The "Lost" Decca Recordings
Recordings Incorporated
Decca Records
Master Numbers :
DLA-158A & DLA-159A
Release Date:
78rpm 11"
Approx 5 minutes
Only one of each is known to exist

U.S. buyers order "Lost Tracks" from: Worlds Records

European buyers order from: Amazon UK
"Bill" label


Judy GarlandThought to have been lost for over 70 years, these are the only two known records to exist from Judy Garland's first studio recording session.

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 set "Judy 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:

"Judy 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 record."

"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.

Judy's Lost Records
Click on the label of each record to view detailed close-ups.
Photo courtesy of Bonhams & Butterfields.

Each record contains just one song on one side.
The record on the left is "Bill".
The 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 writing
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 longer occupied. 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 going up the stairs, and especially a room with nothing but 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 for gardeners, etc., and that he threw that out a long, long time ago.

Why these albums did not get misplaced, left behind, or sold (as my parents had moved 4 times since 1960), is amazing. We never talked about them, ever. I 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 answers. Hours and hours, days and days, months and months went by. We looked and looked, thought and thought. I wanted an avenue to reap rewards for my Father and myself, 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. I am overjoyed that we have found you through Scott. :)

My heart is happy. You have made our day much brighter. I just wish my Mom could be here to see this.

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.

Read the text version of the Bonhams Press Release
Download the official Bonhams & Butterfields Press Release (PDF)

All images on this page (except the "Lost Tracks" set) courtesy of Bonhams & Butterfields

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.

JSP Records "Lost Tracks" notice
The fantastic 2010 4-CD set "Judy Garland - Lost Tracks" which premiered the Decca Tests to the world.
Judy Garland - The Best of "Lost Tracks 1929-1959"
Check out the 2015 "Best of" CD with newly remastered tracks (including the two Decca Tests) and previously unreleased material!
Top of page