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I am so depressed to hear that one of my best friends died suddenly. It is a loss for the ICTP community, Trieste University, Trieste, Italy, and the whole optics ...

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The Beginning

By the spring of 1961, after the stereo 45s had come and gone, and the stereo-33 singles hawked by Columbia were showing very poor sales, the record industry was looking around for other formats that might catch on with the record-buying public. Parkway records announced in the May 15, 1961 issue of Billboard that they would be testing the market for a 33 1/3 rpm "compact double," essentially a 33 version of the tried and true 45 rpm EPs that had been around since the early 1950s. Their test case would be a new Chubby Checker offering, and Chubby was hot at the time. Each side would have 2 songs, and the discs would sell for $. They would be mono. The Parkway disc would be viewed as a bellweather, and many other labels waited for the outcome of this experiment.

It failed miserably. Record stores didn't want to carry another format, and people were reluctant to buy it. None of the four songs charted from the compact double, though "Dance the Mess Around" charted from a regular 45. But that didn't stop some of the majors from jumping in to test the "compact double" market. Capitol issued about a dozen discs featuing their most popular artists' biggest hits. RCA-Victor started issuing compact doubles, too. These major labels found the same thing that Parkway did. They didn't sell.

In October, 1961, Archie Bleyer announced that he would release six "Little LPs" with three songs on each side, in mono, taken from hit artists in Cadence's back catalog. It was a new format and this was the first time the term "Little LP" had been used. Cadence put a series of ads (see left) in Billboard over the next several months, but when these hit the stores, they got the same chilly reception that the compact doubles received several months before. By spring, 1962, Bleyer gave up.

Mercury immediately liked the Cadence idea, though, and in November, 1961, barely a month after Cadence's announcement, started their own series of mono "Little LPs." They called them "Compact 6 Little LPs." The initial offering was ten different records, but Mercury abandoned the series almost immediately for lack of interest. The next fall, a Billboard story (9/22/62, page 4) noted that "A Mercury executive shudderingly recalled the experiment. 'Bombsville,' he said."


The First Generation

But somebody was listening. That somebody was in the form of Seeburg jukebox company. They liked the idea of Little LPs, but wanted them in stereo to play in a jukebox they had planned. They began working with various labels on a very hush-hush project, to produce some of these stereo Little LPs. Then in September, 1962, they began to tease the industry about a new jukebox that would be "revolutionary." The curtain was unveiled later in September on their new stereo jukebox console which could play Little LPs and had places to display album covers for them (see photo below). Seeburg gave credit to Cadence for the innovation of the Little LP, and pointed out that jukeboxes had largely become fixtures in adult rather than teenage venues, and Little LPs with adult content such as easy listening or country would sell very well in bars and other adult meeting places.

Immediately, the industry as a whole spoke up, as usual with divided opinions. Making Little LPs for jukebox purposes could be seen as a promotional tool to sell their albums. But nobody was jumping on any bandwagon that even remotely suggested they would be viable as a retail item in stores. Been there, done that, got the red ink. Everyone seemed to see making Little LPs for Seeburg — and whatever other jukebox manufacturer wanted them — would be a promotional jukebox-use-only sort of thing. Seeburg agreed, although by making the Little LPs available for jukebox operators through "one-stop" record distributors, it also meant that should members of the general public want these, they could be ordered through record stores. But no advertising aimed at the general public would be done.

Seeburg hit the ground running. Before the new jukebox was even available, they had signed up ABC-Paramount, Audio Fidelity, Cadence, Columbia, Command, Decca, Dot, Everest, Impulse, Jazzland/Riverside, Kapp, London/Monument, Mercury, RCA-Victor, Time, and Washington. The list of artists looked like a who's who of easy listening and classical music. Nary a rock and roller in the bunch. The discs would cost the jukebox operators $ each and would be distributed mainly through Seeburg as well as the individual record labels' distributors. Seeburg would put together a catalog of available titles for jukebox operators.

By January, 1963, just a mere few months after the jukebox became available, that catalog included 233 different Little LPs. By 1964, Seeburg was openly gloating in the trade press about how their idea had been a success in the face of all the naysayers, and that they had sold in excess of 200,000 Little LPs. Seeburg noted in January, 1966, that they had spent over 5 million dollars on the program. By 1966, there would be over 1000 Little LPs in the catalog, and that didn't include the Little LPs in circulation specifically made for other jukebox companies like Wurlitzer or ATI.

But by October, 1967, Seeburg found that being a Little LP producer and distributor was getting to be a drag on their jukebox business. So they sold their catalog, inventory and distribution network to Robert Garmisa at Garmisa Distributing who would set up a new company (Garwin Sales) to take over their catalog and distribution ( Billboard, 10/28/67, page 1, see right). Bobby Garmisa was enthusiastic, and promised that Little LPs would henceforth be released at the same time as the parent albums, not later as had been the case. Garmisa, it turned out, had underestimated the effect of problems such as a no-return policy on Little LPs, and the ambivalence of the one-stops to carrying the product, not to mention that the jukebox programmers and operators were not all sold on the idea of Little LPs.

By 1969, after more than a year of Little LP hassles, Garmisa finally gave up. "We thought it would be a cinch because we were record distributors and had a pulse on the business.," Garmisa later told Billboard (8/29/70, page 43). "But even our best release only sold 5,000 to 7,000 copies even though there's an estimated 500,000 jukeboxes. We invested 86 cents to $1 in each package, which didn't leave one-stops too much room to work, especially when we could not offer a return privilege."

When Garmisa left the Little LP business, he sold the 100,000 Little LPs he had in the erstwhile Seeburg inventory to WIND-Chicago newsman Henry Baskin (aka Bill Churchill), along with partner Reuben "Rube" Lawrence. Baskin began offering this older stock at 50 cents on the dollar through his new company Baskase Products. Baskin's stock, including Little LPs from Columbia/Epic. Soma, Bomar, Warner Bros., Atlantic, London, UA, Blue Note, Hilltop, and Reprise, was sold off piecemeal. By February, 1973, Lawrence noted that they had peddled some 50,000 Little LPs overseas to the UK and Sweden.

The zenith of the Little LP was the 1966-67 period. By 1969, however, with Garmisa exiting the business, output of Little LPs dropped to nearly zero. A few small manufacturers, like Thunderbird and Juke, issued some, but that was about it. For over a year, from 1969 to mid-1970, there were no firms actively producing and distributing large numbers of Little LPs for the big labels, and this marked the end of the first generation of the Little LPs.


The Second Generation

In the spring of 1970, two other companies were formed to issue Little LPs for the labels who wanted them. This was the beginning of the second generation of Little LPs, a phase where many fewer Little LPs were manufactured. Whereas in 1965-66, hundreds of Little LPs were being issued per year, output in the second phase, which lasted from 1970 to 1975, was reduced to averaging fewer than 80 per year. But the content shifted more toward rock music than during the first generation.

One of these companies was run by Bernie Yudkofsky of Gold-Mor distributing Co. In Englewood, NJ. Yudkofsky initially bought some of the stock from Baskase and started producing new releases for Columbia/Epic and London/Parrot (he had 9 new releases by August, 1970). Yudkofsky took a conservative approach to releases, stating, "Why should I do what was done years ago when the Little LP program was ruined – why should I flood the market?" By May, 1971, Gold-Mor had produced 26 new Little LPs, then released four more Little LPs, this time from RCA, in August, 1971. By January, 1973, Yudkofsky had released 57 titles (averaging about 24 titles a year).

Somewhat more active was Richard Prutting's Little LPs Unlimited, located in Northfield, IL. Little LPs Unlimited had nine releases out by May, 1970 (mostly from Decca and Atlantic), and by the end of August, 1970, had brought out 17 new Little LPs, manufacturing discs for Sun International in addition to Atlantic/Cotillion and Decca/Kapp. Little LPs Unlimited numbered their product, starting at #101. They had reached 48 (or LLP#148) by May, 1971, 62 by August, 1971, 70 by November, 1971, 102 by January, 1973, and 134 by November, 1973 (averaging about 54 titles per year).

The two newcomers disagreed on one thing. While Yudkofsky felt the covers (and labels) should accurately reflect the parent LP cover, including being in full color, Prutting did not think color covers were important, and his Little LPs had monochrome covers from the start. The Gold-Mor Little LPs for Columbia and London/Parrot at this point also started using the normal LP labels (example at left).

Both were of the opinion, however, that big hits did not belong on Little LPs, because they were already on the juke boxes. So the Little LP (at left) for Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, for example, did not include the title track. These second-generation Little LPs often had only five songs, since full LPs of the time typically had only 10 songs instead of the 12 which was normal in the mid-1960s.

Although both Yudkofsky and Prutting talked up the success of their product in the trade press, a few things were happening that would have negative consequences later. In 1971, Seeburg began making jukeboxes that didn't play 33s, and although they could be converted to do so, the default was that Little LPs weren't popular enough to warrant hardware attention. The other jukebox makers weren't far behind. Also, because Little LPs could not be returned for credit like ordinary singles, buyers were very cautious before investing in them.

In May, 1972, Little LP Unlimited moved to Danbury, CT, and were planning to expand into quadraphonic Little LPs.

By 1973, the Little LP as a jukebox commodity was dying. Some of the same problems that killed off the first generation were still nagging the second. In August, 1973, Billboard (8/13/73, page 27) did a survey of jukebox programmers and found them quite apathetic about Little LPs. "Do you know someone that needs some? I'll sell them cheap," one operator sarcastically noted. They just weren't that popular with programmers, one-stops, or customers. The lack of popularity, according to Billboard, traced to both higher cost and lack of requests, a sure-fire two-barreled killer, going against all the principles of economic success.

The quadraphonic Little LPs didn't help, either, especially since there were few quad jukeboxes, and the customers were lukewarm about quad anyway. The two Little LP companies limped through 1974 and 1975 putting out very few titles, less than half what they were issuing a few years earlier. The Little LP chapter in music history ended by the end of 1975, with essentially no new titles in 1976.


Epilogue

Some of the big record companies — and the indies putting out punk rock in the early 1980s — have put out similar discs as specialty items for fans since then, but the Little LP era for jukeboxes was over.

As far as record collectors are concerned, they generally refer to Little LPs as "Jukebox EPs," because that's essentially what they were. Often the labels would say "promotion" or "for jukebox use only" on them, as did the OKeh example at right. For collectors, finding a reasonably priced Little LP today is fairly simple, since there were lots of them made in the 1960s and 1970s — as long as you're not too choosy about which Little LP you want. Sought-after items like Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones discs can command premium prices, but they are usually still available.

Accurately dating the releases of these Little LPs can be tricky. Some web sites date them as coming out simultaneously with the parent LP, but this was rarely the case, due to the time it took to get them pressed, covers made, etc., which all took place after the parent LP was released. For example, Neil Young's Harvest LP hit the Billboard chart in early March, 1972, while the Little LP counterpart did not come out until September of that year. It was quite normal to have a delay of a month or longer before the Little LP was issued.

The dates of release shown in this discography are based on announcements in Billboard or by dating the "Seeburg Part Numbers" of Little LPs from the Seeburg Stereo Album Library catalog (the example shown at left is from the spring of 1966). These "part numbers" were assigned consecutively as the Little LPs entered the catalog

Often we have noted when the original LP was released for those Little LPs released years after the parent LP. Although many labels participated in the Little LP era, typically a label would release the Little LPs in bunches, not like full LPs which came out a few at a time fairly regularly. For example, the Chess labels (Chess, Checker, Argo/Cadet) released almost all their Little LPs in a bunch in 1963, even though some of the full LPs came out years earlier. Cadet put one out years later, but essentially labels would try out the format, and either like it or not. Similarly, Kapp came out with a slug of Little LPs in 1964, then stopped until the Second Generation Little LPs in 1970-72.

It should also be noted that some of these jazz Little LPs only have one song on each side, similar to the stereo-33 singles listed in Part 2. The difference is that while stereo-33s usually had a normal length song of around 3 minutes on each side, the Little LPs have songs perhaps in the 6-10 minute range on each side, and are usually numbered with Little LP designations, not stereo-33 designations.

To our knowledge, there has not been a systematically researched discography of Little LPs before this. As such, this can be considered a "work in progress," and will be updated as more information is gathered in the future. Certainly this discography does not claim to be complete at this point.

In the discography below, labels with large numbers of releases have been put on a separate page to maintain flow, and can be reached by clicking on the label photo or label name.

We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail . Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with any of these record labels. Should you be interested in acquiring the Little LPs (jukebox EPs) listed in this discography (which are all out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This story and discography are copyright 2014, 2015 by Mike Callahan.

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