Sunday, June 22, 2014

Amy Records: Midnight Mary

During the fourth week of the month, we feature a specific American record label. Some of these have been small independents or subsidiary labels of a major label. Today, we begin a week long look at Amy Records – a subsidiary of Bell Records. Formed in 1960, the label primarily produced singles, as their artists’ albums mostly were issued on the Bell imprint, but a handful of albums on Amy were released.

Bell was founded by Arthur Shimkin who started the children’s label Golden Records in 1948. If you were like me, I had several of the yellow plastic Golden Records that had the label printed into the plastic. Similar to Golden Records, the early Bell and Amy releases were pressed in polystyrene that was injected into the mold.

In addition, most of these early releases had the label printed directly to the plastic. This proved problematic, as the record’s info generally rubbed off over time. Some of these polystyrene releases had actual paper labels, but that proved problematic as well, as the labels were prone to come unglued from the record.

When other pressing facilities were contracted to press Amy releases, these issues were often pressed in vinyl with typical paper labels. Later in their history, Bell and Amy singles were pressed in polystyrene with typical paper labels and were similar to releases on Columbia and Epic.

In 1961, Larry Uttal of Madison Records purchased Bell and its subsidiary labels of Amy and Mala. He continued to run the labels until Columbia Pictures bought Bell in 1969. Columbia Pictures discontinued all of Bell’s subsidiaries and folded these into the Bell imprint. Eventually Bell was merged with Columbia Pictures’ legacy labels to become Arista in 1974.

This week, we’ll feature four songs that you will remember and three you probably won’t as we look at this little remembered label from our past. Since there were a limited number of Amy releases, Amy had very few hits. One of those is one of my favorite songs from the early 1960s: Joey Powers’ “Midnight Mary.”

Although Powers had previously signed with Nu-Clear, ABC-Paramount, and RCA with no success, Paul Simon heard one of Powers’ demos of “Midnight Mary” and urged Larry Uttal to sign the young singer.

“Midnight Mary” was originally intended for the Everly Brothers, but the Everlys passed on the song. Released in November 1963, the song propelled up to the #10 spot in early 1964. It was also #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. “Midnight Mary” was the first top 10 release for Amy.

Envisioning greater success for the singer, Amy brought Powers back into the studio to record an album. Powers’ LP, also named “Midnight Mary,” was the third of only 13 albums to be released on the Amy label. Unfortunately for Powers, Beatlemania and the British Invasion hit the charts and he became a distant memory and a true one hit wonder.

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