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I share with you some very special records from my collection. They're not unusually rare or valuable, but they're certainly not common. They are V-Discs from the World World II era and AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) records from the '50s and '60s.
I have 170 12" 78 RPM V-Discs, 61 16" LPs, and 60 12" LPs in my collection. This is just a very small sampling of the label art used. These discs were distributed in plain sleeves, hence no cover art.
A brief history: In the early 1940s, the American Federation of Musicians went on strike, as the result of a dispute over royalties. Recording and production of records came to a halt. Capt. Howard Bronson and Lt. George Robert Vincent of the Army came up with the idea to have musicians record popular selections of the day specifically for the troops overseas. The musicians eagerly agreed and the V-Disc program began.
The discs were 12" in diameter and production quickly shifted from shellac to vinyl, to eliminate the problem of breakage of discs shipped to the war zones. Although some V-Discs were dubs of commercial releases, many were special recordings, with musicians greeting the troops on the record's intro. With special, closely spaced grooves, up to 6 1/2 minutes of music could be fit onto on side of a 12" disc. This led to longer 'jam sessions' by some of the top Jazz musicians of the era, unique recordings indeed.
V-Discs were strictly prohibited to be used for commercial purposes or radio broadcast. At the end of WW II, countless thousands of V-Discs were destroyed, as required by the program rules. However, soldiers smuggled some home and V-Discs can be found to this day, and are actively sought after by music fans and collectors. V-Discs represent a priceless musical heritage and an exciting piece of history.
AFTRS produced records after the war. These 16" and 12" discs were distributed to radio atations and were used to promote enlistment into the Armed Services. Some of these records contain unique live recordings, made especially for AFRTS. As with V-Discs, the AFRTS discs are a musical treasure trove.
I've never served in the Armed Forces, but I'd like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of the men & women past and present who have.
The V-Discs shown here are Jazz, but the V-Disc program included all genres of music.
Condition of my V-Discs varies, from this looks-unplayed Count Basie record to the preceding lesser condition Gene Krupa disc.
Great label art on these 12" Lawrence Welk and Pat Boone records.
I have a number of late '60s Mono Rock Lps like this. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Iron Butterfly, Jeff Beck, Cream, etc..... These sent out to AM radio stations, hence the mono mixes.
Some lesser known '60s bands. Bubblegum!! Gotta love it.
Note the call letters in grease pencil. KODI is an AM radio station based in Cody, Wyoming. I bought this and sixty other sixteen inch discs for ten bucks at a Cody garage sale a few years ago.
I have a large number of sixteen inchers featuring top Country Western artists of the mid-50s to early-60s. Some great recordings, some of which were specifically made for the Armed Forces.
Here's what a sixteeen incher looks like. I hope you've enjoyed this photo essay exploring an unique segment of my collection.
great collector's story, fabulous labels, great pictures! thanks!
Thanks for the education on V-Discs and AFRTS. That is REALLY interesting.
I've always been fascinated with label design, and there are some really cool ones there.
Thanx for sharing.My only experience with V Discs is a 3cd of Ellington V recordings by Collectors Choice Music. An interesting set to say the least.Some recordings were obviously made under less than ideal cobditions but others sound fantastic for their time.
So,how much does a 16"er weigh?
Given the large diameter of these discs, they're surprisingly thin and floppy. Average weight is about a half pound or 220 grams. They're kind of difficult to deal with in all respects, from cleaning, filing, and playback. I had to build a custom wooden box to hold them on the shelf, in the proper vertical position.
Aside from that, they're wonderful conversation pieces. I've got one on display, hanging from a small nail on the wall of my studio. It frequently get comments from visitors, most of whom have never seen such a large record.
Nice stuff. Are you saying you have jazz performances recorded solely for and on V-Disc? That would be cool to find. The labels do it for as well.
Some of the V-Discs are nothing more songs dubbed from previously issued commercial releases. The 'hits of the day.' But, with special close spacing of the grooves, these 12" discs could hold up to about 6 minutes 20 seconds of music per side. This allowed some of the Jazz bands to stretch out and improvise. To the best of my knowledge, many of these extended jam sessions were only available on V-Disc. This of course predated the era of 33 1/3 Long Play, which was introduced in 1948.
Another very interesting feature of the V-Discs are the spoken word intros to the troops on some of these records. It's great hearing Duke Ellington, Jo Stafford, etc... greet the troops as they introduce the recordings especially made for their listening pleasure.
One of my weekly radio shows is "Dave's Old Time Radio" which runs two hours on Saturday mornings. I've done a couple shows featuring WW II music and topics, and the V-Discs figure heavily in the mix. I've been asked frequently if this show is webcast. No it is not, only available in most of NW Wyoming and parts of S Montana on 89.1 FM.
super, glad to see someone else is carrying the flame for these very special recordings! Rob Bamberger, who hosts "Hot Jazz Saturday Night" on WAMU has often played music from these V-discs on his program, great stuff!
I've seen many V-Discs over the years and am happy much of that material
found it's way to CD (though there were some LP releases in the 70'/80's of it, they
were still difficult to find).
I've never seen the other labels/releases before.
A VERY 3E* post!!! Thanks!!!
*Educational, Enlightening, Entertaining.
"BEWARE the Blunted Needle!"
Very cool stuff! Wish I could give a few of those a listen. I've never heard of 16" records. As was asked by another poster, what do you play them on?
V-Disc forever lost in my basement. Probing the history of these discs and 78rpm records has been a fascinating journey for me. I just wish I had the space to store and organize as you have done. Great job.
I have several Billie Holiday V-Discs, and many of the other top musicians of the day. Frank Sinatra in particular was very prolific and enthusiastically supported the V-Disc effort.
My first V-Discs (a half dozen) were acquired among a collection of about 1,200 records I purchased years ago. About a year ago, a lady in Las Vegas posted a for-sale offer on the RCG (Record Collector's Guild) website. She had about 170 V-Discs to sell. After several phone calls we agreed on a price and she shipped three large & heavy boxes of V-Discs to me in Wyoming via Media Mail.
It's been a fascinating journey exploring all this wonderful music performed and recorded for the troops.
How do you find the time? If I had a collection like yours, the rest of my life would be in shambles! Those 16 inch discs are way cool! What kind of TT/arm are you spinning those bad boys on?
Thanks for sharing...
I'm using a Technics SP-15 with a Jelco 10.25" effective length tonearm to play the sixteen inchers. I also use a 16" diameter machined aluminum support 'platter' with felt topper and a record clamp, all purchased from KAB. The sixteen inchers are invariably warped to some degree, being so big and having been stored inside a shed prior to my rescuing them from a yard sale.
In addition to being a PITA to play, these discs have various amounts of 'crackle and pop' so I've been transferring them to WAV files and doing clean up as needed with "Click Repair" software.
Here's a photo of "1958 Cadillac Announcements" being played on the SP-15. These old radio ads are fun to listen to.
I was the "early bird" at a garage sale a few years back, and I passed-up about a hundred of those 16" Armed Forces V-discs as I had nothing to play them on (and I still don't). Thankfully I made-off with some jazz LPs from the same garage sale, but....
I've often kicked myself for not grabbing them at the time.
Nice collection, and thanks for sharing!
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Thanks for sharing, I don't think I have ever seen those in all my years of crate digging.
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"To Be Is To Do" Plato
"Do Be Do Be Do" Sinatra
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