Founded in 845, the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company of Dubuque, Iowa, made everything from sports goods to pianos. In 1916, they decided to manufacture phonographs, and soon strated to produced records to play on them. Both record players and records sold well and, by the end of the Twenties, Brunswick, Columbia and Victor were the three major record companies in the United States.
In those early days, Brunswick labels had a variety of artists, such as Al Jolson, Duke Ellington. From 1930, when the parent company sold off the record label, Brunswick passed through a succession of owners – Warner Brothers, American Record Corporation and Columbia – acquiring along the way an impressive roster of stars including the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway and Bing Crosby. Bing Crosby, the Number 1 Artist in the pre-rock era, was under Brunswick from 1931 to 1934; after that he was switched over to Decca, where he remained.
By the early Forties, Brunswick was in the hands of Decca who, in the Fifties, used it as its principal rock ‘n’ roll outlet through its Coral Records subsidiary. In 1956 Buddy Holly and the Crickets joined the Brunswick family, along with many fine stars such as Terry Noland and Bob Montgomery.
In 1957 Nat Tarnopol joined Brunswick as head of A&R, bringing with him a singer he managed – Jackie Wilson. The story goes that Decca, who signed Wilson, didn’t want the raunchy sound of Rhythm and blues to be associated with the parent company, so moved him to Brunswick. Buddy Holly, it’s claimed, was placed there for the same reason – when they first heard his demos, Decca executives assumed he was black!
Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite was a great success, going up to No. 6 in the UK (where it initially appeared on Coral and would become a single chart-topper three decades later). The song’s success not only transformed the fortunes of the label; it funded the dreams of its co-author Berry Gordy, who used the royalties he earned from the song’s sales to found Motown and write the next chapter in rhythm and blues history.
Under Tarnopol’s guidance Brunswick concentrated on R&B, launching the career of the Chi-Lites, among others. Brunswick separated from Decca in 1972 and operated independently with Tarnopol at the helm until its demise in 1982.
This 2 CD set contains 50 songs, well remastered and clean in sound. The song listing (with chart positions in UK and US) is as follows:
01 That ‘ll Be The Day – Buddy Holly & The Crickets (UK, uncharted)(US 1/1957)
02 Hey Baby Let’s Go Downtown – Joe Therrien & His Rockets (UK & US, uncharted)* rare gem
03 Reet Petite – Jackie Wilson (UK 6/1957; UK 1/1986)(US 62/1957)
04 Watch Your Step – Chuck & Bill (UK & US, uncharted)
05 This Is It – Paris Brothers (UK & US, uncharted)
06 Ten Little Women – Terry Noland (UK & US, uncharted)
07 Early In The Morning – The Ding Dongs (UK, uncharted)(US 24/1958) in US the group was named Rinky-Dinks with lead singer Bobby Darin
08 Is That All To The Ball Mr. Hall – Billy Lee Riley (UK & US, uncharted)
09 The Wild One – Johnny O’Keefe (UK & US, uncharted)
10 Lookie Lookie Lookie – Ronnie Smith (UK & US, uncharted)
11 Not Fade Away – Buddy Holly & The Crickets (UK & US, uncharted) 1957
12 Come On Baby – Youngtones (UK & US, uncharted)
13 Hey Ruby – Arthur Osborne (UK & US, uncharted)
14 That’s Why (I Love You So) – Jackie Wilson (UK, uncharted)(US 13/1959)
15 Cast Iron Arm – Peanuts Wilson (UK & US, uncharted)* rare gem – used to belong to the group Teen Kings, which split when their guitarist – one Roy Orbison – went solo
16 My Darling Forever – Rosie (UK & US, uncharted)
17 I Wanna Bop – Billy Harlan (UK & US, uncharted)
18 Listen Kitten – Freddie Neil (UK & US, uncharted)* rare gem – later composed Nilsson’s hit Everybody’s Talkin’
19 When Sin Stops – Waylon Jennings (UK & US, uncharted) Country great
20 When You Ask About Love – Crickets (UK 27/1960)(US, uncharted)* rare gem – the flip side is one of my all-time favourite song Deborah
21 Whistle My Love – The Pips (UK & US, uncharted)
22 Little Ole You – Wayne Walker (UK & US, uncharted)
23 Sputnik (Satellite Girl) – Jerry Engler (UK & US, uncharted)* rare gem – one hit wonder; used to open for Buddy Holly
24 Wiggle Wiggle – The Acents (UK, uncharted)(US 51/1959)* rare gem – novelty song
25 Taste Of The Blues – Bob Montgomery (UK & US, uncharted)
01 Oh Boy! – The Crickets (UK 3/1957)(US 10/1958)
02 Hypnotized – Terry Noland (UK & US, uncharted)
03 Schoolhouse Rock – Billy Harlan (UK & US, uncharted)
04 Lonely Teardrops – Jackie Wilson (UK, uncharted)(US 7/1958)
05 Rockin’ On The Moon – Billy Lee Riley (UK & US, uncharted)
06 You’ve Got Love – Peanuts Wilson (UK & US, uncharted)
07 Flip Flop And Fly – Johnny Bell (UK & US, uncharted)
08 Now We’re One – The Ding Dongs (UK & US, uncharted)* rare gem
09 Shake Baby Shake – Johnny O’Keefe (UK & US, uncharted)
10 Little Ditty Baby – Don Webb (UK & US, uncharted)
11 Wheels – Joe Therrien Jr. (UK & US, uncharted)
12 Sunshine – The Ives (UK & US, uncharted)
13 Way Out There – Chuck & Bill (UK & US, uncharted)
14 My Heart Let Me Be Free – Augie Austin & The Chromatics (UK & US, uncharted)
15 The Way I Am – Jackie Wilson (UK, uncharted)(US 58/1961)
16 Don’t Cha Know – Lou Giordano (UK & US, uncharted)
17 Who Dat – The Commodores (UK & US, uncharted)
18 Maybe Baby – Buddy Holly & The Crickets (UK, uncharted)(US 17/1958)
19 Midnight Monsters Hop – Jack & Jim (UK & US, uncharted)
20 More & More – Neil Stevens & The Dee Vines (UK & US, uncharted)
21 Jole Blon – Waylon Jennings (UK & US, uncharted)
22 Deborah – The Crickets (UK & US, uncharted)* rare gem – one of my all-time favourite song; flip side to When You Ask About Love; I love this song so much that I named my daughter Deborah; I told my son Jonathan that he should be happy that I did not name him Elvis)
23 Lonely Blue Nights – Rosie (UK & US, uncharted)
24 O Tell Me – The Youngtones (UK & US, uncharted)
25 Goodnight Irene – The Treniers (UK & US, uncharted)
I personally have purchased the entire British Hit Parade series, from 1954 to 1961, which contained every charted a side singles that entered the UK chart during those years. I am glad to find that in this current The Brunswick Story, many rare songs, which I have been searching for, have not charted, thus a welcome new addition to my library.
The label is One Day Music, a re-issue label from UK, also has other similar releases, such as The Top Rank Story 1960 & 1961 (each 2 CDs)(reviewed elsewhere), Rave On: the Coral Story (2 CDs)(reviewed elsewhere) and The Pye International Story (2 CDs)(reviewed elsewhere)…these are the popular labels (Top Rank, Pye International, Coral and Brunswick) from the 60s.
If you like oldies from UK and US, this set is an enjoyable listening experience. But for collectors like myself, this set is like a goldmine with lots of rare gems. This set with such a cheap price is recommended, especially for collectors.
You might have thought that Brunswick was an anonymous subsidiary of US Decca (albeit with a proud history before being revived by Decca). You'd be wrong. One look at the cast list tells you otherwise. Two of the more exciting names of the fifties are nestling in that list: the Crickets, the group who defined the guitar or two, bass and drums, all singing (well they did in performances) model for the bands that were to emerge in the early to mid sixties and beyond i.e. Beatles etc.,etc., and, Jackie Wilson, one of the very best black vocalists from the time before soul music got called soul music.
For those who aren't aware, the recording history of Buddy Holly and the Crickets during '57 and '58 was not straightforward. A series of records credited to the Crickets, and starting with "That'll be the day" (included here) were released on Brunswick. At roughly the same time a series of records credited to Buddy Holly were released on Coral. In reality those records came from the same group at sessions held in Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. The "Crickets" recordings had the Picks vocal group in addition to Holly; the "Buddy Holly" tracks were usually without the Picks but sometimes had instrumental embellishment from Petty or his wife. That's a slight simplification but largely what happened.
The four "Buddy Holly and the Crickets" tracks appearing here were all "Crickets" releases and all also appeared on "The Chirping Crickets" album. All still sound fresh. If they sound this good now imagine what it was like hearing them for the first time back in the fifties. And imagine the effect on lads who would grow up to be Beatles, Stones, Hollies, etc. End of rave!
There are two tracks in this set credited to "The Crickets". These comprise both sides of the second single from the reconstituted Crickets after Holly's death. Both are very pleasing if not quite up to Holly level.
"Reet Petite", (co-written by Berry Gordy) was Jackie Wilson's first solo single following his departure from Billy Ward's Dominos. At the time it reached a much higher level in the UK Chart than its US equivalent. One of the classic R&B singles and possibly the best expression of joyous abandon you're going to find in popular music, it should be in everyone's collection. His third Brunswick single "Lonely teardrops" is less well known but it's another you should have, trust me. And Jackie's other two contributions to this set aren't far off the standard set by this pair.
Elsewhere the default mode throughout the set is somewhere between rockabilly and teen pop, with perhaps more of the former. Peanuts Wilson and Billy Lee Riley, two heroes of the rockabilly genre appear here, the former with his best known recording "Cast iron arm" and the latter with both sides of a single produced on a one off outage from Sun - Billy was unhappy with his management at the label. I'd also comment that the teen pop on offer here in general has more innocence about it than much of the more manufactured stuff.
A few tracks warrant extra comment:
- Johnny O'Keefe, writer and performer of "Wild One" was from Bondi Junction, Sydney, Australia. He and his band, the Dee Jays were on the bill on Holly and the Crickets only tour of Australia.
- The Ding Dongs were Bobby Darin and backing team. The same single was also released on Atco but credited to the Rinky Dinks. Another Decca sub, Coral also had Holly record both tracks which were issued as a single.
- The Waylon Jennings tracks featuring King Curtis on sax were produced by Holly not that long before he died.
- The Holly connections don't stop. The second number from Peanuts Wilson here (written by himself and Roy Orbison) appeared in a version by Holly & the boys on "The Chirping Crickets" album.
And that's about it. From all the preceding verbiage the word I remember is innocence. Pop music still had it in those days, or they did at Brunswick.