For the past week ARC has been sifting through the more than 300 boxes of recordings recently donated as the Saul Nowitz Collection, a gift of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation. While predominately 78 rpm discs there are nearly 5,000 LPs.
The two above brightened our day. They are by Trinidadian singer, actor, folklorist and the first black actor to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Edric Connor (1913-1968). As an actor in later years he achieved his greatest fame with roles in The Vikings, Fire Down Below, Moby Dick, Cry, King of Kings and Cry The Beloved Country and in quite a few hip Brit TV episodes like Danger Man and The Avengers.
So how is it after handling millions of records we’d never heard of Mr. Connor or seen these recordings? Well one reason is they are from the UK. Another is that these are just a few of the untold number of rare and wonderful things yet to be discovered.
Not only is the music swell and the covers amazing, but Mr. Connor proves himself a competent scholar with long informative notes on the music at a time when few books on West Indian music were readily available. His LP Songs from Jamaica (1952) open with “Day Dah Light”. It was covered by Louise Bennett in 1954, picked up and perked up by Calypsonian Irving Burgie in 1955 and in 1957 the Harry Belafonte version emerged as “Day-O.”
More soon on the Saul Nowitz Collection and what we unearth. It’s delightful discoveries like this that make the reboxing and cataloging more fun than work. Thanks to the artist for Creating the music and the collectors who kept it safe.