The Long Playing Record Guide


The invention of the long playing record gave an enormous boost to what later would be called "the music industry". Existing magazines started to flourish and new magazines - like High Fidelity - were launched because of the proliferation of the new, black, vinyl disc.

Although in the first years many music lovers kept listening to 78 RPM shellac discs, the LP (which was developped by Columbia, USA, and was presented for the first time in 1948) was quickly conquering the world. Also catalogs started to be published for the convenience of the growing number of consumers. In the US, Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog, appeared for the first time in 1948, typed by William Joseph Schwann and printed it using a stencil machine in a high enough number of copies to satisfy the first clients who would buy the new LP records in his shop. In 1951, The Longplayer, a Complete Catalog of Classical Longplay Records, and some time later, Jazz 'n Pops, were published and were competing with Schwann's classical listings and the jazz section. The Long Player and Jazz 'n Pops only lasted until 1959 and disappeared from the scene. In Great Brittain it was The Gramophone Long Playing Record Catalogue, issued by the magazine that was established in 1925, was published on a regular basis and remained the world's reference catalog for classical music, one could say.

But what if you wanted an opinion on a specific record or wanted to know what outstanding recordings were available of a given work? Well, then you would have to search the magazines that reviewed the recordings and would publish complete discographies. Making a list of editions, page numbers and writing down a few sentences would be quite some work. Moreover one would have to rely on the availability of reviews in the specialized magazines. Roland Gelatt of High Fidelity Magazine did exactly that. He put the reviews of the 1955 editions in a Record Annual.

By 1955 Warren DeMotte finished compiling "The Long Playing Record Guide" and he asked Leopold Stokowski to write a preface. Stokowski, who had always been interested in making recordings and in the technical aspects of the gramophone record, saw the uniqueness of DeMotte's project. He agreed. However he did not know DeMotte before; and they never met afterwards.




Various guides and catalogs with listings and comments had already been publishd before. Irving Kolodin had published The New Guide To Recorded Music. The 1950 edition listed 78 RPM shellac discs and the first LP records. DeMotte's guide was really unique in the sense that it listed some 7000 individual records. It was not a duplication of Schwann, The Longplayer, or The Gramophone catalogs. Nor was it based on Roland Gelatt's High Fidelity Record Annual which saw its first edition in July of 1955 and contained reviews which had appeared in High Fidelity Magazine in 1953, 1954 and a few reviews from the early 1955 issues.

The Long Playing Record Guide compiled by Warren DeMotte listed the available recordings of compositions of practically each and every composer and Demotte evaluated the interpretations of the musicians and in many cases mentioned the technical quality of the discs. The reason for the publication is obvious. Read the first sentences of the introduction that Warren De Motte wrote to his THE LONG PLAYING RECORD GUIDE:

"Since the advent, in 1948, of the long playing phonograph record, the record collector has been faced by an embarrassment of riches. Due to the use of the tape recorder and the LP process, resulting in the reasonably low recording costs, dozens of record companies have come into existence, and many of them issue records at an amazing rate. In only a few years a thick catalogue of recordings has been built up, with countless duplications that manage to confuse  the collector, the dealer, and the recording companies alike."

At the time "The Long Playing Record Guide" served thousands and thousands of music lovers in making their decisions on what recorded performance on LP to buy, or it would at least tell them about the qualities of the records they already had on the shelf.

Warren DeMotte has been active in home audio development as associate editor of a major hi-fi magazine, record reviewer on several magazines, producer of a network Good Music program, and author of a monthly magazine feature entitled Warren DeMotte's MUSIQUIZ. His analytical articles on home playing equipment are authoritative and his components comparison-charts have set an industry standard.


Many record collectors and music listeners have come across this guide and have read the many evaluations and criticisms written by DeMotte.

What makes "The Long Playing Record Guide" so interesting, is that DeMotte - despite of omitting recordings of works by Paganini and Granados for example - assesses the quality of each recording and compresses his opinion in a single phrase (or sometimes two) and he marks the best available performance with an arrow.

Some people will argue that one cannot do justice to the efforts of musicians, producers, and recording engineers, by allotting just a few words to their product and add a discriminating arrow to the product of a fellow musician who would have given a better performance. But every time one reads DeMotte's judgement on a recording owned, one cannot doubt his expertise and above all his sincerity, even if there are most certainly differences of opinion.

The interesting aspect of DeMotte's painstaking exercise is that the result is equally valuable today as it was in 1955, the year in which the first edition was published.
Especially for record collectors of old mono disks it is a mer à boire.
If you come across this valuable item do not hesitate to buy it, be it the first or the more complete second edition.

On my pages (especially on THE REMINGTON SITE) I shall - from time to time, but always with gratitude - cite a characterization of this or that recording as it was given by Warren DeMotte.

The Long Playing Record Guide by Warren DeMotte
Dell Publishing Inc., New York, 1955

A second, updated edition almost immediately followed. It listed recordings that could not have been included when preparing the first edition, especially listings of Deutsche Grammophon recordings released by American Decca.

In the early nineteen sixties Warren DeMotte compiled "The LP/Stereo Record Guide & Tape Review: Formerly The Long Playing Record Guide". The new guide was published by Argyle Publishing Corp., in 1962.

Again Leopold Stokowski wrote the preface. This guide is also an invaluable reference book for the serious classical record and tape collector. It lists the first stereo recordings from the first years of any original American disc and the the available American issues that are the equivalent of Decca SXL, His Master's Voice ASD, British Columbia SAX, English RCA SB, LSC, SR, etc. And again it is a magnificent reference guide.

Rudolf A. Bruil - December 1998.

Audio&Music Bulletin - Rudolf A. Bruil, Editor - Copyright 1998-2012 by Rudolf A. Bruil and co-authors 
Audio & Music Bulletin