Custom Records

How many times in nearly 30 years can one record company reissue & repackage the same recordings on vinyl?  I dare say that the Bihari budget record family – inspired by patriarch Jules – leads the pack of budget record companies in number of record labels and releases. I present Custom, the label that overlapped Crown budget era.

There is scant info available about the Bihari Custom Records label that  dates from 1967 & released LPs in the later Crown Records style. Most Custom LPs feature female models in some sort of fetching pose. Included in the catalog are Crown reissues and repackagings similar to Crown LPs, sometimes with new covers, sometimes with new song order. No information on who designed Custom’s Pac-man like logo  but it predates Pac-man by 13 years! Maybe Jules should have sued.



CS 1038

Just another budget reissue compilation of old singles either recorded or leased by the Biharis. About the strange blacked out eyes of the dancing teens in the cover photos–it’s conjecture but perhaps faced with a lawsuit over using photos lacking releases, the Biharis simply blacked out the faces instead using another pix.



CS 1126

This LP is released in Custom’s “Vocal Series.”  Title tune Dreams of the Everyday Housewife (written by Chris Gantry) was a 1968 hit for Glen Campbell. Country-folk singer Don Lee released LPs on Crown and was written about in an earlier blog. On most of his LPs Don Lee has a forgettable voice but here he sounds more like he’s in the studio following a heavy night of drinking. The band (possibly the Palomino Club house band) is tight & the recording quality is right in your face. Several stand outs include typical country tune If I Win & a bar band rocker Biloxi, Mississippi.  The music sounds like it’s laid down in one take.



CS 1029

Following in the legacy of Crown and other budget labels, Custom releases minstrel-style banjo versions of public domain tunes. Best feature of this LP is the title & cover photo of budget banjos like Kay. No info available on Stan Jaffe which may be a fake name; the name only links to this LP. The following cut Ida features a lightning fast flat pickin’ solo.



CS 2003

Lush Strings was Custom’s answer to Crown’s Sounds of a Thousand Strings ripoff of the hugely popular 101 Strings.  I Remember Paris is nearly identical to Crown LP 5152–same title but different song order.


The Graduate

CS 1111

Fairly hideous graphic design with overly backlit photo of seemingly nude model highlight this ridiculous collection that mixes tracks like Latino Cha Cha Cha with cover versions of Simon &  Garfunkel hits Sounds of Silence & Scarborough Fair. In the proud bait & switch practice that the Biharis used throughout their long budget record business career, they named their cover group Don & Jerry, hoping to confuse buyers into thinking this LP contained early Simon & Garfunkel tracks when the duo was calling themselves Tom & Jerry. Both title tracks are thin covers of the original with similar arrangements.

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Last Crowns Left

I just came across this Ral Donner Fazzio Crown in the bargain bin of a local Echo Park record shop and had to purchase it, even though I swore off more vinyl purchases for the rest of this lifetime. I can’t resist a Fazizo.


CLP 5335/1963

There are three distinct musical stylings on this LP.

Side one features Ral Donner’s Elvis influenced singing and writing. Competent Elvis impersonation but wouldn’t you rather listen to the original? I know I would.

Side two features three underwater-sounding crooning ballads that have the sound quality of an old lounge record, you know, the type usually signed by the artist to some drunk fan in the bar–is this Ray Smith, the same outrageous rockabilly cat who recorded for Sun &  had the million seller Rockin’ Little Angel?  I sure hope not, and I sure hope this dreadful music didn’t contribute to his suicide at age 45.

Side two closes with three numbers that sound suspiciously like Jerry Cole, complete with tremolo guitar stylings and Cole’s now familiar voice.  My bet is that Bobby Dale is Jerry Cole or visa versa.


CLP 5346/1964

As noted by Both Sides Now discography, CLP 5346 was reissued a year later under a different band name and the songs in reverse order.  More from BSN:  “This is one of the few Crown albums to reach a CD reissue. In 1998 it came out on Demon Records as DIAB 855, in its original track listing and sleeve with added photos and sleeve notes by Barry Ballard, which is fitting as band members Chris Hillman, Larry Murray and Kenny Wertz were to make important contributions to the California Bluegrass, folk-rock, country-rock and, in the case of Murray especially, the studio scene. All the songs were traditional songs arranged for the album; Crown apparently preferred not to pay royalties but rather would pay a flat fee for the recording.”

More info on this band and its members  can be found here and here and thanks to Ace Records you can buy a new remastered CD of the music here.

Posted in Ace Records, Crown LP, crown records, fazzio, Independent Record Labels, Joe Bihari, Jules Bihari, Los Angeles, Modern Records, rockabilly, Sixties Era, sun records, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crown Records Recalls JFK on Anniversary of his Assasination

Crown & other budget labels jumped on the JFK tribute band wagon  following his assassination. In Crown’s case, they copied the cover of a 11/28/1963 release by Premier Records in NYC so closely that they were sued & lost.


CLP 5397 /12-13-1963

Back of LP is the same photo of JFK but with blue BG. In an oddball coincidence, the JFK tribute vinyl inside the sleeve is not a Crown LP but from Pickwick’s budget label Design.

Earlier in the JFK term, the Bihari label Kent released a copy-cat LP of the immensely popular 1962 First Family comedy release by Bob Booker, Earle Doud, George Foster and comedian Vaughn Meader impersonating JFK. Of course Kent wasn’t the only label to attempt to cash in on the success of First Family but who’s to declare which LP (the original or the many copies) was truly funny?

There is scant detail of the Kent catalog on the Both Sides Now pages so any info about this release (including date)  will have to wait.


Posted in Ace Records, Crown LP, crown records, Jules Bihari, Los Angeles, Modern Records, Sixties Era, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tributes, Toasts & Salutes…the final Crowns in the closet.

I’m nearly out of Crowns in the closet and am down to a few big band comps and miscellaneous treasures.  The following big band LPs span the Crown years, from 1957 to 1966. The first year Crowns (CLP 5000’s) have liner notes & credits, the rest mostly generic backs.  The cover designs are stagey and hokey, like the dark skinned model on Charlie Barnet’s tribute LP Cherokee. The 1960 Woody Herman LP has the best cover of the lot, a cool color photo of Herman and the band recording.


CST 134/1959

Artie Shaw’s blue cover somehow rendered the usually colorful Crown logo black & white.  This is a red vinyl, early Crown stereo pressing. Frank Evan liner notes, photography by Ron Vogel and cover by Charles Meggs.  Maxwell Davis conducting.


CLP 5047/June 1957

Maxwell Davis arranging & conducting a smaller band than above. Extensive back cover with liner notes, song titles & descriptions plus musicians’ names. Cover photo by Ron Vogul & cover assembly credited to TRI ARTS.


CLP 5090/CST 121/1958

Frank Evans’ liner notes, musicians’ names and cover by HobCo.  There’s a curious postage stamp-like image on the front that appears on several other of the big band Crowns.


CLP 5531/1966

A later day Crown big band with the new Crown logo.


CLP 5183/1960

The most interesting LP on this posting is Chubby Jackson’s band featuring Sam The Man Taylor & several kooky cuts including Beatnick (sp) Baby and I’m The Laziest Chick In Town. Spirited liner notes by John Marlo mention “Joe Bihari (Crown Records’ Recording Director) coming to NYC to supervise the recording session. Photo & cover by Burt Goldblatt, a prolific jazz LP cover designer; Goldblatt’s NYTimes obit has more info about this artist.


CLP 5072/1958


CST 128/1959


CLP 5180/1960

Informative liner notes by John Marlo, recording in Chicago’s famed Universal Recorders, cover design by Crown’s go-to firm until they went in-house, Hobco Arts.

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Custom Records Remembers…


CM 2003/circa 1960s

BSN discography on the Bihari Custom label is incomplete. I have several Lush String Custom LPs which is a clone of the original 101 Strings series (Crown’s was a Thousand Strings).  Several Jerry Cole LPs were also released on Custom.  Custom’s logo appeared years before PacMan.

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Five Glen Millers + three Fake Mitch Miller



Blank vinyl surrounding label has second set of release numbers scratched in, LPM-1218, which doesn’t match any Bihari label release codes but is close to the LMP-1200 series noted on the BSN site as Modern’s first 12 inch release.

“Music made famous by Glen Miller” but there is  no credit given to musicians or band leader.  On back, liner notes plus credits for Art Direction & Production by Florette Bihari. Capri pants & sweater by Jax of Bev Hills.


CLP5050/Dec 1957

BSN discography credits Maxwell Davis as conductor/arranger but no such credit exists on LP or record label.  Printed on front cover: “Recorded in Hollywood by members of the Miller orchestra.”


CLP 5073/1958

Same cover as 5026 but the two LPs share only 3 song titles despite claim on BSN discography that 5073 is a reissue of CLP 5026.


CLP 5123/1959

More Glenn Miller. Liner notes by Frank Evans indicate band is led by Ray McKinley, a drummer and good friend of Miller’s who led the band after Miller’s death. Cover design credited to Rosentswieg.



Even more Glenn Miller though only tune shared by other LPs is Sting of Pearls.  



Twenty-six short verse singalong songs, 13 per side, apparently to capitalize on the Mitch Miller LPs popular at the time.



Party songs with double entendre, semi risqué themes and words that might rhyme with dirty lyrics. Nothing special here.



Great panoramic sketch of characters, otherwise, more sing-songy sing-a-longs by the Sing-A-Long gang.

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The Last Few Crowns Left


CST 168/1959

Marlo liner notes creates a political & artistic timeline starting in 1943 that leads directly to the Sound of Music in 1959. Photography credits 3 Lions Inc (NYC), Hoboco Arts design (El Segundo, CA) and recording in NYC.  Dropped the needle on several cuts and heard nothing remarkable.


CLP 5361/1963

No liner notes on this Dave Brubeck LP with Cover Design credit to FB Smith Jr at the W. Paul Bailey Ad & Design firm in Culver City, CA., where Crown’s first studio was located.  Many early Crown covers carry this cover design credit & I scouted down FB Smith via an old design website but he declined to be interviewed for my documentary, stating these were cheapie jobs and he didn’t recall the covers.  This might be a Wm Claxton cover photo but there’s no credit for the shot.  No vinyl in split cover so no comments on music or sound quality.


CLP 5277/1962

Sun recording rockabilly artist Billy Lee Riley, who had early hits with Red Hot & Flying Saucer Rock & Roll and eventually became a much recorded session musician, is featured here on acoustic blues harmonica backed by a small blues combo–all cuts instrumentals. There’s a great bio of Billy Lee Riley in his own words here that reveals he recorded six LPs in Los Angeles including this one for Crown.  LP has excellent sound quality. The playing is subdued but worth a listen.


CLP 5537/1967

Pete Fountain and more Kings of Dixie.  Do we care? Does anyone care?


CST 144/June 1958

Kinda interesting polka dot cover featuring greatest hits from the Inks. True stereo recording with voice on one track, band & backing on the other. We Three was a hit by Frank Sinatra & Tommy Dorsey in 1940, same year it was first recorded by the Ink Spots. Doubtful this true stereo version dates from 1940.

Ray vs Jimmy

CST 303/1963

The original four first cuts recorded by Ray Charles in either Florida or Los Angeles in a Nat King Cole style, before he found his voice on Atlantic. These cuts have been released on countless other labels. Majority of the cuts here are Jimmy Witherspoon in a jump blues/shouter mood. Enhanced fake stereo is distorted and crappy sounding.

Posted in billy lee riley, harmonica, ink spots, pete fountain, ray charles, rockabilly, sun records | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment