Thursday, March 31, 2011
Happy birthday, 45 rpm
When RCA Victor introduced the 45 rpm record on this day in 1949 it didn't fool around. It debuted with a proven hit: Eddy Arnold's "Texarkana Baby," which the previous year had become the singer's sixth No. 1 song.
But if you want to win a bar bet you could claim that Spade Cooley's "Spanish Fandango" was the first country record ever released in the 45 rpm format. Prior to the release of "Texarkana Baby" (RCA 48-0001) the company sent out a seven-record demo set that was color-coded by genre: black for popular, red for classical, green for country and western, etc.
Only a year earlier Columbia introduced the vinyl microgroove 33 1/3 rpm, or LP (long playing record), which held more recorded music and was made of more flexible vinyl than the 78 rpm shellac records that preceded them. But the smaller 45s were the coolest of all because suddenly juke boxes could hold up to 200 songs -- about five times as many as the old 78s.
The downside of vinyl (as we all remember): the softer material scratches more easily than shellac, resulting in pops and cracks, and the static charge attracts dust that can settle into the smaller grooves and result in skipping. Despite these issues, analog recordings are arguably superior to today's digital CDs under ideal recording conditions. Which is the reason we find ourselves shopping for a new turntable today on the 62th birthday of the 45.
Now does anybody remember the first 45 rpm they purchased? Ours was "The End of the World" by Skeeter Davis, followed closely by the Cascades' "Rhythm of the Rain."