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The Okeh Laughing Record (Otto Rathke)…
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Sat Mar 04 2017, 13:50pm Print View

Joined: Sun Sep 04 2011, 14:54pm
Location: Köln
Posts: 1826
…wasn´t Okeh, USA – but Beka, Germany. The matrix had been imported to the USA in 1922 and released, with no names or credits, on the Okeh Label. Recorded by Otto Rathke and Lucie Bernardo in Berlin 1920, the disc became much more popular in the USA when the original release in Germany. The disc is maybe one of the most unusual and surprisingly enduring novelty records ever made.

August 6, 1920
Otto Rathke & Lucie Bernardo


A failed cornet solo, a man and a woman laughing – nothing more is needed for a big seller back in those days. The acoustically recorded “tune” had even been sold up to the 1950s as a 45rpm single!

Sometimes the flugelhorn-virtuoso Felix Silbers is mentioned as the cornet player. But, this is very unlikely and more presumably that it is also Otto Rathke. With the recording files (Lindström company) only Rathke & Bernardo are mentioned – no trace of Felix Silbers. Silbers had been a well respected concert-virtuoso in Vienna, Austria. It is highly implausible, that Silbers traveled from Vienna to Berlin, just to participate (anonymously!) with wrong notes on a laughing record…

The disc had been surprisingly fast released. Recorded in early August 1920, it had been first advertised in September 1920. With the recording files only named “Lachplatte” (Laughing Record), it had been sold as “Die mißglückte Jugendzeit – Original Lach Aufnahme” (The Misfortunes of Youth – Original Laughing Record).
Phonographische Zeitschrift, 1.9.1920

With a little imagination, you could recognize Otto Rathke & Lucie Bernardo in this ad. It is not known, if Rathke (or successors) ever saw royalty’s for this worldwide very successful record.

The “song” had been also sold in the UK as “The Parlophone Laughing Record”. Okeh tried to tie with the success of this record and later released a “Second Laughing Record” , “The OKeh Laughing Dance Record” and even a “OKeh Crying Record”… Other companies also jumped on the train, and recorded their own “Laughing Record”:

Other recordings in this style are, for example, Jelly Roll Morton´s 1927 “Hyena Stomp” with a full chorus of belly laughs or the song "Laughin' Louie" by Louis Armstrong in 1933. Also Spike Jones made 1946 “The Jones Laughing Record (Flight of the Bumblebee).

But, why this German record on the Okeh-Label? The (German) founder of Okeh, Otto Heinemann, was before WWI in the management of the German Lindström-trust with their Labels Beka, Parlophon and so on. By outbreak of the war, he stayed in the USA and soon founded his own Okeh-Label. But he kept very good contact´s to his former company and, after the first world war, Lindström and Okeh had a very busy exchange of records and matrices.

“Laughing & Joke Records” had been very popular back in those days. Besides Lucie Bernardo (actually a operetta soubrette since the early 1910s) also Rathke made several of those “Knee-slappers”. In 1926 Bernardo made in Berlin another “Laughing Record” - together with a Jazz Band…

Lucie Bernardo - 1926

Lucie Bernardo, born as Johanna Sandfuchs (1885 - 1956), made not only hundreds of records, but also appeared in movies as a actress till the mid 1930s.

Otto Rathke
1881 - 1936

Today the musician, composer, band leader and humourist Otto Rathke is highly unkown. But, if you collect German or European records, you may have (unknowingly) listened to one of his records, as he was a very busy studio musician in the late 1910s and 1920s.

Born on April 13, 1881 in Danzig (today in Poland), Rathke studied composition and harmonics at the “Hochschule für Musik” (University for music) in Berlin. Besides as a trumpet (cornet) player, he also performed as a humorist and vocalist. Around 1900 Rathke played the cornet with the “Musikcorps des Zweiten Garderegiments” (music corps of the second guard regiment) directed by Max Graf.

The military orchestra performed around 1910 also together with the humoristic vocal group “Stettiner Sänger” at the “Reichshallen-Theater” in Berlin. Maybe Rathke was involved, even before WWI he conducted by himself a orchestra at the “Reichshallen-Theater”; after 1918 he also appeared with the vocal group “Stettiner Sänger”.
15. April 1910

Attention! Recording!

Beginning in early 1919, Rathke started to made records for the Lindström company in Berlin. First “only” as an vocalist and cornetist, since late 1919/early 1920 he also lead an own orchestras while recording sessions. Between February 15, 1919 and spring 1923 he made for Lindström at least 460 recordings as conductor, vocalist or cornet player.

Often he isn´t mentioned with the recordings. The Label, in the majority of cases, reads only “Orchestra” or “Beka Brass Band (Orchestra)”. Maybe he also lead some sessions of the early “Boheme Orchestra”. Together with the conductor Otto Honigmann he was, in these days, something like a “House Orchestra” with the Lindström Labels – similarly to Carl Woitschach or Otto Dobrindt in later days.

He recorded a very wide range of genres: marches, light opera, musical burlesque, dance music, character piece´s and so on. Often composed by himself. As Edith Lorand with her orchestra began to record for Lindström in 1922/23, the output of recordings by Rathke decreased noticeable. After 1923 he made for the Lindström company only a few recordings out of humoristic or recitation records.


Composed & conducted by Otto Rathke

Collection Rainer Lotz

Another Laughing Record by Otto Rathke:

Lach-Couplet (O. Rathke)
Otto Rathke mit Orchester (Edith Lorand)
BEKA 5330- I (32920)
11. Mai 1925

But Rathke didn´t vanished in obscurity. He wrote arrangements for other orchestras like Bernard Ette, Marek Weber and Barnabás von Géczy. And – he was a often booked trumpet player (also while recording sessions) with other orchestras. You´ll find him, almost scary often, with photos of bands and dance orchestras.

1) 1923 - Kapelle Jose Melzak
2) 1924 - Orchester Gabriel Formiggini
3) 1926 - Ernö Rape
4) 1927 - Hans Schindler Revueorchester
5) 1928 - Saxophonorchester Dobbri
6) 1927 - Paul Godwin Orchester

It is not known, how often Rathke recorded with other Bands like Paul Godwin or “Saxophon Orchestra Dobbri”. Certainly a lot… In the late 1920s Rathke, once again, made a handful recordings as a humorist.


Collection Monokel

Otto Rathke died, after a heart attack, 1936 in Berlin.

[ Edited Sat Mar 04 2017, 20:51pm ]
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Sat Mar 04 2017, 21:57pm
Joined: Sun Aug 23 2015, 22:06pm
Location: Pusemuckel
Posts: 36
Hier noch zur Vervollständigung eine französische Ausgabe von
"Die mißglückte Jugendzeit", übertsetzt mit Hilaritè (Heiterkeit).
Es handelt sich um die identische Matritze, der deutschen Beka-Ausgabe, die noch unter dem Lable zu erkennen ist.
Die Interpretenangaben fehlen und wurden durch die Anmerkung "nouveau fou rire" ersetzt, was ich übersetzten würde mit "Neues verrücktes Lachen".
Für die französische Ausgabe wurde, wie auf dem Lable zu lesen, eine neue Matritzennummer vergeben.
Die Rückseite scheint eine amerikanische Aufnahme zu sein, offenbar eine Zweitverwertung / Matritzenaustausch.
Ähnlich dem Vortrag von Rathke und Bernardo lachen hier zwei andere Personen zu einem Foxtrott mit dem Titel "Jokes" (Witze/Scherze), der keine Komponistenangabe aufweist und der von den sog. OKEH Syncopators gespielt wird, einer Studioband oder evtl. ein Sammelpseudonym für unterschiedliche Bands.
Matritze: 4731h, soll aber sicher b heissen, so ist es im Plattenspiegel zu lesen. / Ursprüngliche Matritze: s. 70986-E

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