Archive for the ‘cruising’ Category

Record shops and in-car record players

December 29, 2007

carrecordplayer14.jpgIn 1958, teens in the L.A. area had an abundance of vinyl sources.  Apart from the record shop on almost every street, Wallich’s Music City supplied the needs for the new and reissued vinyl and the newly opened Wenzel’s Music Town in Downey not only carried these sides, but was releasing records on their own Jack Bee label as of 1959. Thanks to DJs like Art LaBoe on KPOP and Huggy Boy on KWKW, who played these favored sides, much to the pleasure of those cruising various boulevards in the suburbs, the oldies scene began to heat up.

In the early 1960s, Wenzels began pressing custom metal acetates of songs not on otherwise on 45rpm and created a few select unlabeled 45s (Jimmy Reed b/w the Royal Tones), thus meeting needs of cruisers, oldies fans and record collectors of all stripes, which is why employees of nearby Wallich’s Music City in Lakewood considered Wenzel’s “a bootleg operation.” With these record buyers, stereo was not an attraction, thus rock and roll was not heard on FM radio, which lent itself to stereo broadcasts.

The Invictas “Gone So Long” on Jack-Bee

August 26, 2007

34676Wenzel’s Music Town on Lakewood Blvd. in Downey was founded by Bill Wenzel in time for the Christmas season of 1958. By early 1959, the store, operated by Wenzel’s son Jack, had become successful enough that they were able to start their own label, Jack Bee (for Jack and Bill), which issued a half dozen releases before being changed to Downey.The Downey label lasted for much of the 1960s, issuing surf and other instrumental forms and leasing many masters to Dot.

Wenzel’s Music Town operated throughout the 1970s to decade’s end by Tom & Maxine Wenzel and their own offspring. The shop became famous world wide for its collector’s room, which generally offered up tasty 45s and LPs at reasonable prices.  On Sept. 2001, a sign was posted on the front door – “Wenzel’s has left the building.”

The Invictas with the Hollywood Rebels excellent pleading ballad “Gone So Long” b/w the jump “Nellie” didn’t chart, yet moved briskly at the Wenzel Music Town counter. Lead singer Sonny Patterson (RN: John Perkins; b: Texas) was backed by Robert Jones, Booker Banks, Alan Jay and Ervin Simril. All except Perkins hailed from the same Long Beach neighborhood with Simril singing briefly with the Debonaires.

Their name was derived from the brand new Buick Invicta. According to Simril, “a white Jewish guy named Pete” owned a meat market on Orange Ave. and contacted Jack Bee and arranged for the recording session. The backing group, the Hollywood Rebels were most likely Hollywood session players hired to back these acts.The Invictas then backed teen idol Jimmie Hombs on “Voo Doo Dolly” with the Twinkle Tones backing Holmes on the flip. When Jay left the Invictas, he was replaced by ex-Debonaires Bill Melvin. When Perkins got into legal trouble, he too left the group, but “Gone So Long” was reissued on the Vault label b/w “Troubles” with label credit given to Sonny Patterson & the Pastel Six.