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Canadian Antique Phonograph Society

The interests of the 225+ members of the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society (CAPS) range across all aspects of sound recording and its history: phonographs and gramophones, all types of sound recordings of historic importance, ephemera and related memorabilia. There is particular emphasis placed on the history of recorded sound in Canada.

[Moogk] The inaugural meeting of what was eventually to become the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society was held on October 17, 1970 when a handful of collectors met in the Corvair Room of the Genosha Hotel in Oshawa, Ontario, with the expressed intention of forming a club. The roots of the Society go back years before.

A parallel interest in antique cars in the late 1950s brought together a like group of individuals around Toronto who discovered a shared interest in phonographs and old records. One of the more organizational types in the group, Paul Webb, decided that they should form some kind of society and in 1964 the Edison Phonograph and Horn Appreciation Society was born. This ad hoc group held occasional "recitals" at the homes of the 5 or 6 members from 1964 to 1970. The theme for each recital was generally agreed upon ahead of the meeting. At one recital, for example, everyone brought as many copies as they had in their collections of the various permutations and combinations of Arthur Collins' "The Preacher and the Bear". After playing dozens of them, they were all just lying on the floor at the end.

[Fargo] In late 1970, phonograph collector John Steffen from Oshawa, Ontario, invited the Toronto group to join with them to form a society known simply as the Phonograph Club. This was changed almost immediately to the Phonograph and Record Society to reflect the interests of collectors of records as well as phonographs. By 1975 the name had changed to Antique Phonograph Society and in 1985 the group became the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society.

One tradition that CAPS has maintained since the first meeting in 1970 is the occasional recording of members' voices on a wax cylinder. Shown here is Edward Moogk, former Head of Canada's National Library's Recorded Sound Section and author of Roll Back the Years: History of Canadian Recorded Sound and Its Legacy, recording on a wax cylinder at one of CAPS meetings in 1976.

Over the years CAPS members have been enlightened and entertained by the visits of several 78rpm era recording artists. A highlight of 1984 was the presentation and recital of 90 year old Wee Willie Robyn who made his first commercial recordings acoustically in 1920. Mr Robyn went on to record over 100 songs. Anyone with a fair sized collection of early popular vocal selections will no doubt have one or more sides by this artist. His performances were issued on all of the popular labels of the day. Mr Robyn was accompanied by Milford Fargo, Professor of Music Education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and author of Ada Jones: the First Lady of the Phonograph.

In 1985 our guest was Jack Kingston who first appeared on Capitol Records in 1950 and subsequently recorded over 100 record sides which were released throughout the world. Mr Kingston is a western singer in the tradition of Hank Snow and Wilf Carter. He was a feature artist on the Mainstreet Jamboree radio show and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1955. As a composer he may be best remembered for a couple of songs about the tragic Nova Scotia mine explosions of 1956 and 1958 entitled Springhill Mine Explosion and Miracle of Colliery 2.

[Phonola Record 1918] A special celebration in 1988 featured John Dodington, principal singer for the Canadian Opera Company, and veteran radio and recording stars Ivan Romanov and Lesia Zubrack. Ms Zubrack spoke fondly about the 78rpm era, after which she was presented with a 78 disc she had recorded in 1955.

The late Jeff Healey was a frequent presenter at CAPS meetings. Known principally for his blues albums, See The Light, Hell To Pay, and Cover To Cover, and for his performance on the soundtrack of the movie Roadhouse, Jeff was a veteran collector of "Hot Jazz" 78s from the 1920s and for many years hosted a show on CBC radio My Kind Of Jazz.

Canada's important contributions to the "history of recorded sound" have been well represented in recent programs. In 1992 Richard Green, the new head of the Music Division of the National Library of Canada, shared with members a lively sampling of the documented history, on paper and on disc, of recorded sound in Canada in a presentation titled Canada's National Archive of Recorded Sound. In 1993 Ernie Dick, Corporate Archivist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), presented An Earful of Canadiana, an opportunity for members to walk Memory Lane with the keeper of the key to Canada's vast storehouse of radio broadcasts and performances of the past. In 1995, Ernie DeCoste, Curator, Communications, at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, Ontario, discussed the museum's fine collection of sound recording and reproduction technology spanning the industry's history from the beginning to the present day. In 1996, Jeannette Kopak, of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and member of a Federal Task Force formed by the Department of Canadian Heritage with the National Archives of Canada, reviewed the government initiative to locate, record, preserve and improve access to Canada's legacy of vintage recordings and film.

Dance Bands From Canada 1922-1930 CAPS has had a long presence on the internet. Originally launched on June 6, 1996 the CAPS Web site acquired its own domain address, CAPSnews.org, four years later.

2000 was an exciting year for the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society. CAPS celebrated its 30th anniversary in style with its first colour issue of Antique Phonograph News, a party at its 31st October meeting which attracted nearly 100 members and guests, the largest turnout in the Society's history, and the successful launch of its first CD - Dance Bands From Canada 1922-1930. Produced by CAPS Secretary-Treasurer, Bill Pratt, the project involved many Society members: Colin J. Bray (booklet notes), David Lennick (disc transfers), Graham Newton (audio restoration), Jack Litchfield (proof-reading) and Gene Miller (78s, photographs and sheet music).