Celebrated, 1895-1896
The Unique Quartette

Celebrated, 1895-1896
February 23, 2020 hennessey
Unique Quartette: Celebrated, 1895-1896

They came from the South to make their way in New York City. They worked as hotel porters and singing waiters. And the Unique Quartette, the first African American quartet ever to make records—beginning in 1890—have been a flickering historical mystery until now. Two of their wax cylinders appeared on our GRAMMY-winning Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922, but that was thought to be the last word. This 10-inch vinyl compilation shows the group in all its barbershop-harmonizing glory over six expertly restored cylinder selections, whose existence is revealed for the first time only now. New research identifies the most likely members of the group to have participated in the recordings, and the dates and places of their births and deaths are published here for the first time. This version of "Down on the Old Camp Ground" is now understood to be the earliest one known, and the quartet-style yodeling on "Hot Corn Medley" is also the first waxed example of its type. List price: $19.99  Sale price: $16.99


  • Catalogue number: ARCH EPV-1006-201
  • UPC: 860003210017
  • Original release date: May 29, 2020
  • Running length: 6 track EP
  • Format: 10-inch 33 1/3 rpm vinyl
  • Notes & packaging: 10″ EP with a full-size 4-page folio inside
  • Tracks recorded: 1895-1896
Tracks and Sound SamplesExplore FurtherAdditional Photos
 Sample all tracks 
1. Mama’s Black Baby Boy Unique Quartette ca. 1895–96
2. I’se Gwine Back to Dixie Unique Quartette ca. 1895–96
3. The Old Oaken Bucket Unique Quartette ca. 1895–96
4. Jubilee: Down on the Old Camp Ground Unique Quartette ca. 1895–96
5. Who Broke the Lock Unique Quartette ca. 1895–96
6. Hot Corn Medley Unique Quartette ca. 1895–96

Celebrated—what it is, and what it isn’t

At the time Tim Brooks published Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press) in 2004, he was aware of three extant cylinders made by the Unique Quartette. First was “Mamma’s Black Baby Boy,” made ca. 1893 for the North American Phonograph Company. Two others were made … Continue reading Celebrated—what it is, and what it isn’t
posted: May 8, 2020

Share via
Send this to a friend