Study note - Milton Charles

 

Milton Charles started his career in California, and was chosen to follow Jesse Crawford at Miller's California Theatre in Los Angeles, ahving previously been C Sharpe Minor's assistant at the Million Dollar Theatre. He moved to Chicago, where he was based at the Tivoli, as well as assisting at the Chicago Theatre and Uptown Theatre.  In 1924, he made some 78 rpm recordings at the Tivoli for Columbia, using the acoustic process.  One of these tracks is included on The Virtual Radiogram. It does not make for impressive listening, as he was clearly restained to using only a very limited tonal palette and virtually no pedal.  However, it may be that these were the first ever recordings of a theatre organ - I am unsure whether they were made slightly before or slightly after Jesse Crawford's (electrical) Marsh recordings at the Chicago Theatre.  As far as I can tell, they were the only in-theatre acoustic recordings of a theatre organ ever made. I am working on a "cleaned up" recreation of this recording which will be added later.

Later recordings in Chicago were made on a more suitable instrument at the Gunn School. Who Mirth Mack was I have no idea.

Charles went back to California to the Paramount, Los Angeles, then to the Mastbaum, Philadelphia, whence he migrated into radio work with CBS in Chicago, finally moving to California in the 1940s, where he continued with CBS at Columbia Square.  He frequently sang to his own accompaniment, and can be heard doing so in each of the broadcasts included on The Virtual Radiogram. He was certainly better than many of the anonymous singers whose efforts were acknowedged with the dread words "with vocal refrain" on theatre organ 78s.

He concluded his career playing in a Los Angeles restaurant for some 20 years.

 

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