Vernon Dalhart and the
Santa Barbara Earthquake of 1925

Vernon Dalhart was born Marion Try Slaughter on April 6, 1883 in northeast Texas. Marion took his professional name from Vernon and Dalhart Texas,the towns between which he had punched cattle in the second half of the1890's. His first commercially released recording was Edison Blue Amberol # 3185 Can't Yo' Heah Me Callin' in June 1917. Dalhart's first Victor recording was recorded in 1918. His first Victor side The Pickaninny's Paradise, went on sale in February 1919. He recorded his biggest hit: Wreck of the Old '97, first for Edison in May of 1924 and again for Victor on July 13, 1924. Dalhart's Victor recording of Wreck ofthe Old '97 and The Prisoner's Song sold six to eight million copies. His lifetime record sales were in excess of seventy-five million records, as he recorded more than 5,000 titles for 180 different record lables.

Vernon Dalhart
Dalhart in 1926

The Santa Barbara Earthquake was written within two weeks of the event, and was recorded and released quickly by Columbia and Dalhart to capitalize on the widespread interest in the disaster. The song is credited on the record label to "Carlos McAffee", a pseudonym for early country performer and songwriter Carson Robison -- who often recorded with Dalhart.

[Thanks to Tony Russel for tracing the pseudonym.]

Click on record lable to listen to
The Santa Barbara Earthquake
Recorded July 10, 1925


Santa Barbara Mission  w/ eathquake damage, 1925.
The Old Mission, showing extensive damage

    The Santa Barbara earthquake of 1925 pointed out one of the problems of the rapid growth of communities in California -- sub-standard construction, often encouraged by the amicable climate, leads to structures which give way all too easily in the shaking of an earthquake. Such was the problem in the Santa Barbara area when the quake of June 29, 1925 struck. Unlike the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which was accompanied by a fire that led many to confused conclusions about what caused most of the destruction of buildings, the Santa Barbara earthquake produced no fire, and demonstrated clearly the destructive capability of the earthquake alone. In the business district of Santa Barbara, an area of about 36 blocks, only a few structures were not substantially damaged, and many had to be completely demolished and rebuilt.
    In all, some $8 million of damage occurred, and 13 deaths were reported in connection with the earthquake. Had the quake occurred when the business district was crowded with merchants and customers, the death toll would likely have been greater.

Potter Theater, damaged by earthquake
The old Potter Theater (with thanks to Neal Graffy!)


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