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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.

When such 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.

Since many 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.

The Times 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 talented predecessors.

Although 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.

After hitting 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.

Times Square 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.  


Donn Fileti

August, 1999


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