Most of McCormack's cylinder recordings predate his vocal training in Italy. Other than the aria from The Lily of Killarney (Edison Bell 6447), all of them were Irish ballads and parlor songs, many of which McCormack recorded repeatedly for the different companies. The Edisons and Edison Bells were all recorded within a two month period in the fall of 1904.
The nine known published Edison cylinders were two-minute black wax records in the gold-molded series. Presumably there was only one take of each of these. The first Edison cylinder has the following information on the edge in raised letters: "(Title). J. McCormack. Thomas A. Edison. Pat'd 13124." The remaining eight cylinders have this information incised on the surface of the cylinder, and the word "Patented" is spelled out in full. A small Arabic number (1, 2, 3, or 4) is located immediately after it. These are most likely manufacturing codes and not indicators of multiple takes. Spoken announcements are by John McCormack.
The Edison Bell cylinders were also two-minute black wax and were recorded in sets of four takes per title over a two day period. The separate takes may be distinguished (visually) by small Roman numerals following the catalog numbers incised on the surface of the cylinder. Some examples of a first take omit the numeral. The recording date (3 or 10 November 1904) is given following the take number. The issue number, title, and artist's name ("J. F. McCormack") are found on the edge of the cylinder in raised block letters.
No date is shown on the cylinder of "Home to Athlone." This title was recorded later than the others, either in the summer of 1905 or in 1906. (In I Hear You Calling Me, Lily McCormack states that John came back from Italy in the summer of 1905 and "returned to Milan at the end of September 1905.) The voice is much better than on the other cylinders made by this company, and it was packaged in a newer style container than the others. On this cylinder all of the recording and title information is given on the edge in white letters. The separate takes for this cylinder are designated "A," "B," "C," or "D." Spoken announcements are most likely by J. E. Hough, who made them for many recordings by this company. It must be noted that until copies of all of the actual sets of four takes are located, it is uncertain that four takes of all titles were issued for sale.
In the case of the Sterling cylinders, probably only one take of most of them was made. These were "Special" three--minute black wax cylinders, one half inch longer than the standard length. Title, catalog number, and an alphabetical manufacturing code ("A," "B," "C," or "D") are engraved on the edge of the cylinder. All Sterling cylinders were recorded originally on larger master cylinders, the cylinders offered for sale being dubbings from these masters. Two of McCormack's Sterling cylinders were also dubbed onto discs and marketed by Pathe. The Pathe recordings seem to be different takes from their cylinder counterparts, suggesting that alternate takes of some sterling cylinders may exist (see notes below).
This important set of two compact discs was issued in 1991. Until that time McCormack's cylinder and Gramophone & Typewriter recordings were largely unavailable to the public, except in cases where collectors had made tapes of individual items in their collections for other collectors. The community of McCormack fans and record collectors owes a debt of gratitude to Pavilion Records and to Brian Fawcett-Johnston, who coordinated the project, for this important part of the McCormack Re-issue Series that have streamed forth from Pearl/Opal/Pavilion since 1977.
Edison Opal CD Issue # Reissue # ------- --------- The Snowy Breasted Pearl (Traditional) 13124 CDS 9847 The Meeting of the Waters (Traditional) 13142 CDS 9847 When Shall the Day Break in Ireland (Fox) 13143 CDS 9847 Molly Bawn (Lover) 13144 CDS 9847 The Irish Emigrant (Barker) 13145 CDS 9847 Avourneen (King) 13146 CDS 9847 Killarney (Balfe) 13152 CDS 9847 The Green Isle of Erin (Roeckel)* 13153 CDS 9847 Love Thee, Dearest, Love Thee (Traditional) 13154 CDS 9847 Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms (Traditional) 13191** ----- Notes: McCormack's recordings for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company (G & T) were also made in September 1904, after the Edisons, and prior to the Edison-Bell cylinder recordings. *On Cylinder Phonograph Division, Thomas A. Edison, Incorporated memo dated 15 August 1929 listing moulds to be preserved "for historical reasons." **Possibly unissued, no known copies.
Ed.Bell Opal CD Issue # Reissue # ------- -------- The Dear Little Shamrock (Shield) take I* 6442 ----- take II 6442 CDS 9847 take III 6442 CDS 9847 take IV 6442 ----- The Green Isle of Erin (Roeckel) take I* 6443 CDS 9847 take II* 6443 ----- take III 6443 ----- take IV 6443 ----- Eileen Allanah (Thomas) take I* 6444 CDS 9847 take II* 6444 CDS 9847 take III 6444 ----- take IV 6444 CDS 9847 Killarney (Balfe) take I* 6445 CDS 9847 take II 6445 ----- take III 6445 ----- take IV 6445 ----- Kathleen Mavourneen (Crouch) take I* 6446 CDS 9847 take II* 6446 ----- take III 6446 CDS 9847 take IV 6446 ----- THE LILY OF KILLARNEY (Benedict): Once would my heart with the wildest emotion (first line); Eily Mavourneen (title given by announcer; also part of refrain). take I* 6447 CDS 9847 take II* 6447 ----- take III 6447 ----- take IV 6447 ----- The Minstrel Boy (Traditional) take I* 6448 CDS 9847 take II* 6448 ----- take III 6448 ----- take IV 6448 ----- Once Again (Sullivan) take I* 6449 ----- take II 6449 CDS 9847 take III 6449 CDS 9847 take IV 6449 ----- Come Back to Erin (Claribel) take I* 6450 CDS 9847 take II 6450 CDS 9847 take III 6450 ----- take IV 6450 ----- The Wearing of the Green (Traditional) take I 6451 CDS 9847 take II 6451 CDS 9847 take III 6451 ----- take IV 6451 ----- Notes: Cylinders marked * were recorded on 3 November; remainder were recorded on 10 November. Cylinders numbered 6442, 6446, and 6449 were privately issued on a long- playing LP (GJR-7), without announcements. This disc has long been unavailable.
Ed.Bell Opal CD Issue # Reissue # ------- --------- Home to Athlone (Greene) take A 10085 ----- take B 10085 ----- take C 10085 CDS 9847 take D 10085 ----- Notes: Some sources previously attributed this song to McCormack. It is not certain if all four takes were issued.
Sterling Pathe Opal Cylinder Disc CD Issue # Issue # Reissue # ------- ------- --------- God Save Ireland (Root) (take 1) 612 ----- CDS 9847 The Boys of Wexford (Johnson) (take 1) 613 ----- CDS 9847 A Nation Once Again (Johnson) (take 1) 614 ----- CDS 9847 The Croppy Boy (Traditional) (take 1) 615 ----- CDS 9847 Come Back to Erin (Claribel) (take 1) 682 CDS 9847 33511 M.S. (re-recording onto disc master) 77686 CDS 9847 8028 The Dear Little Shamrock (Cherry) (take 1) 683 CDS 9847 33517 M.S. (Re-recording onto disc master) 77687 CDS 9847 8028 Notes: Final refrain of A Nation Once Again has chorus join in. Pathe discs were re-recorded from Sterling cylinder masters at various speeds. The matrices shown for these dubbings play at 86 rpm (33511 M.S.) and 81 rpm (33517 M.S.). The 77000 series were single-face discs, while the 8000 series were double-face discs. Opal CDS 9847 includes dubbings from both cylinders and discs of the two titles issued on Pathe discs. It is apparent that the take which is the basis for the Pathe disc recording is NOT the same as the take used for cylinder 682. Both performances end with two renditions of the chorus, but the singing on the disc version (to this listener) is more spirited and dramatic that that on the cylinder. The same audible differences in performance are evident in The Dear Little Shamrock. Thus it seems that there were multiple takes of at least some of the Sterling cylinder recordings. Cylinders numbered 612, 613, and 682 were also reissued on the long-playing disc (GJR-7) noted above, also without spoken announcements. Some of the dubbings on Opal CDS 9847 are composites, with announcements (not McCormack) apparently taken from a different cylinder than the sung portion by McCormack.
Discography Index Page
Cylinders, 1904-1906 | G & T Discs, 1904 | Odeon Acoustics, 1906-1909 | Victor/HMV Acoustics, 1910-1924
Victor Electrics, 1925-1931 | HMV Electrics, 1927-1942 | Broadcasts, 1926-1942 | Film Recordings, 1929-1936