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Crown Records (Pocket guide to Budget record collecting: part 2)

                                          Crown Records.

Crown was just beginning in 1957, it's catalogue was filled with stars such as B.B. King at the beginning, later it would make all sorts of knock offs, and many big band and background records and others stuff budget labels liked to issue (think generic 50's music, show tunes, pop hits, etc).
A great resource for information on this label is here, this site has history (in far more depth then I can write here) and a discography (for those who want more information on the various 650+ releases).

The first release looked like this.

This album featured many well know rock and roll artists such as the Jacks and the Cadets.

You see, Modern was a Blues and R&B label before it went budget and began issuing these Crown records. The first 25 releases were top notch in every way, each album was star studded (Kay Starr, Joe Houston, B.B King, etc). Then release CLP-5026 comes along, and looks like this...

Yep, it is Glenn Miller tribute album, they didn't even mention the name of the studio group on the first issue! It was until this album was reissued in 1958 under a different catalogue number (CLP-5073) that they even bothered to make up a name (it was Phil Martain & His Orchestra)!

Crown then proceeds to issue budget records up into 1972 (again, for more information go the the website I mentioned above). I will now proceed to show you a couple releases of note. By the way,  if you see any B.B. King release from Crown records at a thrift store, pick it up and guard it (B.B. King albums are very collectible)!

CLP-5046, this release featued Crown's most provocative cover ever! 
CST-164/CLP-5161, best Christmas background album ever!
CLP-5233/CST-241, the one of the closest knock off cover art I have ever seen!

Any Twist album (CLP-5244/CST-247-CLP-5255/CST-255)

Starting at CST-268 (mono issue is 5268, so the last three digits are the exact same), Jazz albums start being released with covers like this.
It was a short lived series that lasted less then a year.
Then starting at CST/CLP-321 to CST/CLP-429 we have the "Fazzio" covers. Fazzio was the name of the artist that airbrushed photos of the featured stars to look like oil paintings. In this series Crown releases older material from many artists that you most likely would be familiar with, such as the above "Ahab The Arab" album. However the trick to these albums would be that the featured artist's (older, not the style the artist was known for) material would only make up two to four tracks , and the rest would be filled up with no name studio groups and other no name singers. Many of these "name" albums were reissued in the early 70's to cash in on the 50's nostalgia going on at the time. Those albums ended with the third reissue of the Dave Clark Five album Crown had put out.
Then at CST/CLP-430 Crown's approach to record jacket covers change and also Crown put out a new logo. The new covers featured for the most part pretty woman (make that very pretty woman), and cowboys (for all Crown's country knock off albums).
Crown issued knock offs and other generic music albums. However the greatest knock offs crown produced had to be the Mexicali Brass albums that were put out between 1965 to 1967. The first album The Mexicali Brass put out was the above album, the last Mexicali brass release is so obscure  I have only had the pleasure to see a photo of it only a handful of times. Below is all the other Mexicali Brass covers.
Reissue of the above album,"The Lonely Bull" replaced with "Espana Cani". I happen to own both the original release and this reissue.

After this the releases are rather scarce, then at CST-571 Crown stopped making mono counterparts and started and made only stereo releases only (which make collecting easier because I will always find the stereo version from this point on, that's if I can find them).

At this point Crown is either reissuing or making county and pop knock off albums. This one is CST-584, which is a reissue of CLP-5035. Below is a series of "Pop" albums that Crown put together between 1968 to 1971. The albums issued in 1972 (the last year that Crown Records) was in operations will be covered shortly.

The Beatles was the top rock band in the 60's and they had quite a few hit songs. Crown covered three Beatle tunes, "I Want To Hold You Hand"(CLP-5399/CST-399), " Michelle" (Mexicali Brass CLP-5503/CST-503), and now "Hey Jude" by The Underground Electrics. The studio group was apparently not that great and I quote from a fellow blogger "the group would have been kicked out of most bars for being so incompetent".




Then In 1972 Crown issued their last albums, these albums were issued to answer the 50's nostalgia scene that was going on in the early 70's.


CST-644 was the final release for Crown Records as far as I know. This was the second reissue of "The Dave Clark Five and The Playbacks" which was originally issued in 1964 (CST-400), so eight years later crown was scraping the proverbial bottom of the barrel for things to reissue and I guess that this album was it. Shortly afterwards the Bihari brothers split up and went their separate ways. So my friends that is Crown Records in a nutshell.


Doug Elliot Sings "Songs That Al Jolson Made Famous"!

Doug Elliot was one of the many victims vocalists that had to record covers of songs that only the original stars that made the song famous could make sound good. I have uploaded this whole album on Youtube (which takes some time as I only post a track or two a day so that each selections get a equal chance of being viewed by my loyal subscribers), and this poor artist had a lot of "virtual" rotten tomatoes thrown at him. The jacket features (a now politically incorrect picture) a man, perhaps Doug Elliot himself in black face (again now considered very racist and not politically correct).

The selections feature some famous Al Jolson tunes, and also some old Steven Foster standards such as "Old Folks At Home" and "Camptown Races".
 The liner notes were supposedly written by the artist that you hear singing (or hacking to death the Al Jolson style by some of my Youtube subscribers). Note that is album was quickly dropped from the Crown catalogue, very shortly after this albums initial release it was dropped of the list of "Albums Available On Crown Records".

Robert E. Lee (First selection)

The rest of the album can be found in this playlist that you can find by clicking here.


The Vienna World Symphony Orchestra presents: Brahms Symphony No. 1

Crown's first couple years were very busy, the need of a large catalog with a little bit of everything was essential for a then small budget label like Crown. So the research department (most likely just one of the Bihari brothers) decided that Crown needed more classical music for the every demanding record buying public, So thus was born this album from a unknown studio orchestra in Europe. This record was issued in monaural only, like so many releases of the day (stereo was just around the corner for Crown). I present to you the complete album CLP-5059 or Brahms Symphony No. 1.
1st Movement

2nd Movement

3rd Movement

4th Movement


The pocket guide to budget records (Introduction or part 1)

As you flip through the stacks at the local thrift store you keep seeing names like Pickwick, Tops, Grand Prix, Design, Crown, Coronet, Halo, Royale, Varsity, etc. If you don't already know, these are budget records. What's a budget record you ask? Budget labels are record labels that specialized in producing low cost records.

I'll make so assumptions:

  1. I assume you know some basic vinyl record terminology.
  2. I assume you have some experience with these records.
How do you identify a budget label product? That is simple, first off the name of the label gives it away. I could give you a lengthy list of labels, however that would take a long time, as there were dozens of budget labels out there in the golden age of budget labels (1950's-1970's).

Features of the standard budget label jacket
  • Back cover features little to no liner notes, and if it gives you some liner notes, the back slick will feature mostly a list of albums produced by that label.
  • Liner notes are written less to inform, but more to sell the album to someone that is unsure about purchasing the record.
  • The artist credit will be a generic or obviously fake name.
  • The jackets will have generic photos, generic artwork, or a cheesecake photo (A picture of a pretty woman).
  • Jackets will be cheaply made, they are prone to splitting and are often found split, The only exception to this rule are the albums made by Royale, Halo, and much of the Eli Oberstien owned labels,
  • Famous "name" artists are in large letters and any "filler" artist is in much smaller letters, or not even mention at all.
  • The album cover is exceptionally appealing, despite the fact the album contains easy listening music or the like.
Let's use a couple examples to prove these "rules" were the standard for budget label jackets.

This is an example of a pre-1957 budget release. Note the lack of a color photograph and the heavy emphasis on the artist. 
The back of this  particular record only lists other releases Royale releases, or in other words a catalog back…. a practice that only budget labels employed.

Let's try another 50's release.

A typical Halo back slick, note how the cardboard wraps around the back slick, these jackets never split (I have only seen one or two with even a split)!