Any collectors who travelled to Southern California looking for rare vinyl anywhere between 1972-2002, will have visited Wenzels Music Town. The store was divided in two halves, with the more interesting stuff through to the left, through a doorway with a velvet rope across it. Permission was needed to pass the rope, and once you were in that room you were were unsupervised, surrounded by four walls racked out with 45s. This was the room that the recordings had been made. If you needed to use the bathroom, you had to ask again. That was situated through another door, in a back storeroom. Collectors who knew the score always told you to use the bathroom and when there to look up above your head. There, on a rickety old shelf were the original master tapes from the Downey studio and label. It was part of the experience of visiting Wenzels. The masters remained there in the dark, protected from the California sun until the store closed,. Now, after all these years, we are presenting some of these wonderful recordings, many of which will have never been heard before.
Bill Wenzel and his son, Jack, opened Wenzel’s Music Town in Downey, California in December 1958, selling hi-fi and its attendant software, records. Before long, utilising Bill’s electronic know-how, the Wenzels built a recording studio in one half of their store on Lakewood Boulevard. It was not until starting the Downey label in 1962 that Bill and Jack hit pay dirt. With a local instrumental group called the Pastel Six, who had been drawing a good crowd as resident band at the Cinnamon Cinder teen club, they released their first Downey sides, all instrumental. Pretty soon after that they found the Chantays. Although the Rumblers would give Downey its first real success, the Chantays’ ‘Pipeline’ would give it an international hit.
This compilation ties together all the surf and rocking instrumentals recorded at the Downey Studios or for Downey Records in the early 60s and includes tracks by: The Hustlers, The Blazers, The Nevegans, The Surftones, Sir Frog & The Toads, The Pastel Six, The Rumblers, The Riviaires, The Chevells and The Revels.
By 1965 the impact of the Beatles and the British Invasion had taken its toll on Southern California, at least as far as instrumental groups was concerned. Wenzel’s Music Town had sold records, stocking both local and national chart hits, since the business opened. Downey Records wound down its business as a record label and studio after Jack was diagnosed with leukaemia, and the studio closed for business by 1968.
By Brian Nevill (A limey who don’t surf)