WW2 Phonograph Photo and V-Discs

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in All Blog Posts, Media, Navy, Photo, Vintage Style, WW2 | 0 comments

In 1940 vinyl was used as a record material, but mostly commercially for transcription discs. Practically no home discs were stamped with vinyl. In a “FLash of Army Life” report by the Associated Press, one soldier:
First Cook Lewis Lawrence Jr. brought a phonograph recording machine from Chicago and “is cashing in on the yen of his buddies to pour sweet nothings of sentiment into the ears of the girls they left behind. The soldiers speak into it. Their tender messages are registered on the discs. Finished products are mailed to sweethearts at home. The cook charged 35, 50, or 70 cents the amount–depending on the verbal and financial lengths to which the troopers are willing to go.”

Phonograph Machine in WW2

Phonograph Machine in WW2

The War Department established the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) on May 26, 1942. On August 1, 1942, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) union went on strike against the major American recording companies over disagreements regarding royalty payments. The union called a ban on all commercial recordings as part of a struggle to get the royalties from record sales for a fund for out-of-work musicians.

AFM union led by trumpeter James Petrillo, had previously opposed the recording of music, or “canned music”. Musicians were being replaced with records in radio. In cafes and bars bands were being replaced with jukeboxes. For over a year no music was recorded by unionised musicians in America. The only important group of musicians not part of the union was the Boston Symphony.

But recordings made for the military, called V-discs (V for Victory), were immune and not affected by the strike apparently because V-disc recordings would not go to civilians.

During the strike no union musician could record for any record company. But the strike didn’t prohibit performances on live radio shows or in concert. While the move was seen as advantageous for musicians who wanted payment each time their songs were played in jukeboxes or on radio, PBS FCC chair James Fly suggested 60% of the country’s radio stations could go out of business. As the ban approached, numerous artists rushed to get in last-minute recordings in July 1942. Among them were Count Basie, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller.

When this stockpile was exhausted, record companies turned to re-releasing older recordings – some as far back as the dawn of the recording era in the mid-1920s. One of the most successful re-releases was Harry James “All Or Nothing at All” which featured Frank Sinatra before he became famous.

Decca and Capitol gave into the AFM in 1943, RCA Victor and Columbia held out but eventually backed down in 1944. It was over two years before the issues were resolved and the recording ban ended. Booms in record sales returned after World War II. Vinyl long play records were introduced which could contain an entire symphony. 45s usually contained one hit popularized on the radio, plus another song on the back “flip” side.

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