Charles Adams Prince was one of those rare artists, a versatile, chameleonic performer whose talents and achievements have never been adequately appreciated. He was one of the first musicians to record (1891), the first to record a Classical orchestral work for Columbia Records (1917), and his band was the first to record a jazz piece, W.C. Handy's St. Louis Blues (1915). Prince was a composer -- ultimately of minor significance -- a pianist, organist, and conductor. He also held several musical administrative posts and was one of those seemingly ubiquitous performers whose activities spilled over into many genres of music. Prince made numerous recordings in the 78 RPM era, many of whose original issues are of great of value to collectors today. His repertory was incredibly eclectic, taking in a range of classical and light classical works, jazz, military and brass band music, Broadway, popular song arrangements, and much more. Prince often appeared, especially in his early career, as an accompanist on recordings, as with Polish bass Edouard de Reszke's Columbia recording of Verdi's Infelice, from 1903, on which Prince serves as pianist. Some of Prince's recordings have been reissued on such labels as Sony, Delos, Romophone, and Living Era.
Charles Adams Prince was born in San Francisco, CA, on January 1, 1869. In his youth Prince studied piano and organ, and later on took up conducting. In 1891 he made his first recording, appearing as a pianist on a disc for the New York Phonograph Company. Prince was contracted by Columbia Records to serve as music director for the label in the 1890s. By the turn-of-the-century he had made numerous recordings for the label, and in 1905 formed his own ensemble.
The newly formed group would appear under several names: Prince's Band, Prince's Symphony Orchestra, and Prince's Dance Orchestra. Prince would lead them in many recordings for Columbia, including in one of his own work, The Barbary Rag, in 1913. Prince continued to record with Columbia until 1922, after which he briefly worked for Puritan Records. Prince later signed on with Victor Records, serving as associate music director.
Reissues of Prince's recordings today are typically included in anthologies, like the Sony Classical Great Performances: 1903-1998, wherein Prince appears on the first track with baritone Giuseppe Campanari in a selection from The Barber of Seville. Prince died in San Francisco on October 10, 1937.