An American budget label, that throughout the 50s offered nothing but double sided cover hits, plays a singular role in music business. For the first time … and more bears gives access to all of these interesting cover recordings made by Bell Records.
The records were not sold through record shops but went mostly through chain stores such as Woolworth, or regular book shop. Most of the records came also in 2-sided picture covers.
In the 1950s, pop music records were not cheap. Buying what you heard on the radio so you could listen to it at home, or share your favourites at a party, was actually beyond the financial reach of many listeners, both young and old. Even if you could afford a 79 or 89 cent disc with one song on each side, the purchase qualified as a luxury. With the average American income at $3200 in a year in 1950 and a loaf of bread costing barely over a dime, laying out nearly a buck for a piece of shellac with your favourite song on it was quite an indulgence.
Enter Bell Records. From 1949 through 1960 they were a vital part of the American record business, selling their wares just about anywhere but record stores. For just 39c you could own not one, but two of those big hit songs you heard on the radio. It was a good deal but there was a qualifier: Although you were getting the hit songs, you weren’t getting the hit versions by the hit artists. But for many people, the Bell versions were plenty good enough.
Now, more than sixty years later we don’t have to choose between paying top dollar for the original hit, or saving money on a budget version. But back then, Bell Records (and several labels like them) found a niche in the market that represents a fascinating moment in the history of the record business. The interesting period of time from the beginning of rock ’n’ roll until the first sounds of soul is represented on singles with the two bells on the label. Furthermore most of the small records were wrapped in covers which document the innovative style of illustrations in those years.
What did these bargain records sound like? Who sang and played on them? How did they compare to the original hit versions? Did any of these artists go on to stardom in later years? Finally …and more bears reissues these records – some of them quite rare – and allows us to answer all those questions.
However to fit with the changing trends within the music scene the music will be available on-line as downloads or streaming.