Country of Manufacture – Australia

This page has been set up to help users better understand the history behind each country involved in the manufacture of 78s during the 78rpm era.

Other pages in this series include:

Australia has a long and extensive history of record production and recording that dates back to the end of the 19th century.

The first Australian sound recording; a novelty song about a chicken; was recorded as far back as 1896, and provides an insight into how a relatively new country quickly adopted the new technology and made it uniquely their own. Records (and the machines for playback) were quickly adopted into domestic life, and with increasing demand, companies were set up to manufacture a variety of playback equipment instead of relying on imported machines and the records themselves, until by the mid 1920’s, record companies saw a growing and urgent need to manufacture machines as well as records for a growing domestic market.

The Columbia Graphophone record factory and recording studio was first major production/recording facility established in Australia. In 1926 as the Columbia Graphophone Company, this Australian branch of the British based record company began record pressing production and then later, recording and manufacturing of playback machines.

The building, which still stands on the corner of Parramatta Rd and Columbia Lane, was purchased by Columbia Graphophone for a record pressing plant and recording studio in 1925/26.

The recording studio and record pressing plant was opened in 1926. The official opening took place on 14 October 1926 by the Governor of NSW Sir Dudley de Chair.

As reported in the Daily Telegraph on 23 October 1926:

The Columbia Company has just released the first record not only pressed, but actually recorded at the Homebush factory near Sydney, and consisting of two items played by Sydney Simpson and his Wentworth Cafe Orchestra: the popular, ‘After the Dawn’ waltz by Jack F. O’Hagan, and a fox-trot “Freshie”,’ both with a vocal chorus (Col. 0514). It is claimed that the product is entirely Australian, for “After the Dawn” has been composed, performed, recorded and pressed by Australians. This waltz with a captivating swing, which explains its increasing popularity, has been quite satisfactorily recorded, its only weak spot being the nasal quality of the ‘singer’s voice, who sings the vocal refrain. However as long as the record serves its principal purpose, dancing, mediocre vocal quality matters but little’.

The recording studio operated at Homebush until 1954 when it was transferred to EMI’s studios in Castlereagh Street Sydney. Many famous recordings were made at the Homebush studio including ‘Our Don Bradman’ in 1930 and Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith’s recollections of the first direct flight to Australia in 1928.

Kingsford-Smith’s recordings at the Homebush studio were reported by The Land Newspaper in June 1928:

Columbia Record by the Pacific Flyers.

A living photograph of Squadron-Commander Kingsford-Smith’s and Flight-Lieutenant Ulm’s voices-their inspiring messages to their fellow Aus tralians is now available in every home throughout the Commonwealth.

These two intrepid aviators, by means of an electrical recording apparatus the only one of its type in Australia have had the pleasure of making the following record: “The Trans-Pacific Plight of the Southern Cross, Part 1, Kingsford Smith’s story and Part 2, C T. P. Ulm’s story.” The Columbia Graphophone Company of Homebush, Sydney, had the honour of recording these two wonderful, realistic stories of an epoch making flight.

Here is an opportunity to secure a souvenir of their own voices. Each speech is a spontaneous expression of their experiences on the Trans-Pacific flight.

The Homebush studio recorded many thousands of Australian performers including Slim Dusty and Gladys Moncrieff. The Homebush plant was the local manufacturer of many overseas recordings including soundtracks for musicals from film studios such as MGM and Paramount. ‘Columbia Lane’ was the title of Slim Dusty’s final record in 2003, a reference to the address of the former EMI recording studio at Homebush, where he made his first record in 1946.

During the Great Depression most record companies either merged or folded as economic conditions dramatically deteriorated. In 1931, the British Columbia Gramophone Company came under the ownership of EMI [Electrical & Musical Instruments] together with the labels: Grammophone Company, HMV and Parlophone. A low budget label, Regal Zonophone was also established. Though owned by EMI, the Australian business continued to be known as Columbia Grammophone. During the 1930’s Depression, the EMI was one of the only record producers that survived the Depression and for many decades was virtually the only record producer in Australia.

In 1935, Homebush Council approved a second storey addition to the factory and in 1936/37, electric signs were erected on Parramatta Road and cottages built in the grounds behind the factory.

In 1958, the Homebush factory was renamed EMI Records. The name Columbia continued as a record label.

In 1992, the factory closed with the cessation of production of vinyl records, which were replaced by the compact disc format [CD].

Explore the following 78rpms manufactured in Australia:

Label Scan
Catalog #
Compositions
Performer(s)
Explore
S.1 Wolverine Blues
Sobbin’ Blues
GRAEME BELL’s AUSTRALIAN JAZZ BAND More
default_catalog_record_label A 2418 Hustling Hinkler
I Never Dreamed
Fred Monument (Baritone) More
DOX-650 Gone With The Wind (Selection) – Part 1
Gone With The Wind – Part 2
Louis Levy And His Orchestra More
E.A.2382 Star Dust
Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now
‘Fats’ Waller (Pianoforte Solo) More
default_catalog_record_label FS-919 R-O-C-K
The Saints go Rock ‘n Roll
Bill Haley and His Comets (v. Bill Haley) More