While I was studying with Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler I listened to their various radio programmes and recorded some of them, but for some reason I never thought of collecting their records at that time. When I was playing in the studio for Webster he played some reel-to-reel tapes of his recordings and allowed me to copy those with my own reel-to-reel tape recorder. It was only when I left South Africa and was living in the UK in 1966 that I slowly began my collection of their 78rpm records.
I met Margaret when I was working at the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in Bedford Square. She had a 78rpm recording of Webster’s singing One Day When We Were Young and Sweethearts and she kindly gave it to me – the very first record in my collection. She and I went to the HMV shop in Oxford Street one lunchtime. The first record I saw there was a 45rpm of Songs That Have Sold a Million. The names of the singers were not mentioned on the cover, but somehow I thought Webster might have been one of the singers. I asked to hear the record on the headphones provided in the store. Sure enough, he was one of the singers in the medley. The other singers were Dorothy Clarke (contralto) and Foster Richardson (baritone). The original recording had been made in 1937. I added this one to my collection – I now had two records instead of one.
I began looking around second hand record shops in the St Albans area where I was living at the time and found more records to add to my collection. When I returned to South Africa on the SA Oranje in 1968 I did not pack all these records in my trunk. I left There is no Death (Johnson/O’Hara) and: Just for Today (Partridge/Seaver) (HMV B9458) behind with my parents. Luckily Mike Taylor in The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends on Facebook acquired this recording a few months ago and has restored it and posted it to the group.
Some years after I moved back to Johannesburg I found more 78 rpms through adverts in Gramophone when the Rand was not in such a parlous state against the pound as it is today. These records were sent to me by post and it is a miracle that not too many of them were broken and that I could just afford to pay postage on such heavy items as well as import duty. The import duty often came to as much – if not more – than I had paid for the records in the first place.
Rococo Canada issued an LP of some of Webster’s recordings from the collection of Scott Sheldon and I heard this record first when I paid a visit to Webster in Knysna in 1973. Webster always said that HMV would only reissue an LP of his serious recordings once he was dead, but later in that decade they did issue such an LP and classified it under “historical”. Webster was pleased that the record had been issued before he died, but rather indignant at the classification.
When he and Anne returned to the UK in 1978 two further LPs were issued of their duet recordings and after Webster’s death in 1984 HMV issued The Golden Age of Webster Booth.
Webster had started recording for HMV in 1929, so by the late eighties there were enough recordings out of the fifty year copyright for other smaller recording companies to produce CDs of the duet and solo recordings. By the late nineteen-nineties there were a number of compilation CDs released at a time when it had become possible to restore the quality of the recordings to pristine condition.
In 1986 or 1987 Dudley Holmes kindly sent me cassette tapes of many recordings.
I picked up other 78rpm records in charity shops and at various fêtes and at the Collectors’ Treasury, an interesting shop in Johannesburg. The Collectors’ Treasury has a great collection of 78rpm records but they were not sorted in any particular order so I made a number of excursions into the city in the late eighties to go through the dusty record collection where I usually managed to find a few of Anne and Webster’s recordings on every trip.
I bought my first CD player in 1990 at the same time as Webster’s first CD Moonlight and You was issued. As I mentioned earlier regular compilations of duet and Webster’s solo recordings were issued on CD in the 1990s, the last being Along the Road to Dreams which featured solos and duets.
I have added many recordings in my collection to YouTube and seem to have had most success in promoting these records there . I have 215 subscribers on YouTube and my uploaded videos have been viewed over 316,190 times – often by people who had never heard of them before. I have also included some videos on my channel on The Daily Motion site
The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends on Facebook includes a great collection of recordings, photos and memorabilia. If you are interested in hearing rare recordings by Webster and Anne, beautifully restored by Mike Taylor, as well as some related artistes with whom they worked, please join the group.
Jean Collen. April 2016.