Selling Sounds (Chap. 7: The Black Swan)



The following is a sampling of recordings issued on the Black Swan label, whose complex history is explored in Chapter Seven.

Recordings marked with an asterisk are courtesy of the Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University.

The following are some of Black Swan’s “serious” or “high-class” recordings, which differentiated Black Swan from other record companies. (Included here are several religious recordings, one of which, “Ain’t It a Shame,” by the Four Harmony Kings, would not, strictly speaking, have always been grouped in the high-class category.)

  • C. Carroll Clark, “Nobody Knows de Trouble I’ve Seen” (Black Swan 2006)* – note and lyrics trouble
  • C. Carroll Clark, “By the Waters of Minnetonka” (Black Swan 2006)* – note minnetonka
  • Revella E. Hughes and the Black Swan Trio, “With the Coming of To-Morrow” (Black Swan 2012)* tomorrow
  • Revella E. Hughes and the Black Swan Trio, “Ah! Wondrous Morn” (Black Swan 2012)* wondrousmorn
  • Marianna Johnson, “The Rosary” (Black Swan 2015) – note and lyics rosary
  • Four Harmony Kings, “Ain’t It a Shame” (Black Swan 2016) – note and lyics shame
  • Florence Cole-Talbert, “The Bell Song,” from Delibes’s opera Lakmé (Black Swan 7103) – note and lyics bellsong

Below is a sample of Black Swan’s blues-related recordings. Particularly notable in this sampling is this recording by Isabel Washington, “I Want To” (1923), whose thin, warbly voice could hardly be more different from the rich, muscular voice of Bessie Smith, whom Black Swan rejected.

  • Alberta Hunter with Henderson’s Novelty Orchestra, “Bring Back the Joys” (Black Swan 2008)* bringback
  • Alberta Hunter with Henderson’s Novelty Orchestra, “How Long, Sweet Daddy, How Long” (Black Swan 2008)* sweetdaddy
  • Ethel Waters and Cordy Williams’ Jazz Masters, “Oh Daddy” (Black Swan 2010)* – note ohdaddy
  • Ethel Waters and Cordy Williams’ Jazz Masters, “Down Home Blues” (Black Swan 2010)* – note and lyics downhome
  • Trixie Smith, “Trixie’s Blues” (Black Swan 2039)* trixiesblues
  • Trixie Smith, “You Missed a Good Woman When You Picked All Over Me” (Black Swan 2044)* goodwoman
  • Trixie Smith, “Long, Lost Weary Blues” (Black Swan 2044)* wearyblues
  • Trixie Smith, “He May Be Your Man: But He Comes to See Me Sometimes” (Black Swan 14114)* yourman
  • Trixie Smith, “Pensacola Blues” (Black Swan 14114)* pensacola
  • Trixie Smith and her Down Home Syncopaters, “Log Cabin Blues” (Black Swan 14112)* logcabin
  • Trixie Smith and her Down Home Syncopaters, “Voo Doo Blues” (Black Swan 14112)* voodoo
  • Trixie Smith, “My Man Rocks Me” (Black Swan 14127) – note and lyics myman
  • Mary Straine, “Ain’t Got Nothing Blues” (Black Swan 14115) – note and lyics aintgotnothing
  • Isabelle Washington, “I Want To” (Black Swan 14141) – note and lyics wantto

Black Swan also issued numerous recordings by white performers whose identities were hidden behind generic pseudonyms. Aileen Stanley was one such performer, who had several recordings issued under the name Mamie Jones.

  • Mamie Jones, “Honey Rose” (Black Swan 14116) honeyrose
  • Mamie Jones, “Many ‘n’ Me” (Black Swan 14116) manyme

You can download these recordings at a website I did for the Journal of American History to accompany an article of mine on Black Swan Records that the journal published.

The chapter also discusses the unusual advertisements that Black Swan published in The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other African American political journals. Below is a complete run of the advertisements that appeared in The Crisis (courtesy of the Journal of American History).


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