Bongo Madness & Beyond

Why so many Latin themed LPs on Crown during the early years of the budget label?  Was Jules following the trend set up by other budget lines, such as 101 Strings debut LP Spain? Was he influenced by the large and growing Latin buying population in Los Angeles? With no one left to interview and Joe Biharis mostly questioned about Modern’s early period, it’s pure conjecture.  But besides a few lurid and bold cover designs, these LPs are mostly well recorded old style cha cha, mambo & Latin folk music with little turntable interest today.


CLP 5128/CST161/1959

Night In Madrid is an early stereo red vinyl Crown with liner notes by Frank Evans, cover design credited to Rosentswieg and photography by Joe Tauber.  Most likely Rosentsweig is an author named Gerry Rosentswieg who wrote several books on graphic design that can still be pick up used.  I wrote about Tauber & Evans in earlier blog posts.  The name Jose Barroso Troupe is associated only with several  Crown LPs whereas Laurindo Almeida is a well know Brazilian guitar virtuoso and composer with many recordings.

Pleasant, nicely recorded, unmemorable background music that’s not worth a rip or a listen. The front & back of my copy is held together only by the bottom seam which is enough to show that the back is glued on upside down.



CLP 5280/1962

Trio Acapulco is a common name for any 3 person mariachi band. This LP could easily have been issued on Crown’s budget Latino label Discos Coronos which released dozens of similar looking LPs covering Latin folk music groups under the direction of recording engineer Bill Lazerus, a true fan of the music who most likely found this group and recorded them.

Not typical of any Crown in my closet collection, all three seams on this Crown LP are intact and the LP’s cardboard is substantial, like a major label product.  A quick look inside the sleeve reveals that the cardboard cover is folded over at the top & bottom seams making for a strong edge which is never the case on budget Crown (which are held together only by the fold-over of the thin paper cover).  It was then I noticed the generic Crown back sheet peeling off to reveal the front of a Sutton LP, Erotic Percussion, uncovering a new trick in the budget record business bag: buying excess LP covers and slapping on new paper.


Sutton was Brooklyn-based father & son budget label which shipped using UPS and other carriers.  That Sutton was using better cardboard and sleeve fabrication than Crown is a testament to Jules Bihari’s money making budget record machine over on Normandie Ave.


CLP 5019/1957

Bongo Madness is a reissue of RPM 3004 with MLPR-3004 scratched out in the vinyl.

It’s an early Crown LP by prolific composer/musician Don Ralke with uncredited liner notes, cover photo by Gene Lesser (discussed in earlier post) & two credits for sister Florette: art direction & production. Don Ralke was USC educated with many LP & TV credits, including work on 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaii Five-O.  Also Ralke is well-known for producing the “Golden Throats” series, convincing non-singing celebrities like William Shatner to record.

Bongo Madness contains no madness but instead compositions by Ralke, flute by Buddy Collette & drums/bongos by Jack Burger.  The ripped cut Afro-Bop could easily be the theme song for one of Ralke’s 1960’s cool TV show themes.

PradoMania  MamboJambo

CLP 5106/June 1958

Prado Mania features “members of” the Perez Prado Orchestra, conducted by Bobby Gil, an organist whose name links to several other bongo LPs.  I have two copies of this LP, one titled Prado Mania and one titled Mambo Jambo–same front/back cover, LP number, song titles.  Back features liner notes by Frank Evans touting the talent of “Señor Perez Prado” with no mention of Bobby Gil.  Rare credit for all the musicians and the recording studio:  Sound Enterprise in Hollywood; perhaps an attempt to gain favor with serious jazz fans. Photo by Ron Vogel & cover by Charles Meggs, both discussed in earlier Crown posts.  Here’s a familiar tune often recorded and perfect for skating on a hardwood arena.


CLP 5031/1957

This early effort by bongo virtuoso Preston Epps is another Crown LP with dual credits for sister Florette.  Epps went on to have a hit single, Bongo Rock, on Original Sound.  Singer Louis Poliemon’s sole credit seems to be this LP which is a spare production featuring singing and bongo, a combo that quickly proves tiresome.


CST 166/1959

A later Crown LP with generic back cover.  Found these credits on the Internet for the musicians:

  • Bass – Tomas Rosas
  • Congas – Angel Parez
  • Flute – Tino La Tino
  • Flute-alto-baritone – Ralph Cacho
  • Piano – Louis Norelli
  • Solo Conga – Tito Rivera
  • Timbales – Chicky Yslas
  • Trumpet – Marcus Cabuto, Margo Mendoza, Mike Akopoff
  • Vocals – Willie Vargas


CLP 5237 CST 244/1961 (?)

Unable to find anything about this LP or artist.  This LP’s mono & stereo numbers are misidentified in Both Sides Now discography as Roosevelt Sykes Sings the Blues.  Solid recording with full sound if you like the mambo, cha cha type Latin percussive jazz.


CST 192/1960

This LP has 2397 scratched on the vinyl as well as CST 192.  Great cover but no credits on the generic back and nothing about Tito Guerrera on the Internet.  Recording’s a bit echoey, as if the band was playing in a huge bathroom, but otherwise Arriba is a fine companion to several of the other mambo, cha cha’s on this list.


CST 187/1960

Another awesome bongo cover from Crown and the first real hip record in this collection; it’s well worth having in your collection.  No back cover credits but the following musicians are listed on the front: Tony Reyes, Tommy Tedesco, Darias, Carlos Mejia, Eddie Cano, Larry Bunker & Buddy Collette.

I present Bongosville, perfect title for a perfect tune.  Finally, a Latin Crown with cool music to match a cool cover.


CST 171/1959

One of Crown’s red vinyl “StereoDiscs” complete with “This Is Stereo” explanation on the back plus John Marlo expounding on the cha cha cha in his liner notes, J Tauber photography & Charles Meggs cover design. If you like cha cha cha then you’ll love this well recorded LP with a full, warm stereo sound.  Side one has 5 generic Latin cha cha’s while side two has cha cha versions of several Modern hits, like BB King’s Woke Up This Morning, Cherry Pie & Eddie My Love.  Crazy cha chas here with the Biharis going full tilt to make $$ off their publishing. Great Latin band though. Take a listen to Woke Up This Morning & Eddie My Love:


CLP 5146/1960

An early Crown with John Marlo’s somewhat informative liner notes, revealing that Dave Bacal was staff organist on “Stump the Authors,” worked on the Jack Benny Program and “currently” improvises on Jack LaLanne’s exercise show–turns out that Marlo’s liner notes weren’t all bullshit as Bacal’s meager IMDB credits reveal.  LP cover photograph by Tom Kelley who was a glamor photographer of female stars from Hollywood’s classic era.  You can find out more about his work here where his son, Tom Jr., continues the tradition.


CLP 5109 CST 141/June 1958

Another Crown red vinyl StereoDiscos featuring part of same crew as Night In Madrid, the first LP on this post. This LP is a rare surprise: beautifully played flamenco guitar played by Jose Barroso who, according to the liner notes, didn’t pick up the guitar until age 39.


CLP 5043/1957

From the first year of Crown’s budget releases with uncredited liner notes, Todd Walker photography (unfocused!), Florette’s double credits of art direction and production.

There’s a wickedly entertaining and harsh review of this LP and Crown itself here. The fact is that his LP isn’t any worse or better than any of the LPs on this page.

There are definitely some ghastly over dramatized mambo-esque tunes on this LP but this last cut on the LP features some blistering guitar if you can make it through the first half.  Good luck!


CLP 5274/1962

And finally, another Crown cheapie better suited for the Bihari Latin label Discos Coronos.  Mariachi music, from start to finish. You like, you play.  You don’t like, you toss.


2 thoughts on “Bongo Madness & Beyond

  1. Well, it isn’t quite true that Don Ralke was responsible for the “Golden Throats” series; the guys at Rhino put those together after-the-fact from a variety of sources. But he did produce the original William Shatner album “The Transformed Man” and other records by non-singers, including Lorne Greene’s “Ringo,” Edd ‘Kookie’ Byrnes’ “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb,” and the LP by the Beach Boys’ dad, Murray Wilson. He also arranged and conducted many of the strings-sex-and-schmaltz albums by the “Mystic Moods Orchestra.”

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