John L. Clark Collection of Jazz Recordings
The John L. Clark Collection of Jazz Recordings was acquired in 1984 by VCU Libraries as a gift from long-time Richmond businessman John L. Clark, himself a former jazz drummer in the Art Baldwin Band in the 1940s. Clark’s large collection is the result of a merging of two separate collections – his own and one begun in the 1930s by his stepfather, William Wenzel. The Clark collection was complemented by an additional gift of records by Dr. William C. Day in 1985. Spanning the years 1925 - 1955, the collection includes nearly every major and minor jazz performer active during this period.
The collection consists of approximately 2400 discs, most of which are original ten-inch 78 rpm recordings. In addition, there are over one hundred instantaneous recordings, including one autographed by Louis Armstrong, and two autographed by Marian Page (a.k.a. Marian McPartland). Several dozen ten and twelve inch LP's round out the collection. The majority of the recordings were made on Decca, Victor, Capitol and Columbia. Also represented are most of the major European labels and a few from South America, India and the Orient. Many labels are no longer in existence, such as Brunswick, Bluebird, Okeh and Savoy.
Although the big bands and dance orchestras generally associated with the swing era are represented, the collection is dominated by smaller ensembles such as the Dutch Swing College Band, the Quintette of the Hot Club of France, the Jazz Club Mystery Jivers, and the Capitol Jazzmen. Some of the better known artists include Paul Whiteman, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. A particularly distinctive feature is the large concentration of piano music which includes Art Tatum, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Willie "the Lion" Smith, Errol Garner, Earl Hines, Oscar Peterson, Mary Lou Williams and many others. European jazz, relatively rare in U.S. collections, is also very well represented.
Access to the John L. Clark Collection
The John L. Clark Collection is non-circulating. Audio cassette copies of the 78's are housed in Innovative Media Services. They are available to the public and may be played on-site. The original recordings are housed in Special Collections and Archives. Interested scholars may view the original discs or the album jackets within the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.
Searching the John L. Clark Collection
The original 1987 discography has been scanned and is now available in pdf format. The discography is divided into ten sections according to performance medium. Also included from the original documents are a bibliography and a discography guide with detailed information, including abbreviation keys for both instruments and record labels. We have prepared a QuickStart document with helpful search tips.
To learn more about John L. Clark and his record gift to VCU Libraries, see the following article:
Goldblum, Robert. "The John L. Clark Collection of Jazz Recordings." VCU Magazine vol. 13, no. 2 (Fall 1984): 14 - 17.