The Smothers Brothers, Live At The Purple Onion, Mercury SR-60611, 1961
The Smothers Brothers began their long fruitful career in 1958 at San Francisco’s The Purple Onion. The same small beatnik coffeehouse launched the careers of The Kingston Trio and Phyllis Diller, and this record is both of it’s time and ahead of it’s time for where The Brothers took musical comedy in the 60s. They sing some of the the same folk songs as The Kingston Trio, but there’s a bite to them that is missing from the trio’s #1 albums for Capitol.
But this really isn’t an update on the nature of the record, I’m writing today to show the lengths record companies went to to sell two different kinds of records. Record sleeves of the classic vinyl era were made of cardboard that was then covered with what was called a cover slick. It was more economical to produce a color front slick with a black and white rear cover slick. But, because albums were released in both mono and stereo formats, front cover slicks had to differentiate between the two.
The easiest thing to do was design an elongated front cover slick, with this record being a prime example. The top edge would scream that this was a stereo record, suitable for those who had the money to invest in a true stereo sound system and pay 10% more to buy stereo records. The bottom part of the front slick would be reserved for the more economical mono record purchaser. The sort of Chevy Biscayne driving record buyer who’s home player was “affordable” or only had one speaker. The record company could then fold either appropriate edge onto the back of the cardboard sleeve and cover the non applicable part with the back cover slick. This Mercury jacket shows how easy it was to do. Plus, I get to choose between stereo or mono when I need to hear The Smothers Cover of Tom Dooley.
Cost: $2, $270 Remaining
The Chad Mitchell Trio, Typical American Boys, Mercury SR 60992, 1965
Apparently, Typical American Boys record folk music for Mercury Records. Despite the smashing success of the sweaters they had, The Chad Mitchell Trio never had a memorable hit single. This album, essentially recorded at their peak, was no different.
Sure, there are some really catchy tunes, done with the slight irreverence the group was known for. There is the interesting cover of You Were On My Mind. But mostly, there’s a whole bunch of folk music that would have been really refreshing in 1963, but seemed really out of place by 1965.
Judging by the inner sleeve, the quasi-independent Mercury Records looked to fill every musical genre with some kind of artist. Jazz, Pop, R&B and Country are all featured, and what kind of self-respecting record company in the 60s didn’t have a folk trio. In fact, it was a very typical thing to.
Cost: $1, $688 Remaning
Brook Benton, The Boll Weevil Song, Mercury SR-60641, 1961
I love the smokey deep voice of Brook Benton. His material was very often syrupy love songs with lush arrangements, but this album produced his biggest hit. It’s a novelty rendition of a delta blues classic, but very much done in a novelty version. It doesn’t play well these days, but it’s an ok little tune.
But what really caught my eye was the sleeve. Besides the other great Brook Benton albums available from your Mercury Record’s dealer, there’s not a picture of the artist on it! It is sad to say that it’s probably because he was an African American artist who became popular with white audiences at a time when there was rampant segregation in parts of the country. Stores in those parts of the country wouldn’t stock record with non white faces on them. So the biggest hit Brook Benton had came out without his picture on it.
So while I’m glad I found this record, it isn’t something to be very excited about. But I think I will go through the bins to look for other records like this. Time for another theme week soon!
Cost: $2, $716 Remaining
Alfred Newman, Music For Your Listening Pleasure, Mercury MG 20038, 1951?
The obvious statement here is that the man comes home on a Friday night, has a martini, and passes out three minutes after the lady puts on this record. She does stretches along the wall with lesser records on the floor about to be stepped on.
There’s precious little information about this record as well. The picture seems very far out for 1951, yet that’s the only date for it I could find online. Alfred Newman was an accomplished movie orchestra conductor and score composer. I suppose it’s only natural that a record company would hire him and his orchestra to record and release music on their off days. The self explanatory title makes this record a poor choice for waterboarding and executioners, but beyond that I have little desire to find out how much pleasure listening to this. The cover is quite enough thank you.
Cost: $2, $803 Remaining