When Laurie Records opened for business in 1958, its founders could not have foreseen how crucial their role in the history of rock'n'roll would prove to be. Formed by brothers Bob and Gene Schwartz along with Eliot Greenberg and Allen Sussell, the company was initiated as an outlet for Dion & the Belmonts, unknowns from the Bronx. All parties were rewarded almost immediately when the group stormed the charts with I Wonder Why, A Teenager In Love and Where Or When. From then on, Laurie was a force to be reckoned with, not only on the teeming New York recording scene but also, more importantly, on a national level.
First issued in 1990, THE LAURIE RECORDS STORY is the latest veteran of the Ace catalogue to receive a makeover treatment, with a new improved cover design and a completely revamped and rewritten booklet. The release also sets the scene for the forthcoming Volume 2, which will focus on the songwriting of Laurie stalwart Ernie Maresca, composer of such classics as Dion's Runaround Sue, The Wanderer and Lovers Who Wander, all featured here on Volume 1.
Laurie then hit the big time with the unforgettable white doo wop of the Mystics' Hushabye, the Belmonts' We Belong Together and Just To Be With You by the Passions, not to mention Randy & the Rainbows' Denise from the Top 10 of 1963. From Richmond, Virginia, the Jarmels named themselves after a street in Harlem and delivered A Little Bit Of Soap, one of the most famous of all Laurie hits. Also included here are Bobby Goldsboro's debut hit Molly and Heart, a prime piece of Brill Building pop from Kenny Chandler.
In the Chiffons, represented here by He's So Fine, One Fine Day, Nobody Knows What's Going On (In My Mind But Me) and Sweet Talking Guy, the Laurie label boasted one of the top acts of the girl group era. Masquerading as the Four Pennies, this New York quartet also charted with My Block and When The Boy's Happy (The Girl's Happy Too). Other female stars of the Laurie catalogue include Bernadette Carroll, purveyor of 1964's Party Girl.
Signed as songwriters in 1960, it was inevitable that the multi-talented Ohio duo Dean & Jean would not remain behind the scenes for too long. Many Laurie artists cut their compositions before they clicked as vocalists with Tra La La La Suzy, Hey Jean, Hey Dean and their soulful update of the Andrews Sisters' oldie I Wanna Be Loved, all Hot 100 hits in 1964.
As the decade progressed, so did Laurie Records. Led by one-handed drummer Victor 'Moulty' Moulton, the Barbarians scored with the punky Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl? in 1965. Two years down the line, only the Monkees could prevent the Royal Guardsmen from topping the Hot 100 with their homage to Charles Schulz's cartoon beagle, Snoopy Vs The Red Baron, the first of the group's seven Laurie hits. Purchased as a finished master for a mere $600 by shrewd Laurie staffer Doug Morris, the Music Explosion's A Little Bit O' Soul also reached #2. Concluding the Laurie Records Story is A Question Of Temperature, a chunk of psychedelia by the Balloon Farm, a band named after a New York City nightclub which had itself lifted the handle from the 'wit and wisdom' of Bob Dylan. The times sure were a-changing.
Laurie recorded successfully in almost every idiom imaginable during its existence. Reason enough to explain Capitol Records making the owners of the legendary indie an offer they couldn't refuse in the 1990s. The heart of the company, Gene Schwartz, died in 1999. In the globalised conglomerate record biz of today it is debatable whether a contemporary entrepreneur could create and sustain an equivalent musical heritage.
by Mick Patrick