Charles A. Prince

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For other people named Charles Prince, see Charles Prince (disambiguation).
Charles Adams Prince
Birth name Charles Adams Prince
Also known as Charles Adams
Born 1869
Died October 10, 1937
Genres ragtime, popular, classical
Occupation(s) conductor, bandleader, musician, record company executive
Instruments piano, celeste, organ
Years active 1891 - 1937
Labels Columbia, Victor

Charles Adams Prince (1869 – October 10, 1937) was an American conductor, bandleader, pianist and organist known for conducting the Columbia Orchestra and, later, Prince's Band and Orchestra.[1][2] He made his first recordings as a pianist in 1891 for the New York Phonograph Co. Later in the 1890s he worked as a musical director for Columbia Records and also conducted the Columbia Orchestra and Columbia Band starting in 1904 as successor to cornetist Tom Clark.[2]

In 1905, Prince assembled groups called "Prince's Band", "Prince's Orchestra", and the "Banda Espanola". They principally recorded for Columbia's disc releases and featured much of the same material as the Columbia Band, which was given over for cylinder recording to veteran flutist and conductor George Schweinfest.[2] Prince's own composition, "The Barbary Rag", was recorded by the band in 1913.[3]

Prince's Band was the first to record many now popular jazz standards. Their version of W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" in 1915 is the first known recording of the song. It took the band two sessions to record a successful take, which was considered unusual considering the talent of the band and its leader.[4] Another Handy's song, "The Memphis Blues", was recorded by Prince's Band in 1914, a week after its introduction by the Victor Military Band.[5] Other standards introduced by the band are Porter Steele's "High Society" (1911)[6] and Lew Pollack and Ray Gilbert's "That's a Plenty" (1914).[7]

He recorded as a solo celeste player under the name Charles Adams. As such, his recording of Silver Threads Among the Gold was popular.[8]

At Columbia, Prince also showed initiative in expanding the catalogue's "classical" orchestral catalog as well as experimenting with the size of ensembles that acoustic recording equipment could encompass. In October 1910 he conducted an abbreviated version of Franz Schubert's symphony no. 8 in b minor on two 12" disc sides (released as Columbia A 5267), popularly known as the "Unfinished Symphony", which was the first orchestral recording of any part of a symphony, and he later assembled a 90-piece orchestra to record the overture to Richard Wagner's opera Rienzi in February 1917 (released as Columbia A 6006), which was the largest ensemble commercially recorded to that date. Prince's last recording for Columbia was in 1922. He then changed labels to Puritan Records and later to Victor Records, where he worked as associate musical director.[2]

He was related to US Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, p. 860
  2. ^ Ragtime, p. 290
  3. ^ Lost Sounds, p. 416
  4. ^ Jazz Standards on Record, pp. 48–49
  5. ^ Jazz Standards on Record, p. 28
  6. ^ Jazz Standards on Record, p. 82
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954: The History of American Popular Music. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. p. 21. ISBN 0-89820-083-0. 
  8. ^ Dean, Maury (2003). Rock and Roll: Gold Rush. Algora Publishing. p. 432. ISBN 9780875862279. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 


  • Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. Frank W. Hoffmann and Howard Ferstler. CRC Press, 2005. ISBN 0-415-93835-X
  • Jazz Standards on Record, 1900–1942: A Core Repertory. Richard Crawford and Jeffrey Magee. Center for Black Music Rsrch, 1992. ISBN 0-929911-03-2
  • Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890–1919. Tim Brooks and Richard Keith Spottswood. University of Illinois Press, 2004. ISBN 0-252-02850-3
  • Ragtime: An Encyclopedia, Discography, and Sheetography. David A. Jasen. CRC Press, 2007. ISBN 0-415-97862-9