Years ago, I used to collect 78 rpm records. And through them, I discovered a singer called Herbert Payne. He used to sing very odd things – “Amazon, River of Dreams”, “The Lisp of a Baby’s Prayer” – and at the age of about nine or ten, I really enjoyed them. A few years ago I came across a tape of them I made and guess what… I still like them.
So, bearing in mind these recordings are almost certainly public domain by now, where to find them? Well, they’re easier to find than you think… Turns out he is not only a lot more prolific than I thought, he started recording earlier than I thought – on wax cylinders, no less.
The obvious place to start was The Internet Archive, but from there I got fortuitously distracted by The Cylinder Archive, Norman Bruderhofer’s lovingly put together archive of wax cylinder recordings. From there I found Glenn Sage’s excellent site tinfoil.com, then UCSB’s archive. UCSB had several recordings from Herbert Payne and one by Ernest Pike which mentions – in passing – “a.k.a Herbert Payne”.
So, after twenty years or so, I now actually know more one of my favourite singers than I did before. And if you want to hear him in action, I can recommend Roses of Picardy.