A one-man operation run at street level for more than two decades, Hollywood’s Doré label launched the careers of Phil Spector and Jan & Dean in the late 1950s and built upon these early triumphs with an extensive catalogue of pop, rock and soul 45s during the 60s before branching successfully into comedy in the early 1970s.
The story of Doré records is inextricably linked with that of its owner, Lew Bedell, who entered the music business in 1955 having worked as a minor professional entertainer in the preceding years. Pop music was different back then and never more so than in California, where Hollywood’s dominance of the entertainment scene meant that Los Angeles was scarcely aware of its music industry until hotshot producers such as Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Snuff Garrett and Lou Adler finally put the town on the recording map in the mid-1960s.
Individualists such as Bedell were usually referred to as “characters” or as being “larger than life”, suggesting they were caricatures of some sort, but Bedell, for all his eccentricities, was somehow too pragmatic a man to fit that description.
Doré began as a subsidiary of Era, a Hollywood label best known for mainstream pop hits such as ‘Chanson D’Amour’ and ‘The Wayward Wind’. Bedell had founded Era with his cousin Herb Newman before breaking away to run Doré alone. In 1958, it got off to a flying start with ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ by the Teddy Bears, a worldwide hit, followed a few months later by Jan & Dean’s ‘Baby Talk’. The major labels had lost touch with the street and it was largely left to LA’s scattering of independents to set teenagers’ turntables spinning on the West Coast.
It was the age of the walk-in deal on LA’s so-called record row, an area of Hollywood populated by small labels wheeling and dealing from storefronts or backrooms. Some went in the blink of an eye but Doré stayed, moving seamlessly from rock and pop into soul music in the mid-60s. In this climate of spontaneous deal-making and low recording costs, Bedell was regularly approached by would-be’s and wanna-be’s, some of whom may have had something on the ball. Herb Alpert, Shel Talmy and Mike Curb were just a few who brought their first productions to Doré and there are some interesting connections: aside from Spector and Jan & Dean, the Walker Brothers and Vince Taylor all come into the story.
By Rob Finnis