This is the first recording of 'Waltzing Matilda’, recorded by the Queensland-born tenor John Collinson in London in 1926 with pianist Russell Callow.
This first recording of 'Waltzing Matilda’ seems rushed at barely two minutes and the recording itself is almost overwhelmed at the beginning by wear and damage to the disc. Nevertheless, it has more interest than just being the first known recording of the much-loved song. Although it is clearly recognisable as the 'Waltzing Matilda’ sung today, there are subtle differences in the melody apparent – particularly the two 'Waltzing Matildas’ at the start of each refrain and distinct changes in the melody in the second and fourth lines of both verse and chorus.
The recording was made acoustically, with singer and pianist performing in front of a large horn. The sound vibrated a diaphragm which was mechanically connected to a needle which cut a groove in a wax master disc. It was possible to record up to two-and-a-half minutes on a disc at this time, so it’s not clear why Collinson and Callow perform the song at such a cracking pace. The jauntiness of the delivery is particularly at odds with the last verse ('And his ghost may be heard…’) which is often delivered in a much slower and more dramatic fashion.