Portland’s 1950’s Xmas Record – Label Has Shady Past

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  • #36
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    Back in the 1980’s I was going through used records at “Nostalgia Antiques & Collectibles Mall” in Gresham. A record caught my eye. It was a R&R Christmas song that looked like it was pressed in the late 50’s. What really caused me to purchased it was the record company, which happened to be right here in Portland. I had never heard of the label before, at least locally. This record languished in my Christmas collection for the next 25 years with no information.

    The song was called “Rock And Roll Doll For Chistmas” with the flip side “Cause I’m In Love With You” by The Bob-O-Links featuring the voice of Jess Reynolds. Rocket 9498. Under the Rocket label it said “Record Co., Box 3896, Portland 8, Ore.” Now thanks to The Oregonian the story can be told and it’s an interesting one.

    The Bob-O-Links most likely made their first Portland appearance on July 24, 1956 at “The Grove” lounge at 11140 S.E. Powell. (today it’s: Whiskey City Rock Bar). They were said to be “Radio, Recording and TV Stars. The Grove brings you straight from in Las Vegas & Hollywood The Bob-O-Links, Rhythm with a Beat. Jess Reynolds, vocalist.”

    Then on January 26, 1958 an ad began running in the classifieds: “Rocket Record Recording Studio. Located at 5332 N.E. 32nd Place, now open to public. Low introductory recording rates. Job recordings received friendly co-operation. Also this is a nationally advertised label, and we want new songs and lyrics for consideration. Rockets now being broadcast all over U.S. and beyond to millions. Phone AT 2-1282, for appointment.”

    The ad ran on Sunday’s thru July 1958. Rocket Records was owned by 61 year old Cora I. Mayer who was the label President, which had its business in her home at 5332 N.E. 32nd Place. Mrs. Mayer was a musician, teacher and composer. She moved to Portland from Chicago in 1943.

    On March 12, 1959 it was reported that an inquiry into a complaint by a Chicago song writer that Rocket Records President, Mrs. Mayer “failed to perform advertised services in exploitation of the song he submitted.” A hearing was conducted by the United States Post Office Dept. to determine if a violation of postal regulations had occurred. William A. Duvall, Hearing Examiner gave Mrs. Mayer’s attorneys 25 days in which to file briefs.

    On August 15, 1959 it was reported a mail fraud order had been issued by Portland Post Master, Albert Hodler against Cora I. Mayer, as an alleged “song shark” enterprise under the names: Rocket Records, Rocket Record Manufacturing Co., Rocket Record Co., Rocket Recording Studios. By order of the office of the Deputy Postmaster General: “Fraudulent” would be written on the outside of all mail connected with this firm and returned to the local postmasters. It was mentioned that rarely had such fraud orders been issued in Portland.

    Roland A. Severtson, Portland Postal Inspector testified that the firm fraudulently advertised, song lyrics or songs would be evaluated and recorded by top professional musicians. The Postal Inspector submitted a lyric he wrote in 10 minutes and had received a glowing report. He then submitted a Wayne King song, “From Me To You,” and was told, “With my arrangement this can be a very good song.” 50 complains were received by the department. The firm charged $198.00. This included advertising and as the firm stated “the heavy costs of production.” Actual production costs were about $148.00 per recording.

    On January 2, 1960 Cora I. Mayer died at age 63 just four months after she was found guilty of fraud. It’s not mentioned what she died of but one can only wonder if she took her own life right after the holidays and a day after New Year began.

    Here’s more about songsharks from wikipedia: “Songshark is a slang term for a dishonest music publisher, whose main source of income is the naivete of new songwriters, whom they charge for services a reputable publisher would provide free to their clients.

    “Song shark” is the trade name for any individual, or firm who, with the deliberate intention to defraud, solicits business from amateur songwriters, advising them that by having music written to their lyrics, or vice versa, they will have a finished composition which will immediately be “snatched up” by a music publisher. Oftentimes, the song shark will himself claim to be a publisher, and will tell the songwriter that his only expense will be in “defraying half the costs of publication.”

    #2092
    Deane Johnson
    Participant

    Fascinating work as usual Craig.

    #2093
    msndrspdx
    Participant

    The first question that jumps to my mind is: Whatever happened to the Bob-O-Links after the USPO (now the USPS) issued the fradulent ruling against Rocket Records et. al? If I were the boys in that band, I would’ve sued Rocket for everything they had, including the masters and the copyrights that go with them! And how many of those Bob-O-Links 45’s are floasting around in the hands of collectors today? Best, M. 8)

    #2094
    semoochie
    Participant

    It seems to me that I once saw a TV episode about this subject. They made the same point, that a legitimate company wouldn’t charge for the service.

    #2095
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    msndrspdx: As far as I know, there isn’t anything more on the Bob-O-Links. Maybe there are other collectors that have the 45 that can comment. The Bob-O-Links are not listed in 45 price guides. The 45 might have only made it out into the Portland market.

    #2096
    msndrspdx
    Participant

    Perhaps unaware of all this, Elton John named his record company The Rocket Record Company in the 1970’s…best remembered for briefly bringing Kiki Dee to prominence…Best, M. 8)

    #2097
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    “Fascinating work as usual Craig.”

    Thanks Deane!

    “Perhaps unaware of all this, Elton John named his record company The Rocket Record Company in the 1970’s…best remembered for briefly bringing Kiki Dee to prominence…Best, M.”

    Yes, that’s why I said this: “I had never heard of the label before, at least locally.”

    The Rocket Records label name has been used in the past 60 years as well. There was a very small Rocket Records independent label in the 1950’s or 60’s with five 45 rpm issues.

    #2098
    pdxgary98
    Participant

    WOW that was really interesting and was wondering if any of the stations in town was playing the Bob-O-links at the time.

    #2099
    scowl
    Participant

    But what does the Christmas song sound like? With every other station playing non-stop awful Christmas music it should be easy to get it on the air.

    #2100
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    “Rock And Roll Doll For Christmas” which was composed by Portland writer Audrine Handa, runs 2:25 seconds. It begins with electric guiter riffs, which sounds very late 50’s Rock. Singer, Jess Reynolds of The Bob-O-Links is off key in the beginning but recovers. However this doesn’t save the song because of the heavy reverb on his voice and the fact that the music drowns out his singing almost entirely in spots. The musicians aren’t have bad but the reverb makes for a real mess on the music as well! At times I wondered if this recording was done at one of their performances but I really didn’t hear an audience. They might have recorded this in a venue after hours. I got the impression there were no accoustics!

    #2101
    semoochie
    Participant

    I can’t help but think I’ve heard of the Bob-O-Links but don’t remember why.

    #2102
    Deane Johnson
    Participant
    #2103
    msndrspdx
    Participant

    Craig, you should scan the labels on each side of that Bob-O-Links 45 and post links to ’em here or on the Stumptown Blogger… see if it rings any bells with anyone. Send ’em to Dirty Dave and Dave Stone over at KISN, too…see if it jogs their memory banks!

    Best, M. 8)

    #2104
    scowl
    Participant

    Are there any good lyrics? I bet a band will cover it!

    #2105
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    Deane: It says on your link The Bob-O-Links began in 1962. The group playing Portland was in 1956, so it’s probably a different band.

    msndrspdx: I’m one of the few without a scanner. My computer is eight years old and I’m too poor to buy anything right now.

    scowl: I will work on getting some of the lyrics posted here.

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