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mjzee

Savoy label question

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Who were Savoy's big sellers in the '50's - the ones that kept the company afloat?  We know that most releases don't make money, but certain artists sell enough to keep the label going.  Blue Note had Jimmy Smith and Horace Silver; Prestige had Miles, Red Garland, Coltrane; Riverside had Wes and Bill Evans; who were Savoy's big money makers?

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Offhand, I'd say the chart hitters' list included Johnny Otis and Little Esther in the early 50s, and later on Varetta Dillard, Big Maybelle and Nappy Brown, And no doubt there were more but that would need some more research.
Remember Savoy was primarily a R&B label, not a pure jazz label.
 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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Savoy had many, many top jazz artists in the 1950's. Biggest money maker IMHO was Charlie Parker. Other money makers included Kenny Clarke, Curtis Fuller, Errol Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Marian McPartland and Fats Navarro.

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But what was their REAL money making performance compared to the Savoy R&B chart artists (at the tirme of their recordings)?

 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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28 minutes ago, Chuck Nessa said:

Gospel kept the company afloat.

True, but didn't this start in earnest only in the LATE 50s?

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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I sure hope that Curtis Fuller's Savoy albums sold well. They are excellent.

Savoy also put out several Yusef Lateef albums in the 1950s, which are also excellent.

It was in the mid-50s that they assembled all of Bird's Savoy recordings onto several LPs. Rudy van Gelder did the transfers. Those LPs must have been big sellers.

This gives me an excuse again to request a Mosaic set of selected 1950s Savoy sessions up to Curtis Fuller's last session in 1960. There is a lot of material there and one would have to be selective. In no particular order, I would include the sessions of Milt Jackson (with Lucky Thompson), Yusef Lateef, Wilbur Harden (with Trane) and Kenny Clarke's "Bohemia After Dark" session, introducing Cannonball. I can't avoid feeling frustration that, instead of this, sets by Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan (of widely-published recordings) were planned. But, I do wish them well.

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Excellent for sure, but again - how did these jazz recordings do revenue-wise compared to the actual chart hits that the label had? I have a feeling excellence is too easily equated with (absolute) big sellers (wishful thinking?) whereas in fact the relative sales (though good by jazz album standards) may still have been small compared to chart successes which did bring in the money. "Must have been big sellers" just appears a bit vague to me when it comes to QUANTIFYING sales revenue. 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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12 minutes ago, Chuck Nessa said:

Gospel kept the company afloat.

Chuck is right about gospel and Savoy.  

Some of the biggest sellers in the R&B genre for Savoy were as follows, with rankings within each year from the "Hot Chart" compiled by Big Al Pavlow in his "The R & B Book.  A Disc-History of Rhythm & Blues."  Based on this information, their biggest sellers in the pop field were likely Johnny Otis, Paul Williams, Varetta Dillard, and Nappy Brown.

1948:  

  • Hal Singer.  Cornbread.  #9 (#45 on 1943-1949 Top Records)
  • Paul Williams.  Thirty-Five Thirty.  #33
  • Paul Williams.  Waxey Maxie.  #65
  • Brownie McGhee.  My Fault.  #79
  • Don Byas.  September Song.  #85
  • Don Byas.  London-Donnie.  #87

1949:

  • Paul Williams.  The Huckle-Buck.  #1 (#4 on 1943-1949 Top Records)
  • Big Jay McNeely.  The Deacon's Hop.  #15. (#81 on 1943-1949 Top Records)
  • Billy Wright.  Blues For My Baby/You Satisfy.  #39
  • X-Rays.  I'll Always Be in Love With You.  #58
  • Felix Gross.  Love For Christmas.  #69
  • Hal Singer.  Beef Stew.  #83
  • Paul Williams.  He lKnows How to Hucklebuck/House Rocker. #95

1950:

  • Johnny Otis.  Double Crossing Blues.  #2 (#6 on 1950-1954 Top Records; #70 on 1950-1959 Top Records)
  • Johnny Otis.  Mistrustin' Blues/Misery.  #8 (#36 on 1950-1954 Top Records, #135 on 1950-1959 Top Records)
  • Johnny Otis.  Cupid's Boogie.  #12 (#60 on 1950-1954 Top Records, #193 on 1950-1959 Top Records)
  • Johnny Otis.  Deceivin' Blues.  #30 (#131 on 1950-1954 Top Records)
  • Johnny Otis.  Wedding Boogie/Far Away Blues.  #36 (#146 on 1950-1954 Top Records)
  • Johnny Otis.  Dreaming' Blues.  #73
  • Johnny Otis.  If It's So Baby/If I Didn't Love You So.  #97

1951:

  • Johnny Otis.  Rockin' Blues.  #12 (#45 on 1950-1954 Top Records, #158 1950-1959 Top Records)
  • Johnny Otis.  Gee Baby/Mambo Boogie.  #22 (#95 on 1950-1954 Top Records)
  • Four Buddies.  I Will Wait.  #27
  • Johnny Otis.  All Nite Long.  #49
  • Billy Wright. Stacked Deck.  #80
  • Billy Wright.  Heh, Little Girl.  #89

1952:

  • Varetta Dillard.  Easy Easy Baby.  #48
  • Johnny Otis.  Sunset to Dawn.  #89

1953:

  • Varetta Dillard.  Mercy, Mr. Percy.  #36. (#137 on 1950-1954 Top Records)
  • Emitt Slay Trio.  My Kind of Woman.  #62

1955:

  • Nappy Brown.  Don't Be Angry.  #10. (#72 on 1955-1959 Top Records)
  • Varetta Dillard.  Johnny Has Gone.  #41
  • Nappy Brown.  Pidily Patter Patter.  #59

1956:

  • Big Maybelle.  Candy.  #74

1957:

  • Jive Bombers.  Bad Boy.  #56
  • Nappy Brown.  Little By Little.  #72

1958:

  • Nappy Brown.  It Don't Hurt No More.  #61

 

 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, jazztrain said:

Chuck is right about gospel and Savoy.  

 

No doubt, but since the question was about the 50s, isn't it so that the Savoy discographies show that the BULK of the gospel releases on Savoy occurred from 1958 ONWARDS? I.e. gospel as a money earner rather concerned the 60s?

 

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I've long been under the impression that Lubinsky ran such a hardcore "shoestring" operation that they didn't really have to have "big sellers" to stay afloat.

FWIW, I remember as late as the early 1970s seeing Down beat classified ads offering a Savoy catalog for a dime. By then, though, they were doing Gospel almost exclusively. The product was in record stores in a way that the jazz records weren't (if there were any, they were Bird).

It was funny, though, every so often, a Savoy LP would turn up in the cutout bins, and they'd always be old-school thick vinyl and equally thick cardboard jackets and OG labels.

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I remember a huge shipment of Savoy 78s on sale at one of the London stores (Collets?) in the mid 1970s. A veritable time capsule, by all accounts.

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1 hour ago, Big Beat Steve said:

I have a feeling excellence is too easily equated with (absolute) big sellers (wishful thinking?) .

Alas, certainly is wishful thinking much of the time.  My understanding is that this stone classic sold under 1000 copies when originally released, which is why his other albums stayed in the can for 30 years.

Image result for tina brooks true blue

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17 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

I remember a huge shipment of Savoy 78s on sale at one of the London stores (Collets?) in the mid 1970s. A veritable time capsule, by all accounts.

And DeeGees too. Their stocks lasted: I bought a handful of mint 78 rpm Savoys and DeeGees at Ray's Jazz Shop as late as in 1998. They must have been the last bits of that same stock. A bit of the story behind it is told somewhere in "Going For a Song" by Garth Cartwright IIRC.

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Just now, Big Beat Steve said:

And DeeGees too. Their stocks lasted: I bought a handful of mint 78 rpm Savoys and DeeGees at Ray's Jazz Shop as late as in 1998. They must have been the last bits of that same stock. A bit of the story behind it is told somewhere in "Going For a Song" by Garth Cartwright IIRC.

That’s right - the DeeGee label too. Collets of course the direct ancestor of ‘Ray’s’. Didn’t realise that they lasted to 1998 (!) but there again, I wouldn’t have seen them as I never checked out the 78s.

Must have a re-read of the Garth book..

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7 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

Collets of course the direct ancestor of ‘Ray’s’. Didn’t realise that they lasted to 1998 (!) but there again, I wouldn’t have seen them as I never checked out the 78s.

It may well be that they at one moment unearthed a box full of 78s from that Collet's stock that had been forgotten for years and then put it up in the shop.
I noticed that cache of 78s in one of the racks in the basement (Blues & Roots dept. IIRC, not far from the "Rare as Rocking Horse Manure" :D crate with the pricy items) during my visit in 1998. But though I regularly made the rounds at the London record shops each year from 1992 to 2000 but I do not really recall having seen those 78s at Ray's before 1998.

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Sounds like a very plausible theory.

I remember that downstairs ‘Blues and Roots’ dept. but don’t think I ever went down there by choice. I do recall that there was always a sonic battle going on between the loud bluesy stuff belted out of the downstairs speakers swamping out the subtleties of Bird and Tristano etc. from the ground floor system.  :D

Didn’t the book say that Ray’s friend Charlie Watts bought a load of those Parker 78s?

Edited by sidewinder

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10 hours ago, sidewinder said:

I remember a huge shipment of Savoy 78s on sale at one of the London stores (Collets?) in the mid 1970s. A veritable time capsule, by all accounts.

I saw them there in 1964.  In stacks on the floor. And I think it was Collets. 

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