The Erin and Irish Recording Company 78rpm Mystery
By Jeff Ksiazek
Published October 20, 2021
While working on the Work from Home Playlist of 78rpm Discs this summer, we stumbled upon a disc label that deepens a bit of a mystery here at the Ward Irish Music Archives - as well as Harry Bradshaw's and Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí's excellent new release, Taisce Luachmhar (Valuable Treasure) – The Fiddle Album. The disc in question itself features accordionist Tom McDonough on a set jigs. McDonough is likely to be the uncle of accordionist Tommy Moffit and owned the Erin Pub in Atlantic City. Indeed, the record label itself is called Erin and lists the address as Atlantic City.
The disc's label design is nearly identical to the label design for the Irish Recording Company discs (presumably from Bill Stapleton) in our David Giovannoni Collection. The accompanying booklet to Taisce Luachmhar notes:
Bill Stapleton had high hopes that his company would find commercial success in the US [for the Irish Recording Company], there was quite a market for Irish music there, as was easily seen by the success of a variety of Irish musicians, from the Flanagan Brothers to Michael Coleman. An article in the Irish Times newspaper in June 1949, reported on Bill’s plans to register the new Irish Recording Company (Philadelphia) Ltd in the US. Bill had been sending discs out to the US and they were being regularly played on the airwaves by Philadelphia based radio station W.D.A.S. Bill’s plans for his new company were that he would produce commercial recordings of Irish music recorded in Ireland and marketed in the US. Things didn’t work out the way.
Bill had planned though, he had sent out discs to the US, in an attempt to find a distributor. Unbeknownst to Bill or to the artists appearing on the discs, they were being published in the USA. Copley records published some discs without the knowledge of the performers or the IRC. When Bill Stapleton became aware that his recordings had been published without his or the performers agreement, he felt that his recording label was finished. He considered that his personal reputation had been destroyed, since he had had a gentleman’s agreement with the performing musicians. With this turn of events, he felt that his credibility was irreparably damaged and he closed down the record label, with which he had hoped to bring some commercial success to Irish musicians and his studio.
With the knowledge that Stapleton sent discs to the States for possible distribution, here's a side-by-side comparison of the Erin disc label and an IRC disc label.
78rpm disc label of Erin 132 - Thornton's Reel/Miss McCloud's Reel by Tom McDonough. From the Ted McGraw Collection, McGraw 78 03-195.
78rpm disc label of Irish Recording Company IR 1014-A, The Humours of Bandon by Terry Lane's Ceildhe Band. Note that the Erin label name is replaced with Irish in the same font, and the details around the disc have changed, but the overall design remains the same. From the David Giovannoni Collection, DG 78 00-156.
Was McDonough and his fledgling Erin label the link to Stapleton's recordings ending up in North America? Or were their distribution on the newly designed IRC labels interrupted by the Copley recordings? More digging to be done, for sure.
Do you have any information about the Erin label from Atlantic City or it's connection to the Irish Recording Company? Please contact us at the Ward Irish Music Archives here.
Listen to these two recordings via our SoundCloud profile, embedded below.