In a recent batch of old 78 rpm records that I purchased, there were two unusual records. On was a homemade record of steam calliope tunes. The second record was produced by Carnival Record Co. and the label is “Steam Calliope King Bros. Circus”. The record number is 22A and 22B. The front side is titled “The Circus Parade” and has an announcer talking about the circus parade for the King Bros. circus and you can hear the steam calliope as it comes down the street. You can also hear the crowd in the background. The second side has four tunes: This House is Haunted, Carnival of Venice, Theres a Tavern, and Silver Moon. This record has a pencil mark saying it is a 33 1/3 record. Plays correctly at 33 1/3 but had to use the 78 rpm stylus. Not sure of its age, but probably the 50s. The label is pretty crude. Most have been sold by the circus. Just wondering if you have any clues. Looks like the King circus was active till sometime in the 80s by your site. Not sure when they retired the steam calliope or what happened to it.
If anyone has any information, I would appreciate hearing from them. If needed, I could scan or photograph the record and email a picture. Not sure what to do with this record. I collect model and toy steam engines (little ones) and old windup phonographs, among other things.
Regards, Carl Swanstrom
These records were made by an unknown party sometime before the 1956 failure of Floyd and Howard King’s King Bros. Circus. The instrument on the recording is a modified 32-whistle Nichol steam calliope, mounted in the ex-1902 Gentry Bros. steam calliope wagon. The player may have been E. Deacon Albright, but it could also have been someone else, depending upon the year.
Fred Dahlinger, Jr., Director of Historic Resources and Facilities, Circus World Museum.
Dear Mr. Swanstrom, My name is Ned Albright, Grandson of E. Deacon Albright. My grandfather past away in 1949 just a few months before I was born. I have been searching for sometime for any possible recording of my Grandfather’s playing. Fred Dahlinger is a friend of our family and has copies of many pictures of and documents about Deacon and the calliopes he played. I was wondering if it would be possible, all at my expense of course, to get a copy of the records you have recorded onto cassette tape (or any recording media you wish). I know it may not be my Grandfather but I can’t pass up the chance to get a copy just in case. I was also wondering if the record cover has any possible information that may tell where are when the original recording was done. From records I have, I can track where my Grandfather was performing about each day he was traveling. Please let me know if this would be possible and what the cost would be for your time, tapes, and postage to Newburgh, Indiana. I’ll send you all the Mailing address if you reply that your willing to do this.
I am so happy to have pulled up some history of the King Bros. Circus !!! I just bought this new DELL PC. In testing the wonders of it, I looked for the King Bros. Show that I was with when I was 17 years old (for 6 months). Amazing! I played the clarinet in the band and the Calliope was right in back of me. The bandleader played trumpet(cornet) and told stories of when Harry James and his family was with the show. He said that when Harry was small, he was billed as “The World’s Smallest Contortionist” – and Harry James had very long blond hair down to his waist (his mother in the show never cut his hair). I cannot remember the Leader’s name – “Skinny?” a very fine cornetist. Can you send me any other information on this show please? I joined at Brattleboro, Vt. and stayed with it (in sleeping trailers – the largest Truck Show at the time) leaving at the end of the Season in New Orleans. The show wintered in Sarasota, Fl. I have been an orchestra leader most of my life in Lake Tahoe – Reno – Las Vegas – Palm Beach (played for JFK many times). Recently, my own radio show in Fla. “Claude Kelly’s Bandstand”. I represented the USA playing for the United States Information Agency through South America and Europe “Passport to Jazz.” Please let me hear from you when you have time. The Circus was a very special time in my life.
Thank you, Claude Kelly
Hello Carl: What did you end up doing with this record? I was fortunate to find an old box of 7 Circus Music Records dated 1955 and there was a covering letter with them. It seems that The small company that made records of the Kings Bros. Circus Steam Calliope and other Circus Band Wagon music, (Custom Record Co., Manufacturers of Records with A Purpose, Springfield, Ill.) had an explosion in their small plant that put them out of business back in July of 1955 and these 7 records were all that were left. This box of records was sent to Bill’s Emporiumm 393 Main Street, Holyoke, Mass. with the covering letter that says:
“Dear Sir: I am sorry for the delay, but we have had an explosion, destroying our small plant. The records we have sent you are all the variety we have, and I don’t believe we will be back in business again. The two Steam Calliope records will surely be collectors items as they were the only records made of the King Calliope. Sorry, I Am…” Signed by a name I can’t make out. There is also a copy of a page from The Billboard Magazine, dated October 22, 1955, with an article “OLD STEAM CALLIOPE IS WHEEZING AGAIN”. This article is about the demand for steam calliops for all types of gatherings. It mentions research into the history of the calliope done by Alex P. Clark, Robert Loeffler, elephant trainer W. H. Woodcock, George Chindahl and Richard Conover. Very interesting. I buy and sell items on Ebay, and I will probably be listing this rare old box of records on my Ebay site, electrical-collectibles, and am hoping that anyone who is interested in, or collects this kind of vintage Circus music will be able to get a chance to see my listing and bid on these. Hopefully they will end up in the hands of somebody who will really appreciate them.
Hello Carl, I am a documentary filmmaker and very interested in obtaining a copy of your King Bros. Steam Calliope recording. Can you direct me as how to do that? Thank you very much.
Sincerely, Shirley Morris
Utilizing the old King Bros. recording raises issues of copyright infringement. If you’re seeking steam calliope music for commercial or even not-for-profit production application, it’s possible to contact Dave or Zach Morecraft of Morecraft Manufacturing in Peru, IN, http://www.steamcalliope.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. They can produce any type of steam calliope sound track that you might require.
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