A Man with a Horn

Lost and Found Sound: Eric Byron's Hand-Cranked Phonograph

Eric Byron with the home built, hand cranked phonograph that he wheels to Washington Square Park.

Eric Byron with the home built, hand cranked phonograph that he wheels to Washington Square Park on warm Sunday afternoons. Shawn Baldwin hide caption

itoggle caption Shawn Baldwin

Each Sunday on warm weekends, Eric Byron walks a mile from his Lower East Side apartment to the same bench, in the Northwest corner of Washington Square Park in New York City and sets up shop. Out comes his guestbook, a battered box of 78s, hand painted signs, a home built, hand cranked, phonograph with a with a four-foot horn made from a heating duct.

Eric Byron is ready for your request.

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson. Mixed by Tom Corwin and Jim McKee at Earwax Productions in San Francisco. Field recording by Jim Anderson

A self appointed, early century disc jockey Eric fills his corner of the park with sounds from another place and time. If a song was recorded before 1930, Eric probably has it, or something close. And if no one passes by to listen, he cranks up his machine for himself.

One weekend, The Kitchen Sisters, radio producers Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson followed the faded sounds of opera, drifting across the park to Eric's bench. They present this piece for Lost and Found Sound.

Some of the recordings featured in this piece:

Caruso's "M'appare", c1906.

"El Mole Rachim" (Prayer for the Dead) a Hebrew song, by Josef Rosenblatt the "King of Cantors" for the passengers of the Titanic that perished at sea, c. 1912-1915

The Mad Scene from the opera Lucia by the soprano Amelita Galli-Curci

"Willie the Weeper" by Louis Armstrong, c.1928.

"How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On the Farm After They've Seen Paris" by Arthur Fields, c.1919

"How Are You Goin to Wet Your Whistle When the Whole Darn World Goes Dry" by Billy Murray, c. 1919

Special Thanks to Mr. Wizard, Don Herbert, David Isay, and Rachel Day.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.