Cataloging (the) blues

[updated 2010.5.25]

So, I’m cataloging a huge batch (over 1700!) of CDs donated by the family of a man who used to do radio programs on the blues.

It’s not easy, folks.

To do these properly and make them a truly useful reference for people doing research on blues music, I’m trying to make sure that every bibliographic record has (a) a complete list of the musical pieces on it (for keyword searching), and (b) a subject line for the blues artist(s) on it (for grouping by the individual artist or group under a standard entry).

That means that I need to download authority records from OCLC to our catalog, so we can have a standard authority for each person and cross-references to nicknames, aliases, etc.  It avoids variations in spelling, nicknames, etc.

Now, if you know blues names like “Muddy Waters” or “Little Joe Blue”, you might expect these would be easy to find.

Try this one (yes, it’s copied directly from a real authority record) for Robyn,  William:

SUBJ AUTH    Robyn, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Bennett, Bert, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Brown, Tom, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Conroy, Frank, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Conroy, Fred, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Crane, Thornely, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Ender, Jack, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Foster, Al, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Franklin, Fred, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Gravelle, Buddy, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Hamilton, Edward, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Hamilton, Ray, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Mack, Bobby, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Manning, John, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Norton, Walter, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Powell, Ray, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Powell, Roy, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Ray, Walter, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Robinow, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Robinson, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Robyn, Willie, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Ruban, George, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Rubin, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Rubinoff, Mario, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Rubinoff, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Scarpioff, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Scarpioff, Wolf, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Scott, Henry, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Shaw, Eddie, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Smith, Harry, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Spear, John, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Stanley, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Waters, Frankie, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Wee Willie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Allison, James, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Bolton, Jamie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Clarke, Walter, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Forsythe, Reg, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Francis, William, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Hart, Charles, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Henderson, Larry, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Henry, Lawrence, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Hillman, Bob, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Johnson, Al, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Lee, Albert, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    O’Shea, Allen, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    O’Shea, John, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Playman, Edmund, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Remick, Walter, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Richards, Edgar, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Richards, Walter, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Rickman, Eddie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Roberts, Billy, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Roberts, Lewis, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Robin, Wyllie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Thomas, Brian, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Turner, Ray, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Weston, Les, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    White, Jerry, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Young, Louis, 1894-1996.
NOTE    William Robyn oral history interviews: label (William Robyn) transcript (Wolf Scarpioff, Mario Rubinoff)
NOTE    Enc. of rec. sound, c2005 (Robyn, William; b. Latvia 1894; d. Englewood, N.J., 12 Apr. 1996; tenor; born William Rubin he used more than 50 pseudonyms on recordings published by Victor, Columbia, Cameo, and approx. 50 other labels between 1919 and 1931)
NOTE    Pseudonyms on American records, c2005: p. 401 (Bert Bennett ; Tom Brown ; Frank Conroy ; Fred Conroy ; Thornely Crane ; Jack Ender ; Al Foster ; Fred Franklin ; Buddy Gravelle ; Edward Hamilton ; Ray Hamilton ; Bobby Mack ; John Manning ; Walter Norton ; Ray or Roy Powell ; Walter Ray ; William Robinow ; William Robinson ; “Wee” Willie Robyn ; George Ruban ; Cantor William Rubin ; William Rubinoff ; William Scarpioff ; Henry Scott ; Eddie Shaw ; Harry Smith ; John Spear ; William Stanley ; Frankie Waters ; Wee Willie)
NOTE    ARSC journal, v. 23, no. 2 (1992): p. 223 (James Allison, Jamie Bolton, Walter Clarke, Reg Forsythe, William Francis, Charles Hart, Larry Henderson, Lawrence Henry, Bob Hillman, Al Johnson, Albert Lee, Allen or John O’Shea, Edmund Playman, Walter Remick, Edgar or Walter Richards, Eddie Rickman, Billy or Lewis Roberts, Wyllie Robin, Brian Thomas, Ray Turner, Les Weston, Jerry White, Louis Young, Olympia Quartet (member))

He used more than 50 different names?!?!?!  (I have to wonder, was somebody chasing this guy all the way from Latvia?  Or, whose decision at the record label(s) was it to create yet another pseudonym?)  Maybe this was simply to avoid legal encumbrances made under other names, but come on!

And then we have all the short, fairly common names like “Joe Martin” or “Henry Gray” (and actually, those are relatively easy — less than ten different authority records to check to find the musician among them).

And THREE, count ’em, THREE different Howlin’ Wolf guys.   There’s J.T. “Funny Paper” Smith a.k.a. the Howling Wolf, and Chester Arthur Burnett, and neither of these should be confused with “English rhythm and blues singer Howlin’ Wolf”.  Go figure.  So, I’m paging through each little CD notes booklets to figure out which one is playing on this specific CD….

This is why Hollywood makes each performer have a slightly different name, to avoid this kind of confusion.  Good thinking!

Anyway, it will be a useful and valuable collection when I get it cataloged.  But it is going to be a long, slow, very picky job.

And that’s what catalogers have to be good at doing.

UPDATE:

Having griped about William Robyn, I find that his pseudonym Eddie Shaw is not even the correct Eddie Shaw!  Turns out that Eddie Shaw 1937- is the blues musician I needed.

Catalogers got the right to sing the blues, all right….

(Thanks to the person who emailed me with the alert to check this!)

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