Criterion Quartet

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Formed in the mid-1900s for recording sessions with various labels including Edison and Columbia Records and Edison, this vocal group’s probable first line-up was first tenor Robert R. Rainey, second…
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Formed in the mid-1900s for recording sessions with various labels including Edison and Columbia Records and Edison, this vocal group’s probable first line-up was first tenor Robert R. Rainey, second tenor William A. Washburn, baritone Reinald Werrenrath, who established the group, and bass Walter A. Downie. Personnel changes over the years brought in singers such as Harvey Hindermeyer, Frank Mellor, John Young, who sometimes used the name Harry Anthony and had a successful solo career, Horatio Rench, George W. Reardon, Donald Chalmers and Lewis James, an astonishingly prolific solo recording artist who is credited with some 3, 000 sides. Among this group’s recordings is ‘Little Tommy Went A Fishing’, a popular success, ‘Honey Babe’, ‘Annie Laurie’, ‘When The Corn Is Waving’, ‘The Musical Trust’ and ‘My Gal Sal’. Continuing into the early 20s, for Edison’s Diamond Disc label the quartet made ‘Humming’; for Victor Records they made ‘Bring Back My Bonnie To Me’, ‘Old-Time Religion’, ‘Some Blessed Day’ and ‘De Coppah Moon’; for Columbia they recorded ‘While The Years Roll By’, ‘Drifting Down’ and ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’. The quartet also accompanied solo singers, often those performing classical music. These recordings were usually issued under the name of the solo artist, who included Anna Case, Marie Rappold, Frieda Hempel, Olive Kline and Hulda Lashanska.

Sometimes, the group used the name Criterion Male Quartet; when recording for Brunswick Records they used the latter name and also were known as the Strand Quartet. Among popular recordings was ‘Little Cotton Dolly’, recorded in both the acoustic and electric eras, and ‘Unclouded Day’. In the mid-20s the group appeared on radio, notably on Roxy’s Gang, a variety show hosted by Samuel L. ‘Roxy’ Rothafel. For this engagement, the group became known as the Roxy Quartet, sometimes the Roxy Male Quartet. During this period the quartet’s personnel remained remarkably stable with Young, Reardon and Mellor still on hand, with newcomer Fred Thomas, bass. The quartet continued working into the early 30s.