From Randy McNutt's Spinning the Groove: An A to ZGuide to the Lingo and Legacy of the Old Record Business
Then there was my memorable first record, pressed by King Records’ Royal Plastics division in Cincinnati. This was, as I recall, in 1970. (I was no more than a kid producer who didn’t know a biscuit from a band.) The label owner who released my record usually went to a Nashville plant or to RCA, but this time he wanted to rush-release my production. King offered to turn the custom order around in only a few days. When I first heard my record, I was disappointed. It sounded, well, I can’t describe it. Kind of flat. The next record I cut for another indie label was pressed at RCA. What a contrast. You could always tell a RCA pressing from others because its 45s were a little thinner. They played well, too. Of course a lot of the quality depended—and still does—on the mastering.
In Cincinnati, Royal Plastics was led by Howard Kessel, a grumpy guy and an original King investor. He once admitted to me that Royal’s records were not all that good compared to the products made in the more sophisticated, corporate-owned plants. This was due, he said, to Royal’s older presses. In the 1950s Royal had switched over from making 78-rpm discs to 45s and LPs. Some of the presses had been updated over the years, and others not. Fortunately, Royal’s press operators—consisting mainly of women but a few men too—knew how to make records. The middle-age women worked there for years. According to one outrageous legend, the old factory got so hot in summer that employees’ sweat ran onto the floors. One guy, who later became a top mastering engineer in Los Angeles, once told me that he saw a female press operator take off her blouse once and never miss a beat. I still don’t know if he was kidding.
Heat notwithstanding, they were an experienced lot, those King press people, good enough to crank out millions of James Brown discs and also the ones recorded by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and other R&B and country acts. By the late ’60s demand had become so great for Mr. Dynamite’s records that King farmed out some orders to RCA. I suppose the irascible Sydney Nathan, King’s president, hated to do it, but then he wanted to sell every record he could. By then Brown’s records were keeping the doors open—at both King and Royal Plastics.
Today, United in Nashville is still punching out the same good vinyl discs that it did for me back in the 1970s and ’80s. It is a survivor, and it is expanding.
The vinyl freaks out there want their discs and they want them now.