Here’s a clip from the Fazzio section of my documentary on the Crown Records.
Here’s a week’s worth of Fazzios as posted daily on the Crown Facebook. The Fazzios are a series of 1963-1964 Crown LPs meant to be in the style that other labels were releasing at the time which featured portraits of recording artists on the covers. Of course Crown was budget so Bihari eschewed liner notes and each side featured 5 instead of the normal 6 cuts.
This much we know about Fazzio: He bought frames and canvases at Turner’s frame shop on 7th in what was formerly an arts district, near the Chouinard Art Institute (the original Cal Arts). The Fazzio covers started out a photographic images on fiber board that were painted over. The fiber board texture is often evident on the faces which Fazzio colored. He filled in backgrounds with prominent brush strokes while clothes and other features ended up blurred and messy. All were signed by Fazzio’s now famous signature.
If you’d like to own an original Fazzio used on many of these Crown LP covers, Russ & Sherree over at their vintage shop in Lomita, CA have an incredible collection of the original Fazzios. Stop by their shop and see for yourself. They’re great, friendly folk.
Started out (day 46) with this iconic 1963 Crown: Ike Turner on a Fazzio cover. Turner was Bihari’s main A&R man in the great early days of the label while Fazzio was Bihari’s schlockiest cover artist in the budget era. This LP features several outstanding and raw cuts with gritty distorted guitar work including Hey Miss Tina, Bayou Rock & The Blues All The Time, a long cut in which Turner & the band mimic different blues guitar styles including BB King & Elmore James.
Day 47 – This 1963 John Lee Hooker Fazzio was one of my first Crown purchases from a used bookshop in Berkeley, 1969. Hooker sides were recorded in Detroit between 1948 & 1952 by Bernie Besman who started leasing Hooker cuts to Modern as early as 1948. About 1952 Joe Bihari took over recording Hooker in Detroit. Much more info on Hooker’s life & discography at this site by Clous Rohnish which you can download as a PDF. Highly recommended for fans of Hooker.
Day 48. Marvin Phillips first teamed up with Jessie Belvin, a bon fide Bihari hit maker who was unfortunately killed in a car crash in 1960. Marvin teamed up with several Johnnys including Johnny Dean, Emory Perry & Willie Egans. These are all Bihari recordings from the mid-1950s.
CST 469 CST 355
A budget posting 2 for 1 Fazzio listing on day 49: Bihari cropped the original 1963 Fazzio for a second 1964 Jimmy Smith release, teaming some Don Gardner/J. Smith cuts w/a different artist, The Arthur Glenn Quartet.
Drummer Don Gardner was a Philly native whose early band featured Jimmy Smith and a guitarist named Thornel Schwartz, nicknamed “Grid Grind Puts. Several cuts on CST 355 feature tough guitar work including a tight version of Bill Doggett’s Honky Tonk. These Crown cuts might have been leased to Bihari from Bruce Record singles recorded in Philly though who knows? He later recorded with Dee Dee Ford, Baby Washington & others. Bill Davis is probably Wild Bill Davis, an organ player who bridged swing & 50’s jazz scenes. The LP featuring Arthur Glenn has a more tasteful feel throughout. Can’t find a word about Arthur Glenn.
Day 50–R&B singer Chuck Jackson (bit of a crooner) was a member of the Del-Vikings, left on a solo recording career, first to sing Burt Bacharach-Hal Davis songs and still performs today. Young Jessie also had a long solo career and sang with the Coasters when he was through with Modern. The cuts here are rockin’ featuring Mickey Baker (probably) on guitar and includes his hit Mary Lou.
Day 51. This 1964 Nat King Cole/Lester Young LP features post war recordings & overlaps cuts on Aladdin releases so not sure if this is original Bihari recordings. These same cuts are featured on several other Crown & Modern jazz LPs. Lots of critical praise for this pairing but the overall sound on these measly five cuts put me to sleep.
Day 52. Good pairing here of blues belters with Nelson being inspired to sing by hearing Joe Turner in an Oakland bar. Belting bartender Joe Turner was such a prolific recording artist that it may be impossible to know if he actually recorded these cuts for Crown which features a couple live recordings. Jimmy Nelson sang with Joe Liggins & others, and these cuts are all singles released on RPM and other Bihari labels in the early 1950’s.
Day 53. Fazzio “paints” a lovely portrait of Little Richard singing gospel songs on Sunday’s Fazzio posting. Little Richard was switching labels at the time and recorded these numbers for Bihari in the 1963. The recordings feature typical gospel organ, piano and a doo wop-style choir backing Richard. He does a credible job singing gospel but sad to say his voice here is never going to inspire me to seek salvation.
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Crown Records Story!
May this 1968 Crown offering put you in the proper romantic mood! Scratched into the vinyl around the label is CS 1066 (besides CST 585), indicating this might have been a Custom stereo release though it’s not listed in the Both Sides Now discography for Custom.
Day 44. Real life rocker, one-time heart throb Tommy Roe sends hearts your way via this 1963 release. He shares the bill with Bobby Lee who sounds on record like Jerry Cole. Unsigned Fazzio cover. Tommy Roe continues to play shows; check his schedule on google.
LP Highlights: I Got A Girl is Tommy Roe as Buddy Holly imitator followed by several other real Tommy Roe singles.
Foreman is performed by a Jimmy Reed imitator complete with guitar and harp. At one point the band track almost completely drops out, and voices are heard for a moment after the tune ends. Side 1 concludes with Tommy Roe’s single Caveman though it’s poorly edited and starts abruptly in mid-verse.
The tracks on side 2 sound like Jerry Cole’s voice & guitar work. The best cuts are the opening track Nothing But Love and Run Don’t Walk.
Day 43 and today’s Crown Valentine features bare shoulder & licensed tune from 1968. A not-so-fascinating offer from the Fascinating Strings. Like all three fascinating strings discs this week, scratched into the vinyl is a second set of release numbers: CS 1067.
Day 42 & the 3rd day of our Valentine tribute to Crown. From 1968, the Mexicali Brass ask: What Now My Love? At the time, Herb Albert asked Jules in court, why rip off my Tijuana Brass? Jules lost that lawsuit but not before he released over a dozen MB LPs. Recording engineer Bill Lazerus & Jerry Cole claim that all the Mexicali Brass cuts were the work of Maxwell Davis.
On Day 41, I went to see the gypsy who played me some love songs backed by 1000 strings, including the classic title, Hora Staccato. The cover photo on this 1960 LP appears as over saturated in person as it does here. The string arrangements on this LP have a kinda gypsy quality to them unlike the deadly dull string arrangements on the Fascinating Strings LPs.
Day 40 & it’s the start of my Valentine week of love from Crown. A 1968 release titled For Young Lovers by the Fascinating Strings. Side 1 is anchored by the copyrighted tune Be My Love (Mario Lanza) & filled out by what sounds like waltzes. Side 2 is all generic string mood music
I bet no young lovers yesterday or today would be fascinated by this 99 cent vinyl. As with the other Fascinating Strings LPs I listed this week, a second set of CS release numbers are scratched into the vinyl around the label.
The cover on last week’s moldy Elkhart Military Band LP peeled away, revealing the cover of an earlier Crown release, Bob Savage Carries the Torch, from Dec. 1957. Was this the Crown Records version of the censored Yesterday & Today Beatles butcher cover? Nah, more like just the case of Crown saving bucks by reusing covers.
Day 39 & a perfect day for a Sunday parade led by the Elkhart Military Marching Band as seen & heard on this moldy LP. Front cover photo by H. Armstrong Roberts, the father of stock photography who created the first stock photography company, RobertStock, and whose son and grandson shared his name and contributed to the company. Hobco created the cover design, Frank Evans wrote the liner notes. Like many LPs in the Crown catalogue, the appeal of this LP can not be explained.
Day 38. Sounds of A Thousand Strings…the Bihari version of Alshire’s popular 101 Strings series. Despite the addition of 899 more strings, there’s no obvious commerical appeal here besides the dollar price tag. Note tape holding together all three sides, typical of Bihari’s cheap covers that were assembled at the edges with folded paper. A little research reveals Karl Jergens was a pseudonym for legit German conductor Hans-Jurgen Walther. An interview here reveals Walther never knew where these recordings ended up.
Day 37. I end week 5 with this 1964 LP of Lerner & Lowe Favs. The country was fast heading into protest & counter culture, and the Biharis fight back with cheesy cheesecake. Photo by George S. Whitman who did the front/back covers for Don McClean’s American Pie LP. He recently (2012) published an autobiography (available on Amazon) with a glowing endorsement by McClean. Whitman also designed the rather garish EP cover for the Beatles’ first US record on VJ Records before Capital signed them. Whitman’s photograph above isn’t particularly artful though he does manage to position his model so sunlight highlights her chest, capturing the spirit of low budget cheapness.
Day 36 presents a live 1959 show in Reno at the classic Holiday Casino (now remodeled into oblivion) with one of Jules B’s favorite big bands, Charlie Barnet. Hobco cover design, Joe Tauber photo & J Marlo notes on the back, all standard for this brief era when Crown was trying to look legit. I especially like the yellow cut out borders around Taub’s photos that I imagine were to represent the musicians bursting through the cover.
Day 35: Joe Houston’s 1961 Wild Man of the Tenor Sax. Abstract Hobco cover & Marlo notes on the back. Houston had a long history of releases with Jules, from 78’s & all the way up thru the surf & twist eras. Houston appears in the documentary to talk about his affection for the Biharis and his work on the LPs. Writer Jim Dawson does some great detective work on the Houston cuts for the British Ace Records release of a few year ago.
Day 34. The Isley Brothers + Marvin & Johnny. Fazzio cover. It’s unclear when or if the Isleys actually recorded for Jules though discographies vouch for the other two artists. There’s no reason not to love the Fazzio cover.
Day 33: Let’s start the week off right with Do The Beetle (1963), a fake Beatles disk with one authentic Beatle cover plus 9 other “beetle” tunes such as my favorite “30 LB. Beetle” or perhaps you’d prefer “Little Brown Beetle.” There are some interesting sounds on several of the cuts which Jerry Cole takes credit for. A Crown LP worth having in your collection. The next Crown release was by Dave Clark, another LP with interesting sounds also attributed to JC.
This week we’ve illustrated the best and worst of the Bihari Crown label: cool jazz, raw blues, roots country vs pure shlock & dull retreads. It’s a contrast that will continue throughout the life of Crown this year. One month down, eleven more to go…
Day 32. A Sunday offering of cross-on-moonscape cover design with dreadful sounding Christian music inside; not really gospel, more like bad crooning. No info available on George Johnson or Robert Evans Chorus who appear on this 1964 LP.
Day 31 & Crown goes for the bait & switch hit song trick: take one hit song like Born Free and combined it with unrelated cuts from various other Crown LPs. Is George Mann really Maxwell Davis?