Clyde McPhatter, May I Sing For You?, Mercury Wing SRW-16224, 1962
I’m coming up to the end of my year of shopping for 365 records with a $1000 budget. It’s to the point that, with 30 days to go and $191 to spend, I still need to buy discount records, but perhaps not this much. While Clyde McPhatter was the original lead singer for The Drifters in the early 50s, and he had a great solo career on Mercury in the early 60s, this 1962 compilation of standards on the discount Mercury Wing label is really not collectible. If the $2 price tag doesn’t tell you that, the crummy title should. May I Sing For You is not a selling feature for a record.
This seems to be the kind of record that happens when a troubled artist like McPhatter has a comeback hit (in this case, the R&B classic Lover Please), material that was sitting in a can somewhere often finally sees the light of day on a discount label like Wing. Artists always record music that falls short of commercial viability. Records like this hope to get some quick sales by people looking for the hit on the radio and end up disappointed by substandard material pressed on cheap vinyl. It’s records like this that also damage careers.
Most major record companies had a discount label or two to handle music not deemed worthy enough for their flagship brand. Mercury had Wing, Capitol had Tower, RCA had Camden, and Columbia had Harmony, all releasing records like this. McPhatter’s solo hits were on the main Mercury label, but out of date music like this came out on Wing. Sometimes, records like this don’t even show up in official artist discographies because they might not have been nationally distributed or the artist may not have even known it was released, such was the business model for them. So enjoy the final discount record of the year, and get ready for the next month of real treasures.
Cost: $2, $189 Remaining
Elvis Presley, Pot Luck, RCA LPM-2523, 1962
This odd little Elvis album turned out to be quite a turning point for his career. It was two years since Elvis was released from the army, and this collection was supposed to be the cream of the non-film soundtrack songs he had recorded. While it did a respectable business, peaking at #4, it was dwarfed by the soundtracks to G.I. Blues and Blue Hawaii.
I’m sure the schlocky packaging didn’t help, nor the melange of top 20 hits from 1961-62, but when the sales didn’t reach The Colonel’s expectations, he focused his protege’s attention to woking solely in films. This would be the last non film or goapel album that Elvis would release un his “comeback” in 1969.
Instead, Elvis’ albums became mirrors of the weak movie scripts he got. The Elvis that changed the world didn’t do so by singing about clams, lemonade or nuns. So while his 60s albums sold well, they’re not very collectable. This flawless copy set me back $1 and i actually passed on a so-so copy of It Happened At The World’s Fair. For me, it wasn’t happening and it would be something I wold never listen to.
Cost: $1, $201 Remaining
The Beach Boys, Surfin’ Safari, Capitol DT-1808, 1962
How they managed to pull this off, I still don’t know. Sure, they were a phenomenally talented teen vocal group, but The Beach Boys took what is basically a novelty tune and turned it into a legendary 55 year career. I suppose if they lived a little farther away from Hollywood, California and its plethora of record companies it might not have happened, but all Murray Wilson had to do to get his boys’ group signed to a major label was find a Capitol producer and pester him into signing “his” group to release a single, Surfin’ Safari, that sold well enough for Capitol to take a chance on this album.
The group name, while cheesy and hard to sell once the surfing craze ended, was at least appropriate here. They were selling a surfing record, and they were boys. There’s an explanation of what surfing is, which was something The Beatles and The Rolling Stones never though to have on their records, and they really were boys. David Marks was just 14 and Carl was 15 when they played on this record.
It’s also pretty impressive that most of the songs were penned by the group too, something very rare in the fall of 1962. Sure, they’re not quite up to the level of their later work, but it was clear from this start that this group was going to be big. These records are often available in great shape for not much money, and now that I have all of them, it’s time for you to get out there and go surfin with me.
Cost: $4, $370 Remaining
Billy Vaughn, A Swingin’ Safari, Dot DLP-25458, 1962
Sometimes it’s just nice to return to a simpler era. Like when you could fly to a poor African country and kill a lion. But seriously, like the lion hunt, popular orchestra records are definitely from a bygone era.
Billy Vaughn was one of the biggest band leaders still having hits into the 1960s. But he wasn’t the only one. Ray Conniff, Mitch Miller, Henry Mancini, Lawrence Welk and Bert Kaempfert all had big hits in the 60s. In fact, A Swingin’ Safari was a Kaempfert recording that was a huge hit around the world, except in the US. Vaughn’s re-recording peaked at #13 and the album cracked the top 10. The Beach Boys’ Surfing’ Safari, and the Wipe Out band The Surfaris both worked the freewheeling thought of safari into their music because of this one.
It’s fun bouncy music, and you really can hear the size of the orchestra. There’s tons of big studio echo, and it’s a shame that no one really makes records like this anymore. The good news is, I sometimes think that I’m the only one who feels this way. They’re so cheap, and usually in really great shape that you’ll probably find a lot of them in discount bins and thrift stores. Save some for me, but buy them.
Cost: $2, $470 Remaining
Dinah Washington, In Love, Roulette R-25180, 1962
There are a lot of great artists out there, and most people know all about them. But now and then, you come across a great artist that virtually no one knows about. Say hello to the wonderful and tragic Dinah Washington. You may not know the name, but you know the voice from such jazz classic as Unforgettable, and What A Difference A Day Makes.
Of course, a talent this rare comes with a few complications, and she was no exception. This album, her fourth(out of five) for Roulette Records in 1962, came out about a year before her 7th husband found her dead at age 39 of a drug overdose. But to say that you felt her pain in every syllable she sang would be an understatement.
I never really talk about the upside to a record collection. But aside from the front cover slick delaminating form the cardboard and a new inner sleeve, I can’t believe that this record will be worth a lot more money in a few years than it is now. And at $1 and plenty of storage space, not only will my heirs get to enjoy this record for years to come, but they’ll be very surprised at its value when the time comes…
Cost: $1, $618 Remaining
Dee Dee Sharp, It’s Mashed Potato Time, Cameo 1018, 1962
It’s Thanksgiving week here, and I’m thankful for finding so many original, but affordable Cameo Records as I have this year. This Dee Dee Sharp record was huge in 1962, and the Mashed Potato dance crazy resulting from this album lasted a few years. What’s the best way to top mashed potatoes? Gravy, of course, and that top ten hit is also included.
Chubby Checker wrote the liner notes (probably just like he “wrote The Twist). Cameo was smart to put the two of them together of Slow Twisting’, yet another top ten hit. Things were so good for Cameo at the time, that they wrote Mashed Potato Time based around the other hits of the day. When The Marvelettes’ Please Mister Postman got a mention, the Cameo producer turns the echo way up on the same line (“deliver the letter”) as Motown did on the original version.
If you find a record like this, buy it. Even if it’s not your kind of music, it’s still a great addition to any collection. Original albums featuring important hits will always have value, and this one is no exception.
Cost: $5, $624 Remaining
Tony Bennett, Live At Carnegie Hall, Columbia C2S-823, 1962
Live albums usually are that great. The music never sounds as good as the original record you already know, and the crowd noises get in the way. Sure, unique ones like Frampton Comes Alive stand out, but that was an album of new material, just performed live.
But sometimes you just catch a great performer at the peak of their talent, Judy Garland’s 1961 album comes to mind. Taking a $1 bet on this record wasn’t much of a risk, but it’s a record that is every bit as good as Judy’s.
Tony Bennett was very much a contemporary artist in 1962, with his recent hit I Left My Heart In San Francisco being featured, along with other hits of the day and past Bennett classics. But really, the swinging jazz-style concert is really great. Seeing that he’s now 90, there probably aren’t too many chances left to see a Tony Bennett concert. I’m glad I can hear one whenever I want.
Cost: $1, $633 Remaining