Celebrated, 1895-1896
The Unique Quartette

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

2020 Grammy Nominee, Best Historical Album
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. And take a closer look at the photo on the cover: It's the first image of the group to ever surface, and we believe at least three of the members shown are on these recordings. List price: $19.99


  • 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
  • Awards: 63rd GRAMMY Nominee, Best Historical Album
Tracks and Sound SamplesReviewsHonors & AwardsAdditional PhotosExplore Further
 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
The Syncopated Times

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the choice to release these songs on vinyl adds a warmth that overcomes any acoustic deficiency in the source material. It also testifies to the historical importance of these recordings. This is a special set, meant to be respected and treasured, and the packaging asserts that in a way a six track CD never could.
Read the full review →

The Vinyl District

This is another striking historical find, further documenting the first African American quartet (formed by Joe Moore in the mid-1880s) to ever make records, specifically wax cylinders, restored here and grooved into 10-inch vinyl and released with an informative 4-page folio…The main value of “Celebrated, 1895-1896” is in the robust harmony (which includes some early yodeling during “Hot Corn Medley”) and how it reframes the barbershop form as a legit and underdiscussed development in African-American musical achievement, falling after spirituals but before jazz and blues. This is in part because most of the recordings from this era have been lost (or are long missing), which makes “Celebrated, 1895-1896” a historical clarification accompanied by the only known photo of the group, also recently uncovered. A-
Read the full review →

“Highly recommended” by Black Grooves

Archeophone’s new release, Celebrated, 1895-1896, offers the opportunity to hear six exceedingly rare and expertly restored cylinders by the Unique Quartette, all but one revealed for the first time in nearly 125 years.

  • GRAMMY Nominee, Best Historical Album, 2020


Ring Out Their Names: Moore, Settle, Cayson, DeLyons

We have a much better idea than ever before of who was in the various iterations of the Unique Quartette, as well as some pretty good guesses as to which of the members participated in the group’s recordings. Good as his work was in Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919 … Continue reading Ring Out Their Names: Moore, Settle, Cayson, DeLyons
posted: June 5, 2020

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