STEVE PORTER known was Stephen Carl Porter was an American pioneer recording artist, who recorded prolifically for numerous recording companies in the 1890s and early 1900s. He was also an entrepreneur who helped establish the recording industry in India in the early years of the twentieth century, and successfully marketed a new form of hearing aid. Born in New York City. He performed as as a baritone singer in vaudeville, as a member of the Diamond Comedy Four with Albert Campbell, Jim Reynard, and Billy Jones, who worked as song pluggers in "Tin Pan Alley" for the music publishers Joe Stern and Edward B. Marks.
In 1902 Porter sailed to London, where he recorded for Waterfield, Clifford & Company before joining the Nicole Record Co.. He worked there both as a recording engineer and as a performer, recording comic tunes, ballads and old standards, before sailing to India with John Watson Hawd to set up a recording business for Nicole Frères in Calcutta. Porter then traveled around India and Burma, finding musicians to be recorded in Nicole's Calcutta studio. He finally returned to the US in 1905.
After his return, he recorded as one member of the Columbia Male Quartet, known after 1906 as the Peerless Quartet, who originally also included tenors Henry Burr and Albert Campbell, and bass Tom Daniels. Porter remained with the quartet until 1909. However, Porter increasingly performed as a comedic artist, becoming popular for his Irish characterizations and skits. He recorded many of these for Edison and Columbia after 1906.
After 1909, Porter recorded mainly as a member of the American Quartet, with Billy Murray, John Bieling, and William F. Hooley. Porter also continued his entrepreneurial activities, filing a patent for a new form of record in 1911, and in 1916 established a business, the Port-O-Phone Corporation, to market a new type of acoustic hearing aid. Unlike his previous enterprises, this was a relatively profitable undertaking, and the hearing aids were successfully marketed around the world.
Porter left the American Quartet in 1919, although his recording career continued into the 1920s. The Port-O-Phone Corporation suffered a near-collapse in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and was wound up a few years later as its models were superseded by new technology.
Steve Porter died in 1946 at the age of 81.
See also Peerless Quartet, American Quartet