Make Mine Mondo!

Label: Ace Records.

Nowadays, with a record number of albums being released and each and every week, independent and major labels spend a considerable part of their budget promoting their latest releases. However, it wasn’t always that way, and Lew Bedell the owner of Doré Records was reluctant to spend money promoting a new single. 

In fact, Lew Bedell only ever commissioned photographs of his artists unless their single had charted, and very rarely advertised in the trade press. By then, Doré Records had already enjoyed a million-selling single with The Teddy Bears’ To Know Him Is To Love Him, and Lew Bedell a former standup comedian turned musical impresario was content to do things his way.

So much so, that Lew Bedell was willing to take a chance on all sorts of artists and bands that arrived at Doré wanting to record a single. Those that had potential Lew Bedell took into the studio, and quickly recorded a single. This Lew Bedell knew wouldn’t cost much, and if the single was even a minor success would more than repay his costs. However, not all of these singles were a success, and many were destined for obscurity. 

Other times, Lew Bedell put a band together, and they went into the studio and recorded all sorts of tracks. This included fuzzed out garage, instrumentals and rockabilly songs. Some of these tracks feature on Ace Records’ new compilation of tracks released on Doré, Make Mine Mondo! It’s the latest compilation of music recorded and released by Doré that Ace Records have released. However, this time, the spotlight is turned on Lew Bedell.

Having graduated from high school, Lew Bedinsky headed to LA College and later, studied at the Santa Barbara State College, which was where he met Doug Mattson. Soon, the pair were performing a comedy show together on shows around the college campus, and it was soon apparent that the pair had the makings of a successful act.

So much so, that they turned professional. Before that, Lew Bedinsky decided to change his name in 1941, and became Lew Bedell. That was the name he used for the next twelve years, when he and Doug Mattson performed their musical comedy act. However, in 1953, the pair spilt-up, and Lew Bedell embarked upon a solo career as a stand-up comedian.

Lew Bedell didn’t enjoy the same success when he worked on the comedy circuit as a solo stand-up comedian. So much so, that after a year his career was at a crossroads and he was thinking a career after comedy.

Fortunately, Lew Bedell was approached by his cousin Herb Bedell who was a music industry veteran and his father Max Newman with a business proposition. They were offering him the opportunity to invest in a new record company. Lew Bedell realising that his comedy career was at a crossroads decided to invest  $7,500 which helped to launch the new Era Records’ label with Herb Bedell and Max Newman.

The nascent Era Records opened its door for business in March 1955, and over the next three years, enjoyed several successful singles. With things looking good for Era Records, a decision was made to expand the business.

In 1958, Doré Records, an imprint of Era Records was founded. The newly founded Doré Records was named after Lew’s first son, who’d been born to Lew and his wife Dolores in 1957. The rationale behind forming a second label was that it would double the chances of having a record played on the radio. Its founders were also determined that Doré Records would release much more groundbreaking records.

This was the case from the day that Doré Records opened its doors. Having released two singles, a young Phil Spector approached the Bedell cousins with a new song by The Teddy Bears To Know Him Is To Love Him. When Herb Bedell heard the understated arrangement, he thought that if it was to be released on Era the record would be rerecorded. Phil Spector disagreed and so did Lew Bedell. He heard the potential in the To Know Him Is To Love Him and agreed to release the track on Doré Records its original form which became a huge worldwide hit and topped the charts in Britain and America.  

For the next couple of years, Lew and Herb Bedell’s opinions on music differed, and eventually, in May 1959, they decided to go their own ways. It was an amicable spilt with Herb Newman continuing to run Era Records, which he moved the company to new premises. Lew Bedell retained Doré  Records, which stayed at 1481 Vine Street, Hollywood.

Now that Lew Bedell owned Doré Records, he was able to run the record company the way he wanted. His cousin had been known to hire orchestras to record lavish arrangements, while 

Lew Bedell’s arrangements were very different. They were usually simpler and tended to lack the polish of his cousin’s arrangements. However, they were also cheaper to produce so Lew Bedell wasn’t spending as much producing new singles.

Sometimes, Lew Bedell purchased masters from producers who stopped by Doré Records looking to sell a new recording. They usually didn’t cost Lew Bedell much, and would release the recording on Doré Records. 

Other times, artists or bands would arrive at Doré Records looking to cut a record. Lew Bedell would listen to them play, and if they showed any potential, he would signed them to Doré Records. After that, Lew Bedell would take them into the studio to record a single which was released on Doré Records.

It wasn’t unknown for Lew Bedell to put a band together and have them record a single, which would be released on Doré Records using a moniker. This allowed Lew Bedell to follow the latest musical trend, in the hope of enjoying a hit single. That was why Lew Bedell was running a record label. 

While some record labels had their own “sound” during the pre-rock era, musical impresario Lew Bedell was willing to release an eclectic selection of music as he went in search of hit singles. That was what mattered to Lew Bedell, and why the singles that Doré Records released during the pre-rock age were often very different. This included the various novelty singles that were released on Doré Records. They were part of the Doré Records’ story, and so are the twenty-eight tracks on Make Mine Mondo!

Among the artists and bands that feature on Make Mine Mondo! are The Altecs, The Zanies, Los Corvets, The Debonairs, The Wrench, Bobby Fry, The Rebels, The Whips, The Syndicate, Motion, Bobby Troup and Opus Five. They all feature on Make Mine Mondo! which includes: “fuzzed out garage bands, manic instrumentalists and wayward rockabillies.”

Opening Make Mine Mondo! in style is Gorilla Hunt by The Altecs which is one of the novelty singles that Doré Records released in the late-fifties and early sixties. Gorilla Hunt was produced by Jim Aguirre, and released as a single in September 1962. As a surf guitar cuts through the arrangement and a piano plays, the sound of the Gorilla Hunt punctuates this “manic instrumental.” 

In December 1958, The Zanies released the  Dore Jay and Leila Newman composition The Mad Scientist as a single. It’s a cinematic sound single that sounds as if it would’ve used as part of the soundtrack to a B-Movie. The same can be said of The Blob which us an early Bacharach and David composition that was released by The Zanies in October 1959, which is one of the group’s finest recordings.

When Johnny O released Don’t Run Johnny-O as a single in April 1959, tucked away on the B-Side was Meet the Bongo Man. It was penned by Danny Gould and Steven Howard and is one of the many novelty single Doré Records released in the late-fifties.

The Debonairs  from Long Beach, California, released two singles on Doré Records. The first was Everybody’s Movin’ which was recorded at Gold Star Recording Studios, in Hollywood, and released in June 1964. It’s an irresistible slice of rock ’n’ roll that is a reminder of another musical era. 

The Wrench released the Gary Scott composition  You’ll Understand as a single in June 1969, but sadly commercial success eluded this emotive fusion of garage rock and psychedelia. It’s a welcome addition to Make Mine Mondo! So is the side of The Wrench’s one and only single The Day Is Hard. This is another Gary Scott composition that haunting and trippy fusion as garage rock and psychedelia combine to create one of the highlights of Make Mine Mondo!

In June 1960, The Brentwoods who had previously been known as The Misfits, released As I Live From Day To Day as a single. On The B-Side was Warren Joyner, H. B. Barnum’s Midnight Star which is a beautiful string-drenched ballad.

Another group who only released one single were The Whips, who released  Yes, Master! in 1958. It’s a Wayne Shanklin composition which features a brisk and sometimes exotic sounding arrangement during what is essentially a novelty track..

LA-based group The Syndicate, only recorded one single for Doré Records, My Baby’s Barefoot. It was penned by Bill Rash of The Syndicate and released as a single in June 1966, and is a driving slice of garage rock. On the B-Side was  Love Will Take Away, which was written by Karole Hensle, and features a heartfelt vocal on this hidden gem of a ballad.

When Tony Casanova released Showdown as a single in December 1959, his composition Boogie Woogie Feeling  was on the B-Side, Tony Casanova. It’s another timeless reminder of the rock ’n’ roll era.

Fifty years ago in 1968, The South Hampton Story released their one and only single Leave Me Behind on Doré Records. The South Hampton Story successfully combine garage rock and psychedelia on this ,memorable and melodic hidden gem. It’s without doubt one  of the highlights of Make Mine Mondo!

Dave Porrazzo wrote Midnight Beach Party which was released as a single by Johnny Z in April 1963. This oft-overlooked surf rock instrumental was the only single that Johnny Z released during his career.

In 1960, Seventh Son was released  as a single by Bobby Troup. His deliberate and dramatic vocal is accompanied by an underrated arrangement that was a feature of many Doré Records. This less is more approach works well on Seventh Son,  which was Bobby Troup’s last single for Doré Records.

Lew Bedell wasn’t content to run  Doré Records, he was also an aspiring songwriter wrote a number of songs using a variety of pseudonyms. This included  B. J. Hunter which was the moniker  Lew Bedell used when he wrote the psychedelic ballad  Haight (In Haight Ashbury Street) for Opus Five was . It was released as a single in April 1967, and is another of the highlights of Make Mine Mondo!

Closing Make Mine Mondo! is Russian Roulette which is the third contribution by The Zanies. It’s another instrumental, that was released by Doré Records in January 1963. A saxophone and piano drive the arrangement along during what’s another of The Zanies finest offerings. Russian Roulette is also a reminder of the pre-rock era, when lawyers and accountants took over the music industry and changed it forevermore.

Before that, musical impresarios and mavericks like Lew Bedell ran their own record companies, and were constantly looking for new and exciting music to release. That was what Lew Bedell set out to do when he founded Era Records in 1955, and continued to do when he parted company with his cousin Herb in May 1959. 

With a steely eyed determination, Lew Bedell set about turning Doré Records into one of the leading independent labels in America and through hard work succeeded in doing so. Part of his success was realising that music was constantly evolving and not getting trapped in the past. Lew Bedell constantly reacted to changes in musical fashion and sometimes, and sometimes, was a musical trendsetter.

These changes are documented on the new Ace Records’ compilation Make Mine Mondo! which features twenty-eight tracks. This includes rock ’n’ roll, rockabilly, garage rock, psychedelia plus instrumentals and novelty songs. The eclectic selection of singles on Make Mine Mondo! are proof that  Lew Bedell was willing to react to the changes in musical tastes. That was the only way a record label could survive and thrive during the late-fifties and sixties.

Just like any label, Doré Records needed singles, and Lew Bedell went in search of new artists and bands. Some of his new signings were up-and-coming bands, others were established artists that joined Doré Records’ roster. Some enjoyed a degree of success, while commercial success eluded some of the artists on Make Mine Mondo! 

Some of these artists that feature on Make Mine Mondo! released several singles, while others played a walk-on part on the history of Doré Records. This includes several artists who only released one single, but often these singles are oft-overlooked hidden gems. So too are some of the B-Side and unreleased tracks on Make Mine Mondo! which are a reminder of Lew Bedell’s Doré Records, that was one the leading American independent record label for twenty-five years.

Make Mine Mondo! 

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