Monday, August 03, 2020

Waldorf in transition: America's Favorite Music, or Top Hit Tunes (1959)

Both Sides Now notes that Waldorf Music Hall records were sold exclusively in Woolworth stores, which is fairly common knowledge among us cheapo-label lovers.  However, Waldorf Music Hall (or Music-Hall) was only one of many Enoch Light labels, so I've often wondered if Enoch's 18 Top Hits label (the three-fer packages of six-selection EPs) may have been a mail-order deal.  Their format would suggest as much.  However, until I come across a vintage advertisement to support my suspicion, it'll have to remain a guess.

Am-Par Records, which became ABC-Paramount in 1961, purchased Enoch's labels (including Waldorf M.H.) in October 1959, reports BSN, "although the label had probably stopped issuing albums prior to the purchase," it adds.  Well, today's 12-inch Waldorf LP is from January, 1959, so we know Waldorf was still pressing vinyl at least that close to the acquisition date.  But something odd was going on, as this release features nothing on the jacket except what you see above--a cover photo and the title America's Favorite Music.  No company info, no artist listings.  Back cover--blank.  It's as if Waldorf was ceasing to care.  A pretty reasonable assumption, given that it was willing to release an LP sure to have many buyers asking "What the heck is this?  Dance instruction?"  Me, I knew from the stock Waldorf photo, and from my previous America's Favorite Music experiences.

The label sports the "Top Hit Tunes" slogan that had replaced Waldorf's "18 Top Hits" starting about 1957.  Here's Side A, with the catalog number, 33-JAN-59, which strongly suggests that this is a 33 rpm disc released in--oh, let's say--January, 1959.

There are very few familiar Waldorf names here--Dottie Evans, Enoch Light, Loren Becker (only one track!), and Hollis Harbison are the only four that register with me.  The rest are either newcomers, or... possibly, folks working for some other outfit.  Waldorf may have been outsourcing at this time.  You may or may not remember my posting of the 1961 Pickwick release, HurrahTop Hits, which follows this same strange format--i.e., eighteen fake hits plus six totally unrelated tracks.  Here's that post: Hurrah! Top Hits.  The 1961 Pickwick (Hurrah!) collection was concurrently released as America's Favorite Music, with a stock Waldorf image on the jacket: AFM.  So there must have been some kind of Pickwick/Am-Par relationship happening in 1961, which raises the possibility Pickwick was conspiring with Waldorf even earlier--namely, during Waldorf's up-for-sale period.  Such weirdness would be about par for the irrational cheap label course.

To me, these tracks do not have that smooth, professional Enoch Light sound--the quality just isn't there.  These could just as easily be from Promenade (Synthetic Plastics Co.), a company whose approach was pretty much two-takes-and-hope-for-the-best.  And the awful orchestra on The World Outside would never have been allowed on any Light production prior to this--even the fake RCA (Record Corporation of America) might have hesitated to release it.  And then put it out, anyway.  After all, the fake RCA is the home of a terrible fake of Autumn Leaves, which closes with the out of key orchestra botching the tonic chord.  As for The World Outside, the "Songsters" are pretty good in their imitation of The Four Coins, which makes the two-cent musical backing regrettable.  I didn't realize, until hearing this fake, that the song is based on the main(?) theme of Warsaw Concerto.  How I could have missed that previously, I do not know.

And if you've been dying to have the great themes of America's greatest bands, you're in luck.  And those tracks are very well done, and if I had the time, I could probably track down the original issue--they're likely cribbed from an EP set or earlier 10" or whatever.  Anyway, this is Waldorf in transition.  For all we know, it's not even Waldorf.  This could be a pod-people Waldorf that temporarily seized Enoch's labels until Am-Par came in and chased out the pods.  Then again, astrologer Light should have been able to anticipate any such shenanigans.

It's kind of cool to have a Waldorf-in-transition offering to share. And I'm probably the first person to ever use that phrase for a music post.  History is being made here.

I'm listing the titles as they appear on the label.  Where apostrophes are missing--oh, well.  And be sure to notice how utterly different "Joe Perkins" sounds between One Night and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.  I think Joe may have come from the Made-up Names Department at Cheap Label Supplies, Inc.  Such a strange album format, since it meant cramming 24 tracks onto one LP, which often required editing down at least some of the fake hits.  An LP could easily have accommodated the 18 fakes in full form, so why the extra six tracks?  Especially since the jacket contains zero reference to them--No "Six Bonus Tracks!"  But these labels obviously didn't spend much time reflecting on their own actions.  At this point, Waldorf--or whoever's behind this--had probably forgotten why the bonus-track tradition existed in the first place.  They were just filling in the template with track titles.

Worker #1: "Why are we adding these big band themes?"  Worker #2: "Funny--I was going to ask you."

DOWNLOAD:  America's Favorite Music (Waldorf 33-JAN-59)

America's Favorite Music/Top Hit Tunes (Waldorf 33-JAN-59)

Problems--Burt and Bob

Whole Lotta Loving--Hollis Harbison
One Night--Joe Perkins
I Enjoy Being a Girl--Dottie Evans
A Lovers Question--Hollis Harbison
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes--Joe Perkins
Chiquita Cha Cha--Enoch Light and the Light Brigade
You Are Beautiful--Loren Becker
Old Black Magic--Dick King and Betty Golden
Bimbombey--George Clark
The World Outside--The Songsters
Beep Beep--The Victors
Goodbye Baby, Goodbye--Jimmy Lee
Lonely Teardrops--William Patton
Donna--Lloyd Jones
Gotta Travel On--Sonny Scott
The Diary--Lloyd Jones
Come Prima--Mario Morghesi

The Great Themes of America's Greatest Bands--Booby Bryne Cond. the All Star Orch.

Smoke Rings--Theme, Glen Gray and His Casaloma (sic) Orch.

Auld Lang Syne--Theme, Guy Lombardo
Cherokee--Theme, Charlie Barnet
Ciriciribin--Theme, Harry James
Nightmare--Theme, Artie Shaw
Take the "A" Train--Theme, Duke Ellington


Sunday, August 02, 2020

Vincent Lopez, astrologer (1946)

I wonder if Vince foresaw his future as a budget-label maestro. Studied at a monastery--wow.

From 1946's Big Book of Swing.  My copy is new old stock.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Barry Frank, Edna McGriff, Enoch Light, Jack Hansen. the 4 "Dukes." (John Wayne doubles who sang?)

Seven tracks today, all worth a spin.  Two "pop" numbers, an R&B novelty, and four early rock and roll numbers.  All fake versions, but you can't have everything.  As far as fakes go, these are the real thing.

Think of this group of singles as an appetizer before the 24-track Waldorf LP to come.  Today we have Enoch Light on the Remington label with two outstanding 1951 numbers--(It's No) Sin, and one the best-ever semi-novelties, Undecided.  Written in 1938, Undecided, unable to decide which artist it wanted to be associated with, went through a number of versions, but this is the most successful of them all--or, rather, a fake thereof.  Specifically, this is (are?) the 4 "Dukes" faking the Ames Brothers.  And "The 4 'Dukes' faking the Ames Brothers" sounds like a specialty restaurant item.  ("I'll have the 4 'Dukes' faking the Ames Brothers, please.")  1952's Hambone, also on Remington, is unfortunately not a fake of Red Saunders' dynamite R&B version, but it is a very nice cover of the Frankie Laine-Jo Stafford pop version.  It may even have slightly more drive.

Today's Barry Frank and Edna McGriff offerings come from eBay miscellaneous-singles lots, and they were played extensively by their previous owner(s).  And not gently.  But I got more than adequate fidelity, and I made the labels look halfway nice, and the tracks were worth the effort, so I'm cool.  If you ask me, at least.  Neat to have some very early Barry Frank, though a little weird to have R&B singer McGriff singing the sanitized "pop" version of Work with Me, Annie, which was retitled Dance With Me, Henry for Georgia Gibbs (dunno if it originally had a comma or not).  No, wait a minute--it was Etta James' Wallfower, an answer song to Annie, that became Dance with Me, Henry.  My bad.  So, to sum things up, Wallflower was an answer  record to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' Work with Me, Annie, an R&B hit in the R&B category known as "dirty," and Dance with Me, Henry (which really seems like a cleaning-up of Work with Me..., but what do I know?) was a family-friendly redo of Feelings.  No, wait.  Heck, I forgot what I was typing.

Okay, Edna is doing a fake of Georgia Gibbs covering Wallflower, and imagine how all this would sound if I really was on my seventh Pabst.

The original Hank Ballard side, by the way (Annie...), has Beach Boys-style "ow-ooms" in the backup vocals--another reminder that nothing is original.  Actually, a possibly little-known fact about surf music is that it stemmed from black rock and roll, going back to the late 1940s.  As for Barry Frank's versions of Earth Angel and Ko Ko Mo, I hate to report that they have nothing like the feel of early rock and roll ("early," in this case, referring to the time of r&r's entry into the pop charts).  But they're interesting as history.  That's my usual cop-out line at moments like this.  I'd go so far as to suggest that they're interesting in their wrongness.

Barry Frank had definitely not yet found his rock and roll groove in 1955, but, as demonstrated by the tracks shared by Eric (last post), he improved considerably within a few years.  And I wanted to express my annoyance with too many rock documentaries that treat rock and roll-era white adults as deluded for imagining that songs like Work with Me, Annie were obscene, because such songs banked on their (ahem) impropriety.  It doesn't take a celebrity-scientist gig on Cosmos to realize that ballads like Annie and Sixty-Minute Man were, as the modern term goes, adult-themed.  And sex-without-romance songs were not a welcome tradition in the "pop" realm.  Having said that, plenty of "crossover" r&r ballads weren't the least bit suggestive--Earth Angel, for instance.  My point?  Beats me.  Enjoy the fake-hits appetizer!

DOWNLOAD: Barry Frank, Edna McGriff

Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) (Curtis-Williams)--Barry Frank, The Four Bells, Jimmy Carroll and His Orch. (Bell 1089; 1955)
Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So) (Wilson-Levy-Porter)--Same
Dance with Me Henry (Rogers-Otis)--Edna McGriff and the Bells, Sy Oliver and Orch. (Bell 1093; 1955)
Pledging My Love (Washington-Robey)--Edna McGriff, Sy Oliver and Orch. (Same)
Hambone (Saunders-Washington)--Jean Stamford and Francis Payne w. Jack Hansen and His Orch. (Remington R-45-68; 1952)
(It's No) Sin (Shull-Hoven)--Enoch Light Brigade feat. Bobby Doyle (Remington R-45-51; 1951)
Undecided (Robin-Savers)--The 4 "Dukes" w. Enoch Light and His Orch. (Same)


Saturday, July 25, 2020

He was the world's most famous dance band leader. By 1956, he was doing fake hits for Waldorf.

Yup, Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra on Waldorf, faking the 1956 hits.  Of course, Paul got to do much more on the label besides sound-alikes--for example, he did a 50th anniversary LP, which is coming in the mail as we speak.  I got a great price on it.  Hope it plays as nicely as it looks in the pics.

In addition to fake hits, Paul did five LPs for Waldorf (for its Grand Award label), and I've yet to post his Grand Award Hawaiian Magic, a copy of which Buster sent me some time back.  I must get to that.  Paul recorded yet another Rhapsody in Blue for Grand Award (as part of the anniversary set), which features Eugene Weed on the piano.  This track was inexplicably reissued on a Synthetic Plastics Company boxed set called A Century of American Music, which you can presently get for a buck from Discogs (That's about what I paid for it).  Then again, it may not be the Waldorf version, given how loosely the SPC set plays with the credits.  For instance, it features the Phil Flowers recording of Rock Around the Clock but tells us we're hearing Bill Haley.  Ah, nope.  Something close to the same boxed set, with a different cover (and no Rhapsody in Blue), was also released by SPC, with a different cover and  Vincent Lopez getting the blame.

But we're here to talk about today's offering,  8 Top Hits (Waldrof Music-Hall MH 3333; prob. 1956), featuring Paul Whiteman and a host of singers and quartets.  And my copy came without a cover, so I scanned my EP cover, with sports the same photo, so it's close enough.  The jacket image at Discogs isn't very good, so I passed on using it.  The sound came out better than I expected, and it was good to begin with, so we'll hearing some fine 1956 fidelity.  The surface is about a VG, but I killed all or most of the clicks and pops, as usual, so...  But there's the question as to whether Paul Whiteman was actually involved with these tracks.  That is, was his name stuck on the jacket simply to give this 10-inch LP extra cred?  I'm leaning in that direction.  Unfortunately, I don't have the EP singles (18 Top Hits 203 and 204) which contain seven of these tracks, and which might (or might not) confirm who did the conducting duties.  So I dunno.  However, at Discogs there's a listing for the Waldorf LP 18 Top Hits LP (33-TH-9), on which the orchestra credit for Miracle of Love is given to Enoch Light, not to Paul, as here.  You can't believe a thing you read on these cheapies--not even on the Waldorf labels, which were the closest things to legit issues in the world of budgets.

So we can probably assume that Paul's name is being used her for its celeb value, but it's still incredibly cool to see him associated with fake hits.  Loren Becker only gets two credits this time (!), with Artie Malvin getting four.  The Zig Zags Quartet appears twice, with the Rhythm Rockets getting only one shot.  (One shot!  Get it?)  The versions are very good, even if many are in that big band style that Enoch favored.  The very underrated songwriter Bob Merrill (who apparently was never forgiven for writing Doggie in the Window) is represented by the excellent Eileen Rodgers hit, Miracle of Love, well-faked here by Sylvia Textor.  True Love is beautifully sung by Artie Malvin and Lois Winters, and it's too bad I can't stand the number.  That it's by Cole Porter does nothing to endear it to me.  Blueberry Hill isn't very good, though maybe Artie Malvin would have had a more appropriate instrumental backing on Bell, for which he also sang.  In all, a fun set.

In terms of fidelity to the originals, our Bell label bonus singles are a whole different story.  The Bob Miller fake of Little Darlin' made the amazing choice to copy the Gladiolas original, not the monster-hit cover version by the Diamonds (which some argue is better than its source, which it may be).  It's a delight to hear such an effective copy of the "R&B" version (amd I'm using quotes because traditionally, and in spite of what you've heard, "R&B" never referred to a specific style--rather, the R&B charts reflected what was popular with black record buyers--hence, Bing Crosby's White Christmas was an R&B hit as well as a "pop" smash).  And you wouldn't believe how much needle-dig noise I had to remove from the Little Darlin' rip.  But it was worth the trouble.  African-American saxophonist and bandleader Buddy Lucas is listed as the singer on Hound Dog and When My Dreamboat..., so I have no I have no reason to doubt it--and he has the right feel and the right kind of rough voice, so I'm fine with Bell's choice.  Then we get Artie Malvin doing The Green Door again--only minus the Enoch Light sound, which in this case is a good thing.  Marion Colby's Dim, Dim, the Lights is terrific in the way it captures the sound of the Bill Haley hit version, and the lovely and talented Edna McGriff  (a vocalist with Buddy Lucas' band) was somehow coaxed by the Bell sublabel Favorite (if you can imagine a sublabel of Bell) into waxing a superb version of Sh-Boom, that monotonous early rock hit which used the chords to I Got Rhythm (including the circle-of-fourths bridge), and which was brilliantly and brutally trashed by Stan Freberg.  (I personally like both versions--the original and the unkind parody.)  Edna's version is jazzy and sultry, which is quite an accomplishment when the material is so minimalist.

To the maybe-Paul Whiteman tracks and the Bell bonuses!

DOWNLOAD:  Paul Whiteman and His Orch.--8 Top Hits (Waldorf MH 3333; prob. 1956)

And the actual cover image, found at a WordPress site by Sky Raven, who provided the link.  Many thanks!  As you can see, identical save for the extra print:

8 Top Hits--Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (Waldorf Music-Hall MH 3333, 10-in. LP; prob. 1956)

Out of Sight, Out of Mind--The Zig Zags Quartet

Green Door--Artie Malvin w. the Rhythm Rockets
Cindy, Oh Cindy--Loren Becker w. the Zig Zags Quartet
Blueberry Hill--Artie Malvin
Hey! Jealous Lover--Loren Becker
Miracle of Love (Bob Merrill)--Sylvia Textor
True Love (Cole Porter)--Artie Malvin and Lois Winters
You'll Never, Never Know I Care--The Zig Zags Quartet

Bonus Tracks (All 45 rpm singles)

The Green Door--Artie Malvin (Bell 11; 1956)

Hound Dog (Leiber-Stoller)--Buddy Lucas w. Jimmy Carroll and Orch. (Bell 3; 1956)
When My Dreamboat Comes Home--Same
Little Darlin' (Maurice Williams)--Bob Miller w. the Michael Stewart Quartet (Bell 35; 1957)
Dim, Dim, the Lights (Ross-Dixon)--Marion Colby w. Gil Stevens and His Orch. (Bell 1083; 1955)
Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)--Edna McGriff and the Tomcats (Favorite 21000X; 1954)

                                                                                                                         Edna McGriff


Monday, July 20, 2020

8 Top Hits (Hits... Hits... Hooray!)--Waldorf Music-Hall DC-105; prob. 1957

Before I forget, dig the original Woolworth price sticker in the upper right-hand corner (99 cents).  Waldorf was "exclusively sold in Woolworth stores from 1954 to 1959," to exactly quote Wikipedia, though I'm fairly sure some of their stuff was mail-order.

Everything seemed too simple, too straightforward with this rip.  No conflict between jacket and label information, with the track count (eight) corresponding to the EP title ("8 Top Hits"), and few condition issues.  Granted, "Music-Hall" gets a hyphen on the label and not the jacket, and "78 RPM Standard Speed" (jakcet, upper right) is a little confusing, since 78 RPM was becoming old hat in 1957--unless the phrase was referring to the "standard" speed of 78 in the sense of "Not 79, and 77, but 78."  Except that makes no sense.  Oh, well.

But this time around, we don't have the usual collection of confusing or clashing details, and the disc gave me no hassles, editing-wise.  And the sound is very good.  It's Full Dynamic Range, after all.  Dig the full dynamics.  (I gave the bass a little boost, regardless.)

1957 would seem to be the year for island rhythms--the year of Calypso. I recall seeing a musical short, made around this time, which treated Calypso as the logical successor to rock and roll.  Boy, how prescient.  Exactly how it happened.  Meanwhile, Wringle Wrangle has always been a favorite of mine, and I don't know why.  Maybe because Merv Griffin recorded a very pleasant version for Decca.  It is weird that the song, being from a Disney flick, would have the very mildly suggestive lyric of "Got a woman to cook and wash... and things," though I suppose that would go over the heads of 1957 young people.  Not sure.  Never underestimate what kids of any era were aware of--all that stuff they weren't suppose to know about.

I took some sleep meds last night that worked too well, and I'm doped even at this hour.  This explains why I just entered "Enoch Light w. Enoch Light and His Orch."  Umm, no.  And when I think of Banana Boat Song, I hear the Belafonte version (and Stan Freberg's hilarious, and brutal, parody), but this is a copy of the Tarriers' version--hence, the "Hull and Gully Driver" part.  And I move on to the next paragraph, fully confident that what I just typed made total sense.

The fun Artie Malvin fake of Young Love totally misses the boat, stylistically, and this was the rule, initially, for Waldorf when it came to rock and roll--the label made the stuff sound more like big band.  This accounted for many fun but weird tracks--like Too Much, which tries hard to capture the feel of the original (singer Joe Pryor makes a halfway decent fake Elvis) but winds up sounding like a proposed chart for Frank Sinatra.  Blue Monday has some fabulous electric guitar, but the beat is pure Peter Gunn-style jazz, and Loren Becker sounds less like R&B than Pat Boone.  Actually, I suppose Boone didn't do as badly as critics maintain--it's just that, despite his great pipes, he was no Elvis.

I think it was Waldorf's initial failure to capture the sound of r&r that gave rise to the false notion that the sound-alike labels never adjusted to the new style--they did, of course, and they produced their share of fine fakes.  This EP is almost definitely from 1957, and it would only be another year before Waldorf, perhaps realizing that r&r was more than a passing fad, began producing very r&r-sounding rock and roll fakes.  A fun EP, but I still can't get over the lack of weird lapses.  These cheapos almost always contain one or two memorable disconnects.  But not this time.  Very strange.

DOWNLOAD:  8 Top Hits (Hits... Hits... Hooray!)--Waldorf Music-Hall DC-105; 78 rpm EP

(Blank back cover--hence, no back cover scan.)