred. You are not forgotten.
Now to move onward...
Last weekend I got to discuss some interesting matters with Charlie Judkins, and with that, we got into something that I had not previously considered. We discussed the interesting relationship that Len Spencer had with Columbia and U.S., and it appears to be more complicated than most of us might think.
It's starting to become clear that Spencer was a common face amongst the men in blue all over New York and in Newark.
Many policemen probably knew his face, or had heard his name as a "deadbeat" or something of that type in social terms.
Now what has this to do with anything?
well...It seems his relationship with Columbia and U.S. wasn't all peaches and cream(haha, Spencer and Jones pun). We all want to assumed that he was on great terms with Columbia, which is true without a doubt, but there were strange aspects to his relationship with U.S. and Columbia. We know that he began with Columbia in 1888-1889, and soon rose up the ladder from just a local dork with a golden ticket of a surname. He was soon a well-respected money maker for Columbia, even though in 1893, he was forced into some sketchy business with them...
Okay, so it seems that we may have a hypothesis as to why he used that strange pseudonym of "Gary Allen" on early Columbia and U.S. records. He was involved in some patent and law breaking activity with Columbia and U.S., and this can be proven through newspaper digging. In 1894, Spencer was tried in court for doing essentially the same thing he did while at U.S. in 1897(remember a few posts ago when I talked about the "midnight crooks"?), for stealing records from one company and bringing them to the next, and for doing who knows what else...
tsk tsk Mr. Spencer...
So he was dropped from Columbia almost entirely in that sketchy period from 1893 to 1897, but after pledging to U.S. under Victor Emerson, he made some deal with Columbia under the table, and hence the reason that we get that jarring headline of him getting at last arrested for stealing those records with Georgie and Clyde Emerson. The second time it was the reverse, he was stealing records from U.S. to smuggle to Columbia, rather than stealing records from Columbia and smuggling them to U.S. Now what can we analyze from this? well, after discussing this recently, we can see Emerson(Victor) had those expected intentions with Spencer. He and the Management at Columbia, like Master Edward Easton, thought of Spencer as a so-called(excuse my language) "attention whore", and by this, I mean that Spencer was always wanting attention from the public for his work in the studio, and was pretty cocky about it. Hmm, from all this, we're getting a better image of Spencer for certain. Emerson and Easton as they were all getting Columbia set up in New York were looking for talent to hire with their new fresh start, and who was likely one of their first thoughts--Spencer. Right, he's nair-do-well, how about we get him to do some of our bidding. And so that's exactly as Spencer did, some deal was made, and he with the "lesser" Emerson brothers raided U.S. for the sake of pledging alliance secretly to Emerson at Columbia, though they weren't yet allowed to, since U.S. had not completely decimated at that point. All of this is making Columbia seem even more sleazy and like pirates. Edison called them "pirates" for a reason, and it may or may not be because of Spencer(well, now there's that possibility, so that makes this even more hilarious).
So to sum up this about Spencer, it seems that Columbia saw him as a privileged deadbeat who could do anything for money and cocky bragging rights, so that's why we see him getting into trouble more than once with both of the companies he worked for before 1897. Now we can see why he used that strange pseudonym too, that's good to have cleared up. Hopefully we get to actually hear records from this fabled era sometime.
Hope you enjoyed this!