THE DISC & RECORDINGS:
Thought to have been
lost for over 70 years, these are
the only two known records to exist
from Judy Garland's first studio
On March 29, 1935, Judy Garland and
her sisters (Virginia & Mary
Jane), known professionally as "The
Garland Sisters," recorded several
tests for Decca Records. The recording
session took place at the Recordings
Incorporated Studios at 5505 Melrose
in Hollywood, California.
Judy's Mom, Ethel Gumm, played the
piano for the tests.
According to the excellent liner
notes by Ron O'Brien for the
wonderful 1994 Decca Records CD boxed
Garland - The Complete Decca Masters
(plus)," the session was initiated by Decca Records
A&R man Joe Perry, aka "Decca Joe".
Perry had seen the sisters perform,
and wanted to sign them to a contract.
Per his wife, Elise Perry, as recorded
in these same liner notes:
and her mother and two sisters were
appearing at the theater, and we
just happened to go to see the movie
and, of course, they had this vaudeville
in between pictures. My husband
thought Judy was pure magic, and
he just couldn't get her off his
mind. He talked about her all the
way home, and the next morning he
went back to the theater and sat
through four shows. Joe talked to
the mother, and then I remember she
came out to the house and brought
in some papers and things to my husband
because she couldn't get all the
way out to the studio, which was
on (5505) Melrose. He signed up
Judy, and then she made her first
"The Garland Sisters" recorded "Moonglow",
and Frances Garland (as Judy was still
professionally known at that time) recorded
"Bill", the Hammerstein/Kern song from
"Show Boat" that was identified with
torch singer Helen Morgan. Frances also
recorded a medley consisting of "On The
Good Ship Lollipop/Object Of My Affection/Dinah." "Bill" was given a master number of "DLA
158" and the "Medley" was given a master
number of "DLA 159." It's likely that
"Moonglow" was given the master number
"DLA 157", but this record is still thought
to be lost so we can only speculate that
it was most likely recorded first.
At the time, Judy performed "Bill" on stage, seated on a piano
(as the song's originator Helen Morgan
did) with just a spot framing her face.
At the end of the song the lights
would come up, and audiences would applaud
and cheer in amazement
that this woman's voice came out of such
a young girl. See the photo at right,
taken during a working trip to the Chicago
World's Fair in July of 1934 - Judy is
posing as she performed the number.
"Decca Joe" prepared a Decca memo that
day, as shown in the liner notes to the
boxed set, listing the "Matrix No." as
DLA 158, the "Series" as "Test", and
incorrectly lists the "Artist" as Francis
[sic] Garland. He put a hand written
note at the bottom of the memo which reads
"12 yr. Old Girl I Wrote About, 3/28/35
- Joe". This indicates that the day
before the girls came in, he had already
notified Decca's New York Office
of his new discovery.
Sadly, a contract never materialized
and Judy would not make another studio
recording until a second
"audition" session for Decca on
November 27, 1935. The previous September
she had signed a standard studio contract
with M-G-M Studios and was having great
success via radio appearances. This second
audition was actually a "tag" on
the end of a recording session that Decca
musical director Victor Young was conducting
with Johnny Mercer and Ginger Rogers.
Young was the orchestra leader for "The
Shell Chateau Hour" on NBC Radio where
Judy was also appearing. Young
liked Judy and arranged for this second
audition, and conducted as Judy sang
"All's Well (Down In Coronado By The
Sea)" and "No Other One". Unfortunately,
these records were "kept on file" only until 1942, when
it's thought that they were lost as part
of the wartime metal scrap drives. But,
so were the first tests that have recently
been discovered, so who knows?
These two surviving records, retrieved
in 1960 from a trash heap outside of Judy's recently vacated home in
Beverly Hills, are surely Judy's personal
copies. Upon close inspection of the
labels and the records themselves, it's
apparent that they are either
the originals or copies made at the same
time. Judy may well have been given these
as "demos" (much like artist today have
demo CDs) to keep and possibly use if
she were to go to another record company
or more likely a Hollywood studio.
If they were pressings made years later
and given to Judy, they certainly would
not have the "Recordings Incorporated"
label but rather a hand written plain
label much like a record Judy gave to
Arthur Freed in the late 1940's.
Click on the label of each record to
view detailed close-ups.
Each record contains just one song on
The record on the left is "Bill".
record on the right is
the medley of "On The Good Ship Lollipop/Object Of My Affection/Dinah"
The reverse sides are blank,
without labels, and have black on black
with the name of the featured song.
The Master Numbers (DLA 158 & 159) are etched in the lip of the records.
Segue to 1960, Beverly Hills, California:
A 6 year-old girl accompanies her
mother and brother as her uncle takes
them to a vacant home that was
once occupied by Judy Garland. The
uncle owned a cleaning business,
and thought the family might want
to see the home. The girl (now an
adult) remembers the home as
two story, with
"lots" of red carpeting going up
the stairs. There was a large room
with "nothing but mirrors" [apparently
for rehearsals] and a train in the
backyard, which reminded the young
girl of Knotts Berry Farm. On their
way to their car, they came upon
a pile of debris or "trash", and
he mother and brother rummaged through
it. They came away with 5 albums,
a wooden cane, and a script for "Man
O'War" produced by Sid Luft and written
by W.R. Burnett. Over the years,
some items were thrown out, but the
mother kept the records (other records
obtained that day are an M-G-M playback
disc of "How About You" dated 7/19/1941 and a disc of
a late 30's Garland appearance on
a Bob Hope radio show).
Years later, after the mother passed
away, the items went to the girl.
Several years after that, she decided
to do some detective work on the
records, and via the Internet found
out that she had two of the "lost"
Decca recordings from that day on
March 29, 1935.
She contacted a few people, including myself via The Judy Room in March of 2004. I encouraged her to
have the records transferred to digital
format ASAP - fearing the records could
get broken. She did. She was
looking to sell the recordings
to Decca, and to stay anonymous (savvy
person that she is, she knew she had
something rare and wonderful), so I put
her in contact with the one person who
I knew had working relationships with
the major music labels. She was also musing over the possibility
of auctioning them off.
As Decca (Universal) was not interested
at all, they went to Capitol who almost purchased
the recordings but backed out. At that point they
decided to put the records up for
auction. The following is the story of how these records came into the possession of Cynthia and her family. Further below is what happened at the auction.
My mother's brother (also my Godfather)
took us (me,
my Mom, my younger sister, and my Aunt)
to Judy's home
which had just been sold and was no
His landlord at the time had a "clean up business" and
told my Uncle to come see this house.
The house was 2
story and I remember lots of red carpeting
the stairs, and especially a room with
mirrors (for dance practice I would
guess). There was
also a "train" in the backyard. This train left a big
impression on me as it was like something
you'd see at
Knott's Berry Farm.
On our way to the car we came upon
this trash, a big
pile (I can see it in my head) and
my Mom and her
brother started to rummage through
it. My Mom ended
up with 5 albums, a wooden cane, and
a script "Man
O'War". The significance of these did not seem too
great. Who would want them? They were
just beat up
records and were lying in a pile of
trash. They sat in
my Mom's closet for years and years
and years. If it
was 1960 I was only 6 years old at
the time, but I
have a memory like an elephant and
can see this like
it was yesterday. My Dad just told
me the other day
that he also had a metal box with receipts
gardeners, etc., and that he threw
that out a long,
long time ago.
Why these albums did not get misplaced,
or sold (as my parents had moved 4
times since 1960),
is amazing. We never talked about them,
could hardly believe it when he handed
me the cane one
afternoon saying "here, you should keep this". I
really did not even realize he still
had this stuff.
Yes stuff, we were so in the dark as
to what these
were until last summer.
We started to search and search for
and hours, days and days, months and
months went by.
We looked and looked, thought and thought.
an avenue to reap rewards for my Father
and was trying to be ever so careful.
This is why I
still have them almost one year later.
I did not want
the wrong thing to happen to them,
as well as being
careful to not sell them to someone
that would keep
them for themselves and the whole world
would miss out
on these treasures.
We've talked to two Auction Houses
and a couple of "rare record" people so that we could decide which
avenue would generate the most interest/profit.
overjoyed that we have found you through
My heart is happy. You have made our
brighter. I just wish my Mom could
be here to see
After both Decca (MCA) and Capitol Records declined to buy and release the recordings, Cynthia and family went to Bonhams & Butterfields Auction House. The story of their experience going to the auction house is told in detail in the liner notes to Judy Garland: Lost Tracks. You can also read the story as reported in The
Judy Room 2006 Year In Review.
the text version of the Bonhams
the official Bonhams & Butterfields Press Release (PDF)
All images on this page (except the "Lost Tracks" set) courtesy of Bonhams
From Bonhams & Butterfields:
Both discs are still playable, though a scratchy,
rough background noise can be heard
as is expected from recordings from
this era. Amazingly, Judy's voice overpowers the "scratchy" quality
and is as clear as a bell. She's only
twelve at the time, but her singing
voice is remarkably mature; her innate talent evidenced even at
this very early stage of her career. The recordings run for a total
of five minutes only - leaving the listener wanting to hear more
- but glad that these five minutes do exist! The recordings have
been transferred to a CD, which is included, as is a reprinted
black and white image of Garland as a young girl.
The fantastic 2010 4-CD set "Judy Garland - Lost Tracks" which premiered the Decca Tests to the world.
Check out the 2015 "Best of" CD with newly remastered tracks (including the two Decca Tests) and previously unreleased material!