The Dore Story, Postcards From Los Angeles, 1958-1964
A one-man operation run at street level for more than two decades, Hollywood’s Dore label launched the careers of Phil Spector and Jan & Dean in the late 50s and built on these early triumphs with an extensive catalogue of pop, rock and soul 45s. Here are the hits and the misses that shaped the destiny of this classic Los Angeles indie.
1. Let’s Split (2:05)
Dore 527 (1959)
2. Marathon Rock (1:52)
Joel Hill & The Rebels
Previously Unissued (2011)
3. Baby Talk (2:30)
Jan & Dean
Dore 522 (1959)
4. Look For A Star (2:06)
Dore 554 (1960)
5. Ring-A-Ding-Ding (1:54)
(Lewis Bedell, Ernest Freeman)
Dore 547 (1960)
6. True Deep Love (1:44)
Dore 547 (1960)
7. Stompin’ Sh-Boom (2:09)
(J. Keys, C. Feaster, C. Feaster, F. McRae, J. Edwards)
Dore 592 (1962)
8. Every Once In A While (2:15)
Dore 592 (1961)
9. X-2 (2:49)
Dore 527 (1959)
10. Doin’ Time (2:02)
Ronnie Cook & The Diamonds
Dore 600 (1961)
11. Someday (1:48)
(Don Coats, Cam Morrison)
Cam Morris with Don Coats’ Crusaders
Dore 552 (1960)
12. My Baby Done Me Wrong (2:08)
(Kid Guitar Thompson)
Kid Guitar Thompson & The Scooters
Dore 581 (1961)
13. Baby Baby All The Time (2:36)
Dore 797 (1967)
14. Too Far To Turn Around (2:20)
Dore 635 (1962)
15. Lovin’ Daddy (1:44)*
Chuck Miles & The Styles
Dore 630 (1962)
16. Shake It, Shake It (1:59)
Dore 570 (1960)
17. Hey Lady (2:12)
(Kenard Gardner, Charlie Davis)
The Entertainers IV
Dore 788 (1967)
18. Hideout (2:11)
John & Judy
Dore 530 (1959)
19. Rumble At Newport Beach (1:48)
(Noel Scott Engel, Michael Zane Gordon)
Mike Gordon & The Agates
Dore 681 (1963)
20. Baby Doll (2:48)*
Dore 656 (1962)
21. Percolator (2:08)
(Lewis Bedell, Ernest Freeman)
Billy Joe & The Checkmates
Dore 620 (1961)
22. A Casual Look (2:28)
Dore 578 (1960)
23. After School Rock (1:41)
(Lawrence Keys, Story Van Dyke)
Dore 501 (1958)
24. Last Year About This Time (2:25)
Dore 666 (1963)
25. To Know Him Is To Love Him (2:13)
Dore 663 (1963)
26. There’s Something On Your Mind (2:20)
Dore 590 (1961)
27. Showdown (2:11)
(Tony Casanova, Dore Jay)
Doe 535 (1959)
28. I Love You, I Do (2:29)
(Berdie Abrams, Hank Levine)
Dore 538 (1959)
Mono except *Stereo
"First of all, I must thank God for giving me such a wonderful humorous and successful life and surrounding me with the most beautiful and understanding people in the world ..." (LEW BEDELL shortly before his death in 2000)
Pop music was different in the beginning and never more so than in California, where Hollywood's dominance of the entertainment scene meant that Los Angeles was scarcely aware of its music industry until hotshot producers such as Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Snuff Garrett and Lou Adler finally put the town on the recording map in the mid-1960s. Mega-sales and multi-million dollar profits were unheard of. Success was measured in tens of thousands while album sales of 250,000 were considered sensational. Nefarious, transient and unaccountable, the music biz was essentially a hidden profession, shielded from the sons and daughters of good Americans.
Lew Bedell entered this circus of dreams in 1955, having spent eight years as a minor professional entertainer. Before lawyers and accountants took over the music biz. individualists such as Bedell were usually referred to as 'characters' or as being 'larger than life', suggesting they were caricatures of some sort but Bedell, for all his eccentricities, was somehow too pragmatic a man to fit that description.
Lewis Joseph Bedinsky (not Bideu, as is sometimes cited) was born in El Paso, Texas on 21 March 1919, the son of Joseph Bedinsky and his wife, Sara (nee Newman). A daughter, Lillian, had been born to the couple three years earlier. A Russian-Jewish immigrant from Odessa in the Ukraine, 36 year-old Joe ran a small garment factory in El Paso where there was a small but flourishing Jewish community.
At 18, Sara, who was born in Yonkers, New York also to immigrant parents, was half her husband's age. At some point in the early 1920s, following an acrimonious divorce from Joe, Sara Bedinsky and her two young children went to live with her brother, Max Newman - Uncle Max - who became a surrogate father to Lewis and Lillian. In 1923, Max, who'd assumed the role of paterfamilias by default, took the entire brood off to Los Angeles to begin a new life in a city that was barely out of the orange grove stage. Joe Bedinsky is believed to have remained in El Paso.
The Newmans and the Bedinskys settled in Boyle Heights, an area that once served as a gateway for mostly Jewish newcomers to LA. Max's son, Herb, was born there in 1925. Max raised Lewis alongside Herb, and, to all appearances, it seemed as though they were brothers.
Max was something of an entrepreneur and began to make connections. In the 1940s, LA's burgeoning Jewish population began leaving Boyle Heights with its 30 synagogues and streets lined with barrels of pickled herring, for the Fairfax area of Hollywood, the city's new Jewish heart. He opened Maxwell's, a large bar in downtown LA which flourished during the war when the area teemed with sailors and service personnel involved in the Pacific campaign. He also ran a stock liquidation business. These enterprises may or may not have brought him into contact with various individuals who used police mug-shots as passport photos, the same fellows who ran the jukebox trade and much of the liquor business.
Meanwhile, Lewis Bedinsky attended LA City College, and then Santa Barbara State College where he and fellow student named Doug Mattson appeared together on campus reviews. It was here that Bedell, a six-foot bundle of garrulous bluster, discovered a flair for comedy. On 25 September 1941, Sara Bedinsky and her son changed their name by decree in a Los Angeles county court from Bedinsky to Bedell, completing the Americanisation process that began when Joe Bedinsky made the journey from the Ukraine at the turn of the century.
Following WWII, which Bedell spent working in the tooling department of North American Aviation, having avoided conscription, he and Mattson revived their partnership and took their first steps as professional entertainers, starting with an engagement at baseball legend Joe DiMaggio's Grotto, a restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, in the early summer of 1946 at $250 a week. Their act consisted of the pair cavorting on stage while miming to topical hits, predominantly a few tried and tested favourites by Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters and the humorist Spike Jones. From there, Bedell and Mattson worked club dates in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe (at a meteoric salary jump of $1750 a week) quickly building a career momentum. It held them in good stead for the next seven years as they schlepped around the country as a support act on the supper club and variety circuits. They would usually drive between gigs, alternating shifts at the wheel to overcome fatigue.
In July 1946, they co-starred with singer Ella Mae Morse (best known for the hit 'Cow Cow Boogie') at the Copacabana in San Francisco, a mob joint where events took a curious turn: four employees allegedly slipped Mickey Finns to band leader Noel DeSelva and members of his Pan American Orchestra, leading to the club's temporary closure. The Variety Artists' Union levied a $4,000 fee on Bedell and Mattson's behalf in lieu of their cancelled engagement.
Occasionally, an entertainment scribe tippling rum and coke in a dim nook of some smoky nightclub would give them a passing mention in his column. Their turn at New York's renowned Latin Quarter supper club in early 1947 was said to have "convulsed the customers". Of their appearance at the 3000-seater RKO Theatre, Boston on 10 April 1947, it was noted "The Bedell and Mattson pantomime to popular recordings is both fresh and funny. Some acts of this type are pretty tame. But this one gains momentum and works up to a smashing climax."
Dateline: 19 July 1947. Location: The State Line County Club, Lake Tahoe, Nevada. 3 July 1947. A mixed bill.
" ... Bedell and Mattson take the floor with their nonsensical record playback mimicking. The pair have developed into terrific comics. Stop show with their 'Mama Yo Quiero', 'Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better'. Encored with a Spike Jones' 'Cocktails For Two'. Off to a five-bow mitt." (Translation: took five bows to hearty applause.)
7 December 1947 found the pair making up the numbers at Charlie Foy's Supper Club (capacity 350) in the LA suburb of Sherman Oaks, California: "Bedell and Mattson, youthful record pantomimists, tread on dangerous ground since this area has been virtually plagued with mediocre record acts in the past few months," noted one correspondent. "That the lads built their stint into a standard turn is due to a fresh approach. They pay strict attention to visual aspects of platter mimicry, working out spilt-second routines in which take-offs of Crosby, ('Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie'), Spike Jones, Carmen Miranda and long haired artists are spotlighted ... "
A return date at Charlie Foys on 3 August 1951: " ... comedy is the keynote at the San Fernando Valley nitery with the zany duos of Tommy Nooman and Pete Marshall, and Lou Bedell and Doug Mattson heading a sock bill. Bedell and Mattson's panto-to-discs continue to please. Opening with the Andrews Sisters' 'East Of The Rockies', the duo combines antics and hefty showmanship for hefty palming ... "
1951 saw Bedell make a fleeting (uncredited) appearance playing trooper Hardsaddle Harry in a low-budget RKO western titled The Slaughter Trail, one of dozens churned out by the studio during the genre's heyday. It's likely that Bedell landed this minor cameo through writer Sid Kuller, who wrote the screenplay.
By the early 1950s, Bedell and Mattson were regulars at Billy Gray's Bandbox, a 300-seater supper club on Fairfax Avenue where it was referred to as "the western outpost of [New York's] Borscht Belt". Of their show there on 20 December 1952, Billboard's man noted: "surprise of the bill in the transition from dark panto act to straight satire by Lou Bedell and Doug Mattson. Their break-in date scores heavily. Their Kay Thompson and Dragnet skits were hilarious. Pair is aided by 'Renee' in several dance routines ... "
However, as audiences for their outmoded schtick began to dwindle, Bedell and Mattson were forced to confront their limitations. Now getting solo offers, Bedell kept the act going out of loyalty to Mattson. They ploughed on until mid-1953 when a Los Angeles TV station, KTLA, offered Bedell a comedy slot of his own. Television was getting the big push in post-war LA and the nine-month stint enabled him to ease off touring and work nearer home, appearing as a stand-up at local niteries such as Billy Gray's Bandbox as late as July 1954.
Bedell was then offered a gig on WOR- TV, a small New York station but he quickly withdrew. "This five-day week, four-month stint," Bedell later wrote, "was cut short by the tragic death of a loved one in LA. As circumstances developed, I informed WOR- TV that I could not return at that time." Lew's widow, Dede, remembers it differently: "The station went to video, cutting out live material which meant Lew was dropped." Doug Mattson followed Bedell to New York and acquired an agent but, aside from doing a few radio commercials, found work hard to come by and returned to California to become a realtor. He and Bedell kept in touch over the years.
As he approached his 36th birthday in the spring of 1955, Bedell felt he was at a pivotal point in life and when Herb Newman and Uncle Max approached him with a business proposition, Lew listened well. Bedell's junior by six years, Herbert Howard Newman was a music industry pro, having learned the business working as a West Coast sales rep for Mercury Records, and in a similar capacity for Decca's LA branch. He now planned to launch his own label, Liberty Records, in partnership with another cousin, Simon Waronker, a violinist with the studio orchestra at 20th Century Fox. Newman and Waronker got as far as registering a song publishing company, Warman Music, with BMI in late 1954 but when Waronker prevaricated, Newman dissolved the partnership and turned to Bedell who put up $7,500 from his savings to launch a new venture, Era Records, with Herb and Uncle Max.
Era opened for business at 1213 North Highland Avenue in March 1955, its distinctive logo depicting swirling neutrons, a timely reflection of the Atomic Age. Max was appointed comptroller. (Si Waronker, incidentally, went on to launch the very successful Liberty label with a new partner a few months later.)
Having grown up through swing and jazz, Bedell and Newman were deeply immersed in the pre-rock spirit of the time. As a consequence, both men were out of step with the underlying trend towards rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues. In truth, they didn't much care for it, let alone understand it. Their world was a hangover from the Hollywood of the 1940s when crooners were all the rage and supper clubs like Ciro's and the Mocambo were the epicentre of night life. By the mid-50s, the neon glow of Las Vegas was rapidly eclipsing the glamour of the Sunset Strip, as many Hollywood stars were now choosing to socialise away from the public eye. But in other ways, their timing was fortuitous: 1955 was a year of change in the music business, especially in Los Angeles where the foundations were being laid for the city's growth as a recording centre.
Modern promotional methods were coming into play. Sales reps were being phased out in favour of regional promo men whose sale aim was to secure radio play and TV exposure. Usually former deejays with good industry contacts, they seized the chance to service the growing number of indie labels springing up in LA. Among the first of this new breed were George Jay and Irwin Zucker, both important if unsung figures in the genesis of early LA rock. Era and, subsequently, Dore owed their survival if not their very existence to Jay, a former Los Angeles disc jockey who became a promotion man in February 1955, opening an office at 1606 Argyle Avenue in the heart of what would quickly become known as LA's record row, an area roughly bordered by Selma Avenue, Sunset Boulevard, Argyle and Vine Street.
Jay soon had a rival in Zucker, a former salesman for Decca and MGM who set up shop as a promo man in Hollywood in August 1955. Noted for his clarion call 'Promotion In Motion', Zucker carried a battery operated mini deck on which he played new releases to deejays he'd ambushed on the street, in coffee houses or even in lifts. Between them, Jay and Zucker bore witness to the changes that would shape the future of LA's music scene.
One can imagine the scene as Newman and Bedell first sat at their desks in the spring of 1955. It's post -Chinatown LA with its black sedans, boxy suits and preponderance of Art Deco architecture, but not quite yet Space Age Hollywood with its rocket-shaped tailfins and the beginnings of high-rise architecture. No one beyond the South has heard of Elvis Presley. Media attention is focused exclusively on the fading facade of the old Hollywood studio system and its glitzy cavalcade of internationally renowned movie stars. A new label being launched from a rented room on a Hollywood side street wasn't high on anyone's news agenda. Vying for attention, Newman and Bedell kicked off with a schlocky album disarmingly titled "Sounds of The Boudoir", an eye opener featuring 'the sounds of a lady awakening and retiring'. Despite their best efforts to promote it with a live window display featuring lingerie models at Wallach's Music City (LA's first record superstore) a few doors down on Vine Street, the album barely made a ripple. They signed up singer-actor Bert Convy and released a single of an early Leiber-Stoller song titled 'Blueberries'. It flopped.
Their trump card was appointing UCLA graduate Buddy Bregman as Era's musical director. Only 25, with film star looks, Bregman was embarking on a career that entailed producing jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald for Verve Records (where he also produced Ricky Nelson's first two hits), film scores, and even a spell in swinging 60s London producing and directing programmes for BBC TV and ITV. A true renaissance man, it was Bregman who brought Era its first successes: "I met this manager guy, Jack Morton, at the Beverly Wilshire hotel," he recalls. "He said he had a girl who worked at Woolworth's in Santa Monica who was a great singer and I should sign her, so I did. This was Gogi Grant. She had made some records under another name but no hits. RCA had let her go, so we signed her to Era."
Grant's first Era single, 'Suddenly There's A Valley', an inspirational song drawing on the prevailing mood of post-war optimism, reached the US Top 20 in the face of fierce competition from rival versions by established artists. "There were so many cover versions," she recalled," that if I hadn't gone on a 28-day promotional tour, I would have probably lost the record."
She followed through with 'The Wayward Wind', a folksy melodrama which knocked 'Heartbreak Hotel' off the top of the US charts in April 1956. For the Era sapling standing in the shadows of the tall trees of Capitol, Decca and RCA these hits were an unprecedented triumph.
"We'd cut 'The Wayward Wind' at the follow-up session, as a makeweight," Bregman explains. "Herb [Newman] had written it about ten years earlier with a college buddy for a UCLA end of the year show. All that time, it was lying in a drawer. It was written in the first person for a guy to sing, so Herb changed it around. We'd gone in to cut the follow-up to 'Suddenly There's A Valley'. We did a thing called 'Who Are We' and threw in 'The Wayward Wind' at the end of the date. 'Who Are We' didn't hit big so we put out 'The Wayward Wind' as the third record. It was done at the end of the session, and when I heard the playback, I knew something was missing. So I brought Vince De Rosa back in on the French horn to answer every phrase she sang - and that's what made it a hit." (Newman's co-writer, Stan Lebowsky, went on to conduct Broadway musicals. The frequently recorded song would provide both men with a lifelong annuity.)
'The Wayward Wind' and 'Suddenly There's A Valley' were both published by Warman Music, generating a hefty revenue flow. In July 1956, Era moved to new premises at 1419 North Vine Street in a row of single storey shops about 30 metres from the intersection with Sunset Boulevard, an area then known as Radio City - a nod to the Art Deco splendour of NBC's Radio City building on the opposite corner of Sunset and Vine. That same month, the fast-rising Dot label, its coffers flush from sales of Pat Boone and Hilltoppers records, moved into a much larger adjacent building (formerly occupied by Capitol), symbolising the rapid changes taking place in the music biz on the coast.
LA was not yet a rock 'n' roll town though Era did sign a few artists in that vein including the ineffectual 'female Elvis' Alis Lesley (for one record only, mainly as a favour to a local deejay who managed her) and 14 year-old Ben Joe Zeppa (again for one release) but these artists made little impact. In fact, 1957 was a slower year for Era which scored just once in January with 'Cinco Robles (Five Oaks), by actor-singer Russell Arms - the first of a string of Era one-hit-wonders. There was also an acrimonious lawsuit involving Gogi Grant who broke her Era contract claiming she was being pressured into recording company copyrights, and went back to her former label, RCA. Era received a settlement of $24,000 - good money in 1957, hits or no hits.
Caught napping by rock 'n' roll, Newman and Bedell vowed to play catch-up and began Signing younger artists. They invested a lot of faith - five singles worth - in a sweet-voiced country rockabilly singer named Don Deal who would come in with songs that sounded like hits but never quite were. His first Era single, 'Unfaithful Diane', picked up a fair amount of local airplay and solid regional sales. Deal ran with a bunch of buddies on the West Coast country scene including Hank Cochran (ex-partner of Eddie Cochran in the Cochran Brothers), Tommy Coe and Wynn Stewart. Hank and Coe played in Deal's band and he in turn introduced them to Bedell and Newman.
A guitarist and songwriter active on the West Coast country scene in the late 1950s, Tommy Coe's calling card was his song, 'How The Time Flies', a Top 20 hit for Jerry Wallace on the Challenge label in 1958. It opened a few doors for Coe who co-wrote some of Deal's Era material with Hank Cochran who also made a pop 45 for Dore ('Goofin' Around') just before he moved to Nashville in pursuit of greater glories in the songwriting field. Coe would later work with other Dore artists.
February 1958 saw Era signing local rockabilly singer Glen Glenn whose career was almost immediately scuppered by conscription, His first 45, 'Everybody's Movin", is a rockabilly classic that has since been recorded by, among others, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, He says, "I knew I was about to get drafted when Era signed me but I didn't tell Lew because I didn't think he'd sign me if he knew I was going to be out of the picture so soon. My real name is Glen Troutman, When I was stationed at Fort Ord, Lew sent me a telegram before 'Everybody's Movin" came out. He said we're going to change your name on the label to Glen Glenn, I wanted to be known by my real name but I was so keen to get a record out, they could have called me Dirty Harry."
Other rock 'n' roll signings included the Rebels, a teenage rockabilly band from San Diego, and Hank Cochran, both in March 1958, It was a year that kicked off brightly for Era when 'Chanson D'Amour' by Art & Dotty Todd, a starchy married couple in their thirties, made #5 nationally and might have reached #1 were it not for a cover version by the Fontane Sisters on Dot. Written and produced by Wayne Shanklin (writer of the 50s standard 'Jezebel'), the song would long outlast the Todds, who would never chart again,
Bedell told Jim Dawson in Goldmine magazine: "One day, this songwriter named Wayne Shanklin walked into our office and said, 'Lew, I've got a master I did at Gold Star [studios] and I've been turned down by six people', I took it into the back room and played it. The singers were this guy and wife from Rhode Island who were playing hotel lounges in town, I knew it was a hit. I asked Wayne what kind of a deal he wanted, He said, 'Give the artists four percent, give me $400 for the publishing rights, and it's yours', I wrote him out a cheque right there, When Herb came back from the psychiatrist - where he went three times a week - he asked, 'Anything happen?' I said, 'Yeah - I just bought a master called 'Chanson D'Amour',' When I played it for him, he yelled, 'You paid $400 for this piece of shit?!'."
Promo man George Jay knew he had a smash on his hands the moment he hit the radio stations, "The airplay was just sensational," Art Todd recalled years later. "This was at the beginning of rock 'n' roll and the older deejays hated that and jumped on our song,"
Later that year, Era scored a lesser hit with 'The Freeze', a crass dance tune recorded as a demo by one-hit-wonders Tony and Joe (actually Henry Imel and Joe Saraceno), "About one in every nine of our releases made the Top 50, thanks to George Jay," Bedell recalled wistfully in 1998, "We were known as the Wonder Boys of Vine Street."
In 1956, Bedell became part of the Barrymore acting dynasty through his marriage to Dolores Ethel Mae Barrymore, known as Dede, the 26 year-old daughter of actors John Barrymore and Dolores Costello, She had been married before to a man named Thomas Fairbanks with whom she had two children, Hillary Klaradru Fairbanks (b 1955) and Anthony Fairbanks, Hillary was to lend her name to her step-father's song publishing subsidiary, Hillary Music. Dede met Lew in 1953 through Cara Williams, an actress who was married to Dede's brother, the ill-starred John Drew Barrymore (father of Drew Barrymore) perhaps best known for his portrayal of the beatnik teacher lecturing his class in hipster patois in the 1958 movie, High School Confidential.
"Lew was 31 when I met him," Dede says, "We were engaged for three years and married on 5 May 1956," The couple had two children: Dore Lewis Bedell, born on 9 March 1957, and Stephanie Mae Bedell, born 1966, "It was a happy, sublime marriage," she insists, Dore was named after Lew's maternal grandmother, Dora, Though unusual, the name was not entirely unknown. Lew had occasionally crossed paths with an obscure comedy trio named Nicco, Grace and Dore which may have brought it to mind, while the name of Dore (Isidore) Schary, the high profile head of MGM films, would certainly have been on Lew's radar.
In June 1958 George Jay, whose career path was closely intertwined with the ebb and flow of Era's fortunes, opened a small record distributorship, Jaybird, on West Pico Boulevard with Newman and Bedell as hidden partners. (Newman and Bedell's involvement was an open secret on record row and the obvious conflict of interest led Jaybird to be quickly sold-off to another distributor, Al Sherman, in January 1959.) To help Jaybird achieve lift-off, Era guaranteed Jay an exclusive line, in the form of a new label that would serve as a test bed for untried rock 'n' roll material without sullying the good name of Era, something that concerned the nervy Newman more than Bedell. They named it Dore, after Lew's year-old son.
Dore's opening shots were a mixed bag. 'Rendezvous 22' by the Cruisers, a novelty instrumental purchased from Wayne Shanklin, featured LA session men, as did 'Yes Master' by the Whips, another gimmicky quasi-instrumental with Bedell himself providing the interjections. Next came the BARITONES with 'After School Rock' c/w 'Sentimental Baby', a master acquired in May 1958 from a New York song publisher named Joe "Happy" Goday.
If 'After School Rock' sounded like middle-aged vision of rock 'n' roll, that's because it was conceived by men with ties to the past struggling to keep pace with the fast moving trends of the late 1950s. Penned by Lawrence "88" Keys, a jazzy pianist/singer who'd made his first recordings in the early 1940s, 'After School Rock' almost certainly featured black session vocalists drawn from a pool of New York regulars collectively known as the Cues. The crude, indistinct recording quality suggests the songs may have been publisher's song demos issued as masters.
The history of Dore really kicked off with 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' by the Teddy Bears (available on "The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll Vol 3 (CDCHD 497). We have included the version by the Darlings, recorded and issued several years later, in 1963.
The fact that Dore's first (and only) million-seller by the Teddy Bears was an entirely amateur affair performed by kids who had literally walked in off the street, served to reinforce Bedell's philosophy that record production in the rock 'n' roll era was an intuitive lottery founded on factors so uncertain as to be beyond manipulation or control. Whereas Herb Newman might have hired a full studio orchestra to lend a record an air of legitimacy, Bedell liked to keep things simpler and less polished - though no less commercial. Many Dore releases would be the result of 'walk-ins', that is, masters purchased from impecunious indie producers peddling their wares, or artists looking to get recorded. (Dore releases were more honest and tapped into the teenage zeitgeist at a street level more directly than those of bigger labels - as this compilation attests.)
This placed him at odds with Newman who favoured a more calculated approach based on the roster-building principles of the pre-rock age when the best available material was recorded by established artists in formal studio conditions. They had bickered when Newman had suggested adding strings to 'To Know Him Is To Love Him'. These differences in outlook and personality led to a rift between the two men and in May 1959 the music trade reported that Newman and Bedell were amicably dissolving their partnership and apportioning the assets: Newman would assume full ownership of Era and move to new premises in the Stanley-Warner Building on Hollywood Boulevard while Bedell would stay on at 1481 Vine Street to run Dore alone. (Herb Newman's father-in-law, Jack Eisenrod, took over as Era's comptroller from Max Newman, who bowed out of the business at this point.)
"I can pinpoint what our arguments were about," Bedell reflected shortly before his death. "It's like the time he wanted to put violins on 'To Know Him Is To Love Him'. It wasn't his idea at all - it was his wife's. Her name was Leila and she was sort of running his end of the company. She would make the suggestions and she was steering his part of the ship which, to be honest, I resented.
"At that time we had an offer from Lawrence Welk Publishing who were on a spree buying copyrights and they were interested in five songs we owned: 'Suddenly There's a Valley', 'The Wayward Wind', 'Cinco Robles', 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' and 'Chanson D'Amour'. For those five, he was willing to pay $180,000. That was in 1960. In today's money, that would be a couple of million. We decided to sell them to him, which we did, then Herb and I parted ways.
"As it turned out, it was the best thing for both of us. Remember Uncle Max was the one who raised me and I loved him like a father. Herb was his son and I always respected that part and the fact that it was because of Herb that I got into the record business to start with, so I'm beholden to him to this day, and that 'tap on the shoulder'."
"Herb's wife [Leila Newman] was mixing in our business," Bedell told Jim Dawson, "I wouldn't let my wife [meddle] so I sure as hell wasn't gonna let Herb's wife. Also, I was getting into rock 'n' roll. Herb didn't want to foul up the label with rock 'n' roll ... so we split up." (Lew certainly kept Dede out of Dore's business affairs. She was quite unaware that Lew had started a subsidiary label, DeeDee, named after her, until told in 2011.)
At that moment, as JAN & DEAN's 'Baby Talk' followed 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' into the Top 10 and Ronnie Height's feathery cover version of 'Come Softly To Me' crept into the Top 50, it seemed as though Dore was the hottest indie in town. Bedell: "Just after Herb and I split up, a couple of guys, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, would come by my office and show me masters. One day they came in and told me they had just been to see Randy Wood, President of Dot Records around the corner. According to what they told me, he liked this particular record, but they didn't like the deal he offered. So I said, 'Let me hear it.' We went into the back room and Lou and Herb put on a thing called 'Jeanette, Get Your Hair Done'. I said, 'Is that the one Dot likes?' They said, 'Yes, that's the one they want.' I said, 'May I hear the other side?' So they played me 'Baby Talk'. I told them I thought THAT was their hit and if I went with them, that was the song I would promote."
The original recording by a group called the Laurels on the Spring label was markedly mediocre and it's a measure of Jan Berry's mastery of the pop medium that he'd turned 'Baby Talk' into virtually a new song. "We did the two vocal parts and the piano at Jan's parents' garage in Bel-Air as we normally did," Dean Torrence told Goldmine magazine in 1996. "Then we went to a studio that Lou and Herb had booked. Herb had made the arrangements for the four studio musicians and they sat down with earphones on and listened to our original track and just played along with it. Good as they were, they had a hell of a time playing along with our garage tape. They were used to making an instrumental tape, then having the artist sing along with their track, until they got it. But we did the vocals first and they had to match us!
"These guys were real musicians and conscious of meter. When we'd done our vocals, we didn't have a drummer or a metronome to check our time. To our laymen's ears, it didn't sound like there was any radical change in the tempo. To these guys, our track was uneven in tempo - radical changes in meter. Eventually, after eight or nine takes they learned where the places were that we changed tempo and they sped up or slowed down with us."
Sensing a hit, Bedell insisted on cutting a deal on the publishing, dividing it three ways between Hillary Music, Alpert and Adler's Ultra Music and the original's copyright owner, Admiration Music.
(‘Baby Talk' came in varying lengths: Dore promo copies ran to 2:17 while stock copies timed at 2:20. Initial British pressings on the London label ran to an unedited cold ending at 2:30, later shortened to 2:20 on subsequent pressings after the error had been spotted. This longer (unedited) version appeared on the Varese Sarabande CD "Teen Suite 1958-62" and on the Ace CDCHD 500 "The Golden Age of Rock 'n 'Roll Vol 4" in 1998, the version heard here.)
Dore scored again in June 1960 with DEANE HAWLEY's surprisingly successful cover of the British song, 'Look For A Star' - surprising because it had to compete with at least three rival versions to reach #29 in July 1960. Born in Staten Island, New York, in 1937, William Deane Hawley migrated to California aged three. He attended University of Southern Caliifornia while doubling as a recording artist for Dore on the Side.
'Look For A Star' was his fourth release on the label and his only hit.
Bedell: "On Sunset and Vine, across the street from my office five doors down, I used to visit a store called Wallich's Music City and look in the bins to see how my records were doing. I got quite friendly with the manager there, Bob Zipkin, and one day he asked me if I had heard a song from a movie called Circus of Horrors. This song was titled 'Look For A Star' and he said kids were coming directly from the movie asking him for a record of it. I said, ‘That's very indicative of a hit.' So I got my friend George Jay, my national promotion man, and he said he'd go see the movie and take his tape recorder and tape the song when it came on! Then I spoke to my dear friend Ernie Freeman, a genius arranger, and explained what George had done and how I'd like him to emulate it as closely as possible. Ernie said, 'Get the studio next door to you, Harmony Recorders, for 12:30 am. I'm working in Hollywood with my band on Friday till midnight. After I finish my gig, I'll bring in my band and let's see if we can beat everybody to the punch and get it out quickly as there are sure to be covers.
"I went next door to see Bob Ross, owner of Harmony, and he arranged for an engineer, Cal Harris, to be there at 12:30. Ernie and his band got there on time. He listened to the tape George had made from the movie and within half an hour, he had it arranged. It took less than an hour to record. I had already set up the artist I wanted to perform it, a fellow named Deane Hawley, a good singer that Jan & Dean had brought me. Within three days that record was being mailed to all the radio stations."
"It was a fluke," Hawley told Stephen J McParland in 1999. "Lew Bedell called me one Friday night. I was home studying for the finals [exams] - and that never happens! I was never home Friday night. I was always out partying. So I get a call, and I drive down and we start recording about one o'clock in the morning! Ernie Freeman was there, and the Blossoms did the background voices, and the next morning it was on the radio! I went on tour, back to Philly, of course, because you always went on the Dick Clark Show. I did all the cities around the East Coast with all the deejays and so forth, and when I came back to LA, it was #2 [locally]."
Without the cautious Newman's sobering influence, Dore would no longer be run along conventional lines but as an expression of one man's intuitive whims for the next 20 years, As a former comic, the waggish Bedell had a more insouciant approach than his more serious-minded cousin and, though no less motivated by profit, bowed to fate by applying a wholly scattershot approach to record making, "Everything's oddball," he once remarked of Dore, "you have to be if you are a small company," Bedell practised what he preached, releasing numerous novelties over the years believing they were more likely to stand out in a crowded market, among them the Zanies, Dicky Duck & the Waddles, Magnificent Montague, the Happy Crickets, J Walter Beethoven - names that say it all. Lew himself sometimes put in an appearance, most notably on the Zanies' 'The Mad Scientist' from 1959, a record whose hit potential was stymied by its subject matter: mental illness, And, of course, Dore took a full turn into the comedy market in the early 1970s, with a series of popular albums by comic duo Hudson & Landry, Victor Buono and others,
(It was hugely ironic that Era's first major hit after Bedell had left the label was the goofy novelty 'Mr Custer' by Larry Verne, a record more in keeping with Bedell's tastes than Newman's, One of the co-writers, Joe Van Winkle, described a dispiriting slog around record row trying to place the master: "Everybody turned it down, I mean everybody, I don't think we missed any of the majors, Then we hit the independents, The crowning disappointment came when we went into a storefront that someone had taken over to make a record company, We went in the back and there was an old woman and a thirty-ish guy, They had a little record player on a table, They put 'Mr Custer' on and listened. They never smiled, never said a word, When it was over, they gave the record back and she said, 'That's the most horrible thing I've heard in my life'," Ten months later, Herb Newman issued a shortened version of 'Mr Custer' after hearing the master quite by chance in the hallway of a recording studio. It made #1 in the summer of 1960.)
By normal industry standards, Bedell was relatively unpressured as there was substantial publishing income from his share of songs such as 'The Wayward Wind', 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' and 'Chanson D'Amour', His mindset was inherently more upbeat than that of some poor schmuck festering in a music row backroom with boxloads of unsold records, "Lew was a control freak who adored being his own boss," Dede Bedell reflects, "He loved to take charge, We'd go into a restaurant and he'd tap the side of his glass and say 'Who's the captain of this table?'."
Though major hits were to prove elusive in 1961, Bedell always shifted enough units here and there to turn a decent profit, helped by relatively low overheads, After 'Baby Talk' Jan & Dean placed a further four records on the lower reaches of the Hot 100 during 1960, Their manager, Lou Adler, talked a dubious Bedell into releasing a Jan & Dean album - the only long-player on Dore for nearly a decade, Early pressings contained a bonus mini poster of the bleach blonde duo fans could pin on their bedroom walls, Bedell visibly blanched whenever the manufacturing invoices came through, but steady if unspectacular sales of this now legendary album justified the outlay, "It was something I wanted to try because of their look," Adler later explained, "The picture sleeves were my idea too because I knew about their good looks and wanted their faces out there as much as possible."
Adler, who went on to record Johnny Rivers, the Mamas & Papas and Carole King, hung around Lew for a while: "Because Dore was just this one man, I was allowed to really get in and learn again advertising, sales and distribution, All those things formed the base for being able to have a one-man record company myself later on."
By now, Bedell was using a number of gimmicky names as generic catch-alls for what were mostly studio-contrived productions, This branding had begun back in 1958 with Dore's cover version of the novelty hit 'The Blob' credited to the Zanies, a name Bedell was to recycle 15 times over the following decade, often apportioning it to masters he'd bought in, such as 'Slinky', a Mike Curb production from 1963 featuring Davie Allan & the Arrows, (Newman and Bedell regularly filed fictitious firm name certificates of business with LA's public notary for their studio-contrived productions, As well as the Zanies, for whom a fictitious name certificate was filed on 24 September 1958, these included Era releases by the Tigers, the Plaids, the Bearcats and Johnny-O, Similarly, the early 60s saw four releases by the Dories, each one by an entirely different artist.)
Never one to ponder the muse, win or lose, Bedell was at his happiest taking down orders from distributors for a record that may have cost him a only few hundred bucks to get on the table, though, to be fair, in later years when Dore got into its stride as a soul label, the productions became progressively expansive - and expensive.
In this climate of spontaneous deal making and ad-hoc recording, Bedell was regularly approached by would-be's and wanna-be's, some of whom may have had something on the ball. Shel Talmy, Mike Curb, Kim Fowley, Marty Cooper and Herb Alpert were among the indie producers who brought Bedell masters in the early 60s.
A Cooper production, 'True Deep Love' by the PREMIERS, was a Tex-Mex flavoured rockabilly tune issued on Dore in 1960. 'The Red Light Bandit' featuring Cooper's vocal was the intended A-side; Cooper cannot recall who sang on 'True Deep Love' even though he's listed as the writer. "Bedell often threw something on the B-side which had no relation to the A-side - a money saving idea!"
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Cooper moved to LA in his teens, attending the University of Southern California and UCLA, "Leaving," as he put it, "with a few credits short of a degree in business administration. I immediately went to Hollywood where I met people like Joe Saraceno, Russ Regan, Sonny Bono and HB Barnum. "Setting up an office on El Centro, he was ready for business by 1959, achieving success with the hit 'Peanut Butter'. The prolific Cooper also produced other material for Bedell including a doo wop ballad by the Brentwoods.
Gary Usher, who co-wrote a couple of early Beach Boys hits with Brian Wilson in 1962, took his first tentative steps in the studio with Bedell after leaving the army in 1960, though nothing came of it. Usher told Stephen J McParland: "The record business today has changed a great deal. Back in the late 50s and early 60s, all along Hollywood Boulevard, and up and down Sunset and Vine, there were all these little offices of independent labels, all basically surviving on the high rate of 'street traffic' at the time. There were only a handful of major labels in Los Angeles, so there was plenty of room for these independents to operate. Because of the sheer number of masters they were listening to off the street, they were also experiencing quite a deal of success before they were finally squeezed out or bought up by the majors. There was a young excitement in the business, and there were always little games being played. There was a naivete that is no longer the case.
"Lew Bedell was a classic typecast character of the late 50s / early 60s Sunset and Vine record executives. Evidently, he was independently wealthy and did very much as he wanted to. He played a lot of golf and wore outlandish clothes, suits with big shoulder pads and wide lapels. He also wore these incredibly bright coloured pants with outrageous shoes. He really dressed like an eccentric. As you walked into his office, it was quite intimidating, because there on the walls were two huge pictures, one of Jan & Dean and one of the Teddy Bears."
As the tools of the trade were all so close to hand, Dore, in common with most record row labels, functioned within its own narrow parameters. The rock scene around the Sunset Strip was some years away (it was not a world he would have understood anyway) nor did Bedell have to venture into South Los Angeles searching for R&B artists as, more often than not, they would come to him - record row was that kind of a place. He had only to stroll south along Vine Street to Gold Star studios on Santa Monica or up along Sunset to his favourite studio, Western (at 6000 Sunset) where the owner, Don Blake, would master Dore's releases. George Jay's office was a mere quarter of a mile away. Best of all, Bedell only had to pop next door to get lacquers or dubs cut at Harmony Recorders, a small facility at 1479 Vine Street which also housed a music copying service and a small demo studio on the first floor where, with a little ingenuity, it was possible to produce a master.
Because Dore threw open its doors to anyone who might have something on the ball - and it was usually a song or a particular nuance that persuaded Bedell to take it further - many unknowns passed through without volunteering much in the way of their background, especially as Bedell rarely bothered with publicity, even in the event of a hit, believing this to be responsibility of the artist or their management. The parents of under-age artists were usually asked to come to the office to sign contracts on their offspring's behalf but beyond noting the artist's birth date and ID number, Lew would rarely get involved. He might meet an artist once or, at most, twice. The majority of Dore’s releases until 1964 were one or two-offs by artists destined to remain a mystery, if they weren't fabricated studio concoctions in the first place.
Bedell rarely commissioned promo pics unless an artist placed a record on the charts; Deane Hawley, Jan & Dean, Ronnie Height, the Superbs and the Whispers being the only known examples. Nor did he advertise in the trade press except in rare instances Dore was competing sales with rival versions a particular song such 'Come Softly To Me' (Ronnie and 'Reach For A Star' Hawley) and even then, the ads only caught eye if one looked hard enough - with a magnifier.
An inveterate gambler, Lew probably blew more cash at the racetrack than he ever did in the studio. In later years, he had box seats at the Hollywood Park racetrack where he'd pick daily doubles while Dede would sit and read a book; he also attended Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia. That was before he got the golfing bug that would take over his life to the point of obsession after he joined the exclusive Riviera country club in Pacific Palisades and "played golf almost every day with Dean Martin for nine years ... Dean would drive a different car almost every day. He had a Sedan Stutz and that's the one with a number plate which said DRUNK. I was driving a Jaguar E-Type at the time and my plate just said LEW B. He used to tell me that he loved to see my car parked there because he knew we were going to have a good time and fun that day ... we were very funny together. When someone started talking about his cars, he'd say, 'I also have two Porsches at home - a front Porsche and a back Porsche'. That was his joke, folks, not mine ... "
Lew loved Dore but he wasn't precious about it. Artists would readily be given their release and royalty queries relating to records that hadn't recouped their costs, batted away. In 1959, Bedell took a chance on a Hispanic kid named Joe Romero who'd been brought to him by a manager named Joe Paskel. Romero's 'Come On Pretty Baby' (Dore 532), a Valens-inspired pop-rocker, had fared poorly but a year later, Dore received a letter from the Phoenix Musicians' Union enquiring on Romero's behalf. Lew shot back "Please be advised he did make a recording for us. A very few of his records were ordered and to date we do not know how many of them have sold ... It is highly improbable that Mr Romero will receive any monies from this recording as, per his contract, the costs involved in recording him would exceed any sales made to date on this particular record."
After six years in the music business, Lew began to relax a little, and enjoy the fruits of his success. He'd lived his life based on a simple credo he referred to wistfully as 'the tap on the shoulder', that is, the timely intervention of benevolent fate at various moments in his life. He was very much a family man. His children, being far too young at the time, have only the vaguest memories of Lew in his pomp. "I remember waking to find him playing a dub or master over and over and over again while he paced the living room back and forth brushing his hair, you know - listening to see if he wanted to change anything," says his stepdaughter, Hillary, who lent her name to one of his publishing companies. "Also, he would sometimes bring us, the kids and mom, to Gold Star when he recorded a song. Quite boring for us after several takes. My sister remembers falling asleep in the chairs. I got the impression it was a feast or famine lifestyle and that he said we lived off the 'Percolator' money for ten years. He was always positive, no matter what. The song he was working on was going to be a hit, no matter if the last five had flopped. He was also very spiritual and would always say 'God will provide'."
Shortly before he died, Bedell described this period as one of great contentment and this seems a good place to sign off prior the next instalment of our story:
"Around the time with the success of 'Percolator', I said to my wife that we could start looking for a house in earnest now. Dore was getting ready to start school, so the time was right. We found this house about a mile and a half from Beverly Hills in an area called Beverlywood. I fell in love with the yard. I mean the house was big but the swimming pool was bigger, about 20' by 40'. It had apricot trees that were yielding a lot of fruit; it had a plum tree and a couple of almond trees. There was also a huge patio with a big overhang. That's where I finally put my pool table when I got one.
"New Year's Eve 1961, we moved in. Dore's fourth birthday was coming up and for his present, I bought him a pedigree Collie. I bought her from Hal Dickenson and Paula Kelly of the Modernaires, the group that had sung with Glen Miller on 'Chattanooga Choo Choo'. They raised Collies. Hal was a pretty lucky guy. He wrote the song on the back of 'The Wayward Wind' and I remember giving him a cheque for $10,000. The nice part about the house is that we only lived about a block from Castle Heights Grammar School, where three of my kids went. It was just the right move for us. I guess that little tap on my shoulder must have come at the right time."
As we've seen, Lew didn't bother much with career development except perhaps with Jan and Dean and some of Dore's later soul groups and, anyway, record buyers back then cared less, if at all, about a performer's life, save for a few high profile teen idols whose biographies were idealised for public consumption.
While not exactly stage school kids, JOHN & JUDY were certainly groomed for the stage by their ambitious mother, Regina Maus.
Originally from New York, where Judy was born in 1941 and John in 1943, their lives changed dramatically after the family moved to California in 1948. Cute and precocious, John became a child actor landing occasional bit parts on TV, most notably in the sitcom Hello Mom starring Betty Grable which ran for one season in 1954. As John began to outgrow kiddie roles, Regina and her husband, John Sr, encouraged their two children to form a singing act and by late 1957, John and Judy were playing country fairs and community dances, a pair of safe, goody two-shoes kids who'd throw in some rock 'n' roll tunes to add a little danger to their family-friendly performances. In the summer of 1958, they made their first record, 'Bother Me Baby' (as Johnny & Judy) for Aladdin, a pioneering 1940s R&B label attempting (and failing) to come to terms with the white pop market.
A year passed before the brother-sister duo made their next record. Their father drove them into town to meet Bedell shortly after he'd left Era to go out on his own. They found him in a receptive mood, buoyed by the news that Jan & Dean's 'Baby Talk' had just entered the national charts that very week. Keen to expand his teen roster after the split from Newman, Bedell signed the siblings on 9 August 1959, partly on the strength of John's teen idol looks. Co-signing on their behalf, Regina Maus gave their address as 165 West Buckthorn Street, Inglewood, California - scene of the now legendary practice sessions with neighbourhood kids Carl Wilson and David Marks who'd go on to co-found the Beach Boys.
John & Judy's initial Dore session took place at Western Recorders, with owner Don Blake manning the console. 'Hideout', on which John plays all the guitar licks and growls the title phrase between lines, picked up airplay along the West Coast and sold creditably well, resulting in two further Dore releases - a rare privilege in what was essentially a one-shot environment. It's heard here with Don Blake's studio chat tagged onto the ending.
John & Judy lasted because they knew their limitations and never overreached, relying on bookings for regular income while making records almost as an afterthought - there were also one-off singles for Eldo, Admiral and Almo. By 1962, they had become the John & Judy Four with John's friend Scott Engel frequently sitting in on bass alongside Al Schneider on drums. Then, in November 1963, playing on the fact they all looked alike, they became the Walker Family. When Judy finally left the band in early 1964 they became the Walker Brothers Trio, then finally, the Walker Brothers (mark 1) - Schneider, Engel and Maus.
TONY CASANOVA's modest presence on the Hollywood recording scene was confined to a narrow timespan - late 1958 to late 1959 - a year in which he recorded one-off singles for three different labels, with Dore coming last.
Eight years after Jutilio Perez was born to John and Justina Perez in Puerto Rico on 4 November 1942, his family moved to California. People born in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States, were granted US citizenship and the early 50s saw especially heavy migration to the US mainland. Tony fell in with Richard Valenzuela, a fellow rock 'n' roll freak at Pacoima Junior High in the San Fernando Valley.
He said "I was a friend of Ritchie Valens, we met in junior high school; I was 15, he was 16. I saw him one day carrying a guitar, I also played guitar, so we got talking. He started coming over to my house on Hudson Avenue. My mother had brought me a brand new Fender and we spent hours jamming in the garage at my home.
I'd play lead guitar behind him, then he'd play lead behind me - it was like a competition. This went on for months, hours on end. Then he started playing school dances and things like that and one day he came up and said this man was interested in recording him. I said, 'Great, man, good!' This was Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records. I was the one that drove him to Bob Keane's house and took him down into the basement where he cut the first demos that got him his contract. In the film La Bamba they show his brother taking him there but it was NOT his brother, it was ME. My parents had a brand new Ford and I'd ferry him around.
"Next thing I know, they're playing his record ['Come On Let's Go'] on the radio in LA everyday, and it's on the local charts and he's doing all the shows like the Dick Clark Show. The strange thing is, he wasn't shooting for a record, he never expressed pursuing a singing or recording career at all it just came his way - whereas I was! I was knocking on doors trying to get a deal. I'd just go in and say, 'I've got some songs you might want to hear' and plug in my amp and play, and they'd say yes or no. We're still jamming together when he'd come home and one day when he was home, he played me 'Donna' before it came out and I said it was a nice song but I'd rather hear a rocker. So he played me the other side, 'La Bamba' - I said, 'Wow! A Spanish rock 'n' roll song - I don't think that's gonna make it!'"
Three months after Valens was snapped up by Del-Fi, Casanova made his recording debut on the Crest label, the recording arm of a American Music on Sunset Boulevard, publishers of Eddie Cochran's recent hit, 'Summertime Blues'. That was in September 1958. Casanova was still only 16. The following summer, he was seen in a night club sequence performing the title song of the American International B-movie, The Diary of A High School Bride, also released as a 45 on American International's own label.
Making the rounds yet again, Casanova signed for Dore on 16 September 1959 giving his address as 1428 North Hudson Avenue, Hollywood. 'Showdown' was released on 2 November. There are only two musicians present: Casanova on guitar and a drummer named Al Breaux whom he'd "met somewhere" and worked with occasionally, and between them, they generated a huge noise that was pure punk in its raw aggression even if Casanova, who was singing and playing live in the studio, occasionally stepped off meter. The equally ferocious flip, 'Boogie Woogie Feeling', can be heard on "The Dore Story Volume 2". It's worth noting that at the time, the two biggest names in music were sappy popsters Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon.
There was a fourth single, 'Carmen Rita' on the Chariot label (owned by songwriter Johnny Lange) in 1961. Changing his name to Tony Ray, he made further singles for Imperial in 1963 and Dot in 1968. In the interim, Casanova earned a living singing and playing in various rock and country bands and later performed solo at a club in Ventura for a number of years. He subsequently went into property.
LITTLE RAY (Ramon Jimenez) was only 14 when he recorded 'There Is Something On Your Mind', some six months after the song had been a Top 40 hit for Bobby Marchan on the Fire label of New York. Though more or less straight cover of Marchan's disc, Jimenez brought a Hispanic dimension to the gospel pleading, making it popular with East LA's 'low rider' community. Coming too late to qualify as a cover version, it was something of an anomaly.
Born in 1946 in Delano, California where some of his relatives were farm workers, Jimenez was a child prodigy, playing clubs in the Stockton-Bakersfield area as Little Elvis and later performing with Al Garcia & The Rhythm Aces as Lil' Ray. In 1959, he was discovered by the Four Preps who added him to their touring revue. His Dore single was produced by Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga of the Four Preps who were dabbling behind the scenes as a hedge against the future - they subsequently produced the Ketty Lester hit 'Love Letters' while Cobb went on to write 'Tainted Love' and 'Every Little Bit Hurts'. They assigned the master to Dore on 31 January 1961.
A seriously overlooked talent, Jimenez later sang - if only briefly - with Thee Midniters, a popular East LA rock band, and recorded as Little Ray for the Faro label in 1964, then for Donna Records in 1965 (where his producer was the young Arthur Lee) and as Ray Jimenez for Columbia in 1966.
An unsung legend of early rock, JOEL SCOTT HILL was born in Mount Pleasant, Texas in 1939 and moved to San Diego, California when he was eight, forming his first band at High School in 1956. During the summer holidays he returned to the South and played lead guitar for his cousin, country vocalist Jeanette Hicks, with whom he appeared on the Louisiana Hayride on a bill with Johnny Horton and Johnny Cash.
Back in California, he launched a new band who played servicemen's clubs and naval bases along San Diego's balmy coastline. "We had a fiddle player, a slap bass, drums, lead guitar and me playing rhythm guitar and singing," Hill recalled. "We'd play country, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll. Most of the sailors were from the South or Mid-West and loved country music so we were onto a good thing. We became quite well known in San Diego but there wasn't a lot happening there and so in 1958, we decided to try and make it as a recording band."
By this time they'd shrunk down to a four-piece: Hill on lead guitar/vocals, Harold Kirby (upright bass), John Callard (drums) and Orvin Bratton (rhythm guitar). They had met at high school in Linda Vista, a suburb of San Diego. Calling themselves the Rebels, they hooked up with Georgia Mather, a small-time booking agent who worked out of her home in the Hollywood Hills. She took them to Era who signed the band on 26 March 1958, the contract stipulating that "Era Records will have the exclusive right to select and approve all material to be recorded by the artist."
The REBELS recorded 'Marathon Rock' at Gold Star later that week but though Bedell and Newman liked the song, they considered the performance too raw for mainstream radio and shelved it, leaving the Rebels in the lurch. Six months later, in a curiously underhand move, Newman and Bedell produced a corny pop version of 'Marathon Rock' using session musicians and issued it on Dore as by the Rebels even though the original group was not involved, having since moved on. It's the original unissued version featuring Hill's vocals and lead guitar that is heard here.
By late 1958, the real Rebels had become the Strangers with Ron Lynch (sax and keyboards) having replaced second guitarist Orvin Bratton. They recorded four titles including 'The Cockroach Crawl' at Gold Star Studios and the band's manager, 20 year-old Jim Lee (a friend from San Diego) peddled the tapes around town, eventually making a deal with Titan, another record row indie.
Hill: "This guy agreed to put out 'Cockroach Crawl' but he changed the title to 'The Caterpillar Crawl' because he said our title was in such bad taste radio stations wouldn't play it! Well, it came out and almost immediately hit the charts in both San Diego and LA. Dot agreed to distribute it and it actually got into the national charts." ('Caterpillar Crawl' can be heard on "The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll Vol 7" - CDCHD 700.)
In 1960, Joel Hill & the Strangers went back to Dore and recorded a few more rockabilly tunes but these weren't issued either. They can be heard on Volume 2. Hill was to pursue a lifelong career in music, playing guitar on Chris Montez' 'Let's Dance' (written and produced by Jim Lee in 1962) and playing and recording in his own right before teaming up with both Canned Heat and the Flying Burrito Brothers in the 1970s.
Formed in the Compton area of Los Angeles in 1960, the CREATORS had disbanded soon after making their first record for Dootsie Williams' Dootone label. Following their reformation with a couple of replacements, Williams renamed them the Dootones and put out two more singles. Lead singer Charles Perry then broke away to record a solo single for the obscure Melic label owned by songwriter Jessie Mae Robinson.
In September 1962, a neighbourhood entrepreneur named Danny Merlin operating from his home on Western Avenue, Los Angeles, introduced the quintet to Bedell who signed them on the strength of 'Too Far To Turn Around'. This featured Charles Perry and Hillary Conedy handling the lead and falsetto parts respectively, supported by Gentry Bradley, Tom Harris and Gerald Middleton - all five being named on the contract.
'Too Far To Turn Around' had been recorded a couple of years earlier by another LA group, the Upfronts on Lummtone, a tiny enterprise run by a postal worker named Lemmie Fowler from his home in South Central LA. The Upfronts included the young Barry White as their bass vocalist. Evidently, Fowler attended the Dore session as Gentry Bradley of the Creators recalled seeing him in his postal worker's uniform: "He kept stopping the group saying, 'Sing it like this'."
In a note to Bedell on 14 March 1962, Danny Merlin tried to stoke up Lew's enthusiasm:" ... it looks like a two-sided hit. This office will be pushing promotion as well as working in close co-operation with you informing you of contacts made, results, etc." After a minimum run of 1000 copies, Bedell halted pressings due to poor sales.
On 23 February 1962, maverick producer Kim Fowley sold Bedell a master by a Hispanic trio comprising Vic Diaz, Tony Minichello and Manuel Sanchez. Diaz had earlier made a couple of solo 45s for the Donna label, while Minichello and Sanchez, together with Charles Anderson, had recorded a one-off 45 as the Gents for Liberty. Diaz had recently come in for Anderson. At a loose end, they connected with Fowley.
"I don't know who approached who," Fawley told Stephen J McParland, "probably a little of each. I was out there making records. I had an open door policy to anybody who was co-operative, would do pieces of paper [contracts] and do songs, etc. What happened was they brought Lenny Waronker along to be the 'jailhouse lawyer', reading the paper [contract] I gave them. He later became a big name at Warner Brothers. I came up with the idea of 'Stompin' Sh-Boom', you know - mike the feet on the wooden board. It was a $100 record." Lew Bedell owned the name. It came out by the DORIES and it was #18 in Hawaii. It was a hit over there and nowhere else!"
Diaz, Minichello and Sanchez went on to record as the Matadors for Colpix and as Tony, Vic and Manuel for Reprise as well as providing background vocals for numerous Jan & Dean recordings on Liberty.
Career profiles of CHUCK MILES & The Styles, LARRY HARMON and KID GUITAR THOMPSON & The Scooters are likely to remain elusive. Thompson's bluesy 'My Baby Done Me Wrong' appeared on the back of 'Funny Papers', a lightweight R&B novelty by Darnell Johnson & the Scooters. Evidently members of same band, Thompson and Johnson cut side each Harmony Recorders next to Dore and signed the masters to Bedell on 7 December 1960. Chuck Miles recorded four tunes for Dore in late 1962 in a style that seemed way behind the times, though no less satisfying for it. 'Lovin' Daddy' (heard here in stereo) was the B-side of 'Be Mine Or Be A Fool', Miles' revival of an old Penguins song.
The DARLINGS, a female quartet comprising Oma Heard, Carlotta Robertson and the sisters Maxine and Julia Waters, were managed and produced by a former artist named Bobby Sanders - real name: Jerome Lenoir. In 1963, Dore issued two consecutive singles by the group under different names, the first as the Postalettes singing 'He Played 1, 2, 3, 4' (a variation of 'The Paddiwack Song'), the second as the Darlings with their punchy revival of 'To Know Him Is To Love Him', heard here. Sanders produced all four at the same (with Grayson arranging) and assigned the masters over Dore on 23 January 1963.
Three of the four girls had previously sung in a Fremont High School group named the Sweethearts, who recorded for producer H.B. Barnum in 1961 and moonlighted on obscure one-off 45s as the Utmosts and the Sa-Shays.Although amateur, they were already establishing career paths as versatile session vocalists and barely knew their identity from one release to the next - immediately prior to signing for Dore, they had recorded a one-off 45 for producer Steve Venet (himself a former Dore artist) as the Dynels on Dot.
Something about 'He Played 1, 2, 3, 4' piqued Lew's interest because a few months later, he re-issued it with a new B-side ('My Pillow') on Dore 677 crediting the Darlings. Then again, in October 1963 on Dee Dee 677 as by the Delicates! (This can be heard on Volume 2.) And he wasn't finished yet. Possibly frustrated by his inability to break the record, Bedell sold the master to a couple who ran a tiny R&B label, Celeste, out of their LA home, prompting a further re-issue with the revised title 'This Old Man' on Celeste 676.
Oma Heard later sang with Ike Turner's Ikettes, did session work and recorded under her own name for Motown in the late 1960s, while the Water sisters worked as background singers on countless sessions by such diverse artists as Paul Simon, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Paul and Rod Stewart.
RONNIE COOK is best known for recording the original 1962 version of the Cramps' 'Goo Goo Muck' for a tiny label in Bakersfield, California where he was based at the time. ('Goo Goo Muck' can be heard on CDCHD 1289 "Mostly Ghostly"). A couple of years earlier, Lew Bedell had signed Cook to Dore, allowing him two bites of the cherry. 'Doin' Time', the B-side of Cook's second Dore 45, 'If I May', came out in 1961. The contract, dated 8 May, names the Diamonds (an obscure bar band Cooke was fronting) as the artist but this has been crossed out and Cook's name written in. Though recorded by the group as a whole, Cook's name appeared on the labels to avoid confusion with the better known Diamonds on Mercury. As co-signatories, Cook's parents are named as Robert and Doris Cook of 1810 Barstow Road, Box 307, Mojave, California and Ronnie's birth date given as 1 October 1940. Located 50 miles east of Bakersfield, Mojave's population in 1960 numbered a mere 3000. Remote ain't the word.
The DEBONAIRES from Long Beach, California, evolved through numerous line-up changes into an accomplished amateur vocal group in the early 50s. They recorded some material for Johnny Otis' Dig label in 1956 and for Dootsie Williams in 1957 but this was shelved. They finally made it onto record in 1957-58, recording two singles for another small R&B indie, Combo, but when these failed to sell, they split up. Reforming in 1959 with different personnel, the Debonaires laid down some tunes for the Downey label, run from a record store in the LA suburb of that name but, yet none of this was issued.
Their next stop, a session for Dore on 17 June 1959, 'Every In A While', an outstanding ballad featuring Joe Sprewell on lead. It became such a favourite of Bedell's that he issued it four times between 1959 and 1967. In an attempt to update the arrangement, some extraneous overdubs including strings were added to the 1967 pressing which was credited to the Debonairs (sic).
The SYMBOLS got only one shot on Dore with the wistful 'Last Year About This Time', penned by the group's lead singer, Donell Thomas, They were still known as the Splendors when ex-doo wop per Bobby Sanders introduced them to Bedell in late 1962, Comprising Thomas, Jim Williams, Charles Morrison, Richard Byrd and Leonard Green, they'd made some unreleased recordings for song publisher Jack Hoffman's Enith label on North Vine Street earlier that year. Hoffman released them from their contract on 2 March 1963 to allow for the Dore release but asked them to change their name and they became the Symbols just days before 'Last Year About This Time' was sent off to be pressed, To Lew, it was just another throw of the dice: "Don Thomas was the leader, The background singers were flat. I told them to practise more but we did the session anyway, When they didn't hit, I didn't have a second side,"
Hot off their fluke hit, 'Alley-Oop' by the Hollywood Argyles, Gary Paxton and Kim Fowley set themselves up as independent producers while barely out of their teens, Working from American Recording, a studio housed in a row of shops next to the Hollywood Palladium, their cavalier productions usually featured members of the Hollywood Argyles 'road band' (formed after the hit) as session men, and vocalists who were usually stumbled upon rather than discovered, While Paxton spent most of his time on the studio floor directing sessions, Fowley became especially adept at unorthodox talent procurement.
In September 1960, Dore purchased CHRIS DARLlN's shrill revival of the 1956 hit 'A Casual Look', a rudimentary production featuring Richard Berry & the Pharaohs as background vocalists. Here's Fowley talking to Alec Palao: "She was a tiny Hispanic goddess who I met in Bakersfield and hustled at the Greyhound station. She was running around with [actress] Mamie Van Doren raising hell in clubs. She was J Lo before there was J Lo, she reeked of beauty, sex and sin.
I'm standing in the Greyhound station about two blocks from American [Recording] on Hollywood Boulevard. 'Hi, I'm a record producer!' 'No, you're not!' 'Well, here's my business card.' 'Oh - you are!' 'You wanna make a record?' Well, I wanted to have sex with her, but I didn't know. The older guys would ask 'do you wanna make a record?', and then they could get laid. So, I said, 'let me hear you sing', and she sang, and she had that great voice. I said 'you sound like Trudy Williams of the Six Teens, do you know 'A Casual Look'?' 'Yes, I'll sing it.' That's your record ...
"So we go from the Greyhound station to the studio and the Hollywood Argyles road band are standing there with Gary Paxton. At the time, I was a gangly elbows and knees guy, I mean I still had pimples at 21, yet here I am, walking up with Jennifer Lopez - or the 1960 equivalent. So I said, 'here's our new artist'. And Gary agreed she could sing I 'Right, let's go, let's do it' So we made the record and did the B-side. Don Pearce was there and he and Gary wrote a B-side on the spot She signed a contract that night, and Lew Bedell bought the record the following morning. I just remember she was spectacular looking and none of us got laid. In 1960 - you could think about it, but it didn't actually take place. She was a nice person but the record didn't sell - but it was a great record."
In 1960, Dakota-born Michael Zane Gordon was working as an insurance clerk in Los Angeles and writing songs on the side on a guitar he could barely play. Joe Saraceno, an older man who'd arrived in LA from New York in 1957 with accountancy qualifications and taken a job with US Steel before taking a side turn into the music biz, detected a spark of potential in Gordon and became his mentor.
Their first collaboration, 'Surfer's Stomp', an instrumental by the Mar-Kets (actually studio musicians) reached the US Top 30 in early 1962. The follow-up, 'Balboa Blue', also charted enabling Gordon to leave his job and go on the road with a pick-up band masquerading as the Mar-Kets, later named the Marketts.
When another Saraceno/Gordon production, 'Let's Go' by the Routers - same session crew, different guise - resulted in a third instrumental hit in less than a year, Gordon hit the road again with some young musicians masquerading as the chart-making Routers: Ray Barlow (sax), Randy Viers, (drums), Michael Gordon himself (rhythm guitar), Scott Engel (bass guitar) and Eddie Kay, (lead guitar).
Though only 19, Engel had made a string of vocal records dating back to 1957 but his career as a would-be teen idol had stuttered and stalled and he'd taken up the bass in various ad hoc instrumental bands making one-shot records for tiny labels. He'd also invested some of his savings in a teenage nightspot, the Interlude, in Riverside, California which is where Engel and his drummer, Randy Viers, struck the deal to join Gordon's touring Routers. At the time, Engel and a friend, John Stewart, had just put out an instrumental as the Chosen Few on Marshall Leib's Marsh label but that was going nowhere.
Eventually, as the deception began to chafe, Gordon felt the touring Routers deserved a shot in their own right ("basically, I wanted the road band to do a recording of its own") and, as a sop to Gordon, Saraceno co-produced 'Rumble At Newport Beach', a Gordon/Engel tune crediting MIKE GORDON & The Agates. Gordon and Saraceno signed over the master on 28 June 1963. Lew insisted on the publishing. In 1966, when teenage street protestors on the Sunset Strip were met with heavy-handed police containment, making the headlines in what were seen as the first stirrings of hippiedom, Bedell issued 'Rumble .. .' as 'Curfew On The Strip'.
Later in '63, Bedell got first refusal on another Gordon tune, 'Out Of Limits' but he rashly took a pass - "It was in a minor key and he said minor key tunes don't make it." Gordon recalled. "So, Saraceno made the record with session men under the Marketts trademark and it gave me my biggest hit."
Since 1958, Bedell had used arranger/pianist Ernie Freeman almost exclusively on Dore sessions. Though in constant demand by other producers including big-shots such as Snuff Garrett at Liberty and Jimmy Bowen at Reprise, Ernie especially liked working for the jocular Bedell as Dore sessions were usually small combo dates that could be worked up in the studio without the need for laborious orchestral scores; at the most, he might be required to come in with chord sheets. Moreover, Lew was always generous with co-writing credits. "He was a dear friend," Bedell said of Freeman. "He had a home up in Baldwin Hills. They had a pool table and a swimming pool and we'd go up there and they would barbeque for us."
Dore's next major hit was inspired by a Maxwell Coffee House commercial ('Perky!') that had caught Bedell's attention. Lew felt there was a hit in there somewhere and called Freeman who took Lew's idea, sketched out some chord sheets and went into the studio on 20 November 1961 with three of his most trusted session musicians - Earl Palmer on drums, Red Callender on upright bass and Rene Hall on guitar, augmented by Julius Wechter playing the melody on marimbas, using heavily damped mallets. A former sideman with Martin Denny, Wechter was the top marimba man on the Coast and would go on to form the Baja Marimba Band, a poor man's Tijuana Brass.
The location was Conway Recorders, a new studio at 1440 North Highland run by a domiciled Englishman named Phil Yeend. Manning the console that day was his young protege, Shel Talmy, in whom Yeend had instilled the rudiments of sound isolation through multi-microphone techniques.
"Ernie didn't tell me what he was going to do," Bedell recalled shortly before his death. "He just said I had to wait and see. We got there and Ernie divulged how he is going to get the sound. He took a chamois cloth and had Julius Wechter wind it around his mallets. So Wechter was hitting his marimba with these chamois-cloth covered mallets and he was getting that percolator sound - I mean, it sounded just like a coffee pot percolating! I wanted to master it right away so I took it over to Western studios to be mastered by Don Blake. He asked how I wanted to equalise and I said to him, 'Just do it flat, even you can't ruin this one. I kidded him. So he just mastered it flat with no highs or lows."
A mild-mannered instrumental credited to BILLY JOE & THE CHECKMATES, 'Percolator' quickly found favour with deejays who found it handy for segues into news breaks or commercials. Bedell was careful to cover his bets by appending the word Twist in parentheses below the title line to associate 'Percolator' with the dance craze of the day, even though it singularly lacked dance ability. Bedell also penned the B-side, so all income from that one hit (save for Freeman's co-writing share) accrued to Bedell who registered the fictitious firm name 'Billy Joe Hunter' on 29 March 1962. When Dore's British licensee asked Dore for a publicity shot of Billy Joe, Bedell sent them his old college photo which duly appeared on a London label compilation titled "Memories Are Made of Hits Vol 3" in 1965.
A further 18 Billy Joe & the Checkmates singles were issued over the next decade making them the most prolific name on the label after the equally nebulous Zanies, though there was never a whiff of another hit. Bedell regularly used a number of songwriting pseudonyms including Lou Bideu, Dore Jay and Billy Joe Hunter.
Like a card sharp using sleight of hand to stack the cards in his favour, Bedell continued to toy with names, The TIDES heard on 'Ring-A-Ding-Ding' were not the Tides heard on three earlier releases under that name (Dore 529, 546 and 579), The first two were steel guitar instrumentals by a couple of country musicians from the Bay area, the brothers Bobby and Larry Black, The third, 'Follow Me', was by an unrelated vocal group, All Tides contracts contained this indemnity: "It is agreed and understood by both parties that the fictitious name the Tides belongs to and shall remain the property of Dore Records"," (Bedell had registered the Tides as a fictitious firm name as far back as 20 August 1959.)
Even more confusingly, 'Ring-A-Ding-Ding' first came out as the B-side of the novelty song, 'Dear Mr President' (611) then again on the back of yet another novelty, 'Chicken Spaceman' (618), a cover of a Marty Cooper song by the Marathons on the Arvee label. In each case, the A-side bore no relation to its flip, suggesting that 'Ring-A-Ding-Ding' probably came from a rogue session featuring a baritone lead recruited for the occasion by Bedell and Ernie Freeman - the co-writers, The version heard here is an alternative with an additional lyrical twist at the end not heard on the 45,
A middle-class kid from a comfortable suburban LA background, BOBBY FRY took up the guitar in 1956, indulged by his parents who bought him an expensive guitar/amp combination. In the spring of 1958, he teamed up with Brian Holden, a schoolmate at North Hollywood High on Colefax Avenue in the San Fernando Valley, A domiciled Briton who'd migrated to the States with his parents and older sister in 1946, Holden was born in Isleworth, on the outskirts of London in 1937, not 1939, the date usually given, Bitten by the rock 'n' roll bug, Holden had worked up a powerfully visual stage act that promised more than it delivered partly due to his inability to easily hold a note, He acquired a manager-cum-backer in Joe Singer, a former dance band musician from Philadelphia,
In early August 1958, Joe Singer, Bobby Fry, Brian Holden and his sister, Sheila, flew into London, rented a flat in Paddington and headed for the coffee bars of Soho, 'There's a new American rocker who has turned up at the 2i's coffee bar," wrote Jack Good sagely in his weekly column in Disc, a long-forgotten pop weekly, "Very strong stuff"," Now calling himself Vince Taylor (after Gene Vincent and actor Robert Taylor) he formed a band led by Fry on lead guitar together with three Britons, Tony Sheridan, rhythm guitar, Brian Locking on string bass and Brian Bennett, drums. Holden's moves were almost balletic in their cool poise - "the best mover anyone had ever seen," as Ian Samwell put it - but his teddy boy sideburns and leering scowl seemed too yobbish for mass consumption now that agents were opting for safer choices in the wake of tile Jerry Lee Lewis child-bride scandal earlier that year. The recent emergence of domestic idols like Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard (whose first hit, 'Move It!' coincided with Taylor's arrival in this country) and the excitement surrounding 1118 new TV show Oh Boy! also took away from his impact.
By September, Joe Singer was already sounding a cautious note: "I heard Vince in a Hollywood club and I reckoned he had what it takes," he told Record Mirror, "But then I thought we'd have less competition in Britain, so over we came. Now I'm not so sure about the lack of competition - you have some fine performers there - but I still think there will be no stopping Vince, He's a pretty powerful performer."
Bobby Fry became disillusioned. Gigs were thin on the ground and to a kid from beautiful downtown Burbank, the dimly claustrophobic 2i's have seemed like the Black Hole Calcutta. As soon as the weather began to turn in early October, Fry flew back to California, "He was hardly the best guitarist in the world," Sheridan remarked sniffily 40 years later, "His best shot was 'Rumble'." Back home, the resourceful Fry formed a semi-pro trio with Dick Burns on rhythm guitar and drummer Bill Van Beuren, and I, self-financed some recordings, two of which, 'X-2' c/w 'Let's Split', came out on Dore on 4 August 1959, 'X-2' is clearly Fry's take on 'Rumble' while 'Let's Split' with its busy tape delay effects, might lay claim to being the first surf instrumental years before its time. It is listed as 'Gotta Get There' on Fry's contract, which gave his address as 4150 Bakman Avenue, North Hollywood and his birth date as 4 May 1939.
Shortly after leaving the army in 1960, Gary Usher was enrolled in Fry's semi-pro band, Bobby Fry & his Troup, through their mutual friend, Dick Burns, "His real name was Fryberg but he dropped the berg and just called himself Fry," Usher told Stephen J McParland, "He was a small Jewish kid who lived in Burbank and drove a brand new Pontiac Bonneville which I adored, He also played a brand new Fender Jazzmaster. He really fascinated me with the speed at which he could play guitar. He wasn't particularly creative, but his fingers were as fast as lightning, and, as I remember, he was very hard to get along with. He also had an Echophonic tape delay system, a machine that delayed the original signal a certain number of seconds. This produced the effect of a busier sound than was actually taking place."
Fry recorded further (unissued) material for Bedell which will appear on Volume 2 of "The Dore Story". At Fry's request, Bedell released him from his contract in November 1960 to enable Fry to issue one further single on his own Vision label. His ambitions thwarted, he left music in 1961 though he continued to dabble occasionally.
CAM MORRIS (nee Morrison) was backed by the Don Coats' Crusaders on 'Someday' c/w 'Look Around', the only known release by this obscure artist. Coats hailed from Dallas where he was born in 1930 and fronted a vocal quintet, the Bon-Aires, who appeared in Rock Baby, Rock It, an exploitation flick shot in Dallas in 1957 with an amateur cast and a minimal budget. One of the tunes they performed in the movie, 'Stop The World', was issued on the King label in 1957. Coats later settled in California to work in the many bars and clubs dotted around the Long Beach area and made some records for a local label, Round, with his band the Crusaders. Cam Morris was the band's principal vocalist, alternating with Coats who penned both sides of the Dore release.
Dore acquired the master from Mel Shrager, a songwriter who ran the tiny Ditto label from a cubby hole on Sunset Boulevard. Shrager was winding down Ditto and offered the unissued masters to Bedell, splitting the publishing to recoup some of his outlay which, according to surviving paperwork, worked out at $309 for five musicians, $90 to Morris, $86 in studio costs and $17 to the musicians' fund. Both sides had that mellow East LA Barrio sound and the best Bedell might have hoped for was a local hit.
LARRY HARMON probably met Bedell just the once, when he came in looking for a deal. He assigned two songs, 'Shake It, Shake It' c/w 'Alone And Blue' to Dore on 16 August 1960 but unusually - left no other details. The boxy, highly distorted sound, drenched in slapback echo, suggests that 'Shake It, Shake It' - a song tailor-made for Jerry Lee Lewis - was almost certainly a demo recorded in what sounds very like a tiled lavatory!
Comprising Bobby Swayne (of Bob & Ray who scored a minor Hot 100 hit with 'Air Travel' in 1962), Gordie Harmon, Ronnie Cook and female member Samantha Lark, the SUPERBS made their debut on Dore in the spring of 1964 with 'The Story Book of Love', featuring an arrangement by Lew's dependable workhorse, Ernie Freeman. Lark and Harmon then left to be replaced by Walter White and Elenor Green, respectively, and it was this revised line-up that made the Hot 100 with their revival of Bobby Troup's 'Baby, Baby, All The Time', penned for Nat King Cole back in 1946. The cool arrangement was by Lew's untried new discovery, Eugene Page. The song was among Bedell's favourites from the old days and he specifically asked the publishers for permission to drop one of the original verses.
When 'Baby Baby' began to break, Lew summarily replaced the flip-side 'Sad Sad Day', with a throwaway instrumental, 'Memories And Tears'. He later re-issued 'Sad Sad Day' as the follow-up. "I thought it would be a hit but I couldn't break it in the East," he lamented. Heard here is the later issue with a tacked-on spoken intro that adds interest.
Swayne left the group shortly after to form a new vocal group, the ENTERTAINERS IV, heard here with 'Hey Lady', a classy ballad which hints at Dore's future direction while strongly echoing the past - this recording dates from 1967, so we've stretched our time-line slightly to bring it to you.
FREDDIE WILLIS, who ends the set with the mellifluous 'I Love You, I Do', came out of the LA vocal group scene. Born on 12 May 1937, Freddie was the older brother of Carolyn Willis (future member of Bob B Soxx & the Bluejeans and Honeycone) and joined an established vocal group, the Calvanes, as a replacement in 1958 shortly before the group broke up. (Willis sang bass on their two singles for the Deck label but not on the group's Dootone recordings.) At a loose end, Willis formed a new group (two boys, two girls) who recorded a single for the Jackpot label as the Victors in 1958.
Willis then hooked up with song publishers Billy Sherman and Barry DeVorzon and Hank Levine, a young arranger soon to make a name for himself in West Coast recording circles. Levine had co-written 'I Love Him, I Do', a song derived from Liszt's 'Liebstraum' and chanced upon Willis when casting around for somebody to do it justice. Keen to repay Levine's faith, Willis put in a performance so heartfelt, he must have been dabbing a tear away as he sang.
Bedell loved the record and snapped it up for Dore but made the mistake of releasing it on 19 December 1959, just as the industry was about to go into slumber. Willis's career suffered a setback when he was conscripted in 1961. Following his discharge, he joined the US Postal Service but sang part time.
Aspiring teen idol BILLY SAINT (William Osborne) hailed from Seattle, Washington where he was born in 1939 and made his first records for the Seafair label, an off-shoot of a Seattle recording studio where hits such as 'Come Softly To Me' and 'Walk Don't Run' were recorded. One of Saint's Seafair 45s was re-issued nationally on the Dot label. Dore's promo man in the North West, Jerry Dennon, then brought him down to LA for a session on Dore credited to Jerden Productions, the forerunner of Dennon's Jerden label which gave the world 'Louie Louie' a few months later.
The quirky appeal of Saint's only Dore release, 'Baby Doll', lies in the unsettling disparity of its components which included an organist who'd been listening to Booker T (then hot on the charts with 'Green Onions'), background girls working up a chant worthy of Halloween night and Saint's own moody incantations. It came out on the flip of the popcorn favourite 'Tear Down The Wall'. There were further Bill Saint singles on Jerden, A&M as well as a post-British Invasion 45 he recorded as Johnny London.
1963 And Beyond
By 1963, the music business had changed almost beyond recognition and most of the old guard knew it. Labels such as Imperial and Liberty were all selling out to corporations and it was becoming increasingly difficult for small operators such as Bedell to make headway in a constantly evolving and expanding market. When the Beatles-led British Invasion of 1964 saturated America's airwaves, Bedell astutely diverted Dore's resources away from the pop market into the soul and R&B fields where airplay was easier to secure.
"The Beatles and a bunch of other English groups were coming to the fore," he explained. "The airplay was 70% of these English groups. Not that they didn't deserve it, they were great, but it was tough for a small label to get airplay. I decided that I was going to do some R&B, because the black stations didn't play the Beatles or the English groups. I figured that's where Dore would get some airplay. I knew some very nice black artists. The first group I recorded was the Superbs." Encouraged by the success of this re-orientation, Bedell began to invest in better production values and artist development, concentrating on three acts in particular: the Superbs, the Whispers and the Entertainers IV, all fine, if similar-sounding groups.
Dore was about to enter a new phase.
'TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM' is a saga that warrants a recap, based on new information from surviving Dore documents and unpublished testimony from Bedell himself: "One Sunday afternoon I was out sunning myself in the backyard of my sister Lillian Zimbalist's duplex, My wife was also out there sunning herself, My son Dore was about a year old, Next door lived a Dr Kartoon and he had a son named Donny who was going to Fairfax High School at the time, Anyway, Donny said, 'Mr Bedell, there's a group at our school and they have a different sound. Would you like to hear them at all?' I said, 'Okay, tell them to come in at an audition next Tuesday after school about four o'clock'."
However, according to Kartoon, only he and Spector attended Era's Vine Street offices during that initial visit. Phil had brought along a demo acetate of 'Don't You Worry My Little Pet', a song he'd recorded at Gold Star studios with three other Jewish kids: Harvey Goldstein, Annette Kleinbard and Marshall Leibowitz, a few weeks earlier on 20 May. Bedell, more so than Newman, thought it had the makings of a potential single and sanctioned a session for the B-side. ('Pet' can be heard on "Phil Spector: The Early Productions" CDCHD 1253.)
Rising to the challenge, Spector penned a new song, famously inspired by the inscription on his father's grave, and on 10 July 1958, the Teddy Bears recorded 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' at Gold Star. Unlike the echoey 'Don't You Worry My Little Pet', the new song was recorded in Gold Star's cosier studio B rather than the larger A facility (scene of Spector's later Wall of Sound triumphs) resulting in a more intimate sound. (Eddie Cochran's 'Summertime Blues' had been recorded in studio B a month earlier.) Harvey Goldstein was not present on this occasion having left for summer boot camp; deemed dispensable, he was ousted by the others whom he subsequently sued for a share of the royalties. According to Dore's files, only one song was recorded that day and when that was completed, Sandy Nelson was asked to overdub drums onto 'Don't You Worry My Little Pet'. He was paid $20 for his services, the amount being set against the Teddy Bears' future royalties.
"The group had brought in an amateur drummer," Bedell recalled in 1999. "His name was Sammy Nelson who later became Sandy Nelson. They started to do 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' and I didn't like the sound of the drum. So I asked the engineer, Stan Ross, if there was any way we could get a fuller sound on the snare, it sounded a little thin to me. So he went out and loosened some screws from the bottom of the snare drum and told Sammy to take just one brush and spread it and strike it in the middle of the snare on the back beat. Then Stan and I went back into the booth and we started again, but Sammy couldn't quite get it. So I told him from the booth, 'Sammy, watch me. When my hand comes down that's when you hit the back beat'. And bless that Stan, he did cut a sound on that drum, a real broad sound.
"After we got the contract signed, Herb [Newman] asked me what we were going to do and I told him I was going to put it out on Dore. He said, 'You can’t put this out - it's a demo! They aren't going to playa demo.' I said, 'This recording has something. It has magic. I don't know ... if you start meddling with it ... if we can just get some airplay.'"
'To Know Him Is To Love Him' c/w 'Don't You Worry My Little Pet' was issued on Dore 503 on 1 August 1958. An initial pressing run of 1000 singles was channelled through George Jay who got a few plays on 'Don't You Worry My Little Pet' in LA before switching the emphasis to the other side. Meanwhile, Spector and fellow Teddy Bear Marshall Leib spent some of the summer of 1958 packing records at Jaybird Distribution, though there were few orders for their own record. "Phil used to come into the office every day and say 'How are we doing today, Mr Bedell?' I'd say, 'Phil, no word. No word'."
The song began its dramatic ascent when a deejay in far flung Fargo, North Dakota gave it repeated spins, leading to a concentrated demand in that area. Bedell's distributors remained skeptical: "In the meantime, I haven't got any calls from any other distributors. I'm calling them and telling them about the hit in Minneapolis. They said, 'Well, what do you mean Minneapolis?' I said, ''Well, actually, Fargo, North Dakota." They said, 'Fargo, North Dakota? Where's that?' I said, "It's up there somewhere but you've got to make an extreme right turn." I didn't know where Fargo, North Dakota was either! But we had sold nearly 18,000 records in that area which included Omaha."
By the time Bedell wrote to Mimi Trepel of London Records in New York (Era's foreign licensee) on 4 September, his excitement was palpable: ''The beginning of August I sent you a record titled TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM by THE TEDDY BEARS on the Dore label, number 503. This record has proven to be a real sleeper and now looks like a smash. It is number two locally and number one in some parts of the country already. We would certainly appreciate hearing from you in regards to the as soon as possible. I am enclosing another record in case you need it ... "
'To Know Him Is To Love Him', eventually topped both the US and UK charts in late 1958, one of the hits made by kids trying to sound like the records they had been buying. Bedell noticed an immediate change in Spector's personality. "The kid became so haughty," he told Mark Ribowsky. "Before the song was hit used to come in all the time and say, 'Anything doing today, Mr Bedell?' He was so obsequious I bet was half-Japanese, this guy. Then, after it was a hit, he walks in and it's 'Hey, Lew, baby, we're doin' good.' He starts calling Herb [Newman] 'Hey you!' You never saw such a complete change in a little fuckin' Jewish kid."
By December 1958, Dore had already deposited eight $1000 savings bonds drawn in Spector's name into a special account. Lew's secretary, Candy Leon, kept Phil's mother informed at every turn, courteously asking her to sign documents on her son's behalf. Meanwhile, Bedell's thoughts were turning to the follow-up.
"He said he had just the song for the next record," Bedell told Cynthia Brown. "He played it 'Oh Why' for me and it was a minor key song. At that time, very few minor key songs became hits, 'Fever' by Peggy Lee was one of the few. So I told Phil that I had this antipathy toward minor key songs. Well, he became very staunch. He said, 'We either cut this song, or we're leaving.' That's when I went to Herb and told him what was going on and asked him if he would like to take over and do the next recording with Spector. He jumped back about three step's, and said, 'No! I just don't want to have anything to do with him'. He asked if the song was bad and I said it wasn't that bad, just in a minor key. I felt coming off 'To Know Him', we had to find something better.
"I asked Phil if the whole group felt like that and he said he was the leader of the group and that it was this song or nothing. We had other things going on the charts and were very successful. I didn't know if I wanted this kind of aggravation. I said to Phil, 'I really don't want to do this song. Write something else'. He said, 'No, we do this song or nothing.' Phil took the group to Imperial Records and recorded the song there. It didn't do so well, so maybe I was right. Phil Spector, of course, went on to become a phenomenon in the business."
Conscious that the Teddy Bears were a likely one-shot act, Newman and Bedell agreed to release the trio from their contract on condition they returned to the studio to record a follow-up to their world-wide hit. On 19 December 1958, the trio's lawyer, Lee Perkal, wrote to Era's attorney: "pursuant to our telephone conversation on December 17th ... there remains to be conveyed to Era Records the master recordings of three tunes, the titles of which are set forth in the contract and agreement entered into between the parties ... that the above mentioned minors are terminating any further sales or performances for Era Records ... that Era Records Inc and the minors above mentioned are desirous of completing the recording and delivery of the remaining tunes ... arrangements for the recording session have been made by Era Records and the date has therefore been cleared and the studio made available ... in exchange for this expeditious action in this matter Era Records agreed to convey all interest in the name Teddy Bears to the above-mentioned minors."
The trio did return to Gold Star, in January 1959, but understandably they weren't trying very hard, struggling for hours over two separate sessions to achieve a marketable result, before finally completing just one song, Wonderful Loveable You', and the unfinished 'Till You'll Be Mine'. On top of that, Dore had to pay arranger Ernie Freeman £185 to help move things along in the studio. You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Bedell wasn't sorry to see them go, yet towards the end of his life, he seemed rueful: "In retrospect, I have to say that if I had been more mellow, like I later became, I could've worked something out. Maybe even done the damn song, let it flop, and I still would have the group. But I didn't think. I was imbued with success and I wasn't going to take any of that from anybody. It was bad period as far as what I did. I was wrong and I admit it right now."
Compilation and Notes by Rob Finnis
Cover Photograph courtesy of J. Eric Lynxwiler
Package Designed by Paul Jeffrey
Mastered by Nick Robbins at Sound Mastering Ltd
Ace Records Ltd: 42 - 50 Steele Road, London, NW10 7AS
I am especially grateful to Roger Armstrong for his assistance with tape research.
Jim Dawson; Goldmine; Lew Bedell's reminiscenses as transcribed by Cynthia Brown in 1999; LA R&B Vocal Groups 1945-65 by Galen Gart & Steve Propes (Big Nickel Publications, Milford, New Haven) 2001; The California Sound, An Insider's Story: The Musical Biography of Gary Lee Usher - Volume One by Stephen J McParland (California Music Publications, New South Wales, Australia) 2000
Thanks also to: Dolores Bedell, Stephanie Quartararo, Hillary Bedell, Trevor Churchill, Carol Fawcett, Vicki Fox, Peter Gibbon, Dorothea Graham, Norman Jopling, Stephen J McParland, Bill Millar, Alec Palao, Mick Patrick and Martin Roberts
Labels courtesy Roger Armstrong, Trevor Churchill, Rob Finnis, Peter Gibbon, Alec Palao, Mick Patrick, Kirk Roberts and Simon White. All other illustrations and memorabilia courtesy Rob Finnis except where noted.
Front cover photograph shows Vine Street, Hollywood, late 1940s. Dore Records was located in one of the single storey shops to the far left.
All titles Rockin’ Music except “Marathon Rock” and “Too Far To Turn Around” by Copyright Control; “Baby Talk” by Pigfactory Continental Ltd.; “Look For A Star” by Dejamus Ltd.; “True Deep Love” by Rockin Music/Little Darlin’ Music; “Stompin’ Sh-Boom” by Carlin Music Corp.; “Baby Baby All The Time” by Universal/MCA Music Ltd,; “Hey Lady” by Hymie Gropo Music; “After School Rock” by Gomace Music Inc/Universal Songs of Polygram Int Int.; “To Know Him Is To Love Him” by EMI Music Pub Ltd/ABKCO Music Ltd.; “There’s Something On Your Mind” by Bug Music Ltd (GB); “I Love You, I Do” by Warner-Tamerlane Pub Corp
The original analogue sound recordings, from which the digital re-masters were created, are owned by Ace Records, Ltd except “Baby Talk” (P) Licensed from K-Tel Entertainment (UK) Ltd., and “Baby Baby All The Time” and “Hey Lady” (P) I.T.P. Records (www.itprecords.com). All other titles (P) Ace Records Ltd.
The digital re-masters embodied in this compilation are (P) 2011 Ace Records Ltd (C) 2011 Ace Records Ltd
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