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Thoughts On Pseudonyms
Charles Hackett

In a back copy of Hobbies magazine (November 1962) I came across an article that listed singers and their pseudonyms. Some were very sensible: Edna Brown also recorded as Elsie Baker (same initials), and Charles Harrison who sang a great many Irish songs sometimes recorded as Hugh Donovan.

Some singers changed their names in World War I because of anti-German sentiment: Albert Wiederhold became Herbert Stuart and Julia Heinrich became Julia Henry.

Others apparently just wanted anonymity. Both Arthur Fields and Vernon Dalhart recorded under the name "Mr. X", and Alice Verlet, an operatic soprano, chose "Madame X" on Pathe.

One of the names in the Hobbies list is Charles Hackett whom, in 1923, Columbia called "the greatest American tenor of today." The article says that he used the pseudonym of Edwin Dale. I have several records of "both" singers, and although I don't enjoy Hackett's voice, I find that Edwin Dale's is bright and fresh. His "Song of Love" by Sigmund Romberg has a range of two octaves which Dale handles with ease, whereas Hackett often strains on his top notes when singing opera. If these two men are indeed one and the same, one explanation might be that the "Dale" records were made early in his career before he went into opera where he strained his voice.

Sometimes pseudonyms are for publicity: Joseph White became "The Silver-Masked Tenor" - (Did he wear a mask when he sang?) - and Arthur Tracy was hardly noticed until he called himself "The Street Singer."

But why would Billy Whitlock, the xylophone player, call himself "Madame Paula"? And did Irving Kaufman call himself George Beaver on Canadian records for patriotic reasons?

There are other pseudonymic mysteries that still remain. Recently I received an auction list that stated that Carrie Tubb (a pseudonym?) was the sister of the famous English contralto, Dame Clara Butt. "Tubb" is "Butt" spelled backwards, but I have not seen any other evidence - slim, indeed - that these two singers were related.

Some musicians, of course, do not need pseudonyms having been born with just the right names. C. Sharp was a famous musician in England, and C. Sharp Minor played the organ. Another organist blessed with a suitable name was Henry Thunder. And, believe it or not, Mischa Violin (Edison Records) played the violin. A friend of mine claims he heard of a contralto called Madame Page-Thrower, but this I have not been able to verify.

And finally, there are some careers that might never have got off the ground without a pseudonym. Doris Kappelhof became famous as Doris Day. Olga Hickenlooper was a very good pianist but the Victor Company suggested a change of name, and she rose to fame as Olga Samaroff, later to become Mrs. Leopold Stokowski.

Who knows? Maybe we would have heard more of Royal Fish if he, too, had chosen a pseudonym. Even in a pluralistic society it is difficult to take that name seriously when he is singing "Where the Water Lilies Grow" (Edison Record 50070)!