John Yorke Atlee was one of the earliest stars of the American phonograph industry. A Detroit native, Atlee ultimately settled in Washington, D.C. where he worked as a minor U.S. Government official. To make ends meet, he began appearing in vaudeville playhouses as a professional whistler. Whistling, due to its high pitch and penetration, was an ideal performance medium for early recording technology, and in 1890, Atlee began to make cylinders for the Washington, D.C.-based Columbia Phonograph Company; by the end of 1891 already 36 titles by Atlee were advertised in the Columbia bulletins. Atlee's records sold well for Columbia, and he stayed with them until 1896 when he left to join the staff at Berliner's fledgling flat-disc recording concern, also in Washington. At the end of 1898, Atlee retired from recording and went into record retail, managing the phonograph department at Duston-Smith's piano store in Charleston, South Carolina.
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