Starting something

Texarkana Baby by Eddy ArnoldEddy Arnold’s “Texarkana Baby” was not a big hit, appearing on neither pop nor country charts. It was issued on RCA Victor 20-2806 in 1948 on a black-label 78. But the following spring, RCA reissued it on green vinyl, assigning it the auspicious catalog number 48-0001. This was the very first 45-rpm record available to the public, and RCA was anxious to make them look nothing like the black shellac of the 78s, or the equally black “Lp” record put out by archrival Columbia. Hence green, for all the country issues: orange, for RCA’s occasional forays into rhythm and blues; yellow, for the kids.

The problem was that oversized hole in the middle. It worked perfectly well with RCA’s Victrola record player, which you could plug into the back of your RCA television set. (Before you ask: yes, they used RCA plugs and jacks.) And the Victrola, as designed, would not play any of those pesky Columbia Lps. But David Sarnoff, bless him, figured out that eventually they’d have to do a long-play disc of their own — classical music four minutes at a time on 45s was no less annoying than it had been on stacks of 78s — and further, that he might want to sell 45s to people with those tiny little spindles made by other manufacturers. And so General Sarnoff (he wore a single star in the Signal Corps) ordered one Thomas Hutchison to come up with a solution.

45 rpm adapterAnd Hutchison delivered, coming up with an inexpensive little plastic doohickey that would snap inside the enlarged 45 hole and fit neatly on the smaller spindle, making multi-speed turntables almost inevitable. The spider, as it was sometimes called, did not catch on in much of the rest of the world; instead, they pressed small-hole 45s from which the center section could be punched out if necessary.

Still, the 78 refused to go quietly: EMI was issuing Beatles 78s in India as late as 1968, and R. Crumb (yes, that R. Crumb) and his Cheap Suit Serenaders, while they recorded their LPs at 331/3 like everyone else, put out singles at 78 rpm into the 1980s.


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