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Memoirs of my Recording and Traveling Experiences for the Victor Talking Machine Company

Editorial Notes

This memoir by Victor Talking Machine Company’s second recording engineer, Raymond Sooy, was found on a Camden, New Jersey, street in the 1970s.  Nicholas Pensiero, vice president for public affairs for RCA Government Services, arranged for its purchase and had photocopies made.  One of these, or a copy thereof, was found a manila folder in the files of the David Sarnoff Library in 1999. It appears to be based on Raymond’s diary, similar to one kept by his brother Harry, who recruited him to Victor in 1903.  According to Mr. Pensiero, an RCA corporate vice-president in New York requested the original typescript, which was sent north and has not since been seen publicly.  Another photocopy is in the Nicholas Pensiero Collection at the Hagley Library, collection number 2138.

Victor Talking Machine was organized by Eldridge Reeves Johnson in Camden, New Jersey, in 1901. Under his leadership Victor overtook Thomas Edison’s cylinder record and phonograph business and technology, based in West Orange, NJ, to become the world leader in recorded music and home entertainment between 1907 and 1925. A decline in management and the rise of home radio in the mid-1920s led to Victor’s purchase by RCA under David Sarnoff’s leadership.

The company continued as the record and home instrument/consumer electronics divisions of RCA until 1986, when General Electric Company (GE) bought RCA.  GE traded its and the RCA Consumer Electronics Divisions with Thomson in exchange for its medical imaging business in 1987.  Thomson sells RCA consumer electronics and multimedia products as its leading American brand; Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) continues the Victor sound recording tradition in the RCA Label Group and the RCA Music Group. In both fields the RCA “meatball” logo and the “Nipper” trademark continue to be used as appropriate for marketing or historical purposes through licenses from the trademarks’ owner.

This memoir represents the second best first-person account of Victor sound engineering from the birth of disc recording at the turn of the 20th century through the rapid transition to electrical recording in 1925 to soundtrack recording in the late 1920s.  The memoir includes lists of people and groups that Sooy recorded, travelogues, accounts of incidents with performers during recording, and Sooy’s requirements for a good recording engineer in Victor’s recording “laboratory,” or what became the recording studio.  Sooy ends abruptly in 1931.  In spite or because of his unusual arrangement, he has helped document the chronology of the company’s origins, development, and management technologically, musically, and socially.  A broader perspective of Victor Talking Machine Company’s history can be found in Benjamin L. Aldridge’s history.

Thanks in part to Library volunteer Janet Swartz, the “original” photocopy has been scanned, converted to a Microsoft Word document, corrected, reformatted, and edited. Minor corrections have been made for the sake of consistency in capitalization and punctuation. Hyphens have been removed from “today” and “tomorrow.” Some sentences have been divided by substituting a period for a comma and starting the new sentence by capitalizing the conjunction.

There are no page numbers in the original typescript.  The section or chapter breaks are arbitrary and intended to ease scrolling on-line.

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