The "Lost" Decca Recordings
Recordings Incorporated
Decca Records
Master Numbers :
DLA-158A & DLA-159A
Release Date:
78rpm 11"
Approx 5 minutes
Only one of each is known to exist
"Bill" label


Thought to have been lost for over 70 years, these are the only two known records to exist from Judy Garland's first studio recording session.

On March 29, 1935, Judy Garland and her sisters (Virginia & Mary Jane), known professionally as "The Garland Sisters", recorded several tests for Decca Records. The recording session took place at the Recordings Incorporated Studios at 5505 Melrose in Hollywood, California. Judy's Mom, Ethel Gumm, played the piano for the tests.

According to the excellent liner notes by Ron O'Brien for the wonderful 1994 Decca Records CD boxed set "Judy Garland - The Complete Decca Masters (plus)", the session was initiated by Decca Records A&R man Joe Perry, aka "Decca Joe". Perry had seen the sisters perform, and wanted to sign them to a contract. Per his wife, Elise Perry, as recorded in these same liner notes:

"Judy and her mother and two sisters were appearing at the theater, and we just happened to go to see the movie and, of course, they had this vaudeville in between pictures. My husband thought Judy was pure magic, and he just couldn't get her off his mind. He talked about her all the way home, and the next morning he went back to the theater and sat through four shows. Joe talked to the mother, and then I remember she came out to the house and brought in some papers and things to my husband because she couldn't get all the way out to the studio, which was on (5505) Melrose. He signed up Judy, and then she made her first record."

Judy Garland"The Garland Sisters" recorded "Moonglow", and Frances Garland (as Judy was still professionally known at that time) recorded "Bill", the Hammerstein/Kern song from "Show Boat" that was identified with torch singer Helen Morgan. Frances also recorded a medley consisting of "On The Good Ship Lollipop/Object Of My Affection/Dinah". "Bill" was given a master number of "DLA 158" and the "Medley" was given a master number of "DLA 159". It's likely that "Moonglow" was given the master number "DLA 157", but this record is still thought to be lost so we can only speculate that it was most likely recorded first.

At the time, Judy performed "Bill" on stage, seated on a piano (as the song's originator Helen Morgan did) with just a spot framing her face. At the end of the song the lights would come up, and audiences would applaud and cheer in amazement that this woman's voice came out of such a young girl. See the photo at right, taken during a working trip to the Chicago World's Fair in July of 1934 - Judy is posing as she performed the number.

"Decca Joe" prepared a Decca memo that day, as shown in the liner notes to the boxed set, listing the "Matrix No." as DLA 158, the "Series" as "Test", and incorrectly lists the "Artist" as Francis [sic] Garland. He put a hand written note at the bottom of the memo which reads "12 yr. Old Girl I Wrote About, 3/28/35 - Joe". This indicates that the day before the girls came in, he had already notified Decca's New York Office of his new discovery.

Sadly, a contract never materialized and Judy would not make another studio recording until a second "audition" session for Decca on November 27, 1935. The previous September she had signed a standard studio contract with M-G-M Studios and was having great success via radio appearances. This second audition was actually a "tag" on the end of a recording session that Decca musical director Victor Young was conducting with Johnny Mercer and Ginger Rogers. Young was the orchestra leader for "The Shell Chateau Hour" on NBC Radio where Judy was also appearing. Young liked Judy and arranged for this second audition, and conducted as Judy sang "All's Well (Down In Coronado By The Sea)" and "No Other One". Unfortunately, these records were "kept on file" only until 1942, when it's thought that they were lost as part of the wartime metal scrap drives. But, so were the first tests that have recently been discovered, so who knows?

These two surviving records, retrieved in 1960 from a trash heap outside of Judy's recently vacated home in Beverly Hills, are surely Judy's personal copies. Upon close inspection of the labels and the records themselves, it's apparent that they are either the originals or copies made at the same time. Judy may well have been given these as "demos" (much like artist today have demo CDs) to keep and possibly use if she were to go to another record company or more likely a Hollywood studio. If they were pressings made years later and given to Judy, they certainly would not have the "Recordings Incorporated" label but rather a hand written plain label much like a record Judy gave to Arthur Freed in the late 1940's.

Judy's Lost Records
Click on the label of each record to view detailed close-ups.
Photo courtesy of Bonhams & Butterfields.

Each record contains just one song on one side.
The record on the left is "Bill".
The record on the right is the medley of "On The Good Ship Lollipop/Object Of My Affection/Dinah"

The reverse sides are blank, without labels, and have black on black writing
with the name of the featured song.

The Master Numbers (DLA 158 & 159) are etched in the lip of the records.

CLICK HERE to go to The Judy Room News Page for photos and info about the auction and its outcome!

It's also reported as part of The Judy Room 2006 Year In Review.

Read the text version of the Bonhams Press Release
Download the official Bonhams & Butterfields Press Release (PDF)

From Bonhams & Butterfields:

Both discs are still playable, though a scratchy, rough background noise can be heard as is expected from recordings from this era. Amazingly, Judy's voice overpowers the "scratchy" quality and is as clear as a bell. She's only twelve at the time, but her singing voice is remarkably mature; her innate talent evidenced even at this very early stage of her career. The recordings run for a total of five minutes only - leaving the listener wanting to hear more - but glad that these five minutes do exist! The recordings have been transferred to a CD, which is included, as is a reprinted black and white image of Garland as a young girl.

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