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Delaware Headlines

Johnson Victrola Museum features sounds of love Saturday

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Jazz musician Fats Waller, featured at the Johnson Victrola Museum Feb. 18.

Dover’s Johnson Victrola Museum will be featuring some historic love songs in time for Valentine's Day.

While the Victor Talking Machine Company – founded in 1901 – called Camden, New Jersey home,  its founder – Eldridge Johnson – was a native Delawarean.

The museum’s supervisor Nena Todd said Johnson came from humble beginnings – working as a mechanic.

“A man came to him with a little talking machine that you had to continuously wind, and he invented a motor – a spring-wound motor – to go in that machine so you could wind it up and it would play," she said.

Todd says this was a big deal –signaling in a new era when recorded music became available for the first time, leading to the modern music industry.

Johnson also developed his own record label, Victor Records.

“There was a demand for more and more music, so he started his own recording company," Todd said. "And he signed artists to come and sign on his label and record exclusively for him.”

Artists like Enrico Caruso recorded love songs at the Victor Talking Machine Company’s Victor Records.

These were some of the first pieces of recorded music – played on the iconic record machine of the time called the Victrola, which became a household name.

 

“When he [Eldridge Johnson] was growing up, music was only available if somebody was playing it live," Todd said. "That was the only time you ever had music. Now music is such a large incorporated part of our daily lives.”

 

The life and music of African American jazz musician Fats Waller will be featured the following Saturday, the 18th – and African American bass vocalist Paul Robeson will be featured on the 25th.

 

Both artists recorded their music at Victor Records.

 

Entry to the Johnson Victrola Museum is free, and it’s open from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday.

 

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