Nipper The World’s Most Famous Musical Dog

Get Down! In Search of Nipper the HMV Dog

His name is Nipper and in the U.K he is the emblem of the famous HMV (His Master’s Voice) record label and store. Meanwhile in the U.S he represents the famous RCA records and the early record player the Victrola Talking Machine. He’s also been employed as the trademark of Deutsche Grammophon label. He’s a dog of many masters!

Nipper was painted in 1898 by Liverpool-born painter Francis Barraud. Barraud is commemorated with a plaque at 126 Piccadilly here in London…

Find the plaque here…

The story goes that Nipper had been found as a stray in 1884 and was adopted by Barraud’s brother Mark. Barraud noticed how the dog would seem perplexed when the cylender phonograph was played, cocking his head to one side as if trying to ascertain how a human voice could emerge from a machine. Inspiration struck and failure came hot on its heels: the Royal Academy rejected the picture, as did a plethora of magazines.

Barraud with one of the copies of his most famous work

It wasn’t until Barraud approached The Gramophone Company in 1899 that he was able to sell the piece. Even then, The Gramophone Company insisted that he replace the original cylinder phonograph with one of their own patented models. Thus a classic trademark was born.

Nipper died of natural causes in 1895 and was buried in Kingston-Upon-Thames in southwest London. In 2010 a street close to his final resting place – now the location of bar, once a bank – was named in his honour: Nipper Alley.

Find Nipper Alley here…

If you’d like to find out more about the history of recording, it’s a topic that we cover on the Musical Covent Garden walking tour and on the Radio Days virtual tour.

Here’s a playlist of 10 dog-related songs


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