Monday, March 07, 2016

The WMCA Broadcasters

The WMCA Broadcasters have quite a discography, most of them pressed into shellac at 78 rpm back in the late 1920s. They released just shy of 60 platters on Columbia between 1926 and 1928. Some were splits with Irving Kaufman,Arthur Fields or Frank Bessinger and just one each with Joe Collegiate and Joe Fire. Some sides were paired with other singles and repressed by Harmony Records. More here.

But they were just a pseudonym. Ernie Golden was the real man behind the name and any one of his many different orchestras were behind the mic. His group recorded under dozens of names, many more are likely unknown. Some of their pseudonyms include: Ted's Collegians, Yankee Ten Orchestra, John Vincent's Californians, Lou Tanner and his band, and the Hotel McAlpin Orchestra to name a few. You can find more info in the book Pseudonyms on American Records, 1892-1942 by Allan Sutton.

New Amberola Graphic magazine made fun of his many identities back in the 1980s,  pointing out that no two of his bands existed at the same time. "...Their [the WMCA Broadcasters] last appearance in the studio was on November 28, 1927. In mid-January, Ernie Golden's orchestra reappears!"  But Ernie Golden is also a pseudonym. His real name was Eugene Chadbourne. In addition to the hits he had with his many orchestras, he also worked Broadway theater with some success. He wrote the music for the show 'Artists and Models' in 1930. More here.

Let's tie this back to radio. WMCA first signed on February 1st, 1925. Initially they broadcast from the Hotel McAlpin. That hotel is a historic hotel building on Herald Square, at the corner of Broadway and 34th street in New York City. Currently it operates as Harold Towers. It was constructed in 1912 by General Edwin A. McAlpin and at the time was the largest hotel in the world, accommodating up to 2,500 guests. By 1928 they had built an addition! WMCA-AM tested from this building as 2XH, then signed on from the hotel and deriving it's call sign from the family name. All this happened before WMCA moved to the 570 kHz frequency.

Interestingly there were at least two broadcasts from the Hotel McAlpin prior to the sign on of WMCA. In 1920, The McAlpin hosted a broadcast by the Army Signal Corps arranged the broadcast of Italian soprano vocalist Luisa Tetrazzini from her hotel room. Then two years later they had another first linking ship-to-shore radios into their phone system. But it was this hotel for which Ernie Golden's Hotel McAlpin Orchestra was named. It it perhaps the only name in this whole story which was real. They recorded starting in 1923 for Edison Diamond Disc, and Victor, but also Harmony and Columbia as you would expect. But the hotel orchestra outlived the career of  Mr. Golden. By 1939 they were recording under the name Johnny Messner And his Hotel McAlpin Orchestra. They never recorded under the WMCA callsign again after 1928.