The Zono Minstrels recordings, of August 1913, were recordings of the Plantation Songs of Alfred Scott Gatty. Although there are 24 songs in all, the Zono Minstrels only recorded ten which were released to the public. There is evidence in the catalogue of the Gramophone Company that two further tracks were recorded, but they have no catalogue number and were never released. I would literally give anything to be able to bring these singers back together and have them record a box set of all 24 songs, but, of course, it can never happen.
The Zono Minstrels were Annie Rees (soprano), Violet Oppenshaw (contralto), Ernest Pike (tenor), and Stewart Gardner (baritone). All of these singers were highly regarded and popular at the time. Annie Rees and Violet Oppenshaw were regular performers at the Proms, and I have been told that Sir Henry Wood even played a part in Oppenshaw’s early development.
Ernest Pike is the best remembered of the four singers today, as he was one of the most prolific recording artists of the early days of recorded sound. There are far more of his solo recordings available on the internet than those of the other three singers. He sang classical arias, Gilbert & Sullivan, popular songs, and also recorded prolifically using the name Herbert Payne.
It is astonishing to me that Stewart Gardner is scarcely remembered. The incredibly rich baritone voice which took the lead role in the Zono Minstrels recordings should be remembered and savoured by the modern generation just as by the generation of a hundred years ago. I have not even been able to find any Stewart Gardner recordings on YouTube or other content sharing sites, other than those I have uploaded myself. If I had to choose to listen to the records of just one singer for the rest of my life, Stewart Gardner would be that singer.
The group of four singers only came together for two sessions, from which commercial recordings were made. The first was on Tuesday, 12th August 1913, when they recorded Click Clack, De Ole Banjo, Dat’s Berry Queer, Good Night and Far Away Ober Dere. The second session, on Friday, 15th August 1913, produced Far, Far Away, Way Down Dar In Tennessee, Dis Ole Nigger, Ding Dong Ding and Down By Dat Ribber.
The extremely good news is that, as of 31st October 2016, I am now able to present the full set of ten recordings, plus the re-release recordings on Ariel Grand. Here is the Zono Minstrels ‘jukebox’ –
Far, Far Away – http://www.zonominstrels.co.uk/zono-minstrels-recordings/far-far-away/
Way Down Dar In Tennessee – http://www.zonominstrels.co.uk/zono-minstrels-recordings/way-down-dar-in-tennessee/
Ding Dong Ding – Available through Robert Godridge’s YouTube channel – http://www.zonominstrels.co.uk/zono-minstrels-recordings/ding-dong-ding/
Down By Dat Ribber – Available through Robert Godridge’s YouTube channel – http://www.zonominstrels.co.uk/zono-minstrels-recordings/down-by-dat-ribber/
Dis Ole Nigger – http://www.zonominstrels.co.uk/zono-minstrels-recordings/dis-ole-nigger/
Far Away Ober Dare – http://www.zonominstrels.co.uk/zono-minstrels-recordings/far-away-ober-dare/
I am still seeking a replacement copy of the following record –
Dis Ole Nigger X-44266
Far Away Ober Dare X-44267
but only if it is in at least Very Good condition, with no obvious playing flaws.
If you have a copy of either of these records which you would be prepared to sell, please contact me through the Contact form. Alternatively, if you have a copy but do not wish to sell, I would be happy to borrow the record and create a digital transfer for you using high end equipment. This service is usually charged at £10 or more by professionals, but I would do it for free. The only stipulation would be that I could retain a copy of the digital transfer, and use it on this site.