THE EVOLUTION OF ACE REISSUES
When Chiswick was licensed to EMI in 1978, they made it clear that they had enough back catalogue of their own, thank you. So, we needed a new label name for the reissue end. Just before signing on with EMI, Johnny Vincent of Ace Records in Jackson, Mississippi signed on with us. Without any malice aforethought we promptly borrowed his label name, though he was cool about it at the time.
We maintained a dynamic on-off working relationship with him, using the old-style record business trick of continually fronting him cash then chasing the recoupment with some more releases. The five volumes of “The Ace Story” we put out remain definitive.
Ray Topping, a regular customer of Ted’s who had helped pen the notes for the Link Wray album, suggested we explore the Houston-based group of labels owned by Pappy Daily. Ray was one of the small group of pioneering blues aficionados and discographers in the UK who had been instrumental in bringing that music to a wider audience in the 60s. He became Ace’s first repertoire consultant. With an encyclopaedic knowledge and tremendous feel for blues and R&B as well as rockabilly and country, he was an essential element in the growth of Ace. The standards he set way back then have underpinned everything the label has since done.
So in 1978 a licensing deal was signed with Daily, who produced the early George Jones recordings and trawled the Gulf Coast areas of South Louisiana and East Texas to acquire recordings for his D, Dart, Dixie and Starday labels. Ted and Ray headed out west to Texas in search of musical gold; the first of many trips to the US in search of masters. We issued a compilation of fine rockabilly sides from George Jones and a 10” comp of Sonny Fisher’s Starday recordings, which even then fetched big bucks on original 45s. Ted and Ray tracked down Sonny and in 1980 he left the States for the first time in his life and toured the UK. He also cut an EP of new material for Ace on his visit.
Discovery of the year: the previously unissued monster rockabilly side ‘Jitterbop Baby’ by Hal Harris.
To accommodate catalogue records that didn’t fit on Ace and new recordings deemed to have insufficient commercial appeal for EMI, we set up another label, BIG BEAT. It debuted with the debut 45 by Johnny (Winter) and the Jammers. Later it became home to the burgeoning psychobilly/garage scene, our own punk and rock back catalogue and repository for all things 60s beat, folk, garage and psych.
The Ace reissue 45s just kept coming as well, notably Thumper (George) Jones’ ‘Rock It’ and Link Davis’ ‘Allons A Lafayette’, a real swingin’ in-house favourite and a solid smash in any other universe. Having acquired something of a jones for the deliciousness of 10” records, we put out a couple more. But, because Chiswick through EMI took up so much of our time, catalogue issues took a back seat to the pop end of our business.