BIRMINGHAM RECORD COLLECTORS
DEDICATED TO THE COLLECTING OF MUSIC, ITS PRESERVATION, AND LASTING FRIENDSHIP
MONTHLY MEETING THIS SUNDAY, APRIL 8th 2018
2:00 PM HOMEWOOD LIBRARY – 1721 OXMOOR ROAD 35209
NEXT MEETING SUNDAY, MAY 6th, 2018 THE FIRST SUNDAY
THIS MONTH’S MEETING
Just over three years ago three members of BRC did an interview with BRC Music Hall of Fame member, Sammy Salvo. They taped it both audio and video. We will play the DVD at our April meeting. It was a very informative interview with Sammy and his brother George who played an integral part in Sammy’s musical career. I think you will find it very interesting to see how the guys worked in the business and what they had to do to promote Sammy. If you are unable to attend, you will find the audio part on the BRC website under ‘Radio’ dated September 17, 2014. Thanks to Ray, Don and John for taking time to do this oral history of Sammy & George.
SO MANY LABELS, SO LITTLE TIME
Last month I gave out some info on some of the more popular independent record labels that provided us with so many good memories over the years. I had a few more in mind but ran out of room so I’ll just continue this month if you don’t mind. I’m sticking to those labels that began as an independent and not as part of a large company such as MGM, Columbia, RCA, etc.
Let’s start with one that my good friend Chi-Town mentioned to me, Vee Jay. The label was started in Chicago in 1953. Husband and wife, Vivian Carter and James Bracken were the founders using their first initials to come up with V-J. The label specialized in blues, jazz, R&B, and rock. Vee Jay was one of the first black-owned record companies in the US. The early line-up of artists is a Who’s Who of recording starts. Jimmy Reed, Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker, The Spaniels, The Dells, and The El Dorados. Soul became part of the Vee Jay line-up in the 1960’s with artists such as Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Dee Clark, and Betty Everett. The Pips, later to become Gladys Knight and the Pips would have their first charted release (‘Every Beat of My Heart’) on the Vee Jay label. The label also had major success with the pop/rock genre with the Four Seasons (the first non-black act) and The Beatles. The Beatles came as a package deal with Ifield through EMI after their US affiliate, Capitol was not interested in them at first. What a deal! They received some of the groups early recordings and a 5 year deal in the package.
As time went on the label had success with Jimmy Boyd, Don Covay, Billy Preston, Hoyt Axton, and Jimi Hendrix.
Unfortunately the success, especially with The Beatles brought in enough money that then president, Ewart Abner used some of it to pay off some gambling debts. By 1966 the label filed for bankruptcy. But the history of the label cannot be disputed as one of the best during the 50’s-60’s. The discography speaks for itself. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been in the studio during the early times being a part of those classic recordings?
Another early label that catered to the R&B crowd was Duke. Duke Records was formed in Memphis, TN in 1952 by local DJ David James Mattis and partner Bill Fitzgerald. The two were then owners of Tri-State Recording Company. The labels first release was Roscoe Gordon’s ‘Hey Fat Girl’. It was Duke R-1, later becoming R-101, so check those record numbers when purchasing this one. Mattis would later partner with Don Robey who would take the label to Houston where he ran his other label, Peacock. He later would form the labels Back Beat and Sure Shot.
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland was Duke’s major artist. Bland stayed with Duke until it folded. Johnny Ace was sure to be a major player for Duke but had an untimely death. Ace had three #1 R&B hits for the label. And then there was Little Junior Parker who had a long list of recordings between 1953-1966 with seven making the top twenty.
Robey sold his labels in 1973 to ABC Dunhill. All the recordings went into the ABC catalog but only Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland was retained.
Swan Records came out of Philly in 1957. Owners were Bernie Binnick and Tony Mammarella. It is said (???) that Dick Clark was also an investor. Bob Crewe and Frank Slay were the companies staff writers and producers. Their first hit was ‘Click Clack’ by Dicky Doo and the Don’ts. The label became a major player with the release of The Beatles ‘She Loves You’. The label even had the rights to the groups German version , ‘Sie Liebt Dich’. The Beatles hit kept Swan in business while many other smaller US labels suffered with the British Invasion.
Earlier success for Swan came from Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon releases. The Rockin’ Rebels had a big Swan hit with ‘Wild Weekend’. Swan was distributed by Cameo-Parkway which had all the dance hits at the time – ‘The Twist’, The Limbo Rock’, The Wah-Watusi, “Mashed Potato Time’, ‘Hully Gully Baby’, and ‘Bristol Stomp’.
The words, ‘Don’t Drop Out’ were on the label to encourage kids to stay in school.
Some of you may know of Ray Harris, a rockabilly singer in Memphis. Harris started the Hi Record label recording soul and rockabilly music. He formed the label in Memphis in 1957. Harris had at least 5 other partners involved with the company. Bill Black, bass player for Elvis at Sun, had the first hit for Hi with ‘Smokie Part 2’. Other artists included Ace Cannon, and Willie Mitchell. Mitchell would later become the labels VP. Mitchell’s studio in Memphis, Royal Studios was used to record most of Hi’s recordings including ‘Let’s Stay Together’ by Al Green. The soul genre releases had much success with Al Green but other soul artists O. V. Wright and Ann Peebles, and Otis Clay didn’t fare as well.
We’ll close with this month with Mercury Records. Formed in Chicago in 1945 by Irving Green, Berle Adams, Arthur Talmadge, and Ray Greenberg the label had much success in all types of music. With two pressing plants and using automatic presses they had a 24-hour turnaround and competed with larger labels such as Capitol, Columbia, and Decca. Early artists that provided much success were Vic Damone, Patti Page, and Frankie Laine. The label hired Eddie Gaedel, the man with dwarfism who participated in a major league baseball game as a stunt, to be their ‘Mercury Man’ complete with a Mercury winged hat. His image wearing the hat is even on some of the early Mercury labels.
Mercury’s use of overdubbing on a Patti Page release was documented as the first time to use the process using tape. It had been done some on early 78’s. Artists who recorded for Mercury include, Big Bopper, Brook Benton, Jerry Butler, Del Vikings, Diamonds, Everly Brothers, Lesley Gore, Kris Kristofferson, David Bowie, and BTO. The list goes on and on.
Thanks to all the people who shed their blood, sweat, and tears along with time, money, heartaches, sleepless nights, etc to provide listeners with quality music.
Check out our old and NEW BRC Radio shows . Send us your requests. Check out the music and fun on BRC Radio! http://www.birminghamrecord.com/brc/category/radio/
HEY! HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE?
‘You Never Had It So Good’
(1965 – D-Town label out of Detroit)
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HEARD THIS HIT?
‘Let Me Go The Right Way’
(1962 – #26 on R&B, #90 Pop)