How Old School Records Were Made, From Start to Finish: A 1937 Video Featuring Duke Ellington

We’re mov­ing back in time, before the mp3 play­er and the CD. We’re going back to the ana­log age, a moment when the shel­lac (and lat­er vinyl) record reigned supreme. The month is June 1937. And the short film you’re watch­ing is “Record Mak­ing with Duke Elling­ton and His Orches­tra.”  How the film came into being was described in the July 1937 edi­tion of Melody News:

Last month, a crew of cam­era­men, elec­tri­cians and tech­ni­cians from the Para­mount film com­pa­ny set up their para­pher­na­lia in the record­ing stu­dios of Mas­ter Records, Inc. for the pur­pose of gath­er­ing ‘loca­tion’ scenes for a movie short, now in pro­duc­tion, show­ing how phono­graph records are pro­duced and man­u­fac­tured. Duke Elling­ton and his orches­tra was employed for the stu­dio scenes, with Ivie Ander­son doing the vocals.

Nar­rat­ed by Alois Havril­la, a pio­neer radio announc­er, the film shows you how records were actu­al­ly record­ed, plat­ed and pressed. It’s a great rel­ic from the shellac/vinyl era, which you will want to cou­ple with this 1956 vinyl tuto­r­i­al from RCA Vic­tor.

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Relat­ed Con­tent

How Vinyl Records Are Made: A Primer from 1956

A Cel­e­bra­tion of Retro Media: Vinyl, Cas­settes, VHS, and Polaroid Too

How to Clean Your Vinyl Records with Wood Glue

How Film Was Made in 1958: A Kodak Nos­tal­gia Moment


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.