Friday, May 20, 2011

Sepia Saturday - Organ Magic

My second job, when I was 20 years old (about 1959), was at Tops Records. I was thrilled. I got to design record album covers (remember those?). Here's one of my creations that I found in a used record store. I also notice that it's for sale on Amazon. It's not exactly a masterpiece!  I used the old childrens technique of painting the background in bright colors and then coloring over it all in black crayon and scratching the design into the crayon.

I remember when they were trying to think of a name for the album someone suggested "The Majestic Organ" and all the men in the office laughed. I didn't get it until much later. (When I was a little more adult.)

Tops was a strange little record company that not only produced the records but actually made them right there in the same place as our office. We were upstairs and the hot wax was poured downstairs. I wonder if it was toxic?

It was the first record company to sell to drug stores and others that weren't just record stores. They had some famous artists who were a little out of fashion at the time, like Lena Horne for instance.

They also had some famous artists who were under contract to some other company and so used a pseudonym. I guess you would call it a cut- rate company. I didn't care, though because I got to design record covers.

One of my bosses was a well-known jazz saxophonist named Dave Pell. He was the A&R director- (artists and repertoire). He chose the music and the performers. He was a really nice guy who took me out for my first legal drink when I turned 21.

So just who is Kenneth Lane at the Magic Organ? I looked him up on Wikipedia:

Kermit "Ken" Lane (December 20, 1912 – November 23, 1996) was an American musician from Brooklyn, New York. He was best known to audiences as Dean Martin's pianist on The Dean Martin Show in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but was already well known in the film community before that.
With Irving Taylor, Lane co-wrote "Everybody Loves Somebody" in 1947. Frank Sinatra recorded it first, followed by Dinah Washington and Peggy Lee before Martin recorded it in 1964 and took it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in August of that year. It would be Lane's biggest hit as a composer. He also arranged the music for Tars and Spars, Monsieur Beaucaire, California, Ladies' Man, Champagne For Two, Smooth Sailing, and Paris In The Spring in 1946 and 1947.
Lane composed the music for Lucy Gets Lucky, a 1975 made-for-TV movie starring Lucille Ball.
Lane's daughter is rock singer Robin Lane of "Robin Lane and the Chartbusters."
Ken Lane also has a son, his name is (Christopher Kit Lane).
Lane died of emphysema in Lake Tahoe, California.

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Blue Heron said...

I beg to disagree. I think that it is a masterpiece. I hope that I get a chance to see more of your commercial work. I love album cover designers from the era, Gene Deitch and Eric Nitsche are two of my favorites.

Howard said...

Your album cover is excellent! you are being too modest. I am sure your artwork stands the test of time much better than the music on the record.

Food Smarts said...

Great design and beautiful cover. And you were so young!! How great to have been treated to your first legal drink by a celebrity. I hope you find more of your covers that you can share this way.

Brett Payne said...

Well, you may not think it a masterpiece, but I like it too. I always enjoyed those kids creations with wax crayons - while you had a good degree of control, you were never quite sure how it was going to come out - but I never could have produced something like this. I'm not surprised they used it for the cover, because it does create a kind of magic.


Lena Horne, out of fashion??????????
ok, i'm totally floored here....
Lena!! out of fashion...

i remember that technique, the sisters had us do it, crayons covered with black gouache, and scratching pretty pictures. that was fun, if not as fancy as your work here.

fun post!!

Postcardy said...

I love your album cover. Does your name appear on the cover?

Seeing the records being made must have seemed like magic too.

MuseSwings said...

Beautiful! It is a masterpiece and I bet Ken Lane loved it too.

Little Nell said...

That is a gorgeous album cover; you should be proud. I don’t recognise many of the tracks. I’m not a great fan of organ music I must admit but I loved the organ joke!

Bob Scotney said...

A beautiful cover and one to be treasured. Even a non-musically minded fellow like me had heard of Lena Horne back then.

Tattered and Lost said...

I had forgotten about that technique. It worked beautifully for this image. The music is magical.

barbara and nancy said...

Thank you all for the compliments.

About Lena Horne- I shouldn't have said she was out of favor. She was still doing nightclub acts and appearing on lots of T.V. shows but apparently wasn't under contract with any record companies. Otherwise I don't see how Tops could have recorded her. Maybe she was a friend of Dave Pells.

Kristin said...

You took crayon scratch art to new heights. And happy to hear Lena Horne wasn't out of favor in 1959!

L. D. Burgus said...

Excellent cover. I have been gone from posting comments for awhile. I will have to catch up.

California Girl said...

what an interesting piece on your early life in design, not to mention the record world.


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