Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Lately I've been having a blast with a fun and very inexpensive hobby; collecting 78 rpm singles.

I find them in thrift and second-hand stores, as well as at yard and estate sales, and they usually cost a quarter or less.

One recent find is “On the Beach at Waikiki-Medley,” backed with “Moe Uhane Waltz,” by Helen Louise and Frank Ferera (Victor 17880).

The A-side label indicates a medley, yet only mentions “On the Beach at Waikiki.” Are there other tunes played that are not named? I can't tell by listening.

These two Hawaiian guitarists are great, and I'm on the lookout for more of their records.

Having never heard of them before, what can you tell me about their place in Hawaiian music history?
—Jamie Evans, Greendale, Wisc.

DEAR JAMIE: A native Hawaiian, Frank Ferera (nee: Palakiko Ferreira) is to Hawaiian music as Django Reinhardt to jazz guitarists, or to Edith Piaf who took the music of France far beyond French borders.

With regard to significance and his place in Hawaiian music history, it's hard to rank anyone above him.

Ferera (1885-1951) came to the U.S. in 1902, where he soon added the Hawaiian steel guitar to his repertoire. He even became a fine singer, though most of his recordings are instrumentals.

In 1915, he met Helen Louise Greenus and her sister Irene Lilliam Greenus, two gals from Seattle who played Hawaiian music on guitar and ukulele. With so much in common, Frank and Helen connected instantly, soon married, then toured the vaudeville circuit as a duo.

Irene often joined her sister and brother-in-law in concerts and on recordings, though this trio is always credited on record labels as Louise, Ferera and Greenus. Best known among their Columbia titles are: (#2405) “La Paloma”; (#2450) “Little Alabama Coon”; (#2614) “Funiculi Funicula”; and (#2916) “In the Heart of Hawaii.”

Victor Records signed the newlyweds in 1915, and their first release is the record you just found: “On the Beach at Waikiki-Medley.”

After a portion of “On the Beach at Waikiki,” the medley continues with: “My Honolulu Tom Boy”; “Waikiki Hula”; “Kawaihau”; “Mauna Keala”; and “Ninipo.”

Tragedy struck the Fereras on December 12, 1919. Frank and Helen were traveling from Los Angeles to Seattle aboard Pacific Steamship's SS President, to spend Christmas with her family.

At around 4:00 a.m. on that Friday morning, with the ship steaming toward San Francisco, Helen reportedly walked out of their room, giving no reason for leaving.

She was never seen again.

After searching from bow to stern, and finding no clues to Helen's unexplained disappearance, authorities concluded she somehow ended up overboard and was lost at sea. Apparently, neither suicide nor foul play seemed likely.

According to Pacific Steamship, adverse weather also played no part in whatever happened to Helen. After the vessel docked in San Francisco, a company superintendent told reporters “the seas were as smooth as a mill pond.”

Based on what information, we don't know, but one week later Helen's mother - who was in Washington and not on board the ship — offered a much different opinion to the Seattle Daily Times:

“There was a strong wind blowing when my daughter left her stateroom and we believe she was washed overboard.”

Truly an unsolved mystery.

IZ ZAT SO? In the years following the loss of Helen Louise, Frank Ferera continued to record, often with sidekicks Anthony J. Franchini and John K. Paaluhi.

He also provided Hawaiian style backing for the immensely popular vocalist Annette Hanshaw, as well as many other lesser known artists.

During Frank's 15-year recording career (1915-1930), he is heard on no less than 2000 records, on numerous labels. Among them are: Brunswick; Cameo; Columbia; Conqueror; Edison; Gennett; Harmony; Perfect; Puritone; Velvet Tone; and Victor.

Ballpark estimates credit Ferera as being involved in about 25% of all Hawaiian music recorded during those years.

Prices for Ferera's 78s vary widely, with most selling in the $30 to $300 range. Any of these would be a steal for 25-cents.

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column.  Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368  E-mail:  Visit his Web site:

All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2010 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Permission


An affordable hifi stereo system for vinyl

I came across a new site lately and contacted the gentleman who owns and operates it and he (Mike) has been gracious enough to allow me to share some of his work with the CVR audience.  Be sure to stop by his site and look around and welcome a new contributor to the CVR Blog!

An affordable hifi stereo system for vinyl

One of the major topics of this blog is affordable audio, so i’ve decided to put together a reasonable priced system for playing vinyl records. These recommendations are just starting points, and I would encourage you to substitute components for any vintage or used stuff you might find. You can always upgrade later, the point now is to start spinning records as soon as possible.

Basically, a hifi stereo setup involves three parts: the source(s), amplifier and speakers. There are a variety of other sources possible (CD/SACD players, iPods, computers, etc) but for now we’ll stick to a turntable. You probably already own a MP3 or CD player anyway.

  Turntable – Pro-ject Debut III

This is the table I currently use, and I highly recommend it. Professional reviewers agree  that it is a perfect entry level turntable for those curious about vinyl. Unlike other, more expensive turntables, it’s pretty much ready to go right out of the box and comes complete with a cartridge (the needle), tonearm, dust cover, felt record mat and attached L+R and grounding cables. The MSRP is currently $349, and there is a $499 version that includes a USB output so you can rip your records to your computer and convert them to MP3. Amazon is currently sold out, but Acoustic Sounds  has it, and they can also be found at Magnolia outlets (which are often located in Best Buy stores).

  Amplifier – Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10

The signal from a turntable must go through a preliminary stage of amplification before it can go to the main amp. This might be accomplished with a “phono stage” like the NAD PP-2 , which I use, but it is an additional expense, takes up more space and uses more resources. The solution is to use an amplifier that has an integrated phono stage, like the Topaz AM10. I haven’t listened to this particular amp, but Stereophile’s Stephen Mejias  recommends this and it is the cheapest one of the four he lists in the linked article. In addition to the phono stage, it’s small, light, looks cool, and has a front input to plug in your iPod. Amazon’s got it for 349 dollars  , and it’s probably your cheapest, easiest bet for beginner hifi amplification.

Speakers -

For beginners, floorstanders might not be the best idea, simply due to their size and expense (although you wouldn’t need to buy speaker stands). Bookshelf speakers are the optimal entry level solution. The problem with speakers is that they are the most subjective in terms of sound quality; what sounds good to me might sound awful to you. This is why it’s kind of difficult to recommend a good speaker without listening first, but sticking with established brands that specialize in making speakers is a good start. This means avoiding crap from Sony or Yamaha, which might be cheap but are of poor quality. Bose speakers have an undeserved reputation for quality thanks to aggressive marketing, but they are the laughing stock of the audiophile world. The Polk Audio TSi200  is available for about $300 a pair, or if you need to go cheaper then the Klipsch B-2 Synergy   is only a bit over $180. Either of these would work fine for a hi-fi-curious individual. A set of speaker stands can be found at most any big box store for 20-30 bucks, or you could DIY up some of your own.


Turntable – $349
Amp – $349
Speakers- $180
Cables and other accessories – $50

Total: +- $928

I hear ya, that’s hardly pocket change. But as I mentioned in the beginning, this is only a suggestion. The best deal and the most important purchase is the Pro-ject turntable, I can’t really think of a better value for the money. The speakers can vary, if you already have a cheapo pair then use them to begin with. The amplifier is optional as well, in fact, if you browse vintage or thrift stores you shouldn’t have a problem finding a decent integrated amp. Most older (pre-1990s) amps that you’ll likely encounter have a phono stage; if it has an input on the back labeled “PHONO” then you’re good to go.

Every system has humble origins, and once you get into vinyl you’ll be hooked.

This article is from, a blog about affordable hi-fi audio for beginners.  Featured articles include equipment  reviews, music reviews, beginner's guides and other essays/opinions about audio.  Reprinted by Permission

Serato x Eric Orr Picture Disc Control Vinyl [ Limited Edition ]

Serato is proud to announce the release of the first ever picture disc in the Serato Artist Series - The Eric Orr DJ Robot Control Vinyl.

This Control Vinyl will showcase pieces designed exclusively for Serato by artists from around the world. Working with STOKYO we have created an incredibly unique Control Vinyl. Hand pressed in Japan and 30% lighter than a traditional picture disc; these records are designed by DJs, for DJs.

We are honoured to have the legendary Eric Orr design our first release, which includes a double sided pressing with the licensed Serato Control Tone on each side and 10 hologram cue point stickers.

Eric Orr is an artist and designer from New York City. He attended the School of Visual Arts in 1979 and the Arts Student League during 1980-83, and began his career painting in the NYC subway stations through the early 1980’s. It was there that he substituted typography for his unique character, or symbol, the “Robothead” and collaborated with pop artist Keith Haring on the black panel subway spaces.

Paralleling his art world in the NYC street culture, Eric was part of the hip-hop scene in the late 70’s. He produced work for DJ and community leader Afrika Bambaataa (the godfather of hip hop), the brand logo for the Strong City Records label, and legendary hip hop artists of the 80’s such as Jazzy Jay, Don Baron, Busy Bee, Nu-Sounds, Ultimate Force, Masters of Ceremony and Tony D moving into the 90’s with the Diggin’ In The Crates (DITC) crew and rapper Lord Finesse, Jazzy Joyce, JoeSki Love and Positive K just to name a few.