Today’s show pays tribute to one of my all-time favorite labels, Droll Yankees, which now is primarily a manufacturer of bird feeders.
Started in 1960 by Peter Kilham to document the language and stories of New England. Most of the stories and jokes are off-color (one early record is called “Swearing in the Bushes”), but there are also old songs and sailor tales. Some people may be familiar with the old “Bert and I” records, and these are pretty similar. Kilham included background sounds in these recordings, the sound of the docks or boatyard, or in one case the buzzing of flies attracted to the “ripe herring” surrounding Alan Bemis’ place (see, DY-6 Fresh as a Haddock). At some point along the way, Kilham’s son made him a dish for his microphone to better collect field recordings and in 1963, DY-14, Birds on a May Morning, was released. On side A, 36 of the bird songs are identified in a conversation between Kilham, an avid birder, and Dennis Puleston, of the Audobon Society. Most records released on the label thereafter are field recordings of New England life, from steam boats to swamps to horse farms. In 1969, Kilham invented the upright tube bird feeder and the company fully shifted gears, though for some time the recordings were available through the company, later as cassette tapes.
A (probably) full discography of the label, with photos of the amazing cover art and notes can be found here, thanks to Joel Metz. I’m really looking forward to reading the biography, The Perfectionist: Peter Kilham and the Birds, written by his son, Larry Kilham.