The early 1940s were not an easy time for the music industry. First, in December 1940 ASCAP took on radio broadcasters, demanding higher licensing fees, so radio stations dropped all ASCAP music for over 10 months. Then in December 1941 the U.S. entered the war and it became significantly harder for musicians to tour and bands to stay together. Finally, in August 1942, in a dispute with record companies over the use of recorded music on radio, the notoriously imperious and appropriately-christened president of the American Federation of Musicians, James Caesar Petrillo called a strike, banning all AFM members from recording new music. One result of the ban was the V-Disc, a special project of the Army’s Special Service Division. In October 1943, Petrillo was convinced to make an exception for the sake of the war effort, allowing musicians to make recordings for troops overseas. Almost immediately the V-Discs began to be shipped out, and the program continued, alongside the AFRS’ radio transcription discs, into 1949, resulting in 900 discs containing 2,345 tunes featuring a lot of great music that, due to the AFM ban, was never recorded commercially in the States.
In a letter accompanying the first shipment of V-Discs sent out, Brigadier General F. H. Osborn of the Special Services Division explained the program’s goal from the Service’s point of view:
“The Special Service Division presents to the Armed Forces this preview of the V-DISC, a new feature of the Music Section, Athletic and Recreation Branch. It is pleased to make monthly releases of phonograph records, not only of the latest and best in popular songs and marches, but also of the finest classical, concert, military, sacred, folk and patriotic music, so that the individual interests of the men in the Armed Forces may be fulfilled.
“This album of six records contains a number of the leading songs from the
Army Hit Kit
and several special arrangements appropriately captioned, “Music For Marching Men.”
“V-DISCs can be played over post public address systems, for drill, in the service clubs, mess halls, movie theatres, over camp carrier radio and many other places.”
Jesse Cloninger and company offer up our favorite selection from the 1,500+ tunes that were released on V-Disc between October 1943 and the end of 1945.
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(1917) Harry Williams (w) Art Hickman (m)