Crown Records (1930’s label)

Crown Records was a New York based dime store label started in 1930 and survived the depression until 1933. Known as the label offering “Two Hits for Two Bits” (proudly printed on their sleeves), they sold for 25 cents.

USA Crown Records 78 rpm disc from the early 1930’s

Plaza Record Company started the company (after they were excluded from the merger which resulted in the American Record Corporation). They had offices and recording studios in the McGraw-Hill building on 42nd Street in New York City. Adrian Schubert was the initial recording director. From the start, Crown set out to provide well performed versions of the hit songs of the day. For the most part, Crown used publisher’s basic ‘stock arrangements’: they initially weren’t interested in hot solos. However, after about 200 issues their records started getting a bit more peppy, increasing interest in these later issues to many collectors.

Studio assembled groups like Adrian Schubert, Milt Shaw, Jack Albin, Lou Gold, Buddy Blue (Smith Ballew), The High Steppers, Frank Novak and others recorded for Crown. Ben Pollack‘s band recorded for Crown using the name “Gil Rodin”. There were a number of country-styled records recorded by Carson Robison, Frankie Marvin, as well as Frank & James McGravy. There were a few performing orchestras who recorded for Crown towards the end of their existence, such as Gus Steck’s Chanticleer Orchestra.

The most collectable records are probably those made by Pollack (using the name “Gil Rodin”), 5 records made by the legendary Fletcher Henderson (issued under his name as well as Connie’s Inn Orchestra, 7 records made by the legendaryEubie Blake, the couple of records made by Jack Teagarden, as well as a sizable group of hot sides recorded by Gene Kardos‘s orchestra under the name of “Joel Shaw”. For personality collectors, the vocal records made by Sylvia Froos, Welcome Lewis and Charlie Palloy are quite scare and highly valued. There was one very rare commercial side recorded byBenny Carter‘s band, as well. Also a handful of Paramount blues and gospel was issued on Crown and are super rare.

Crown issued a handful of “longer playing” 78s, featuring nearly 5 minutes of music at the same 25c price.

Despite Crown Records being recorded at their own studios, pressings were done by Victor, being the first client label pressed by Victor. (Victor also started attempting their own ‘budget’ series of labels. After the demise of the short-lived 1931 Timely Tunes label, Victor started their Bluebird and Electradisk labels, originally as an 8″ record. An early group of 10″ Electradisk records (on their 2500 series) look more like Crown masters than Victor masters, leading collectors to speculate that perhaps these early Electradisk’s were recorded at Crown’s studios, based on appearance of the record and the typeface of the matrix numbers).

Crown Records seemed to sell fairly well (competing with Hit of the WeekColumbia‘s line of ‘cheap’ labels (Harmony, Velvet Tone and Clarion), as well as the ARC group of dime store labels (Melotone, Perfect, Romeo, Oriole, etc.). Although Crown records turn up in the east, they are much less commonly found in the midwest and south, leading to the assumption that they did not have a full nationwide network of dealers.

Some selected Crown sides were leased to Broadway and Homestead in the US, to the Imperial label, and Edison Bell Winner Records in the UK, and to Angelus, Lyric and Summit Records in Australia. A handful of Paramount masters were issued on Crown, as well.

Crown also produced a very rare label called “Gem”. All known Gem’s were exactly the same as the issue on Crown (for example, Joel Shaw’s Crown 3414 of “Yeah Man” b/w “Jazz Pie” was also issued on Gem 3414). No one has been able to determine what store sold these rare records (or even what price they might’ve sold for), but the few copies that have turned up were in the New York/New Jersey area.

The last known Crown master was recorded on August 8, 1933.

In 1939-40, many of the jazzier Crown sides were issued on Eli Oberstein’s short-lived Varsity Records, all from dubbed masters.


(Courtesy Wikipedia)


One Response to “Crown Records (1930’s label)”

  1. profesor1130 Says:

    Thank you for the splendid material on Crown Records. As a Frank Luther enthusiast, I have four of his Crown vocal chorus performances on my want-list (3003, 3004, 3007, 3065) but generally come upon later Crowns at the few remaining record shows focused on 78s. Perhaps I’ll run across the ones I seek at some point. Meanwhile, thanks again for publishing such an attractive piece about a label everyone seems to like and to fondly remember.

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