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Eddie Gries and Slim at a reunion around 1977.
Times Square Records Vol. 2
by Donn Fileti
Irving "Slim" Rose's Times Square Record Shop occupied just a few hundred closely‑packed square feet in the Times Square subway arcades in the early 1960s. Yet Slim's influence extended far beyond the narrow boundaries of his crowded shop; during the peak years of Times Square Records (1960‑62), Slim and his teenage prot6ges were responsible for a significant number of charted hits, most of which were reissued because of demand initially generated by Slim's customers.
records as the Capris' "There's a Moon Out Tonight," the Edsels'
"Rama Lama Ding Dong," and the Shells' "Baby Oh Baby" hit
the Top 100 on Billboard and Cashbox charts, Slim decided to launch his own
label, Times Square Records, solely devoted to newly recorded and vintage
R&B group harmony. In 1961 this
often meant issuing masters only a few years old, as there were legions of great
group records piled in distributor basements, which received little attention
the first time around. By cleverly inflating the prices on these
out‑of‑print gems (this was the very first rock 'n roll collectors'
venue), Slim, under the tutelage of Brooklyn teens, Jerry Greene and Jared
Weinstein, among others, created a burgeoning demand for otherwise forgotten
R&B platters. They created the mythology of the "group" as almost
a sacred entity; if a recording did not feature a rock'n roll or R&B lead,
bass, and harmonizing vocals, it didn't matter. They conveniently relegated
blues and rockabilly, not to mention Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Fats
Domino and the great R&B single artists of the early fifties—Amos Milburn,
Charles Brown, Wynonie Harris, even Joe Turner- to the ten cent bins.
original R&B pressings were on colored vinyl-red, purple, or orange were the
cheaper grades and cost a penny or so less than the standard black), young
collectors prized their 45s on "colored wax." Since there was little
difficulty obtaining various colored biscuits to press 45s in the early sixties,
Slim opted for color pressings on most of his initial Times Square single
releases. He thus made them more attractive to the young collectors who flocked
to his store from all over the city and surrounding areas. By refusing to sell
wholesale to other dealers, at least for a time, Rose kept valuable
"exclusives" to lure customers to his seedy Times Square locations.
Square label was a musical hodge-podge of R&B group harmony, ranging from
great groups like the Crests, Nutmegs, Five Satins, and Timetones, to
well‑intentioned amateur practitioners of the art (the El Sierros and
Lytations, for example). Times Square Records was launched in the winter of 1961
with the Timetones' local noisemaker, "Here In My Heart," followed by
Nicky and the Nobles' "Poor Rock'n Roll" (originally on Klik), Johnny
Maestro and the Crests' "No One to Love" / 'Wish She Was Mine"
(first on Brooklyn's tiny Joyce label), and the Five Satins' virtuouso acappella
rendering of "All Mine," among other rather distinguished recordings,
and ended rather sadly in 1964 with a multitude of forgettable demo and
acappella sides by interchangeable local groups. If industry pros like
Atlantic's Jerry Wexler subtly mocked the so called "Golden Age of
Acappella" (his words), it was because of the off-key and poorly recorded
singles, which appealed to many young group harmony fans in the early sixties.
Perhaps for the teenage listener, the Youngones, Lytations, or El Sierros had
mastered certain vocal tricks, which had heretofore eluded their older mentors,
the Cardinals, Clovers, or Drifters. Even Slim's own Moonglows group is of
dubious authenticity circa 1964.
It was Slim's
(or perhaps that of one of his underpaid employees) genius to label as acappella
mere demonstration or rehearsal recordings, which were often voiced to showcase
new songs, or as preparation for the real session, which would always have
instrumental accompaniment. He leased a treasure trove of reasonably fashioned
demos and finished masters from Tom Sokira and Marty Kugell's Klik and Standard
labels in New Haven, Connecticut, which embodied, among many others, some
particularly fine performances by Fred Parris and the Five Satins and Leroy
Griffin's Nutmegs. The latter group's "Down in Mexico," "Let Me
Tell You," and "Wide Hoop Skirts" set an almost impossible
standard of excellence for amateur groups to follow. The difference was obvious
to any discerning listener: the Nutmegs were a professional group with a
national chart history ("Story Untold" "Ship of Love"),
sporting an incredible bass and one of the most unique lead voices in the annals
of R&B group harmony. Most of the acappella groups, which proliferated in
the mid‑sixties and later could, only try to emulate their immensely
Slim's vision once momentarily embraced a national chain of small oldies shops
all bearing the Times Square logo (he needed a smart franchise, rather than the
useless sycophants who sometimes surrounded him), he additionally made several
poor business decisions which contributed to the impending demise of the entire
Times Square Records operation. Slim was initially only concerned with obtaining
a steady supply of "exclusive" product for his shop alone, so the
focus of the label included acquiring out-of-print masters to reissue. If you
could locate even a couple hundred copies each of the Nobletones, "Who
Cares About Love," the Paragons, "So You Will Know" or Lonnie and
the Crisis" 'Bells in the Chapel" in 1962, it would have been cheaper
and more cost effective to just sell those original pressings for a buck or two
apiece and not bother with new stampers, labels, etc. However, many good
original 45s had been completely scrapped or had otherwise disappeared by the
early sixties, so there was a definite market for reissues. Slim was also fond
of confounding collectors by pairing a better side by a known group with a
grade- B" side by another. (the Nutmegs' "Down to Earth," for
example, was coupled with the Admirations’ throwaway, "Coo Coo Cuddle
Coo.") As long as he pressed a limited quantity on blue, green, or yellow
vinyl, there would always be a loyal coterie, however small, of Times Square
devotees eager to plunk down their dollars on his messy counters.
the bottom of the national charts with the Timetones' "Here in My
Heart" in 1961, Slim leased their next side, "Pretty Pretty
Girl," to Atlantic's Atco subsidiary. Despite more concentrated national
push, the Timetones fared better on Times Square than on Atco. When Slim's
A&R man and partner on the label, Clarence Johnson, suddenly died, Slim
turned almost exclusively to reissues. The Timetones' third outing, "House
Where Lovers Dream," was issued several years later in 1964 when the magic
was really fading. Too bad this very talented and popular New York City group
didn't get to record more original songs.
Records became the prototype for several important early 45 collector reissue
labels in the sixties. Slim's defectors, Jerry Greene and Jared Weinstein,
relocated to Philadelphia, where they quickly developed their Lost Nite Records
which had been initially launched from Times Square. Wayne Stierle's Candleite
Records and Eddie Gries's Relic logo put New Jersey on the 45 oldies reissue
map. The songs on this compilation (and its companion volume, "Golden Doo
Wops of Times Square Records: Vol. 1 - Relic CD 7091) reflect directly the
taste of Irving "Slim" Rose, the sole proprietor of Times Square
Records until it was sold in 1965, and that of his young customers, who became
today's R&B group harmony collectors.
Relic Records CD "The Groups of Times Square Records - Vol. 2"
To purchase this and other great vocal group CD's, call George Lavatelli at Relic Record Shoppe on 201-342-4848