Lost Sounds

Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919
Author: Tim Brooks
Appendix by Dick Spottswood
Biographies of the first African American recording stars
Cloth – $125
Paper – $36.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/2005
Cloth: 01/01/2004
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About the Book

A groundbreaking history of African Americans in the early recording industry, Lost Sounds examines the first three decades of sound recording in the United States, charting the surprising roles black artists played in the period leading up to the Jazz Age and the remarkably wide range of black music and culture they preserved.

Drawing on more than thirty years of scholarship, Tim Brooks identifies key black recording artists and profiles forty audio pioneers. Brooks assesses the careers and recordings of George W. Johnson, Bert Williams, George Walker, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, W. C. Handy, James Reese Europe, Wilbur Sweatman, Harry T. Burleigh, Roland Hayes, Booker T. Washington, and boxing champion Jack Johnson, plus a host of lesser-known voices. Many of these pioneers struggled to be heard in an era of rampant discrimination. Their stories detail the forces––black and white––that gradually allowed African Americans to enter the mainstream entertainment industry.

Lost Sounds includes Brooks's selected discography of CD reissues and an appendix by Dick Spottswood describing early recordings by black artists in the Caribbean and South America.

* Supported by the Henry and Edna Binkele Classical Music Fund

About the Author

Tim Brooks is Executive Vice President of Research at Lifetime Television. He is the author of Little Wonder Records: A History and Discography and other books, as well as past president of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Dick Spottswood is a freelance author, broadcaster, and record producer. He is the author of the seven-volume reference work, Ethnic Music on Records.


"An act of cultural reclamation--the great lost heroes of black performance."--New York Times

"Brooks brings both passion and compassion to the story of the black pioneers who worked as performers and entrepreneurs in the nascent U.S. recording industry."--Business History Review

"The authors are ardent scholars . . . the thorough bibliography demonstrates the scope and intensity of the research. This is a welcome contribution to the literature on the African American story, primarily in music but in other disciplines as well."--Choice

"Lost Sounds is a thrilling book; it is rare to encounter a work of this length that supplies so much new information, causing us to reevaluate and reinterpret our understanding of American music and social history."--Current Musicology

"A monumental achievement in research and sheds light on overlooked aspects of turn-of-the-century popular culture."--Technology and Culture


"Tim Brooks has drawn on a staggering array of primary sources to create this wonderful compendium of information. Lost Sounds makes a significant contribution to the field."--Norm Cohen, author of Traditional Anglo-American Folk Music: An Annotated Discography of Published Recordings

"Brooks has uncovered a wealth of fascinating detail about the record business, its artists, and the range of music they recorded 100 years ago. This engaging work of thorough scholarship is essential reading for anyone interested in the birth of commercial recording and African American music in the early part of the 20th century."--Samuel Brylawski, Head, Recorded Sound Section, Library of Congress


Winner of an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, 2005. Winner of the ARSC Award for Best Research in General History of Recorded Sound, 2005. Winner of the Irving Lowens Award, given by the Society for American Music for the best work published in 2004 in the field of American music. Tim Brooks received the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004.