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Edward B. Moogk
The Grand Old Man of Canadian Recorded Sound

As was the case with a great many of those who knew him, my first acquaintance with Ed Moogk was through his legendary CBC radio program Roll Back The Years, to which I listened religiously every week as a boy of 10. As a budding collector of things phonographic, I was astounded not only with Edís vast knowledge of the whole field of early recorded sound, but with his ability to present his material week after week in an interesting and humorous manner.

Edward B. Moogk (1914-1979)

We corresponded by mail from time to time and I still treasure some 78s he sold to me as early as 1951. It is indicative of Edís personal warmth and desire to share his enthusiasm with anyone of like interest that such a great personality should choose to spend his precious free time writing replies to a mere child. Our 25 year discrepancy in chronological age apparently meant nothing to him and as time passed it came to mean nothing to me as well.

We did not meet personally, however, until about 1962, when Ed was Director of Public Service for CFPL Television (London, ON). A mutual friend took my then-fiancee, Nora and myself to the Moogk home on Hibiscus Avenue one afternoon, where we were warmly welcomed by Ed and his wife Edith, and introduced to their 3 lively children, Janet 15, Debbie 13, and George 11. It was on this day that our acquaintance truly blossomed into friendship and regular visits back and forth from the Moogk residence to the Dodington residence in Toronto became joyful events in all our lives.

Strangely enough, the final barrier was not yet broken down. We, like others, had always known him as Ed Manning, but on our second visit to Hibiscus I happened to notice a letter addressed to Edward B. Moogk (pro- nounced Moke) lying on a desk. It was then that I came to realize that as a Canadian of German extraction, he had found it advisable, at least in his public persona, to "anglicise" his unusual surname. This he had done during the 1940s to avoid awkward situations and perhaps downright unpleasantness. It was a common practice since prejudice was indeed rampant in those days!

We were both relieved after I began to call him Ed Moogk instead of Ed Manning, and our relationship from that time on was characterized by an openness and lack of pretension which we both treasured.

Ed had grown up as the third son in his family and like many younger sons he had developed a bit of an inferiority complex in relation to his two successful older brothers, Ernie and Willis, both of whom eventually went on to distinguished military careers as Captain and Brigadier-General respectively. As our friendship deepened, I began to realize that Ed,like other public personalities, had found it prudent to erect a protective veneer about himself and his family. This was done in part to become more acceptable to his audience and particularly to what he perceived to be the anglophone ruling majority in Ontario, but I think also to convince himself that he was just as successful as his two brothers.

Most of us remember his public image ó Ed Manning, the impeccable dresser with the meticulous grooming, driving the big, flashy cars. But those of us who were privileged to know him better could get beyond all the trappings and appreciate the real Ed ó a man of great generosity, sensitivity and openness. He had an almost child-like enthusiasm for just plain goofing off and having fun, without ever going beyond the bounds of good taste.

His interest in recorded sound began in early childhood in Weston where his father had a windup gramophone and the usual assortment of records. After his parents passed away and he went to live with his maternal grandfather, John Grasser, in Kitchener in 1934 the records went with him. It was here that his life- long interest in jazz and Big Band music began to flower. He became an accomplished drummer, eventually playing in the Bob Donelle and Willis Tipping dance bands.

Ed and Edith Moogk

(CAPS member) Gerald Parker recounts a marvellous Ed Moogk story: At a Canadian Collector's Congress annual meeting (Ross) Brethour played a segment from this disc featuring the dance band of which Ed was a member between 1940 ó 1942, the anthology being "hot off the presses" and thus new to those present, during a mischievous "guess who" musical quiz. Asked to identify the "mystery drummer" of the band the astute and well-informed attendees desperately guessed celebrities from George Wettling to Gene Krupa ó the playing was that good ó and consternation reigned when Brethour revealed to all assembled that Ed Moogk, sitting in their midst was the drummer. Such a grin on Edís face such a chuckle!

I believe that it was through his dance band involvement that he met and in 1939 married Edith Howell of nearby Doon, Ontario, who was three years his junior. She remained all his life a warm and faithful supporter of her husband in all his activities, professional and otherwise. Her personal day-by-day sacrifices are an unrecognized part of the development of both Edís professional career and his enormous record collection.

In the years immediately after World War II Ed amassed much of his documentary material and became personally acquainted with countless early recording artists and technicians, a rapidly vanishing breed. Most of these,like aging movie stars, were long since forgotten and languishing in retirement. Such luminaries as Billy Murray, Reinald Werrenrath, Charles Harrison and Elsie Baker became personal friends, and Ed even managed to persuade the occasional one, like Charlie Harrison, then in his 70s,to re-record some of his old chestnuts for the Gavotte label, which Ed had established during his years with the Gordon V. Thompson Publishing Company in Toronto. Ed and Edith were invited as weekend guests on more than one occasion to the Reinald Werrenrath mansion in the Thousand Islands, where guests were expected to appear for dinner in formal dress and to address their host as Doctor Werrenrath!

On another occasion in the early 1950s, a reunion of early acoustic recording artists was arranged (probably in New Jersey) and Ed's stories about the characters that showed up were truly marvellous: Elsie Baker made a grand entrance wearing an enormous hat of Edwardian vintage, Billy Murray poking fun at all the ladies, and so forth. It was at once a joyous but tearful event, and sadly the last time that many of them ever saw one another.

Ed was as much interested in the personalities of the early recording days as in their accomplishments. When he visited Billy Murray at his Freeport, Long Island home in the fall of 1950 he discovered that Murray was a man of deep religious convictions, a rather surprising revelation when one considers his recorded legacy. Murray was still going strong, singing as a tenor soloist in one of the large churches in New York.

Ed's friendship with Herbert S. Berliner of Montreal was of long duration and one of his favourite phonographic jokes came from Berliner: Young son asked his father, "Father, did Edison invent the first talking machine?" To which his father replied, "No, my son, God invented the first talking machine but Edison invented the first one that could be shut off".

During the mid-1960s Ed occasionally visited Toronto to attend meetings of such esoteric societies as the Mississauga Jazz Muddies. He generally stayed at our home, and naturally these visits invariably degenerated into a veritable cacophony of non-stop cylinders and discs, which we would play "at" each another. Our wives, who usually exhibited a superior sense of decorum, gave up in disgust on such occasions and withdrew to saner surroundings. Ed had always been plagued with bad luck in his dealings with mechanical devices, and early phonographs, especially cylinder players, were a constant source of trouble although he enjoyed the records. It was a source of amazement to him that my early phonographs worked flawlessly (I never did reveal to him that this was not always the case) and that early recordings could sound so good. One day, he gave me his entire collection of about 600 cylinders along with a decrepit, but potentially gorgeous Edison Triumph Model D complete with Model O Turnover Reproducer; all with absolutely no strings attached. I was dumbfounded. "I think you'll get more out of this stuff than I ever will" he said. Such was his generosity. Nora and I brought the precious cargo home in our venerable 1950 Pontiac in a harrowing 7 hour trip from London to Toronto in an ice storm.

In August, 1964, Ed's plan of forming a national collection of sound recordings of Canadian content was first presented to the Centennial Commission. I was honoured to be asked by Ed to be among those to support the proposal and to advise the commission as to its validity. The rest, as we know, is history, and it eventually came to pass that the collection of recorded Canadiana so amassed became established within the mandate of the National Library (of Canada). Edís vast personal collection of Canadian material became its nucleus, and many of Ed's friends and colleagues, including myself, simply opened up our collections to him and gave generously of our treasures to support the cause.

A caricature of Ed Moogk drawn by his son, George (ca.1970)

When Ed was appointed curator of the Recorded Sound Division in 1972, the resulting move to Ottawa naturally made personal contact with his Toronto and Western Ontario friends a bit more difficult to maintain. Nevertheless, Nora and I did participate in a number of the Ottawa events, including the launching of his book, Roll Back The Years published in English and French versions by the National Library in 1975. We also provided many of the display items for the exhibition celebrating 85 years of Recorded Sound in Canada. And again in 1977 we provided phonographs, records and ephemera fora special display which Ed organized at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, celebrating 100 Years of Recorded Sound.

Meanwhile interest in recorded sound had been reaching unprecedented heights, largely because of Edís publicising of this esoteric field of interest. In 1970, when he learned that a few of the old record buffs in Southern Ontario were about to establish a formal society, he gave much advice and encouragement to the fledgling organization and became one of the charter members of the Antique Phonograph Society, later known as CAPS. Ed himself became a charter member and gave one of the first presentations ó the story of the Berliner Gram-O-Phone Company of Montreal.

The years from 1972 ó 1979 that he spent at the National Library were rewarding, if lonely ones for the Moogks. By this time of course the children had all been launched on their various careers, and Ed was at long last receiving due recognition as one of the worldís foremost authorities on early recorded sound. (Ed was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1975.) And yet, I could sense as time went on a growing disillusionment with the civil service nature of the job and that both he and Edith were looking forward with anticipation to his retirement.

I well remember the weekend in 1979 when Nora and I helped the Moogkís move his personal record collection from Ottawa back to London, Ontario where they had purchased a new home. Because so many of his priceless discs had been damaged by professional movers in the earlier move to Ottawa, I had convinced Ed that it might be better to rent a van and that Nora and I, along with Ed, Edith and their children would do the job.

Hundreds of empty liquor cartons had been scrounged from LCBO outlets and the records had been carefully stacked therein by Ed and Edith during the preceding weeks. As we began loading up the rental van,it soon became apparent that the vehicle was a bit undersized in terms of carrying the incredible weight. This was solved (or so we thought) by inflating the tires to 50 psi, far above the maximum rating, and even then they bulged ominously. All of our automobiles were subjected to the same overloads, and by about 10 a.m. on a bright June morning, Edís record collection was trundling along on its way to London.

Just west of Kingston, the inevitable happened. The left rear tire blew to pieces and we careened to a sudden stop on the shoulder. George Moogk, who had been following close behind, took the wheel to a nearby garage, where a new tire was fitted.

The full moon was high in the sky that evening when the caravan finally arrived at the Moogkís new home on Wilkins Street, and the last of the precious boxes were unloaded. We had completely filled the basement floor from end to end. To the best of my knowledge not one record was damaged in transit, but we had all aged considerably. After a good night's rest, and one of Edithís legendary breakfasts, we all agreed that it had been a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and that we would not have missed it for worlds.

In the interim, since publication of Roll Back The Years, Ed had been working away at a sequel, which was to cover the period from 1930 to the end of the 78 rpm era. But he had other smaller projects on the go as well, and of these his favourite was to write a history of the Anglo-Canadian Leather Co. Band of Huntsville, Ontario. This organization, although it never made a formal sound recording, gained an international reputation as one of the finest concert bands during the period 1917- 1922 under the baton of renowned Sousa cornetist and assistant conductor, Herbert L. Clarke.

Clarke, along with several other luminaries from Sousaís band, had been lured up to the northern backwoods of Canada by the owner of the local tannery, Charles Orlando Shaw, himself an amateur cornetist. The demand for leather for boots, harness and other military equipment had risen to unprecedented heights because of the war in Europe, making Shaw a very wealthy man. Most of his tannery employees had been recruited from Italy in the early years of the century as cheap labour. The local police chief had pleaded with Shaw to provide some sort of activity to keep all these young bucks from tearing up the town every Saturday night. Shaw, assuming that all Italians were by nature musicians, therefore established a company band about 1908, with himself, of course, as cornet soloist. By 1917, when Clarke and his colleagues from Sousa were hired, at astronomical salaries, the band was already an established fact. Under Clarke's direction the Anglo-Canadian Band developed a world-wide reputation in spite of the fact that it never recorded and never ventured further from Huntsville than to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, 140 miles to the south. Such was its reputation, that Major J. Mackenzie-Rogan, M.V.O., Mus.-Doc., Hon. RAM. leader of the band of H.M.Coldstream Guards made a special trip to Huntsville to observe and to conduct this legendary concert band.

Ed Moogk

Nora and I had moved from Toronto to Port Carling in Muskoka, not far from Huntsville, in 1976, and had gained some intimate knowledge of the area and its history, so it was only natural that when Ed and Edith came to visit us for a week in September 1979 we should actively pursue Edís Anglo-Canadian interest.

While Edith and Nora spent their days enjoying each other's company and caring for our two young daughters, Ed and I were off bright and early each morning to Huntsville researching and interviewing the half-dozen surviving members of the Anglo-Canadian Band. One of these wonderful characters was still living in the old octagonal bandstand which he had helped build in 1908. After the band folded in the mid-20s, he bought it and converted it into his residence.

By the end of the week, Ed and I had together managed to amass a considerable collection of tape- recorded interviews and photographs, as well as sheaves of notes. We had visited the local pioneer village, which houses considerable Anglo-Canadian memorabilia, and had even surreptitiously peeked in the parlour window of Herbert L. Clarke's substantial home overlooking Hunter's Bay to see the screw eyes in the ceiling from which the great cornetist suspended his instrument on wires while practising his technique.

After dinner at home each evening we took a trip in our 1903 vintage steam launch, Constance, among the island-studded waters of Lake Rosseau, visiting such lovely century-old hotels as Clevelands and Windermere House. Returning home after dusk there would begin a non-stop session of early recordings until utter exhaustion imposed a reluctant finish to another day. It was an idyllic week of joyful activity for us all, and it was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye when the Moogks returned to London. Little did any of us suspect that it was all over. We would never see Ed again.

Less that two weeks later, he suffered a ruptured aneurism behind his knee, and his leg eventually had to be amputated. Most of the autumn of 1979, he spent in a semi-conscious state in hospital, where his condition gradually deteriorated. The Moogk family drew together for mutual support during the crisis, and when we heard from Edith on December 18th that Ed had died, I immediately regretted not having gone to see him in spite of his "no visitors" request. It was important to him to maintain his personal dignity to the end.

At first, Nora and I felt a degree of personal responsibility for hastening the onset of Edís demise. For some time he had been overweight and in poor physical condition, and in retrospect we should have made allowances for this. When the Moogks visited us in Muskoka that week, should we have been a little less enthusiastic in encouraging his Anglo-Canadian project? Should our activities have been less physically demanding?

After Ed's passing, Edith, suspecting our feelings of uneasiness, revealed to our surprise that the summer of Ed's retirement had been a period of depression and lethargy for him. Of course, this is frequently the case when one retires from oneís career activities at age 65. She reassured us that the week in Muskoka had had the salutary effect of revitalizing Edís youthful exuberance, and had re-awakened his usual interest in research and life in general. She insisted that none of us should harbour any feelings of guilt or regret, and assured us that Ed had spent that week exactly as he would have wished.

Edith requested that I sing at the memorial service which was to be held at Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church in London, but I suggested that in this case it might be much more appropriate to play a suitable vintage Canadian record on an early horn gramophone, an idea which she readily accepted.

The service was well attended by his friends and associates from the many areas of Ed's multifaceted career, as well as by his close and extended family. For the musical tribute, I provided a Victor V Talking Machine with oak horn on which was played Herbert S. Berliners fine recording of Toronto baritone, Frank Oldfield singing Arthur Sullivan's The Lost Chord. It was a selection which proved touchingly appropriate to the occasion.

I believe that Ed would be gratified to see the bountiful harvest of the seeds which he sowed during his lifetime across the whole field of historic recorded sound. Certainly in Canada his influence has been greater than that of any other single individual. In his own unassuming way, he managed to quietly link up Canadian collectors, and give them, through his programs, his writings, and his personal encouragement, a focus to their individual activities. He was fiercely proud of the countless contributions of Canadians ro virtually every aspect of recorded sound and encouraged us all to recognize, respect, and preserve that important legacy. He even went so far as to say that the phonograph itself would have been a Canadian invention, had Edison's Canadian-born father not gotten himself mixed up in the 1837 "comic opera" political rebellion, which forced him to seek asylum in the USA.

But while Ed, by his own example encouraged scholarly research, he never once lost sight of one essential fact: collecting, owning and playing old records and using old phonographic equipment is fun. He was well aware that in the great melting pot that we call time,the things that survive are those which embellish the human spirit, and which continue to bring joy and inspiration to succeeding generations. I believe that Edward Balthasar Moogk, in the tradition of his biblical namesake, showed us by his own example that through our own personal enthusiasm we must preserve and interpret our rich recorded sound legacy, and seek new ways of keeping it all relevant for the enlightenment and enjoyment of generations yet to come.

The author wishes to thank Barry R. Ashpole, and also the three Moogk children, Janet, Debbie and George and their families for their enthusiastic and invaluable assistance and advice in the preparation of this article.

Bibliography

  1. Parker G. Edward G. Moogk. Obituary and Personal Reminiscences. ARSC Journal 1979;11(2-3):97-99.
  2. Ford C. and Kallman H. Moogk, Edward B. Encyclopedia of Music in Canada Toronto, on: University of Toronto Press, 1985 page 882.
  3. Barriault J. and Jean S. Moogk, Edward B., 1914-1979 Catalogue ofthe Archival Fonds and Collections of the Music Division (National Library of Canada) Ottawa, ON: 1994.