DEAR JERRY: Last year, in your detailed history of the first 101 long-playing records, I noticed not a one of them was a various artists compilation.
How long after this introductory batch, from Columbia in 1948, did it take for someone to come up with an LP of hits by several different artists?
My first exposure to this format came in 1959, when a high school classmate brought “Oldies But Goodies” to school and was showing it around.
I was instantly hooked. You got 12 great songs for the price of three singles.
Also, what was the first rock or R&B compilation?
Ronald Gersdorf, Terre Haute, Ind.
DEAR RONALD: Once Columbia introduced the long-play format, the task was not coming up with records featuring more than just one performer. The labels had been doing that since the mid-'40s, creating multi-disc sets of 78 rpms.
Rather, all they had to do was select which of their previously-issued shellac sets they wanted to reissue on 10-inch vinyl records. Columbia also opened this door in 1948, with “Theme Songs,” their 16th “Long-Playing Microgroove” (CL-6016) album. In what could be dubbed the first ever concept LP, this is a collection of the theme songs of eight of Columbia's big band leaders: Frankie Carle (“Sunrise Serenade”); Claude Thornhill (“Snowfall”); Xavier Cugat (“My Shawl”); Elliot Lawrence (“Heart to Heart”); Gene Krupa (“Starburst”); Les Brown (“Leap Frog”); Dick Jurgens (“Day Dreams Come True at Night”); and Ray Noble (“The Very Thought of You”). And of course it is one of the first 101.
In 1949, Columbia issued their first compilation to include pop vocalists, “Popular Favorites” (CL-6057). Here the featured performers are: Frank Sinatra; Dinah Shore; Doris Day; Arthur Godfrey; Dorothy Shay; and Les Brown.
Columbia must have been quite pleased with this entry's sales, because over the next five years they cranked out nine more volumes in the “Popular Favorites” series. Having 10 volumes (80 tracks) gave Columbia the chance to include most of the big name acts in their stable at the time.
Not one of the “Popular Favorites” series, but also from Columbia in 1949, is “Everybody Polka” (CL-6116), on which everybody does exactly that.
Meanwhile, over at Mercury Records, the first of 15 volumes of Norman Granz' “Jazz at the Philharmonic” went on sale. Newer volumes were later added, but in the 12-inch format.
In 1950, both Capitol (“History of Jazz”) and Decca (“Gems of Jazz”) jumped in with four-volume jazz comps. Two years later, Capitol put together a 10-volume series, “Today's Top Hits by Today's Top Artists,” as did RCA Victor in 1954, “Honor Roll of Hits (1926-1945).”
Among other labels with early 10-inch various artists compilations, and the year of their first, are: (1949) Folkways; Stinson; (1950) Brunswick; MGM; (1951) Modern; Savoy; (1952) Jazztone (1953); Blue Note; Blue Ribbon; Dial; Elektra; and Norgran.
The first 10-inch vinyl R&B comp is a 1951 release, appropriately titled “Rhythm and Blues” (Savoy 15008), and features Paul Williams; Big Jay McNeeley; Bill Moore; Hal Singer; and Milton Buckner.
Unlike most of the others referenced above, generally valued at less than $100, “Rhythm and Blues” can fetch over $200.
The earliest R&R and R&B compilation is “Rock 'n Roll with Rhythm and Blues” (Aladdin LP-710). This 1955 collection, Aladdin's first long-play in the 12-inch format, includes: Charles Brown; Gene & Eunice; Lynn Hope; Helen Humes; Richard Lewis; Amos Milburn; Peppermint Harris; Shirley & Lee; and the Five Keys.
Obviously collectible for multiple reasons, this legendary LP can sell for $600 to $800.
IZ ZAT SO? Art Laboe's first five “Oldies But Goodies” albums all made the Top 20, further ensuring that “oldies but goodies” could signify any memorable tune of the past.
The first various artists compilation to reach No. 1, where it remained for nine weeks in 1961, is in fact a catalog sampler.
Titled “Stars for a Summer Night” (Columbia PM-1), its original intent was to drive non-rock music lovers to record retailers to purchase any of 26 recent Columbia LPs, 13 pop or easy listening, and 13 classical.
Fueled by a low price $1.98 for two discs in mono, $2.98 in stereo sales went through the roof. After only 10 weeks, Columbia reported sales of over 500,000 units.