Newspapers have long used the prospect of a big money giveaway to lure readers, especially during the fierce circulation wars of Fleet Street’s heyday – readers of a certain age will remember the Bingo fixation of the early 1980s, when The Daily Mirror, The Sun and The Daily Star battled it out to be the first to give a winning reader a million pounds, in an increasingly grubby and undignified scrap (Robert Maxwell was at the forefront of it, so you can imagine how utterly repulsive it became). But back in 1932, The Daily Mail launched an altogether more entertaining contest, where readers could buy a 78 rpm Shellac disc and try to guess the artists featured. Those who got it right could win £1950, which back then could probably buy you an entire town.
Here’s the recording – place your bets now.
I’m sure all Reprobate readers immediately recognised all the household name acts, but just to confirm, they were, of course, Ambrose and his Orchestra, Leslie Hutchinson, Derickson and Brown, Bobbie Hale, Doris Hare, Howard Jacobs, Robert Naylor, Billy Mayerl, Raie da Costa, Debroy Somers and his Band, Geraldo Gaucho Tango Band, Peter Dawson, Harold Williams, Albert Sandler, George Baker, Raymond Newell, Jack Mackintosh, Bobby Howes, Francis Day, Melville Gideon, De Groot, John Morel, Albert Sammons, Heddle Nash, Cedric Sharp, Patricia Rossborough, and Sam Browne.
There is. no record of how many people won the prize, though ‘none’ would probably be a good guess. The fact that they had to buy the record in order to enter the competition makes the whole scam all the more ridiculous.
Notably though, this was the first recording to feature the names of EMI Ltd’s new companies – His Master’s Voice, Parlophone, Columbia and Regal Zonophone – all of which released much more significant works than this in the decades that followed.