Before Tamla/Motown, there was Cameo/Parkway. A groundbreaking Philadelphia imprint, the label churned out an astonishing number of huge hits (most written in-house) during its 12-year heyday and turned a gaggle of unknown young locals into stars. Sound familiar?
Although primarily remembered for its myriad dance craze hits, the catalogue actually encompasses the whole of rock’s golden era: instrumentals, novelties, doo wop, girl groups, soul, teen idols, British Invasion, garage bands and bubblegum, etc. Label honchos Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann and Dave Appell spared no expense, releasing singles with beautiful colour picture sleeves and flooding the market with an unprecedented torrent of LPs.
Cameo-Parkway material has been unavailable for decades, and collectors have waited impatiently for many years for the hits to make their digital debut. A label overview in 2005 and a few subsequent hits packages skimmed the surface. Out this month on Ace are 10 full albums on five CDs, along with a compilation of vocal group classics. The floodgates are now open, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Bobby Rydell was the quintessential teen idol, but there was a lot of talent under that pompadour. These two 1961 LPs find a 19 year-old Rydell courting our parents by singing “real” music, a path already well-worn by such artists as Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin and Jackie Wilson. “Salutes The Great Ones” harkens back to the Al Jolson era and Rydell has the vocal chops to pull it off. “At The Copa” displays the comedy and impersonation skills that made Rydell a movie star and frequent sitcom guest and packages his teen hits in an imaginative medley.
By Dennis Garvey