Little Anthony & The Imperials, We Are…, End 303, 1959
Not to sound like a broken record, but I always buy any reasonably priced 50s record. Not just because I usually get one home and find a pleasant surprise when I look it up in my trusty Goldmine Record Album Price Guide, but also because they are really fun to listen to. This record was a little bit of both.
There were two price tags on this record. While I knew this record would be valuable, the $100 price tag meant I would never get to know what it sounded like. Then I noticed the second price tag. At $5, I didn’t have to think twice about buying it. But what price tag was right? The clerk charged me $5, and I didn’t question him, so I raced home with it to look it up. It turns out that this little $5 record would also be a value at $100. Goldmine values We Are The Imperials at $250 for a good copy.
Sure, there is some hiss, but the record is a very good copy. The hit, Tears On My Pillow lead it off, but the whole album is filled with that classic New York Doo-Wop sound. Eagle-Eyed Neil Sedaka fans will notice The Diary on here. Sedaka was thrilled to present his best song to The Imperials for this record as a follow up to Tears…, but it didn’t chart. The failure of it was a shock to him to the point where he recorded it himself. It was his first single as an artist, and a pretty good sized hit. But trivia aside, I found a real gem $245 under value!
Cost: $5, $37 Remaining
Dion & The Belmonts, Presenting…, Laurie LLP-1002, 1959
It always seems to be a good idea to buy any playable 50s album that you find. To find this record at the price I paid, it also takes a seller who doesn’t know what they are doing. Sure, I know about Dion & The Belmonts, and this would appear to be their first album. Remembering that albums of the era were usually just collections of a group’s singles, it didn’t surprise me to find virtually every Dion & The Belmonts’ song I knew on it. I still splurged a little bit, but I had no idea how rare this record was until I got home to research it.
This 1959 release is the original Laurie issue (LLP-1002), which was re-released in 1960 after the Top 10 success of Where Or When as LLP-2002. A near copy of this record is valued at $250 in my Goldmine price guide. While there may not a near mint copy of the record out there after 58 years, I feel really good about finding this copy at $7. Apparently, the 1960 re-issue sold better (Where Or When turned out to be the group’s biggest hit), but it’s still rare enough to be valued at $150.
Still, I have a feeling that a larger or more diligent record seller would realize the rarity of a record like this and price it out of range for my budget. I found it at a store that specializes in alternative and classic rock records. It’s quite possible that this record got dropped off there by someone looking to sell their grandparents records and was quickly graded by an overwhelmed clerk who doesn’t know the difference between Dion and Celine Dion. Which is a-ok with me!
Cost: $7, $70 Remaining
Bobby Darin, That’s All, Atco 33-104, 1959
This could be my best $1 album purchase ever. Some of the songs on this record are among the most famous of all time, with Mack The Knife being played somewhere right now. Yes, this album sold well for an album at Christmas 1959, but it’s fairly easy to find today. Why I can’t tell you, but get one when you see it. It’s a heck of an album. As simple as the cover might seem, if you really look at it, you see someone determined to be a success. And this record made that happen.
The back cover kind of shows the age of it. When was the last time a telegram was featured on a record jacket? But Sammy Davis Jr. was right. The record is so good that you almost want to hate Bobby Darin for making it. One thing about this particular record is the green pen mark in the upper right corner. I can’t say for sure if it’s genuine, but somebody signed “Bobby Darin 2/14/60” there.
Atco was the second label of the ATlantic Record COmpany. Ahmet Ertegun, the jazz crazed founder of Atlantic, let his brother Neshui start the label to feature acts that wouldn’t dilute the purity of the jazz oriented Atlantic label (but would still sell!). Early Rock & Roll acts certainly were not pure enough to be on Atlantic and Bobby Darin found himself on the new Atco label. This was Atco’s fourth album release, and the second by Bobby Darin, making the label’s success very much because of the success of this record. Again, if you see one, get it.
Cost: $1, $217 Remaining
Edd Byrnes, Kookie, Warner Brothers W-1309, 1959
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again; it’s very hard to start a record company. Virtually all available talent that can sell records already has a record label, and without that talent you won’t sell many records. Warner Brothers had the good fortune to have major film and TV production talent, and after the strange success of Tab Hunter’s recording career, Warner’s added an exclusive audio clause in all of their video contracts.
77 Sunset Strip, a Warner show produced for ABC, debuted just as the new policy came into effect. The show was a laid back affair about private investigators solving the problems of the most fortunate and beautiful people on Earth, all set to a smooth jazz sound. Warners first released a soundtrack alum from the show, but the breakout success of a minor character named Kookie quickly led to a novelty hit and this follow-up album. Kookie was famous for constantly combing his hair and speaking solely in late 50s teen slang.
The album is no longer as ginchy as it once was. Byrnes doesn’t really sing, he just sort of mumbles his way through his the script while arranger and conductor Don Ralke’s music plays underneath. It’s interesting to listen to, but the nagging thought you’ll have after about 90 seconds is “why was this ever a hit”. Then you’ll have 28:30 more to scratch your head and try to translate the words into 21st century English. It’s not the kind of scene I usually dig dad, but while the record didn’t send me straight to snoresville pops, I don’t find it to be the maximum utmost. Later, like dig.
Cost: $5, $293 Remaining
David Seville & The Chipmunks, Let’s All Sing With The Chipmunks, Liberty 3132, 1959
I think even Ross Bagdasarian, I mean David Seville, knew what a hit he had on his hands when he created The Chipmunks. He was a really prolific pop song writer who experimented with recording voices at one speed and playing them back at a faster speed. In 1958, he sang Witch Doctor with a sped up voice singing the chorus and the record shot to number one. For his next experiment, he played around with sped up voices singing in harmony, and the result was The Chipmunks.
Naming them for the top three executives at Liberty Records, Alvin Simon and Theodore released The Chipmunk Song in December 1958 and their record also shot to number one, where it stayed for a month, long past the Christmas season. Naturally, an album was needed to reach the stores, but it wasn’t ready until early January.
So thankfully, there’s just the one Christmas song. Unfortunately, however, it was such a rush job that the other songs are mostly public domain standards that are just fairly boring to hear even once. The cover has “realistic” chipmunks that needed to be redrawn when the characters moved to an animated television series. So there’s really no need to look for this record, unless you’re lucky enough to find it pressed on red vinyl (those copies are worth hundred of dollars!). But today was the first time this season that I heard The Chipmunk Song, so I had to feature this today.
Cost: $2, $609 Remaining
The Strugglers, Two Beers And Everybody Sings, Warner Brothers 1257, 1959
What was probably a fun album to play at a college party in 1959, a high school party in 1969, or a junior high school party in 1979, is now a very funny Goodwill record to look for. Apparently, there really was a band called The Stugglers, who played old-timey songs in a real club called The Red Garter, in some made up town they called San Francisco.
There’s really not anything of interest here for the record listener, or the music buff. It’s just an odd collection of drinking tunes that had a mild impact on the few people who ever heard it. Really, at this point, it’s the kind of thing you’d see framed at a brew pub somewhere.
I don’t mean to put it down, it’s just that the title of this record is so preposterous, and then to assume that after getting blotto on two beers, “everyone” will sing I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Ole Dad…it is to laugh. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a third beer.
Cost: $1, $689
Frankie Avalon, Swingin’ On A Rainbow, Chancellor S-5004, 1959
There are a bazillion artist chart achievements out there. Easy ones like “most number one hits” compete with “most weeks at number one by producer”. But I think I’ve found here something truly remarkable. I think I’ve found the first album to hit the top 10 that had no hit singles released from it.
Sure, Frankie Avalon was a hot property in 1959. Elvis was in the army, and the record business needed a new “it” boy in a hurry. And who could be more wholesome for the country (or under contract already to some sketchy producers) than he?
So, in the wake of his huge #1 hit Venus, Chancellor Records went all out and produced this very expensive looking gatefold cover of Frankie singing some pop tunes in the style of a young Frank Sinatra. It’s an impressive package, and the record isn’t half bad either.
And it sold! Reaching #9 in the era when ingles defined pop success, this record tried to expand the teen idol into a new market. Unfortunately, Bobby Darin filled that spot with his amazing Mack The Knife while this record was still o the charts. Still, Avalon probably was the best selling artist of 1959, even though his music was pretty much immediately dismissed and his artistic credibility destroyed by some horrific films with Annette Funicello. But, it wasn’t until The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that another non-broadway or soundtrack album hit the top 10 without a hit single.
Cost: $2, $692 Remaining