Saturday, December 17, 2011

Regional Record Labels, Pt. 1

Regional Labels, Part 1
The Cincinnati Connection

By Randy McNutt

Regional record companies flourished in the halcyon days of Top 40 radio, primarily the 1960s. Many local radio stations were willing to play high-quality singles released by local and regional labels. By the late '60s, however, this cooperation had begun to fade. Pressed by increasing radio competition,  stations decided to play mostly big-label releases. The days of local labels scoring hits in their towns was ending.

Independent, commercial radio labels were of two varieties: local and regional. Local labels operated out of a hometown or one city, and didn't try to seek radio play in a wide geographic area. Regional labels did seek airply through a whole state or several states. But they did not seek national airplay.

Some local labels developed into regional ones. And a few made the jump from regional to national. But most of their owners were content to remain small. They knew their market and its influential disc jockeys, distributors, studio owners, musicians, and other music people. When I was growing up in Hamilton, Ohio, in the 1960s, I assumed the Counterpart label in Cincinnati was national because its records were played on the area's No. 1 Top 40 station, WSAI. From the mid-'60s through the mid-'70s, Counterpart released singles by rock bands such as the Mark V, the New Lime, Canon, the Grey Imprint, and other groups.

Counterpart owner Shad O'Shea worked the telephones, seeking regional airplay. He sold tens of thousands of singles over the years, usually selling from 1,000 to 5,000 copies of a hot rock single in the mid-'60s. Sometimes he received offers from larger labels--Laurie, Monument, SSI International, Columbia, Capitol, RCA, and others--to release the records nationally.

A 45-rpm Counterpart sleeve from the mid-1970s.

Counterpart Records

Founded by WCPO Radio disc jockey Shad O'Shea in 1963, Counterpart Records released singles aimed at the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana region, focusing primarily on the larger cities of Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio; Louisville and Lexington in Kentucky; and Indianapolis and rural parts of Indiana.

That year O'Shea also formed Counterpart Music, BMI, which owned the publishing for many of the label's songs. He operated his companies from his home in suburban Cincinnati until 1970, when opened Counterpart Creative Studios at 3744 Applegate Ave. in Cheviot, a small city on the west side of Cincinnati. He moved the publishing company and the record label into the studio's office. From this studio he would record many of his label's singles. He also recorded his own singles. A prolific producer, O'Shea (real name Howard Lovdal) wrote and recorded many novelties under various names, including his own.

By 1975, when O'Shea purchased the national Fraternity Records name from founder Harry Carlson, times had grown tough for local and regional labels. Radio had tightened its playlists. O'Shea continued to use the Counterpart label, but only sporadically. He focused on Fraternity and a new label, the Applegate Recording Society.

When he semi-retired in the mid-2000s, he sold his publishing interests, his label names, and masters to a New York music producer. Today, the Counterpart name is rarely used.

A subsidiary label of Counterpart, 1970s.

Vocalist Wayne Perry takes a break during a
session at Counterpart Creative Studios, the
home of Counterpart Records. When this picture
was taken in the summer of 1973, Perry was there to remake
the New Lime's "The Only Thing To Do." 

Beast Records

Strictly a local label in Cincinnati, Beast Records was founded by Randy McNutt in 1973. Its one and only release was "Gonna Have A Good Time"/"Pain" by Little Flint.

This was actually performed by two groups, the newly formed Little Flint ("Pain") and the Chamberly Kids ("Good Time") from Lebanon, Ohio. The Kids recorded another version of "Good Time" but it was not released. A compact disc album now in preparation by a New York label features the Kids' version as well as Little Flint's. The Kids featured highly talented Rick "Bam" Powell, a high school senior who sang and played drums. Both songs featured 17-year-old sideman Terry Hoskins on Hammond B-3 organ and veteran sideman Roger "Jellyroll" Troy on bass. Unfortunately, by 1973 the local radio market was all but excluding local labels from the air, and the Beast label quickly came and went. It was pressed and distributed by Counterpart using A-1 Distribution in Cincinnati.

Candee Records

Owned by popular WLW talk-show host and songwriter Ruth Lyons, Candee Records was named after her daughter. It was both a local and regional pop label in that it was based in Cincinnati, and used for a local audience, but it also served other cities in the region where Lyons' 50-50 Club was shown on television and heard on radio, including Louisville, Lexington, Indianapolis, and Columbus.

According to author Michael Banks, Candee was incorporated on March 4, 1959, as Candee Enterprises. Principals were Ruth Lyons Newman, president and director; her husband, Herman Newman, vice president and director; Candy Newman, director; and Ronald J. Coffey, secretary and director. Coffee, probably Lyons' attorney, was based at 603 Dixie Terminal Building with another attorney, Donald G. Rowlings, who was Miss Lyons' lawyer.

Banks said the corporation was dissolved on April 28, 1965. Miss Lyons, who wrote "Wasn't the Summer Short?" by Johnny Mathis and numerous other locally recorded songs, never registered Candee as a trademark, Banks said.

The company released some 45s and albums, mainly with Christmas music. Pressing and recording was often done at King Records in Cincinnati.

Tip-Toe Records

Cincinnati's Bill Watkins, a rockabilly and country singer since the 1950s, founded the Tip-Toe label in the early 1970s and operated it sporadically until the early 1980s. He named the yellow label after his 16-track recording studio that he operated in the basement of his home in suburan Colerain Township. He lived here with his wife and studio partner, Axie Watkins.

Watkins released his own material on the label as well as that of other artists who recorded at the Tip-Toe Recording Studio. The label was local, although Watkins' singles became known to rockabillly collectors around the world.

Watkins recorded two rockabilly albums in the Tip-Toe studio, one for the Rockhouse label in Holland ain 1988 nd the other for the Gee-Dee label in Germany in the early 1990s. Several singles were released from sessions at Tip Toe, including "Red Cadillac" and "Cowboy" on Randy McNutt's General Store Records. By the early 1980s, however, all activity had ceased on Tip Toe Records.

More regional and local labels will be covered in later blogs.

No comments: