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The Mad Ravings of John McCullough by Harry Spencer

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As we enter U.S. tax season, I stumbled across this recording I made of a cylinder in my collection long ago.  As I’m trying to understand my personal requirements for tax filing, I think I’m about to go mad.


8244, The Mad Ravings of John McCullough by Harry Spencer


Allen Koensigsberg published an informative and comprehensive article on same in the December 2016 issue of The Antique Phonograph.


The Ravines of John McCullough

...and An Unsolved Mystery

By Allen Koenigsberg


A brief excerpt follows:


“McCullough's fame was once so great that John Wilkes Booth sponsored a benefit performance for him on March 18, 1865, his own last appearance at Ford's Theatre (the two were room-mates, in town for Lincoln's Inauguration!). An early description of the record (in 1894) by the United States Phonograph Co., claimed that it was "probably the largest earning talking record on the market today." The Edison Phonographic News of March-April 1895 stated that "McCullough's Ravings seems to excite more interest than any other phonograph record up to date." References to McCullough, even as "The Ravings of a Maniac," would continue into the 1920's, but there were others who were appalled at the blatant invasion of privacy.”



WARNING – This 2 minute, 11 second recording is painful to listen to.  Proceed with caution, unless of course you are completing your own taxes.



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  • RodPickett changed the title to The Mad Ravings of John McCullough by Harry Spencer

Perfect timing, Rod, though all of us have probably identified with this at some time during the last year.


It's interesting that people viewed this as entertainment in the 1890s.  Maybe it was in the same category as freak shows and circuses with midget acts.  What's also interested me is that the few cylinders of this record I've come across are always worn out to the point that they are unintelligible.  People must have played them so much that they memorized his ravings.



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I wonder if Harry's (and Len's) mother ever envisioned her baby boy ever performing something like this?  Certainly not on the medium of the Phonograph - which was invented almost three years after Harry's birth!


George P.




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I've obviously heard about this before, but this is the first time I've heard it. Strange indeed..... Thanks for posting it.

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