Sunday, November 16, 2014

Halmark Before Halmark, Part One

Several months ago, I bought a batch of song-poem and related items, all of which have song-poet Enza Cooper as the common thread. These items contained four ten-inch Acetates, which, being a different size than most of the records I buy, ended up in a different spot than virtually everything in my collection, and sat, sort of forgotten, for nearly a year. They are all one sided, and came in record sleeves with the name of the songs on each of them.

I came across them while looking for something else, and they are a revelation. While these four records have long been documented on the AS/PMA website, I don't believe they've ever been shared on line or among collectors.

These four records make up more than half of the documented (on AS/PMA) records on the Chapel Recording Company, one of Ted Rosen's song-poem mills before he settled on the Halmark (AKA Hallmark) label in the late 1960's.

What I find most fascinating about these records is that, already by this point, Rosen was employing the same backing tracks that were used ad nauseam during the Halmark years. And while these records suffer the higher level of noise often heard on acetates, it strikes me that the backing tracks actually sound a little cleaner and clearer than on many Halmark releases. Perhaps he hadn't worn out those tapes at this point, and by 1975, had worn them out enough that they were in poorer condition?

On the other hand, what is with the vocals on these records? They sound like they're being sung through a megaphone, particularly in the second track featured.

First up is the clunky-titled "Please Stuff This Envelope (With Kisses)", with a backing track that any Halmark fan will recognize immediately.

Even more familiar will be the backing track to "Tell me of His Love", with the aforementioned vocal which sounds like it was recorded over a phone receiver. See below the label scan for a fun postscript.

Along with these records came the following letter, sent to the song-poet, from Ted Rosen himself. This letter is quoted in its entirety at the AS/PMA website, but it's fun to see it, anyway. The person I bought these records from called this a "nice" letter, but in reality it's another play for more $$ from the song-poet. He claims to have added, at his own expense, a chorus of ten singers to her recording session. It's up to her to pay the extra $29.50, of course, but he did spring for them.

Only he didn't. The singers were already there, along with the rest of the track that he'd be using over and over again, for full profit and no further cost, for God knows how many more years.

Part two, featuring the other two records, will follow in a few days.


Bill S. said...

These two sides are a real find. Thank you for the work you put into the website. Each week I look forward to these "new" song poems, and I know well that I would NEVER hear these anyplace else. Your knowledge of the song-poem world helps to "connect the dots" and provide a backstory to the releases which really helps in my appreciation of them. Best wishes from south Texas!

Bob Purse said...


Thanks, Bill, that's the sort of response that keeps me going on this project! Glad I'm here to provide the songs and whatever info I can provide!


Graham Clayton said...

I wonder how many people forked out the $29.50 after receiving a similar letter?

Anonymous said...

That letter is scandalous! No wonder why these people don't want us poking around their business!

The "megaphone" sound is definitely strange! Completely perplexing!

Man, I've always loved the intro to that backing track on the first tune. OOoooo-wwaaaaaaa......the backup singers are coming to get you!!

Unknown said...

My mother sent him a couple of poems that were recorded in 1966 one was "Mary the Orphan Child" my mother had written that one when she was 16, in 1932. Ethel A Myers ov VA