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

This article was originally printed in Goldmine, the music collector's magazine
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The arrangements and musicianship on most budget-label recordings arguably captured the feel of the original hit records, but the session vocalists often went astray when trying to imitate the singing style of the performers on the original hits. This was especially true when rock & roll surfaced in the mid-’50s. Some record labels, such as Allegro-Elite, would state “many top name artists” on their record jackets, but the artists’ names were not listed — or were fictitious — with good reason!

The glory days for Waldorf Music Hall, Inc., singers and musicians may have been behind them, but they turned out some great music for the “8 Top Hit” series. The cover art got me interested, but the music won me over. In addition to Enoch Light’s own Light Brigade Orchestra, the label enjoyed the services of Vincent Lopez and His Hotel Taft Orchestra, as well as orchestras helmed by Bobby Byrne, Joe Leahy, Will Bradley, Van Alexander, Paul Whiteman and Ray Bloch. All of these groups had solid reputations in the music industry. For the series, their primary purpose was to support the vocalists, but occasionally, they had the opportunity to perform popular instrumental pieces, such as “Autumn Leaves” (33-18) and “Lisbon Antigua” (33-22) performed by the Vincent Lopez Orchestra; the “Poor People of Paris” (33-25) and “Canadian Sunset” (33-30) performed by the Enoch Light Orchestra; and “Blue Skies” (33-40) performed by the Ray Bloch Orchestra. Based on the music charts at the time, Waldorf’s “8 Top Hits” series ran from January 1954 through December 1957. Over that four-year period, 384 pop and rock tunes were “covered.” With superb musicians behind them, the vocalists’ talents were very evident on the pop-oriented hits of the day; and, somewhat surprisingly, equally so on many, but not all, of the more rockin’ hits.

This article was originally printed in Goldmine, the music collector’s magazine.
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Kudos go to most of the label’s vocalists, who aimed at maintaining the integrity of the original hits without resorting to imitation. They didn’t copy the originals, note for note, nor did they try to sound like the singers who had the hits. By offering their own interpretations, the results were fresh and enjoyable. Who are we talking about? You might be surprised to learn that Waldorf’s roster of vocalists was quite impressive: Bob Eberly, the smooth pop singer who was the featured singer with the Jimmy Dorsey Band; the world-famous Ink Spots; Artie Malvin, who starred with the Glenn Miller AAF Band and was a member of the Ray Charles Singers; Keith and Sylvia Textor, founders of The Honeydreamers, a harmony vocal group, and members of Fred Waring & His Pennsyvanians; Loren Becker, an early winner on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts; Lois Winters, a member of the Perry Como vocal group; Jerry Duane, a singer with the Gene Krupa Band and a member of The Hitparaders; and Mike Stewart, featured in the well-known Texaco Quartet.

Other names appearing frequently in the series were Jimmie Blaine, Trudy Richards, Margie Murphy, Dottie Evans and The Larsen Sisters. In addition to many of their own cuts on the “8 Top Hits” series LPs, choral support was provided by several in-house vocal groups: The Brigadier Quartet, The Zig Zags, The Rhythm Rockets and The Monarchs. It wouldn’t be possible to highlight the contributions of all of the singers in the series, but If I don’t mention how some of the singers handled their assignments, I wouldn’t be telling the whole story. Between them, Artie Malvin and Loren Becker, the principal male songsters, received the lion’s share of the work, recording 160 tunes.

Each of them shared a good number of both pop-oriented and rock and roll songs. If you get the opportunity, give a listen to Malvin sing Bill Haley’s “Rock-A-Beatin’ Boogie” (33-20), Johnny Ace’s “Pledging My Love” (33-11) and Buddy Knox’s “Rock Your Little Baby To Sleep” (33-42). Good stuff!

At first blush, you wouldn’t think of having a group as renowned as The Ink Spots crank out a couple of rhythm and blues songs. But if your expectations aren’t unreasonable, they don’t disappoint on La Vern Baker’s “Jim Dandy” (33-38) and Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” (33-37). On the distaff side of Waldorf’s roster, the ladies proved every bit as good as their male counterparts. How could you not enjoy Sylvia Textor’s smooth stylings on Patti Page’s “Mama From The Train” (33-34), Kay Starr’s “My Heart Reminds Me” and Jane Morgan’s “Fascination” (both on 33-45) and Eileen Rodgers “Miracle Of Love” (33-33). Dottie Evans, the principal female singer with 40 songs recorded, rocked with the best of them on La Vern Baker’s “Tweedlee Dee” (33-10) and Etta James’ “Dance With Me Henry” (33-12) but changed pace very nicely with Gogi Grant’s “The Wayward Wind” (33-28), Julie London’s “Cry Me A River” (33-22) and Joan Weber’s “Let Me Go Lover” (33-08). Bob Eberly was an exceptional ballad singer.

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

All 18 songs he recorded for the “8 Top Hits” series are wonderful examples of his talent, including types of songs that most fans would not associate with him, such as Pat Boone’s “Love Letters In The Sand” (33-42) and “April Love” (33-47). His renditions of Clyde McPhatter’s “Without Love (There is Nothing)” (33-40) and Nat “King” Cole’s uptempo tune “Send For Me” (33-44) are excellent, and Frank Sinatra would smile if he heard Eberly’s take on “All The Way” (33-47). Interestingly, Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” (33-26) gets a smooth, bluesy touch and it is so good. I loved it!

As a teen in the ’50s, I grew up listening to the pop, rock and roll and rhythm and blues songs that make up most of Waldorf Music Hall’s “8 Top Hits” series. As an adult, my musical tastes have expanded, but I love and still listen to the music of that era.

All the while I was completing my collection of the 48 “8 Top Hits” series LPs, I learned that it’s not always necessary to have the original hits by the original artists to enjoy good music. People like me who bought budget label LPs, whether then or now, may have been looking for a bargain or were more interested in the cover art ­— but in the end, they got more than they bargained for, without knowing it at the time. I know I did. Rather than dismiss an opportunity out of hand, if you happen to see one of Waldorf Music Hall’s “8 Top Hits” LPs at a show or on eBay, take a chance and add it to your collection. You don’t know what you might be missing.


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