Hunting Waldorf Music Hall label’s dime-store vinyl records a satisfying quest

Written by Bill Bronk

On a fine summer day back in 1957, a music lover walked into a Woolworth’s Department Store in western New York, strolled over to the record department, and for 99 cents bought a compilation of songs titled “8 Top Hits” (catalog  MH 33-44) on the Waldorf Music Hall label. Waldorf was one of a number of ’50s budget-label record companies and had an exclusive arrangement to sell their records through Woolworth’s. The eight songs on the 10-inch LP reflected what was then current on the national hit parade charts. None of the cuts, however, were performed by the original artists. In December 2010, 53 years after it was first sold by Woolworth’s, I bought the LP in question from an eBay vendor in Syracuse, N.Y., for $11, bringing to an end a long, sometimes frustrating, but fruitful search to add all 48 of Waldorf’s “8 Top Hits” series LPs to my vinyl collection (MH 33-1 through 33-48).

Goldmine Fabulous Fifties with Elvis & Friends CD
Goldmine Fabulous Fifties with Elvis & Friends CD

I started collecting Waldorf’s “8 Top Hit” series LPs (subtitled “Hits Hits Hooray”) in the ’70s, along with such titles as “12 Top Hits,” “America’s Top Tunes,” “Hits A Poppin’” and “Tops In Pops,” all of which were produced by other budget-label record companies. As a fledgling record collector, back then I frequented garage sales, flea markets and record shows – prime places to find budget-label records. More recently, the Internet and eBay proved to be invaluable in completing my collection.

There were other budget label record companies that used the popular “8 Top Hits” title for their LPs, including Masterseal out of New York City (which also released LPs under the name Plymouth), and Record Company of America (not to be confused with the major-label RCA) out of Union City, N.J., which cut its records under the name Ultraphonic,  Allegro Elite and Halo.

Initially, it was the cover art that attracted me to these “dime-store” records. It often showed pictures of jukeboxes, record players and dancing teenagers. But while the title “8 Top Hits” might not be unique to Waldorf Music Hall, the quality of the music it produced was; it differed greatly from the quality on other budget labels. With some exceptions, such as Fred Freda, Gloria Clark, Jimmy Perry & Les Young, and other vocalists who recorded with Don Raleigh and his Orchestra and Jack Hansen and his Orchestra on Masterseal Records “8 Top Hits“ LPs, much of the vocal output on other budget labels ranged from laughable to reasonable to surprisingly good – sometimes on the same LP.

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