Maxwell Davis

Maxwell Davis was the Bihari’s main arranger and band leader in Los Angeles, from the Culver City Modern days all the way up to Crown’s best and worst releases. From Mexicali Brass to BB King, Maxwell Davis wrote the charts, arranged the music, found the musicians, led the band – he did it all. Davis was also a beloved figure at Cadet on Normandie Ave – no one we talked to had a bad word to say about the man. There was a lot of work to be done at Crown/Cadet and Maxwell (along with Bill Lazerus, Jerry Cole “& others”) worked hard and fast as Jules paid by the pound (as Jerry Cole described the operation): the more you produced, the more you made. In facte, Maxwell worked himself to death at Crown/Cadet. In this outtake from our documentary, recording engineer and friend Bill Lazerus describes the end…

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Reissue vs Repackaging–is there a difference?

Thanks to Crown Records fan Ken Ellzey for unearthing yet another Bihari label, the extremely plain Bright Orange. Should we be surprised to unearth yet another Bihari reissue/repackaging label? Maybe more will come to light, buried behind the thrift stores of America.

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Nothing new here. Jules first recorded his Big Band & Others series back in the early days of Crown with Maxwell Davis leading former big band musicians. Jules just added the names Charlie Barnet, Stan Kenton, Duke, Count & Others to trick folks when in fact none of the band leaders appear on the LPs. But then Jules goes much further this concept, reissuing the same LPs multiple times on multiple labels, the last of which may in fact be Bright Orange. As Ken points out in his email to us, this Big Band Bright Orange LP is part of a series.  Again nothing new here as Jules repackaged the Big Bands previously on Crown in a series titled “Exciting Sounds of the Name Bands” in which he reissued the same old cuts but in a different order.

Maybe the Bright Orange is just a repackaging of Exciting Sounds – we’d have to compare the vinyl label scratch notations to be sure.  But does it matter?  There’s even a big band release on Crown titled: “Charlie Barnet presents a tribute to Harry James.”  Wow, how’s many layers of repacking can you have in one LP?

So back to Bright Orange. How do we even know this was released by Jules in his lifetime? The Normandie  Ave address is on the back.  Frank Evans wrote the liner notes, a name that appears on early Crown LPs along with John Marlo (before Crown did away with liner notes to opt for the cheaper generic LP back of release listings).  So the evidence points to Big Orange being a Jules B release though maybe the parties who purchased the label & factory in liquidation just tossed off a few late releases to use up the cardboard and vinyl that left hanging around.

Finally, to answer our initial question: Is there a difference between reissuing & repackaging? In our mind, reissuing means you reissue the same LP with perhaps a different color label but basically cover art and vinyl recording remain the same, like different editions of the same book. Jules did this many times, especially in the early days. Repackaging to us means tricking the audience by reissuing the same LP on a different label, with different cover art, sometimes rearranging the cuts, sometimes using the same vinyl LP stamper.  Jules was the master of this chicanery which he honed to perfection with his seminal blues recordings of artists such as BB King who has the same LPs issued on Modern, Crown, United, United Superior & Kent.

As we are fans of Jules & his labels, let’s end on a positive note by pointing out that Jules left generations of vinyl scavengers lots of cheap LPs on which to uncover some amazing (and not so amazing) old recordings!

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Blues Legend Jimmie McCracklin On Crown

Blues legend Jimmie McCracklin talks about how his recordings ended up on labels like Modern & Crown. An outtake from Music By The Pound, our as-yet unreleased documentary on the full story of the Crown-Modern Record labels.

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Crown Records Sound-A-Likes

We’ve posted another outtake from Music By The Pound: The Crown Records Story on our blog.  This time recording engineer Bill Lazerus & session guitarist Jerry Cole reminisce about recording sound-alike pop tunes for Crown.

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Back Cover With Florette Bihari & John Marlo

JohnMarlo02How many times have you picked up an early Crown or Modern LP and read the back liner notes, that is when there are

liner notes to read.  The company wasn’t much for production credits but two names stand out because they appear so often: John Marlo as the author of the notes and Florette Bihari as cover designer.  Like Fazzio, John Marlo remains an elusive character.  Actually we know more about Fazzio;  at least he was a real person. The only trace of Marlo the writer that remains is on the back cover of these LPs.  No one we interviewed from the company recalls Marlo and there are no other writing credit to the name, on LP or anywhere. If you doubt us then google Marlo.

Florette Bihari was real though.  One of three Bihari sisters, her main job was gate-keeper & receptionist.  She sat at the top of the stairs over at Cadet Records on Normandie & Slauson, greeting artists who came demanding royalties & selling LPs under the table for pocket change.  As far graphic artist and LP cover designer, check out this outtakes from our film:

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2014 – THE CROWN RECORDS

Many people who appear in Music By The Pound: The Crown Records Story have passed away in the decade or so it’s taken to put the piece together, including blues artist Jimmy McCracklin, recording engineer Bill Lazerus, Cadet operations manager James Takeda, Modern’s first artist Hadda Brooks  & session guitar great Jerry Cole.  And then just recently Joe Bihari passed; though Joe B does not appear in the film, he and his work are described by many people including his brother Lester and nephew Peter.

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A.R.A. = Crown

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Thanks to Jeff Missinne for pointing out a Bihari label that I missed: ARA, American Recording Artists.  These were boxed sets of Mexicali Brass and other Crown series.  As Jeff writes, “Because ARA albums were sold as boxed sets, they required inner sleeves, which I don’t think Crown ever bothered with otherwise.  The (flimsy) inner sleeves are made of what appears to be waxed paper!  The ones I have were also packed with a white corrugated filler somewhat like an egg carton.”

ImageThe address above is the Bihari factory at Slauson & Normandie familiar to anyone who owns a Crown.  The cheap label is vintage Bihari factory printing.   ARA…another bit of useless info from the Bihari archives.

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