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From 1901, The Imperial Minstrels as rendered by Len Spencer and Steve Porter.

The Imperial Minstrels

Company Columbia Phonograph Company
Cylinder # 13000
Category Minstrels
Title The Imperial Minstrels – Dese Bones Shall Rise Again
Performed by Len Spencer & Steve Porter
Circa 1901
Announcement "The Imperial Minstrels, introducing their original minstrel first part, for Columbia Phonograph Company."

Announced by Len Spencer with Steve Porter as the formal-sounding interlocutor.

End man (Spencer):      Porter, did you hear that story about the empty box?
Interlocutor (Porter):  Why, no.  What about the empty box?
End man:                There's nothing in it!

To hear The Imperial Minstrels   —

To hear an excerpt   —  
For help playing these sounds, click here.

The "original minstrel first part" mentioned in the announcement refers to an aspect of minstrelsy that was well understood when this record was made over 100 years ago, but now is all but forgotten.

Minstrel shows, as they evolved in the mid-1800's, were highly structured comedy-variety affairs with typically three distinct parts to the program.   The first part featured humorous dialogues, jokes – sort of a team approach to stand-up comedy – plus various instrumental solos, songs, then a closing chorus.   The next part, called the olio, consisted of various specialty acts and was very much a proto-vaudeville setting.   The programs would usually conclude with a featured skit or parody.

Most minstrel wax cylinder recordings portray "the first part" because, of course, a few jokes and a verse of a song are about all one could squeeze into a two-minute recording.   For customers who wanted to hear an entire minstrel show, some record companies produced a set of minstrel cylinders.   The Columbia Phonograph Company even provided a selection of records tailored so that customers could build their own olio part!

To learn more about minstrelsy, see:


To hear other examples of wax cylinders, see the

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