About My Books

 

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The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, Ninth Edition. By Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007. 1,832 + xxi pages. ISBN: 978-0-345-49773-4.

§        An encyclopedia of every regular series to air on the U.S. commercial television networks in the evening hours since 1944, plus more than a thousand national cable series from the 1970s to date, all in one volume.

§        More than 6,500 series, from ABC Barn Dance (1949) to Zorro and Son (1983).

§        Each entry includes first and last telecasts, network(s), time slots, full cast (actors, roles and dates they played those roles) and an engaging “viewers-eye” description of the plot and notable events during the series’ run. For some series, such as serial dramas and sci-fi series, the descriptions can be quite comprehensive.

§        Additional features include a history of network programming trends, prime time schedules from 1946-2007, Emmy Award winners, the Nielsen top-30 rated programs by season, longest-running series, top 100 series of all time, reunion telecasts, spin-offs, series based on movies, series that also aired on network radio, hit theme songs, network web sites and a 200-question “Ph.D. Trivia Quiz.”

§        Programming history of each of the major cable networks.

§        A goldmine of trivia information, bet-settling and nostalgia, as well as substantive information on the important programs that influenced our society.

§        Exhaustively researched from inside the industry. Considered the “industry bible.”

§        More than a half million copies in print.

 Awards:

American Book Award, 1980

Broadcast Preceptor Award, San Francisco State University, 1981

 History:

 The origins of the longest-running and most comprehensive encyclopedia of American network television series lay in a rather prosaic need. Two junior researchers in the NBC Research Department in 1975 were assigned to gather information about earlier shows, in order to help predict the performance of future programs that were similar. There was no easy way to do this, so one day Earle and Tim started talking about the possibility of putting together a book about everything that had been telecast up to that date. The idea seemed daunting: three networks (plus another, Dumont, that had gone out of business), probably hundreds of shows over nearly 30 years. But they thought viewers might be interested in such a compilation, and they gradually expanded the idea into something more than just a listing, adding time periods, cast credits and show descriptions. With all the boldness that comes from naïvete, they put together some samples and began writing to publishers.

            The reaction was swift and definitive: FORGET IT! One publisher after another (if they responded at all) firmly declared that there was no need for such a book, nothing like it had ever been published so obviously there was no demand, no one cared about “old TV,” etc. This, remember, was before the days of cable rerun channels, TV reunion specials, clip shows or any of the TV nostalgia that we know so well today.

            Daunted but persistent, they continued writing to publishers. Tim later framed the response from one of them, Neil McCaffrey, president of Arlington House Publishers, who confidently told them they should drop the idea because there was another such book in the works and there was no need for two; by the way, he added, would you like to join our book club? (He even enclosed brochures.) Eventually they approached 20 publishers, among them Adrian, Bobbs-Merrill, Bonanza, Century House, Citadel, Crowell, Crown, Darien, Dodd-Mead, Fleet, Grosset & Dunlap, David McKay, McMillan, Prentice-Hall, Putnam, Simon & Shuster, Stein & Day and Viking, all of whom either turned the idea down cold or simply ignored it.

Hearing about this wall of rejection a vice president at NBC, Al Ordover, suggested the two send the proposal to his wife Sondra, an editor at Jove. She suggested a friend at Ballantine Books, which she’d heard was looking for media titles. That editor passed the letter along to a young new vice president at Ballantine named Paul Anbinder, who immediately responded with interest. (Anbinder, who was to become something of a legend in the business, later went on to publish books on the fine arts under his own imprint, Hudson Hills Press, which he operated for more than 20 years.) Anbinder’s enthusiasm was infectious and encouraging; obviously he saw in this something that nobody else did.

By late 1975 the two young researchers were working furiously. They began by compiling schedule sheets identifying what programming was carried on each network, on each night of the week, in each time slot, during every individual week from 1948 to that time. No one had ever attempted to put together such a comprehensive “grid” of everything ever telecast, but it was essential in order to insure that nothing would be left out. Nielsen ratings reports (which are published after programs are telecast) were particularly useful, along with multi-network schedule grids printed by NBC and, for the earliest years, listings in the press and in TV Guide and its predecessors. Earle compiled most of these sheets, with Tim focusing on the difficult early years. Much effort was spent determining which early shows were local and which were carried nationwide. It turned out that regular networking had begun earlier than anyone had believed. The two earliest listings Tim found were for Voice of Firestone Televues and NBC’s first network newscast, The War as it Happens, both of which debuted on a two-city NBC “network” on April 10, 1944, during World War II.

Much work was also done reconstructing casts and storylines, primarily from programming department and press department files at the three surviving networks (everyone let Brooks and Marsh in—things were more open then). They consulted reviews and sometimes interviewed people involved with the shows. This was especially necessary to reconstruct programming that had aired in the 1940s and on the Dumont Network, which had folded in 1956 and from which virtually nothing survived. It is fortunate that Tim and Earle did this detective work when they did, because many of the files they consulted have since been destroyed.

While progress on the research went well, the prospects for getting it published did not. Anbinder left Ballantine in 1978 and his successors showed no interest in the project. They abruptly canceled it, saying its sales potential was small and it would be “too big.” Tim went to the Ballantine offices with a sheaf full of data showing the huge number of viewers who were tuning in to the “TV retrospectives” that were beginning to be seen on the networks, as well as the hundreds of thousands of students enrolled in media classes around the country who might buy such a book. Ballantine relented and reinstated the book. Then, a few months later, they canceled it again, this time for good.

Then a miracle happened. A new editorial team took over and found that their predecessors had not left enough books in the pipeline to fill the Spring 1979 list. Panic! No one was very enthusiastic about the large, unfinished manuscript about television sitting on the shelf, but it was almost done and they needed something. “The boys” got a call saying “update the manuscript fast, we’re going to press!”

The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows came out in May 1979 in both hardcover and softcover, but the press run was small and little promotion was planned. That led to the next miracle: an enthusiastic young Ballantine publicist named Dermot McEvoy saw the book, fell in love with it and convinced his superiors to authorize a three-city interview tour of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Despite his cheerleading the tour did not start auspiciously. Tim’s older brother John, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, had helpfully arranged for a book signing at the campus bookstore in May, just as the book was being released. Copies were rushed in and a table set up. The timing couldn’t have been worse. It was finals week and the only students in the bookstore had come to sell their textbooks back to the store! As in a sitcom, the author sat and smiled behind a stack of books that was just as tall when he left as when he arrived.

The interviews set up by the energetic McEvoy continued though, on radio stations, on local television and with newspaper reporters. Tim and Earle made it easy for producers by bringing still pictures, tapes of theme songs and (later) video clips. Word began to spread, and suddenly, while still on the road, they got a call from New York saying “we’re going back to press, the book is taking off.” Still, the national media pretty much ignored the book until TV Guide, in its March 15, 1980 issue, gave it a glowing review. Then it won an American Book Award and the Directory was off and running.

There was competition, as McCaffrey had predicted. In late 1976 A.S. Barnes published The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs by Vincent Terrace, who would go on to become a prolific writer of specialist books about television. However it was somewhat error-prone and available only as a two-volume hard cover set, which made it expensive and difficult for stores to stock. (Subsequent editions came out in 1980 and 1985). More directly competitive was a soft-cover trade paperback called Total Television by a young lawyer named Alex McNeil (Penguin Books), first published in 1980. This was well-researched but took a different approach from The Complete Directory. It covered daytime as well as nighttime programs (not all as the title implied, but most of them) but in less detail and with a compressed, harder to read layout, in order to squeeze more programs into roughly the same number of pages. Though not as successful as The Complete Directory it did well enough to continue with three subsequent editions, in 1984, 1991 and 1996 (apparently the last). Many fans bought both The Complete Directory and Total Television.

With the success of The Complete Directory Ballantine was eager for a second, updated edition, and this was published just two-and-a-half years later, in November 1981. The page count grew from the original 848 pages to 1,005. New appendixes were added, and for the first time syndicated programs that aired mainly in the evening hours were included. It had become apparent that most readers didn’t know the difference between network shows and those sold by syndicators directly to local stations across the country, like Sea Hunt and Highway Patrol. Now they could all be found in one place.

Further editions followed: a third (1985, 1,123 pages), fourth (1988, 1,063 pages—the type size was reduced!), fifth (1992, 1,207 pages), sixth (1995, 1,385 pages), seventh (1999, 1,363 pages) and eighth (2003, 1,592 pages). Cable series were added in 1995, greatly increasing the coverage and resulting in a title change to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. Tim, who was by then working for a cable network, covered the dozens of cable networks (along with NBC and ABC), while Earle handled CBS, Fox, syndication and the “mini-networks” (WB, UPN, etc.) and kept track of broadcast time slots. Tim wrote the front matter while Earle compiled most of the appendixes in the back.

They both did multitudes of interviews, keeping The Complete Directory in the public eye, although oddly, the broadcast networks whose shows were so extensively covered in the book, and which used the book themselves behind the scenes, showed little interest in acknowledging it on their morning or late night talk shows (the only such appearance was by Tim on Good Morning, America in 1985, where he was interviewed by a somewhat annoyed David Hartman). However local radio and TV stations across the country, and newspapers such as USA Today (which also used it) gave it many mentions, and the authors obliged with interviews ranging from a serious discussion on radio’s Larry King Show to Earle answering trivia questions in Detroit and being dunked in a huge, carnival-style tank of water when he (allegedly) missed one!

Today the Complete Directory is nearly 2,000 pages, and is constantly being refined and updated. It is not a “factory” production.  The two authors watch, take notes on and research everything themselves. In addition scores of loyal readers, many of whom buy every edition, have written in over the years with suggestions and occasional corrections, which are incorporated where appropriate, with credit. In that sense it’s a collaborative work, by the viewer and for the viewer, as well as for everyone interested in getting the straight facts, in an entertaining manner, on American television.


Click here for a list of those who have been acknowledged over the years as contributors to The Complete Directory.  



Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919. By Tim Brooks. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2004. 634 + x pages. ISBN: 0-252-02850-3 (hardcover), 0-252-07307-x (paperback, 2005).

Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922 (double CD), Archeophone ARCH 1005. Released 2005.

  • Biographies of three dozen African-American performers and personalities who recorded during the racially oppressive yet musically creative years prior to 1920.
  • Discusses historic recordings reflecting a wide range of black culture, from early jazz to spirituals, vaudeville, minstrelsy, Broadway theater, spoken word and the concert hall.
  • Based on groundbreaking original research, most of it never before published, detailing how these black artists struggled to be heard.
  • Artists include George W. Johnson (the first black recording “star,” in the 1890s), Bert Williams, the Dinwiddie Quartet, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Polk Miller’s Old South Quartet, boxer Jack Johnson, James Reese Europe, Will Marion Cook, Wilbur C. Sweatman, Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, W.C. Handy, Roland Hayes, Harry T. Burleigh and R. Nathaniel Dett, as well as Broome, the first black-owned record label.
  • Includes a discography of CD reissues and an appendix by Dick Spottswood describing early recordings by black artists in the Caribbean and South America.
  • The award-winning CD contains examples of these recordings, many drawn from the author’s collection.

Awards (book):

            ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, 2005

            Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Excellence, 2005

            Society for American Music Irving Lowens Award for Distinguished Scholarship in American Music, 2006

Award (CD):

            National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Grammy Award for Best Historical Album, 2006. Also nominated in the category of Best Album Notes.

History:

Lost Sounds grew out of Tim Brooks’ curiosity about an obscure performer named George W. Johnson, who was reputed to be the very first black recording artist. For years colorful stories had circulated in the collectors’ world about Johnson, that he was illiterate, that he was discovered panhandling on the streets of Washington, D.C., that he had been hanged for killing his wife. Some of these stories had been debunked, but they continued to appear in print in the 1980s. Moreover very basic information about Johnson, such as when and where he was born, how he came to record, and when he died, was simply unknown. No one had written a serious article about him for years. Around 1989 Tim decided to research and write an article—just an article—about this elusive but interesting character. This was the seed that grew into Lost Sounds.

            The research for the article turned out to be quite an adventure. It led to census records, slave registers, dusty legal archives, early newspapers and record catalogs, as well as trips to Virginia’s Loudoun County (where Johnson was born), New York’s Hell’s Kitchen (whose streets he walked) and a New York area cemetery (where he came to rest). It involved considerable correspondence with record collectors and archives around the world, searching for copies of Johnson’s long-out-of-print recordings on cylinders and 78s. (This was before the internet facilitated such research). No one knew when the rumored murder trial had taken place, and one of the first major breakthroughs was the discovery of the transcript of the 1899 trial in the archives of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where it had somehow survived even though most transcripts from that period had been destroyed. It turned out that the flimsy case, apparently cooked up by racist New York cops, had been dismissed. The transcript led not only to valuable insights about Johnson but also to the identity of the Virginia slave owner on whose farm he had grown up, providing much new information about his early years and influences. Other discoveries about the extent of his career followed and the “short article” mushroomed into a substantial manuscript—though not quite a full book.

            In the course of researching Johnson Tim kept running into the names of other black artists who had recorded during the industry’s early years, few of whom had been written about. Many histories, in fact, maintained that there was no recording to speak of by African-Americans prior to the Jazz Age of the 1920s. This was nonsense. It was becoming clear that these artists had paved the way for, and in many cases inspired or even mentored the great performers of the 1920s and beyond, such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Marian Anderson. There was a fascinating story here of racial barriers (the “color line”) overcome, of the persistence of art and creativity in the face of blatant discrimination, and the way in which recordings of black music largely unfamiliar to white America found their way into proper Victorian parlors and began to change attitudes toward the race itself.

            To fill out a book Tim decided in the early 1990s to add short biographies of these other early black artists. That led to nearly ten more years of research, because most of them were as undocumented as Johnson had been. Even for those who were well known, such as boxer Jack Johnson and black leader Booker T. Washington, virtually nothing was known about their recordings. In some cases, like those of Jack Johnson and the eminent baritone and arranger of spirituals Harry T. Burleigh, no one even knew they had recorded.

In the course of the research Tim assembled an impressive collection of recordings by these black pioneers. Scouring auction lists, dickering with collectors, obtaining tapes when the owners wouldn’t part with the originals, this too was a 15-year journey. The vast majority of antique recordings are in private hands, and while some collectors are secretive most were more than willing to share their treasures. Some wondered why Tim was so interested in “this stuff.” The collector from whom he obtained the only known copy of a 1910 recording of black boxer Jack Johnson describing the famous “Great White Hope” fight, in which Johnson won the heavyweight championship, declared that the speaker wasn’t actually Johnson. The speaker was calm, intelligent and well-spoken, not the crude braggart biographers made Johnson out to be, so it must be a white imitator. “A black man wouldn’t sound like that.” (The collector later apologized for this demeaning remark when it was proven the speaker was in fact Johnson.)

            The Jack Johnson recording is an example of the new light recordings can shed on historical figures who may be misrepresented by silent words and pictures. Not everyone wants their preconceptions  challenged, however. Shortly before Lost Sounds was published, Tim was contacted by Geoffrey C. Ward, who was writing the script for Ken Burns’ upcoming PBS documentary on Johnson (Unforgiveable Blackness), and also an accompanying book on the fighter. Ward had heard that there were possible Johnson recordings and was fascinated to hear them. He subsequently discussed them in his book. But his boss, Ken Burns, declined to include them in the film, preferring to perpetuate the old caricatures of Johnson. Some people listen, some don’t.

            By the time Lost Sounds was published by the University of Illinois press in 2004 it had grown to 634 pages. Its reception within the academic community was gratifying, with excellent reviews and, over the next two years, three major awards for excellence.

The CD

            Shortly after the book was published Tim was contacted by Richard Martin, the owner (with his wife Meagan) of Archeophone, a small record label specializing in immaculately produced reissues of acoustic-era (pre-1925) recordings. Richard suggested a parallel CD reissue of some of the recordings discussed in Lost Sounds. Tim had wanted to find a way to make these historic recordings available, and had considered compiling a CD to include with the book, but with the enormous amount of work involved in completing the book he didn’t feel he could do the project justice. Archeophone, with its reputation for excellent transfers and lavish accompanying annotation, was a perfect solution.

            From the fall of 2004 through the summer of 2005 Richard and Tim worked on the project, compiling track lists, locating and transferring the best copies they could find, and preparing an  accompanying booklet. The list grew to 54 tracks occupying two CDs. The majority of the original cylinders and discs were from Tim’s collection, or copies he had located in far-flung collections, and transferred by him to digital files using specialized playback equipment. This included a Diapason variable speed turntable (most “78s” were recorded, and should be played back, at speeds other than 78 rpm), an archive-quality Archeophone cylinder playback machine (made by a French company which coincidentally had the same name as the record label) and a wide range of custom styli.  Richard then “cleaned up” the digital files using computer sound editing software.

            Joining the project was David Giovannoni, a Maryland collector and researcher who located and transferred several tracks including a heretofore unknown 1895 cylinder by the Oriole Quartette. Other experts also helped out, including California dentist Dr. Michael Khanchalian (“the cylinder doctor”), a specialist in cylinder restoration, who pieced together a shattered 1891 wax cylinder for inclusion. Some treasures turned up at the last minute.  The only known copy of George W. Johnson’s unusual comedy song “Carving the Duck” (1903) was obtained by Tim from Canada in an eBay auction just in time to be included.

The notes, which grew to become a 58-page illustrated booklet, were written primarily by Tim with invaluable contributions by Martin and Giovannoni, who also suggested the track sequence. Martin’s wife Meagan Hennessey helped design the elegant packaging, a hallmark of Archeophone. The set was released simultaneously with the release of the paperback edition of Lost Sounds in late 2005.

The double-CD immediately attracted even more attention than the book had, including a review in the New York Times and several segments on National Public Radio. In 2006 it was nominated for two Grammy Awards, for Best Historical Album and Best Liner Notes. It won in the former category at the February 11, 2007 ceremonies in Los Angeles, with the award shared by Martin and Hennessey (as producers) and Brooks and Giovannoni (as mastering engineers).

For the Preface and Introduction from Lost Sounds,  Click here.
(Copyright 2004 by Tim Brooks. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced, photocopied, posted on another website, or distributed through any means without the permission of the University of Illinois Press)



Survey of Reissues of U.S. Recordings. By Tim Brooks. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources and the Library of Congress, 2005. 30 + vi pages. ISBN 1-932326-21-9. ISBN 978-1-932326-21-5. CLIR Publication No. 133. Available at www.clir.org as a printed document or as a free download.

  • Monograph examining the legal accessibility of historical sound recordings published in the United States, as reflected in the percent of such recordings made available by rights holders.
  • Based on a study conducted by Brooks, assisted by Steven Smolian, of a random sample of 1,500 recordings commercially released in the U.S. between 1890 and 1964.
  • The study reports, for each five-year period between 1890 and 1964, the percent of historically-important recordings from that period that are still controlled by a rights holder under U.S. law, the percent that the rights holders have made available via reissues, and the percent that have been reissued by others (foreign labels not subject to U.S. law, or domestic non-rights holders).
  • Availability is also shown by genre of recording (popular music, jazz, etc.)
  • The first rigorous, statistical study of whether rights holders are using the sweeping rights they have been granted under U.S. copyright law to make available our recorded heritage.

History:

One of the more surprising revelations of Lost Sounds was that many historical recordings are “lost” not because there are no physical copies left, but because the sweeping copyright laws passed in the U.S. over the last 30 years grant exclusive rights to practically everything ever recorded to large corporations, more or less forever. Unlike books, plays, songs and other creative works, which eventually pass into the public domain and belong to everyone, there is no “public domain” for recordings (at least until 2067, when these rules are currently set to expire—maybe). The companies get everything, the public gets zero. No other country treats recordings this way; in most the copyright term for recordings is 50 to 70 years.

In the case of pre-1920 recordings by African-Americans, most are still controlled by modern corporations. Only one-half of one percent of these recordings have been reissued by them in modern times. Black history is literally buried as a result of U.S. copyright law.

            Talking about this situation in 2004 with Sam Brylawski, who was then head of the Recorded Sound Section of the Library of Congress, Tim suggested a study to quantify the extent of the problem. Hard data can sometimes influence public policy in a way that anecdotes cannot. Brylawski agreed and helped shape what became the first-ever rigorous study of his subject, supported by a grant from the Washington-based Council on Library and Information Resources, a non-profit think tank representing libraries across the country. The study found that an average of 84% of historic recordings from the various periods prior to 1965 are still someone’s exclusive property under U.S. law (due to recent developments this number is now even higher); and only 14% of those, on average, have been made available by the rights holder through reissues. Moreover the 14% is heavily skewed toward recent periods. For eras prior to 1940 availability is generally 10% or less, and prior to 1920 it approaches zero.

            This is not the percent of all recordings that are available, but rather of those that scholars and collectors have identified as historically important.

            Since its publication in 2005 the study has been cited in many policy documents, and it even played a role in European deliberations about the proper length of recording copyright terms there (ultimately the 95 year term advocated by the record industry was scaled back to 70 years there, with restrictions).



The Columbia Master Book Discography, Volume I: U.S. Matrix Series 1 through 4999, 1901-1910, with a History of the Columbia Phonograph Company to 1934. By Tim Brooks. Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1999. 529 + xii pages. ISBN: 0-313-30821-7.

The Columbia Master Book Discography, Volume II: Principal U.S. Matrix Series, 1910-1924. By Brian Rust. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. 668 pages. ISBN: 0-313-30822-5.

The Columbia Master Book Discography, Volume III: Principal U.S. Matrix Series, 1924-1934. By Brian Rust. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. 826 pages. ISBN: 0-313-30823-3.

The Columbia Master Book Discography, Volume IV: U.S. Twelve-Inch Matrix Series, 1906-1931. By Brian Rust and Tim Brooks. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. 318 pages. ISBN: 0-313-30824-1.

  • A 2,300-page, four-volume discography listing all known disc records made by Columbia in its principal U.S. series from the start of regular disc recording in 1901 (on the Climax label) until the sharp reduction in activity caused by the Depression in 1934.
  • Approximately 28,000 titles.
  • Includes both issued and unissued recordings, artist credits and release information.
  • A collaborative production of Tim Brooks and noted English discographer Brian Rust.
  • Volume I, by Tim, also includes a detailed history of Columbia Records, its operations and repertoire during this period, label photographs, matrix and catalog number dating charts, a description of all Columbia matrix series, a chapter on Columbia record catalogs and consumer publications, an essay on sources and a bibliography.
  • Indexed by artist, title and (for volumes I and IV) label of issue.

Award:

            Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Excellence, 2000

History:

This massive compilation was nearly half a century in the making. Its origins lay in mimeographed matrix lists compiled by Columbia Records librarian Helen Chmura beginning in the mid 1950s, which were added to by collectors over the following years. Around 1970 Tim Brooks and several other collectors decided to take the sprawling mass of information, pull it together and publish it, starting with the pre-1910 period. This was the most difficult period to reconstruct, since Columbia’s files from that ancient time had been destroyed and even Chmura had only sketchy information about the recordings made then. Everything had to be reconstructed from surviving records and catalogs. For a time there was a “Columbia Quartet” of researchers working on the project, and later a “Columbia Trio.”

            Between 1975 and 1980 Tim published several articles about early Columbia, including an outline of its matrix (recording) series. Concurrently he and Maine collector Bill Bryant, who specialized in early labels, became the chief architects of the project. Since there were no files to consult, collections around the world were scoured for examples of recordings made during this period, in order to collect titles, artists, master numbers, takes and labels of issue (recordings made by Columbia were leased to many other labels).

            In the early 1980s English discographer Brian Rust joined the project, extending the listings to the early 1930s using microfilms he had obtained of the Columbia files, which are more complete after 1910. Greenwood Press agreed to publish the work, and a tentative publication date was set for 1984.

            Many delays ensued but work never stopped entirely. Bill, an obsessive perfectionist, took possession of the pre-1910 files and things slowed to a crawl for nearly a decade as he attempted to track down every tiny detail.

Up to this point all of the information gathered was on paper, but it was becoming obvious that a state-of-the-art discography would require computerization. So in the early 1990s Tim began to organize the huge amount of accumulated data and prepare it for entry into a database. Unfortunately Bill had barely begun his portion of the entry work when he died suddenly of a heart attack in September 1995, at the age of 44. Tim then arranged for the entry work to be continued by others, paid for in part by a grant from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. He edited the results and wrote software to error-check the contents of the database, prepare indexes and print out the main listings in discographic format. (Greenwood books are printed from fair copy.) He also wrote a considerable amount of supplementary material about early Columbia, which ultimately appeared in Volume I. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Brian Rust, who refused to have anything to do with computers, was busy hand-typing the thousand-plus pages covering 1910-1934, from his microfilms.

            After many starts and stops, people joining and leaving the project, and even deaths, The Columbia Master Book Discography was finally published in four volumes in 1999. It was dedicated to the late Helene Chmura and Bill Bryant. It remains the most comprehensive overview ever published of the first one-third century of Columbia disc recording.



Little Wonder Records and Bubble Books: An Illustrated History and Discography. By Tim Brooks with Merle Sprinzen. Denver, CO: Mainspring Press, 2011. 221 pages.

Little Wonder Records: A History and Discography. Edited by Tim Brooks. St. Johnsbury, VT: New Amberola Publishing Company, 1999. 95 pages.

  • A discography of the output of the Little Wonder record label (1914-1923), one of the first and most successful “budget labels” in the U.S.
  • Includes a history of the label, title index, artist index, and performance type index.

Award:

            Association for Recorded Sound Collections Certificate of Merit, 2000           

History:

Like many collectors Tim Brooks was long fascinated by the small (five and one-half inch), single-sided records produced by Little Wonder in the late 1910s. They were frequently found by collectors, and must have sold in great quantities, yet little was known about them, and even less about the identities of the anonymous artists who recorded for the label.

            In 1979 Tim published an article about the label (“Ever Wonder About Little Wonder?”) in the New Amberola Graphic, concluding with an appeal for someone to undertake a discography. Soon noted  collector George A. Blacker began to do just that and throughout the 1980s, with the help of many others, he assembled an enormous amount of data, including the presumed identities of many of the anonymous singers and instrumentalists (based on aural identification). After Blacker’s untimely death in 1990 researcher Bill Bryant took over the project, with the involvement of Brooks, New Amberola Graphic editor Martin Bryan and others. Bryant died in 1995 after which the project was edited and prepared for publication by Brooks. He chose to be listed as the editor; so many others were involved in gathering the data that compilation credit was given to “The Little Wonder Research Consortium.”

            Several years after the release of the 1999 edition Tim was contacted by Merle Sprinzen, a New York collector who had done considerable subsequent research on the label and assembled what is perhaps the largest collection of the discs and related materials in existence. She suggested collaborating on a second edition, and the result was published by Mainspring Press in 2011. Twice the size of the original book, it contains considerable new information on the history of the label, many new artist identifications, and scores of previously unknown listings, as well as information on foreign affiliates (the “Piccola Meraviglia” label in Italy) and the enormously popular Bubble Books spin-off. Merle maintains an informative website about the label at http://www.littlewonderrecords.com.



The Complete Directory to Prime Time TV Stars. By Tim Brooks. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987. 1,086 + xiii pages. ISBN 0-345-32681-4.

  • A biographical dictionary of more than 8,500 performers who had regular roles on network and syndicated television series from the 1940s through late 1986.
  • Lists birth and death dates, place of birth, roles played (with dates), Emmy Awards and for more than 2,000 of the most prominent, entertainingly-written descriptions of their lives and careers.
  • Includes information on thousands of familiar supporting players and celebrities of the past, as well as current stars. The first time much of this information was ever published.
  • Trivia section, TV Academy Hall of Fame, Birthday Calendar, Birthplace index, Bibliography, Program index.

History: 

The Complete Directory to Prime Time TV Stars was a companion piece to the TV Shows directory, containing biographical information on virtually every performer listed in the latter. It was the largest historical compendium on television talent published up to that time. Although the first printing of over 20,000 copies sold out, the publisher felt that it did not sell fast enough and let it go out of print. There was no second edition. Copies can sometimes be found through used book dealers.

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TVs Greatest Hits: The 150 Most Popular TV Shows of All Time. By Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. New York: Ballantine Books, 1985. 299 + xvi pages. ISBN: 0-345-31865-X.

  • A pocket-sized mass market paperback containing alphabetical entries for the 150 most popular series in network TV history, up to that time. The entries were reprinted from The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows.
  • Additional features include an introductory discussion, quick quiz, essay on the six eras of network programming history, ranking of the top 150 programs, and an index of performers.
  • The ranking was based on the programs’ audience size (as determined by Nielsen ratings rank) and length of time on the air.

History: 

TV’s Greatest Hits introduced the idea of an all-time top series ranking, based on the annual rankings in The Complete Directory. It also allowed readers to have access to detailed information on the top shows in a convenient, inexpensive format. The book sold about 13,000 copies, which the publisher considered unsuccessful, and was allowed to go out of print. Subsequently the top series ranking (reduced to a top 100) was incorporated into the 1988 edition of The Complete Directory.

 


TV in the 60s: Those Wonderful Shows You Grew Up With. By Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. New York: Ballantine Books, 1985. 271 + xv pages. ISBN: 0-345-31866-8.

  • A pocket-sized mass market paperback containing alphabetical entries for about 200 network television series from the 1960s “that were aimed at, and most popular with, America’s young people.” The entries were reprinted from The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows.
  • Additional features include an introductory discussion, quick quiz, essay on television in the 1960s and an index of performers.

History:

Like TV’s Greatest Hits, which was published simultaneously, TV in the ‘60s presented a selection of entries from the much larger Complete Directory built around a theme, in an inexpensive, portable format. It sold about 10,000 copies and was allowed to go out of print.

 

This page was last modified on November 14th, 2011.
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