While most of us know Creed Taylors productions for their lavish gatefold covers, more often than not adorned with exotic, artful, and amazing color photographs by Pete Turner, the music Creed produced also made a number of firsts in other ways.
This entry discuss the first ever vinyl record to be included in a consumer oriented magazine. It includes a link to play a digitized copy of the record, and also reviews the history of “giveaways” and the flexi-disc, The Wheaties Records, and more. I have a few loose ends to tie up on the time Creed Taylor spent at ABC Paramount, as well as some great artists and albums to cover. However, I’m happy that I can close one avenue of research, and it’s a corker!
The Billboard end of year issue, 1956, reported on page-12
NEW YORK — In a move to give its 1956 jazz LP promotional program an important springboard, ABC-Paramount will have a special EP insert in the March ’57 issue of Downbeat mag.
Patterned after the precedent-setting Capitol Records EP insert which appeared in Billboard October 6th, 1956, the Am-Par insert is believed to be the first such disk-gimmick set up by a consumer magazine.
The deal was set by Am-Par prexy Sam Clark and the label’s jazz artist and repertoire chief, Creed Taylor, with publisher Chuck Suber and Eastern sales manager Mel Mandel representing Downbeat.Billboard Magazine, December 29th, 1956 – P10
The full Billboard article is shown here. I’d long known about this promotion, but there had been some debate about what actual record was the included. Finding a copy of down beat from March 6th, 1957 wasn’t so difficult. ebay has hundreds of down beat issues from across its decades of publishing, even if many are grossly overpriced.
I put the word out with some of the online sellers I buy from, I also hunted through the racks at stores for maybe 6-months, I didn’t really know what I was looking for to start with, just an ABC Paramount compilation EP.
I managed to find a copy of an ABC Paramount 45/rpm Extended Play single, that was on a white label, “Promotion Copy Not For Sale”. It had the right number of tracks, 10, as per the Billboard article; and after listening through it a couple of times, I was able to update the discogs entryFull Color Fidelity Jazz (Vinyl) | Discogs, adding the track names. It was also the right date, this was very likely it.
But that raised more questions. How did they actually include the single in the magazine? How did it stay in?
Also, was this really the first ever 45 RPM vinyl disc shipped in a consumer magazine?
After months of hunting around, I finally came across a copy listed for sale on discogs by seller Detridischttps://www.discogs.com/user/detridisc that claimed it was unopened, and couldn’t guarantee the grading of the of the vinyl record. I bought it for just $3.75 and waited impatiently for it.
It arrived yesterday, so lets get to it. Before that, hit play on this YouTube video I made from the earlier copy of the sampler EP I acquired, having decided to leave the unopened one, unopened.
down beat March 6th, 1957
The magazine has Harry Belafonte on the cover, the top of which proclaims “extra plus JAZZ SAMPLER RECORD inside”. The price of the issue was just 35c. Around that time, 45 RPM singles were selling for 70c, and an EP for 99c. So a pretty good deal. A year subscription to down beat was $7 inc. p&p.
Interestingly, page-3 of the issue included a full page advert for a “Free” Count Basie 12-inch high-fidelity Long Playing record. The advert was run by and included a coupon for the “American Record Society”. Officially the first non-profit record company, essentially they’d become a record club with divisions focused on classics, musicals, and operas. The new jazz division was launched in July of 1956Billboard Magazine Jul 28, 1956 P22, P40, and was only active for 18-months. It was though run as a subscription style service, overseen by Norman Granz. The London Jazz Collector has detail on ARS.American ’50s Record Clubs: The American Recording Society (1956-7) | LondonJazzCollector (wordpress.com)
On Page-3, a news item announced that the Lennox School for Jazz would hold it’s first music session on August 12th at the Berkshire Music Barn at the Music Inn in Lennox Mass. Overtime many CTI musicians would go through the school of jazz, either as musicians, teachers, faculty or staff, including Freddie Hubbard, and Margo Guryan.
The ABC-Paramount Supplement
Page-32 contained the jazz charts, which included 2x Ella Fitzgerald, 2x Modern Jazz Qaurtet, Ellington, Stan Kenton and the Metronome All-Stars albums making up the top-10. Former Taylor artist Chris Connor was at #11 with her Atlantic album, and at #14 was Creed Taylor’s only production, Billy Taylor “At the London House”. The rest of the top-20 was made up by Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Miles Davis and Dinah Washington, many of the greats of the time.
On the opposite bold red page, it declared “In jazz listening – sound quality is paramount“.
The supplement launched a major push of ABC Paramount into the jazz marketplace. Something Am-Par Executive VP Harry Levine had hired Creed Taylor to be the spearhead for just 14-months earlier. It’s clear from the supplement that Am-Par was focused on the high end of the market where quality would count. It’s not clear what what technical improvement “Full Color Fidelity” represented, but it was and remained a cornerstone of Am-Par productions and marketing through 1966, and was later co-opted by Brunswick Record label in 1967 with their “FULL-RANGE FIDELITY”.Young-Holt Unlimited* – On Stage (1967, Vinyl) | Discogs
Since Harry Belafonte is on the cover of this issue, it’s worth noting that his 1956 RCA album, “Belafonte” included “A “New Orthophonic” High Fidelity Recording”. Again it’s not clear what technical advance this was meant to represent, and in fact when I first saw it, I thought orthophonic was a made-up word, but apparently not.ORTHOPHONIC | Definition of ORTHOPHONIC by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com also meaning of ORTHOPHONIC
The purpose of the Am-Par supplement was to offer 10 albums for $3 each, a discount of 98c by using a coupon at a record shop, or by mail order. Each of the 10 albums had a sample on the 45 promo record. You can view the supplement and cover below. A .pdf version of the supplement with some other pages from the issue is available.https://www.ctproduced.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/down-beat-March-6th-1957-ABC-Paramount-Giveaway.pdf
The sampler itself was a straight 45RPM single with an A/B side. It certainly wasn’t the first record giveaway to consumers, many form’s of flexidisc had already been down this route. However, as far as I can establish it was the first, as Billboard said, to be given away in a consumer oriented magazine.
The track listing was as follows
A1 Quincy Jones ABC-149 (Stockholm Sweetinin') A2 Jackie & Roy ABC-120 (Tain't No Use) A3 Jimmy Raney ABC-129 (The Flag Is Up) A4 Zoot Sims ABC-155 (Blinuet) A5 Urbie Green ABC-137 (Little John) B1 Don Elliott ABC-142 (Embessy) B2 Lucky Thompson ABC-111 (Tricotism) B3 Tony Scott (2) ABC-115 (If I Love Again) B4 Oscar Pettiford ABC-135 (Smoke Signal) B5 Billy Taylor ABC-134 (Midnight Piano
The sleeve answered all the questions I had. First, the sleeve was actually an envelope, which stopped the record coming loose; then the brown marks show on the back of the sleeve, match almost exactly the tears in the magazine page where the 45 would have been removed. The sleeve was glued in place. Finally the red color used for the sleeve printing matches the color used in the supplement.
The vinyl record itself has no catalog number, and the appears to have only been one pressing, the matrix/runouts have Side A: DPB-1-A (N) II / Side B: DPB-1-B (N) – many of Taylor’s compilations and promo’ release used clever catalog numbers or matrix numbers, for example, using CTI 4791 for a compilation issued in 1974.CTI/KUDU Guide For Selecting Recording Material For A&R Producers, Jazz Players, Jazz and Jazz Rock Groups (1976, Vinyl) | Discogs My simple guess for this matrix number is Down Promo Beat (DPB). There is no record of a DPB-2 release or pressing.
The tracks are not mixed in anyway and are simply fade in/out. A little over a year after Creed had been signed to ABC Paramount, this marketing and sales supplement really signaled how Harry and Creed had hit the ground running. A Billboard EP giveaway which is covered later, took almost a full year to come to frution, and was only sent to subscribers. As noted in The ABC of Specialty Recordinghttps://www.ctproduced.com/the-abc-of-specialty-recording/, many of these albums had been recorded on spec’ before Creed actually signed a contract with ABC.
While the trademarks of Creed’s work are more often associated with what he did with Verve, A&M CTI, and finally CTI, you can see all of those things germinating in the early work at ABC Paramount. Everything from smart direct to consumer marketing, gatefold sleeves, quality recordings, Pete Turner photography and opening up new directions, for new and established artists.
The history of the flex-disc and giveaways
While researching this post, it was fun to try to establish what other records had been given away with consumer products. I can certainly remember having a Beatles flex-disc in our house, my dad had two turntables, a fancy stereo one built into a piece of furniture, called a stereogram. We also had one of the earlier mono record players. My dad was adamant the flex-disc wasn’t to be played on the stereogram. I also remember flexdiscs being a thing through through the mid-1970’s distributed in bags on the front of Record Mirror and similar.
I had no idea about the history though. It turns out that that flex/flexi-discs, or the proprietary named flex-o-disc were first used in the late 1940’s with childrens books, and experimented with by the “Talking Komics” seriesTalking Komics Label | Releases | Discogs. These were built off a concept popular as far back as 1930, of thin discs, etched on one side only, and backed by cardboard. The most recognizable of these from that era were the “Hit of the Week label” which was active between 1930 and 1932.Hit Of The Week Label | Releases | Discogs.
By 1950, a major proponent of the flex-disc format was preacher Billly Graham’s “Billy Graham Evangelistic Association” label, which issued a number of flexi-discs.Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Flexi-discs music | Discogs. It’s not clear though if these were sold, or given away to attendees of events. Flex-discs were also very popular in Europe due to the low cost of manufacturing and shortage of materials. Initially this was a post war limitation initially, rather than using expensive and heavyweight shellac, or later vinyl, flexi-discs could be pressed from a resign, and then mounted on a cardboard backing for stiffness and durability. By the 1970’s, the durability aspect was no longer important and flexi-discs became double sided, as they were purely perceived as disposable marketing giveaways.
The Esquire Jazz Book demo disc
The earliest jazz demo disc was meant to be included with the Esquire 1944 Jazz book. It was a double sided, 8-inch flexi-disc. However, production issues meant it never happend. Here are the notes from the liner distributed eventually with the disc. The disc featured commentary by Leonard Feather.
The Wheaties Records
In 1954, General Mills packaged a set of 5″, 78RPM, single sided, card backed singles with the Wheaties cereal packaging. After removing the cutout record from the box, the user had to poke a whole in the center in order to play the record. The series included titles such as “Dixie“, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game“,”Music Goes Round & Round” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy“.
Jack C Brown of the Rainbo Record Manufactoring Corp. was responsible for landing the contract with General Mills, included a first of it’s kind recording process. The Rainbo Records contract was to press an amazing 12-million records, at a cost to General Mills of 2c each. What Rainbo’s process did was to take a very thin acetate film and emboss grooves using pressure and heat. The recordings were just 1-minute long. Using this process Rainbo could turn out 50,000 records per day, compared with only 1,000 per day using the normal pressing process. To avoid high shipping cost to get the card that backed the discs to the pressing plant, Rainbo shipped the discs to the packaging plant for gluing and finish.https://www.newspapers.com/clip/79401849/rainbo-records-inks-deal-with-general-mi/
In 1956, General Mills would use the same process with Rainbo to produce even more cereal packet discs. This time to promote General Mills tie-up with the Disney. General Mills was a sponsor of the Mickey Mouse Club Television show. The short sample recordings were again included in the Wehaties cereal boxes, this time with a mail-in coupon for a real record of Mouseketeer songs.Walt Disney’s Mouseketeer Record Label | Releases | Discogs
Rainbo pressed more than 30-million copies of records for General Mills. The process was used for other teen cultural groups, The Monkees, The Archies and the Jackson 5. Rainbo Records only closed for business in 2019, after losing it’s lease.Rainbo Records history
The LA Times has a fantastic article by Randall Roberts and accompanying video made about Rainbo Records on the announcement of their closing.Goodbye to Rainbo Records and L.A. rock history pressed in vinyl – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com) While watching the video I made these frame copies. The first shows Rainbo founder Jack Brown with the Wheaties boxes; the second has a pile of labels ready for pressings and includes both labels for the Ray Barretto “La Cuna” CTI album, and what appear to be labels for the Lonnie Smith “Mama Wailer” KUDU album.
The Magazine giveaways
Apart from the failed Esquire Jazz Book demo disc, the earliest example I could find of a disc being given away with a magazine, was the 1955, Katja Berndsen & Alexander Pola & Jan De Cler, “Prikkophoni“ flexi-disc, which was 8″, single sided and played at 78RPM. It was included with Prikkels magazine in the Netherlands.Katja Berndsen & Alexander Pola & Jan De Cler – Prikkophonie (1955, Flexi-disc) | Discogs
In 1956, Hear Magazine published two Rainbo produced flexi-discs in a single issue, one on the front and a second on the back of their August issue. Both were spoken-word recordings, produced exclusively for fans.Hear Magazine Label | Releases | Discogs.
Elvis – The Truth About Me
Another Rainbo Records classic from 1956 was an Elvis Presley spoken-word flex-disc called “The Truth About Me“, it was single sided, and pressed in both cardboard backed and straight vinyl flex-disc format. In the UK it was issued on 6” vinyl with Weekend Mail magazine in 1956. The original Texarkana Interview was made in 1955. According to Paul Simpson’s 2013 Elvis Film FAQ bookElvis Films FAQ – All That’s Left to Know About the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Hollywood – ISBN 9781480366893, the 2:31 edit of the interview was published in the August 1956 issue of Teen Parade. Subsequently, the full interview has been pressed on vinyl and reproduced on CD.
The text on the back of the Elvis flexi-disc is a vinyl orthophonic’s worst nightmare, and justifys my Dad’s position on using his stereogram, it says
If needle jumps, tape a coin to player arm for extra weight.
IMPORTANT: If you should have any trouble at all making this record play perfectly on your phonograph, just do this:
1. Put a standard 10 or I2 inch record down on your turntable.https://www.discogs.com/Elvis-Presley-The-Truth-About-Me/release/8260196Elvis Presley – The Truth About Me (1956, Flexi-disc) | Discogs
2. Put this record of ELVIS on top of it.
3. Scotch tape this record to the standard record. But caution: In order to hear every word ELVIS says, be sure you don’t tape over the sound track of THIS record . . . tape only along its outer edge.
Billboard Triple Hit Preview
Finally, as Billboard mentioned in their December 29th, 1956 issue, they gave away a record in their October 6th, 1956 issue. Billboard was at the time, and still is today, considered a trade magazine. They sent records only to 32,000 subscribers, not in copies issued to news stands. Their Oct. 6th issue has a write-up on the process that was printed across 3-pages. It documented “the spirit and enthusiasm that go with creating a first in publishing and merchandising history.”
The Capitol Records EP was, as was the later Am-Par EP, were included to support a big album launch campaign. Also in October and November 1956, approximately 4,700 disk jockeys received copies of Capitol Records’ “disk jockey preview album kit” containing selections from the company’s new album merchandise. The kit included full programming information, including titles, artists, music notes, publisher and writer credit and time. Since I mentioned record clubs, Capitol had also introduced a popular album subscription service. The service guarantees a subscriber a minimum of 70 new albums annually for $60, plus a basic library of catalog merchandise for an additional $60.
The special Billboard/Capitol Records EP sampler recording featuring new songs by Frank Sinatra, Nat (King) Cole and Tennessee Ernie Ford.https://www.discogs.com/Frank-Sinatra-Nat-King-Cole-Tennessee-Ernie-Ford-Triple-Hit-Preview-For-The-Billboard-Readers/release/9782092 Apparently, they had to overcome a technical limitation that restricts EP’s to 14-minutes. This EP ran 15-minutes and 46-seconds. They also had to deal with special envelopes for the disc, and special wrappers which met US Postal Service Regulations.Billboard Magazine, October 6th, 1956 – Cover, Page-34, Page 76
While the Full Color Fidelity Jazz record by ABC Paramount was not the first vinyl record to be given away with a magazine, it was the first to be included with a consumer oriented magazine, sent to subscribers and sold on news stands.
As of the time of writing, discogs had some 14 copies of the Capitol EP for sale starting at $1.16 and as high as $25; The ABC Paramount, Full Color Fidelity Jazz EP, 22-copies, starting as low as 90c and up to $7. I’ll be selling the one used for the recording above for probably $2, if interested. FYI Please check with your local record stores before buying online; other online marketplaces are available.