KEN GRIFFIN  –THE RONDO YEARS

 

 

       Edited by Bryon Young ©           Robert L. Campbell and Robert Pruter           Draft: April 21, 2012
 

    

 

     Rondo Records was an independent label that opened in the middle of 1946. It was based in Chicago until November 1954, when it was acquired by music business veteran Eli Oberstein, folded into his Record Corporation of America, and moved to Union City, New Jersey.

 
 
Staying in business until 1970 or thereabouts, Oberstein's Rondo was primarily an issuer of cheap 12-inch LPs, with a particular emphasis on light classics and show tunes.
 
The month and day in 1946 when Rondo opened its doors is not known. In its formative stage the company wasn't doing nearly enough business to draw ink from anyone, let alone attract the interest of Billboard magazine. (When the trade paper's next annual issue for jukebox operators came out on February 1, 1947, Rondo still didn't rate a listing.) The earliest press coverage identifies the company's principals as Julius F. Bard and Nick Lany; so far as we know, they started the company. The outfit's business address was initially given as 329 South Wood in the Loop.
 
 
Throughout its history, Rondo's strategy, whether it was on a tight budget or had money to burn, was to throw off lots of releases, in the hopes that a few of them would catch some revenue. Those that failed were quickly withdrawn from distribution. In consequence, many Rondos are quite rare and remain undocumented.
 
 
Julius Bard had been around the music business for a while. The 1944 Billboard Music Yearbook, p. 190, listed J. F. Bard, 414 South Franklin Street, as the Chicago distributor for a clutch of small labels (Asch/Stinson, Continental, Gala, Musicraft, Premier, and Bibletone). In July 1945, Bard, who had been spending some time in Los Angeles, got together with a fellow Chicago-based distributor, Franz Green, to start Pan-American. As the name intimated, Pan-American was an independent label that initially recorded Latin bands, such as those of Noel DeSelva and Rafael Mendez (Billboard , July 28, 1945, p. 19). After a while, Pan-American would branch out into jazz and Country. But Bard quickly lost interest in the production end of Pan-American, spending most of his time in Chicago and leaving Green to represent the
company at record-industry get-togethers in Los Angeles. In January 1946, J. F. Bard and Company was distributing such labels as De Luxe and Guild, as well as Pan-American and others that Bard had recently encountered on the West Coast, such as Melodisc and Philo.
 
 
In May 1946, Bard and Green sold a majority interest in Pan-American to the Birwell company, which was originally out of Detroit. (In case anyone's wondering why Bernie Besman called his Detroit distribution outfit Pan-American, the answer is that its cofounder was Hans Green, brother of Franz; the distributor opened in April 1946, when Hans and Franz were still both associated with the record company.) In November 1946, Birwell would buy out Julius Bard and Franz Green's remaining interest in the Pan-American, which continued under Birwell's exclusive management. That was just as well from Bard's point of view, because Pan-American had less than 6 months to live; after releasing 67 singles, it would file for bankruptcy in April 1947, owing $40,000.
 
 
According to the article announcing the launch of Pan-American, "Bard and Green say they will eventually go into American pop stuff and will use another record label name when they release these sides" (Billboard , July 28, 1945, p. 19). Green may not delivered on those plans, but it took Bard less than a year to make a move. Bard had been distributing labels with a jazz presence, Asch and Continental and DeLuxe and Philo, and Pan-American had recorded some jazz acts. But Rondo, we may safely say, did not build its business plan around the music being made on the South or West Sides of Chicago. Nor was it oriented toward the downtown jazz clubs. It didn't even aspire to capture what was being played in hotel ballrooms in the Loop. The company's interest in any of these would prove fitful. Its intended clientele was the Central and
Eastern European immigrant communities, in and around Chicago and extending through Milwaukee up into Wisconsin, along with those record buyers in the towns and rural areas of the Midwest who shared their preferences.
 
 
Other Chicago-based companies that sought the support of white record buyers put crooners and other popular singers in front of Swing or Mickey Mouse bands. Two post-World War II independents with a pop emphasis were Vitacoustic, which flared up in 1947 and sputtered out at the beginning of 1948, and Sonora, which started up in1942 but didn't really enter the pop market till the end of 1945, reached its peak for recording activity in 1946, and ran out of gas in the summer of 1947. In 1948 Rondo would acquire two masters that had been recorded for Vitacoustic, and a couple of months later would pick up a bunch from Sonora. Both  Vitacoustic and Sonora recordeda few artists with jazz credibility, and toward the end of their runs made a more focused effort to record "race" music, as it was then called.
 
 
By contrast, Rondo's ventures into jazz and rhythm and blues were so quick and casual, they almost look accidental. The company made a sudden jab at the "race" market during its first year in business, and almost as quickly abandoned it. Its later ventures, some a little more substantial, came about because the company, over a two-year period, was pulling in enormous sums from its organ records. It invested the proceeds to pump up its artist roster and fill out its release series while it was temporarily unable to record its top-selling artist. So it bought some "race" sides left over after Sonora collapsed, and added an R&B session of its own. Finally, seeking some keyboard and rhythm acts, it signed a Chicago-area jazz pianist in 1949, and, looking for new directions after losing its star attraction, it tried recording Dixieland in 1950.
 
 
But now we are getting well ahead of ourselves. For Rondo wouldn't be ramping up to its revenue plateau until the spring of 1948, the beginning of the Ken Griffin years.
 
 
 
 
 
The Rondo 100 Series

Rondo started out with two release series, which would continue as its mainstay as long as it operated in Chicago. One of these was a 100 series for keyboard records. Other kinds of music would eventually be added—after something like 38 piano and organ releases in a row.
 
 
The 100 series, and the company as a whole, would take on new life when Ken Griffin's first instrumental record came out.  Post-Griffin, the first 28 releases came to be seen as prehistoric. Rondo printed up several different versions of an elaborate 78 rpm sleeve in 1950, and at least one more in 1951, each with a detailed roundup of company product on the back. Even though some of the early 100s would later see release on 45s (Jimmy Blade's all did), and the company eventually gave LPs to Noller and Straub, Ihkre, and Blade, even putting Teri on one of them, none of the sleeves mentioned any of these singles.
 
 
The Company that Couldn't Get a Write-Up in Billboard...
 
 
In the early going, Rondo also put out stories for children in a single-digit series; a rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, told by one Mildred Sinclair , was recorded in September 1947 (with UB 21654 on one side) and released as Rondo RC-2. We don't know how many more singles ensued in this series, but in time there enough children's stories had accumulated for a 10-inch LP.  Through the end of 1947, there was nothing in Rondo's output of polkas, waltzes, piano and Hammond organ solos, and spoken word items to make it a bigger deal than Pfau, the Milwaukee-based polka specialist. Well, Rondo packaged some of its earliest 78s into albums, and so far as we know Pfau never got to that point. But 1947 came and went without one solitary story about Rondo in the trade papers.
 
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Becomes the House that Griffin Built
 
And so it would remain—until Ken Griffin came long.
 
During the next 6 years in Chicago, it was Griffin who kept Rondo's lights on and its bills paid. He even cast his shadow over the company's afterlife in Union City; the Record Corporation of America kept his EPs in print and recycled his tracks on Rondo-lette LPs. Sixty years later, Rondos keep right on showing up at estate sales and in second-hand stores across the USA and Canada. So many of these bear Griffin's name that veteran collectors often don't realize that Rondo recorded anybody else.
 
Kenneth W. Griffin was born in Columbia, Missouri on December 28, 1909, and grew up in Colorado. Originally a violinist, he taught himself to play the pipe organ in a movie theater; he got plenty of experience accompanying silent movies during the last couple of years before talkies came in. In 1935, he became an early adopter of the Hammond organ.
 
 From the middle of 1942 through the beginning of 1944 he served in the US Army. On his return to civilian life, Griffin landed a gig playing the organ in a restaurant in Naperville, Illinois, moving on to a beer garden and a restaurant in Aurora, then to regular appearances on local radio station WMRO. By 1947, Griffin was working regularly in clubs and restaurants in Chicago. Rondo wasn't the first company to want to record him; as we will see, it was the second. But when Griffin got going with Rondo, in the last quarter of 1947, he scored a monstrous hit for the company, and would reign as its top artist from then on.
 
 
Griffin's singles were all in the 100 series, which kept on going through the company's Chicago period, reaching past Rondo 305. One suspects that Bard and Lany came to see the 100s as starting in April 1948. That was when the company issued Ken Griffin's first instrumental single: You Can't Be True, Dear" and "Cuckoo Waltz" on Rondo 128.
 
Which merely serves to underline how he transformed the company's prospects. Griffin recorded 8 solo organ titles for the Chicago Recording Studios on August 20, 1947 (we know these specifics because CRS and Rondo would become entangled in a lawsuit of Dickensian duration over the publishing rights to You Can't Be True, Dear, a 1935 pop tune by two German songwriters that had become "alien property" during World War II). His first rendition of You Can't Be True, Dear was released, on one of the small labels operated by CRS, as Broadcast 406 in October 1947. (The Broadcast label of the late 1940s and early 1950s has no connection with the 1970s operation operation that specialized in bootleg or sonically altered doowop reissues.)
 
 
From the middle of 1942 through the beginning of 1944 he served in the US Army. On his return to civilian life, Griffin landed a gig playing the organ in a restaurant in Naperville, Illinois, moving on to a beer garden and a restaurant in Aurora, then to regular appearances on local radio station WMRO. By 1947, Griffin was working regularly in clubs and restaurants in Chicago. Rondo wasn't the first company to want to record him; as we will see, it was the second or the third. But when Griffin got going with Rondo, in the last quarter of 1947, he scored a monstrous hit for the company, and would reign as its top artist from then on.
 
However, Griffin was not under long-term contract to Broadcast, and didn't expect to see any money beyond the $165 he'd been paid for the 8-tune session (plus whatever he got for the follow-ups; Broadcast claimed to have 21 masters on him, making good on its assertion by eventually releasing them all). So he brought a 6-cut demo to Rondo, which signed him to do another 8-tune session, covering some of the same pieces he'd already done at Chicago Recording Studios, Inc. Legend has put the session on December 31, 1947, but we aren't buying that. Griffin's first six instrumental releases on Rondo carry matrix numbers from Universal Recording, and the U900s (see our  Vitacoustic page) date to September or October 1947. In other words, Griffin most likely cut for Rondo before his first Broadcast 78 had even been released. And, as we will see below, he'd cut his demo in a studio session before his outing for Broadcast.
 
 
Griffin launched his Rondo career with a strange pair of singles: Rondo 128, his original instrumental recording, and Rondo 228, a souped-up version of "You Can't Be True, De ar," featuring crooner Jerry Wayne, who had been handed some lyrics hastily jotted in English so he could dub them over the instrumental. In fact, 228 seems to have been released in March 1948—in advance of 128. It further appears that Griffin signed a long-term contract (for 2 years) around the time that Rondo 228 was released.
 
In any event, the vocal and instrumental renditions sold smartly, and both sides of 128 shot way up the pop charts. Ken Griffin collector Bryon Young has said of Rondo 128, "This record was probably heard by every American alive during the 1950s, since it was a staple in the carnival/fair/amusement park 'merry-go round' repertoire, as well as roller skating and ice skating rinks."
 
 
So Rondo 128 and 228 stepped hard on Broadcast 460. Adding to the insult, Julius Bard and Dave Dreyer, who had fitted those lyrics in English to You Can't Be T rue, started a music publisher called Biltmore, copyrighted the tune with the new words, then sent Broadcast a telegram demanding payment of all the publisher royalties on You Can't Be True . When Broadcast refused to pony up, Rondo filed suit.

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From the collection of Robert L. Campbell
 
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From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

 
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Rondo promptly released two more records from Griffin's first session, as 129 and 130. Now what? Rondo bought a little time with Elmer Ihrke playing medleys of hymns, on Rondo 131, 132, 133. These, of course, had also been recorded during the previous year.

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From Billboard, June 19, 1948, p. 66

 
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In June 1948, Rondo took out an ad in Billboard to promote two of its next three Ken Griffin releases: 135 and 137. We assume that 134 came out a little earlier. An advertisement that same month from a store in Ludington, Michigan (on the eastern shore of the lake, at the other end of what was then a busy car and rail ferry running from Manitowoc) suggests seven Rondos—four Ken Griffin releases and three Rudy Plocars—as Father's Day presents.
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From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

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From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

 
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Rondo 134 and 135, had a, well, interesting origin. Some copies of Every Little Movement (UB21347-M-R) carry the date July 21, 1948, in the trail-off shellac, but it has an R suffix, for "remastered," and the remastering obviously took place when 134 and 135 were being prepared for release. The original matrix numbers from United Broadcasting, which range from UB21347 to UB21352, point to a recording date in June 1947, before either the Broadcast or the Rondo You Can't Be True, Dear . By way of corroboration, the sound of the instrument is different.
 
There is a tiny bit of studio ambience on "Polka Pops " and its session mates, suggesting the organ was being recorded through a microphone. By the time he took up with Rondo, Griffin had his instrument hooked up intravenously to the control board, a practice he would continue during his years with Columbia. The enhanced lack of definition is already noticeable on the Rondo You Can't Be True, Dear .
 
Rondo 134 and 135, then, must be the demos that Griffin initially brought to Bard and Lany. The matrix numbers on them carry an M suffix, which probably stands for Master, the house brand established by Egmont Sonderling of United Broadcasting. He would use it in 1949 and 1950 to sell sides from companies that had recorded with him and failed to pay their bills.
 
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From the collection of Robert L. Campbell
 
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      From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

 
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With one more Griffin release, on Rondo 137, the stash from Universal Recording was exhausted.
 
New Recordings, Urgently Needed
 
Rondo was now in a bit of a spot. Griffin's records were flying out the door and he could reel off tune after tune in the studio. But it was 1948, and the second Petrillo recording ban was being enforced with some vigor in Chicago. Rondo had used up the 12 sides at its disposal. Its competitor Broadcast Recordings, now itching for revenge, had more Griffin masters on hand than Rondo did.
 
Rondo temporized by dubbing vocals on top of more instrumentals that it had previously issued (singers didn't have to join the Musicians Union, hence weren't subject to the recording ban). Between Rondo 137 and Rondo 183, there were all of seven Ken Griffin sides: six vocal retreads and one solitary instrumental. The instrumental, Griffin's original tune Bumble Bee on a Bender , was apparently the last usable side from his demo session; it appeared on Rondo 146. (Rondo picked up an old sweet-band side by Lang Thompson, originally from Eli Oberstein's Varsity label, to serve as a coupling for "Bumble Bee." See below for more about that convoluted deal.)

Julius Bard took off to Europe at the end of June, looking for partners to distribute Ken Griffin records. Returning Stateside at the end of August, Bard announced that he had signed a deal with Pacific, a French company headquartered in Paris, and that a deal with an unnamed Italian company was in the works. From Pacific, Rondo had licensed 15 masters by Armand Bernard, who led a chamber orchestra (Billboard , September 4, 1948, p. 17). We are not sure whether Rondo put out some of the Bernard sides in 1948, or waited until 1951, when it assembled 8 of them into a 10-inch LP. 1948 releases seem more likely; we just need to find some actual records.

At last new Ken Griffin recordings. Billboard, March 5, 1949; courtesy of Dan Kochakian.

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As soon as it was safe, Rondo booked studio time to record more Ken Griffin. Judging from an article in Billboard , on Chicago labels' reactions after the official lifting of the recording ban on December 13, 1948, Rondo was treading very carefully around the Union. "J. F. Bard, of Rondo, and Dick Bradley, of Tower, both reported that they have no sessions arranged yet, but will make a thorough study of current tunes and their artist rosters before proceeding into a recording studio" (December 25, 1948, p. 18). Well, for Rondo no thorough study (as per the Colonel McCormick spelling) would be necessary. Recording Ken Griffin was Job 1, Job 2, Job 3, and several more down the list. So he made a United Broadcasting session, in the helpfully ambiguous 9000 series, either in late 1948 or early 1949 (we have seen matrix numbers running from UB9286 to UB9289). If done in 1948, it was followed by a cooling off period, as nothing saw release until March 1949. (The same Billboard piece carried statements from Universal Recording and United Broadcasting about the sessions they had scheduled over the next month. Not a word, of course, about any sessions they'd already conducted.)

There were sighs of relief in Rondoland as 9 new Ken Griffin singles poured out from March through December 1949: Rondo 188, 189, 186, 187, 192, 196, 197, 183, and 198. (The items are listed in this order on the 1950 sleeves, probably on account of hitches in the release schedule.) And, yes, one of them was Take Me Out to The Ball Game (Rondo 197, with—what else?—Skaters' Waltz  for a flip).
 
Several of the new ones would, in their turn, acquire Doppelgängers with vocals; the release number on the English-language vocal version was normally the instrumental release number plus 100. Hence, Rondos 287, 292, 283, and 298 (for more on these, see Appendix C).
 
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Going Vinyl
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The first Rondo LPs had 78-sized labels. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

 
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In the summer of 1949, Griffin had become such a draw that the company was able to put out its first LP on him, a 10-incher. Released when microgroove was a brand-new concept, Rondo RLP25 is a hybrid beast; it was initially sold in an extra-heavy paper sleeve with a foldover flap, and the labels were the same diameter as on the 78s, leaving an awful lot of trail-off vinyl.
 
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From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

RLP25 was soon joined by RLP26, consisting of Elmer Ihrke playing Christmas carols, and RLP27, consisting of 8 more Griffin tracks. These still carried the petite labels, but were packaged in cardboard jackets from the git-go. By the end of the year, Rondo had five LPs out. But Elmer Ihrke couldn't have been too pleased to discover that RLP26 was no longer getting promoted, because the company had had Ken Griffin record his own batch of Christmas songs, which were put in a 3-pocket album (Rondo R-1010) in time for Christmas 1949. Compounding the insult was the use of chimes and celeste to reinforce most of the pieces. Even though Ihrke records remained in the catalog, and the company eventually released other LPs on him, RLP26 was allowed to go out of print; nearly all  of Rondo's other LPs remained on the market until the company was sold. Another holiday offering for 1949 was Ken Griffin's pairing (on Rondo 206) of Star of the East with a drearily sung number called Our Christmas Waltz . This didn't do so well; Rondo 206 was soon dropped from the company's promotional material, copies are uncommon today—and neither side was picked up for any of Rondo's  many Ken Griffin collections.

Around the same time, the company started putting its new singles as well as some old ones—all of Ken Griffin's back catalog and part of Elmer Ihrke's—out on 45 rpm. The early 45s carry new matrix numbers from RCA Victor, a logical choice given its role in promoting the format. In 1950, Rudy Plocar's back catalog was reissued on 45s.

After a while (there is some question about the date at which Rondo went with these), the 45-rpm singles were joined by a series of 17 45-rpm EPs, each with 4 selections by Ken Griffin (an 18th EP featured Elmer Ihrke). No one else got the EP treatment. Meanwhile, Griffin eventually had 6 10-inch LPs out on Rondo, and Ihrke had 2 1/2.

A look at the covers to the Griffin LPs (the first six can be seen at http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/kenhtml/LPs10.htm) shows how Rondo, um, economized on art work. RLP-34 used the same cover design as RLP-25, in red and brown instead of yellow and green; the same composite photo of Griffin and his instrument was also employed, in black and white, in the liner to his 78-rpm album of Christmas songs. The RLP-25 design was reused, in its turn, for most of the EP sleeves (the one exception, EPR-10, appears to have taken its cover design off the front of the same 3-pocket 78 album of Christmas music).
RLP-34 and RLP-38 repeated the design of RLP-27, 34 in a deeper shade of blue and 38 in red. For Griffin's valedictory offerings, RLP-43 and 44, the company actually sprang for new cover art printed in 4 colors—not that it set the company back a whole lot.

After the company was sold, the Rondo LPs were retired, and Griffin reissues on 12-inch Rondo-lette LPs took their place. But the EP line was still being offered in 1955, after Rondo had changed hands.

 

BillboardDec19149.bmp

Rondo opens an office in New York. Billboard, October 1, 1949, p. 42.

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The October 29, 1949 issue of Billboard announced (p. 15) that Rondo, which was now running its own distributor in New York City, was planning a series of German and Swiss records acquired from "a foreign source." An album of Hawaiian music had been picked up from "Chrome Seal, local label catering to industrial music users." This was a reference to RLP-30, by the Hawaiian Harmony Quartet.

Rondo took its new foreign-language ventures quite seriously: on Rondo 328, You Can't Be True, Dear was reverse-engineered with overdubbed vocals in the original German, while Rondo 428 had a vocal overdubbed in Polish. By 1952, Rondo would even be offering German dance instruction records.

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A Canadian Rondo. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

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Somewhere around this time, Rondo singles started being pressed and distributed in Canada. Most of the Canadian Rondos that have come to light are, inevitably, Ken Griffins, but Rondo 164 by Betty Norman and 250 by Dusty Rivers were released in Canada, and, for all we know, a great many more Canadian Rondos were in circulation at one time. We are not completely sure who Rondo's Canadian partner was. (Quality, a label that licensed much of its product from small labels in the USA such as Atlantic, is the best bet, because it is known to have put out 4 LPs by Ken Griffin.) The Canadian Rondos
carried a clumsily transferred version of the original gold on maroon label design from 1946-1947, with a bite taken out of the logo above the center hole. The Canadian records sported a striking color scheme, copper on midnight blue, but the labels have darkened with age and don't usually photograph well.

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From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

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In the Fall of 1949, Rondo changed the lettering and background to its logo, going from 5 wavy lines, which suggested a musical staff, to 6 wavy lines. The change was occasioned by the company's move to 45s, on which the old logo wouldn't fit gracefully. When it opened in 1946, Rondo used a red label with gold print. Starting around the middle of 1947, Rondo labels had been a medium to dark red with silver print. In the middle of 1948, the company changed to a lighter, rather metallic red with silver print. The 6-line logo kept the basic scheme but went to a somewhat darker shade of red and reduced the silvered area, to just the word "Rondo" and the 6 lines. In addition, there are two known instances, from late 1949, of silver on black (see below). For its LPs, Rondo went with a 6-line silver on apple green label.

In July 1949, as it committed to LPs and 45s, Rondo definitively dumped shellac for exclusive pressing on "filled vinylite," as the Billboard item described it (July 2, 1949, p. 25). Rondo had had to deal with noisy shellac, especially during its first two years, so Bard and Lany presumably felt no regrets. Many of Rondo's releases from 1949 through 1952 were done up on red vinyl, some transparent and some opaque. The opaque red vinyl is particularly striking, though the plastic was soft and easily scuffed, and red Rondos have often deteriorated over the years.

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Recording Venues

From its rudimentary days in the summer of 1946 through the fall of1949 Rondo had a strong preference for United Broadcasting Studio as a recording venue. There are UB 2000s from 1946, many UB 21000s and 22000s from 1947, a fair number of UB9000s and 9-1000s from 1949, even some UB50-000s from 1950. Rondo did some overdubbing at United Broadcasting on top of masters cut elsewhere, in a UB8000 series. During 1946, Rondo also employed a studio that was long a mystery to us, despite its employment by several small Chicago labels. But from the evidence provided by pianist Max Miller, who booked it for private sessions and made his  Gold Seal recordings there, we've concluded that the venue with the 1000 matrix number series was the Bachman studio on Carmen Avenue. Rondo used it for the Misses Noller and Straub, for Jimmy Blade, for Elmer Ihrke (his first session, maybe also his second), and for Lil Mason.

In 1947 Ken Griffin's first session for the label took place at Universal Recording. But Rondo didn't develop a lasting relationship with Universal.

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Rondo's reliance on United Broacasting runs down. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

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And a relationship with RCA Victor begins. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

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From the collection of Bill Reid

In the Fall of 1949, the company moved most of its Ken Griffin sessions over to the RCA Victor Studios, indeed, transferred most of its actitivity there for the next year or so. It was already relying heavily on RCA to master and press some items previously recorded elsewhere. RCA had introduced the 45 rpm single, and in the early going, smaller companies relied on RCA to press their 45s—and benefited from the promotion RCA initially gave to any 45s that it pressed. The first Rondo 45s carried matrix numbers in the D9-CX series Rondo 78s recorded in late 1949 carry matrix numbers in the D9-CB series from RCA; a few items previously recorded at United Broadcasting also carry D9-CB numbers because they were mastered and pressed by RCA.

Where the company was working during the next couple of years is hard to know Some E0-CB series matrix numbers for RCA Victor in 1950 have been spotted on 78s, and a great many E0-CX's can be seen on 45s that came out that year. But most of the newly issued Rondos from 1950 through 1953 were purely A and B, leaving the matrix numbers off both labels and vinyl.

   

From Billboard, January 21, 1950, p. 33

COPY from the above full-page ad in Billboard ---
About 120 miles northwest of St. Louis, in the "show-me" state of Missouri, lies the scenic little town of Columbia...
famous for the Stephens College for Girls... and the birthplace of Ken Griffin. The Stephens College dates its fame
as far back as 1833.. whereas Ken Griffin was brought to Columbia by Mr. Stork at a much, much later date. Strange
but true, Ken Griffin's primary musical inclinations were toward the violin... but unlike Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin,
and Jack Benny... he failed to follow through... and his talents just naturally flowed to the organ. Like countless
other great artists, his instinctive ability to play the organ was desperately slow in being recognized. His early public

appearances consisted chiefly of itinerant concert and church recitals... a rugged and tortuous path upward toward
the heights he ultimately reached. World War II placed him almost immediately in active service, where his musical
career sustained a lengthy setback. However, at the conclusion of hostilities, Ken again took up his work at the
organ. And then the "break" that he had long been seeking occurred. One memorable day he had recordings made of
four melodies... not for commercial purposes... but for his own personal use. The original pressings of these records
were subsequently heard by Nick Lany of Rondo Records... and Nick was duly and indelibly impressed. At this
particular time Rondo Records was interested in reviving a tremendous European hit... a beautiful melody that had
fared across the Continent in 1935. Ken Griffin was retained by Rondo Records in 1947 to make recordings of
the European hit... "You Can't Be True, Dear" and since this first release...

MORE THAN 6,000,000 KEN GRIFFIN RECORDS HAVE BEEN SOLD BY RONDO!

Continuous demand for his music has since poued in from the nation's top sources of entertainment. His busy
itinerary has included such famous places as...
THE BOWERY, DETROIT THE TOWN CASINO, BUFFALO THE OLYMPIA, MIAMI
BILL GREEN'S, PITTSBURGH THE PARAMOUNT, DES MOINES THE ARMORY, INDIANAPOLIS
GRAND THEATRE, EVANSVILLE (Attendance records broken) GEORGE DEVINE'S BALLROOM, MILWAUKEE
FOREST PARK HOTEL, ST. LOUIS HIPPODROME, BALTIMORE GUEST STAR SPIKE JONES RADIO SHOW

Other appearances, too numerous to mention, have stretched his schedule throughout the East and Central West.

Today Ken Griffin is America's top-flight organist! His ability to touch and vibrate the heart strings of sophisticated city
people and plain country folk... is the big factor in the success of his recordings. It is predicted his latest Rondo
records will achieve new laurels for him!

Booked by Mutual Entertainment Agency, 203 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago
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Slow Fade

Rondo splurged on a full-page ad in the January 21, 1950 issue of Billboard, boasting that the company had sold 6 million Ken Griffin records. The ad promoted his new releases on Rondo 213 and 214. My Blue Heaven, on the B side of 213, horned in on Kenny Jagger's act: on this one occasion, Griffin played piano with one hand and organ with the other. Griffin had recently put out 191 and 199, and would soon follow with Rondo 221 and 222. Rondo 421 was another overdubbed vocal record, now skipping 200 places in the numbering. Up to this point, Griffin had brought the company 22 instrumental singles, and 10 more with vocals laid on.

Maybe Bard and Lany shouldn't have been drawing so much attention to those sales figures right before their go-to artist's contract expired. Before they knew it, he was entertaining offers from Mercury and Columbia. Columbia must have made the better offer. Ken Griffin signed on the dotted line and went right to work on Easter Parade (matrix number CCO5147, done in the major label's Chicago studio in March 1950). He would spend the rest of his career with Columbia, recording prolifically in its Chicago and, occasionally, in its New York studios. Prolifically—from 5 years spent recording him 2 or 3 times a year, it would put out 65 singles on him, plus a slew of 10-inch LPs. Griffin must also have made a new sponsorship deal; some of his Columbia releases identify his instrument as a Wurlitzer. For a time, he even had his own TV show in Chicago,  67 Melody Lane. Unfortunately, his health didn't hold up. In 1955, Griffin suffered a heart attack while touring, and was hospitalized in Spokane, Washington for a time. On March 11, 1956, he had a second heart attack, and died a few hours later in Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was only 46 years old.

On April 1, 1950, Rondo moved into new offices at 220 West Locust Street. The building also housed the J. F. Bard Company, which of course was Rondo's distributor for the Chicago territory.

After Ken Griffin decamped to Columbia, Rondo sustained itself by mining his extensive back catalogue. But efforts to diversify continued for a while. Nick Lany went off to Europe, looking for business partners for Rondo. He made deals with Selmer in France, Disco-Trade in Belgium, and Heimbrodt in Switzerland (Billboard, May 20, 1950, p. 14), though one wonders how many Rondos were actually pressed and distributed in these countries. The same article announced that Rondo had signed "Danny Alvin, the vet Dixieland drummer and his band" (see below for more about Alvin's one session for the label). Other additions included "the Song-Smiths, Harmony Trio, and Charley Agnew's small dance band." Agnew, whose first name was more often spelled Charlie, had been leading sweet bands in Chicago since 1924, and had made records in the past for RCA Victor and Columbia. His Rondo releases still need tracing.

And the label announced that it had signed two new organists: Arsene Siegel and Tommy Fairclow. We have yet to find a Siegel single on Rondo, but three or four of his sides were included in a 10-inch LP during the company's waning days. Siegel was half French and half German. Born in Lyon, France, Siegel was originally trained as a pianist. He immigrated to the United States, studying music in Chicago and playing the organ in silent movie theaters, and became a citizen in 1926. He played the organ in several theaters in Chicago, also spending some years in Detroit. When Rondo signed him, he was in residence at the Chicago Theater. Though he played pop tunes nightly and allegedly had more than 1000 of them in his active repertoire, Siegel was a very different kind of organist from Ken Griffin: he favored the mighty Wurlitzer, with its wide array of sounds, and published several Classical compositions for organ or piano. Around 1955, Siegel, who by then was working for radio station WBKB, recorded a 12-inch LP for a local hi-fi label, Replica Records out of Des Plaines, Illinois. The label's proprietor, Bill Huck, had built a studio in his garage, then acquired two used Wurlitzer theater organs, taken them apart, and recombined them into one monster instrument. The spacious recording Siegel got on Replica bore little resemblance to the direct-to-the-board sound that Griffin favored. Just a little later, Siegel made at least one single for the eccentric Fortune operation out of Detroit.

Rondos by Tommy Fairclow have surfaced. Fairclow's first session took place at United Broadcasting Studios in April 1950, and one of his early releases, on Rondo 232, was reviewed in Billboard on August 19 of that year (p. 35). Of "Beautiful Ohio," the reviewer's blunt assessment was "Fairclow apparently represents Rondo's bid to build another Ken Griffin. Guy has the same feel for time and melody but hasn't the crisp phrasing of Griffin. "State Fair Polka" ("neatly punched out") got a somewhat more favorable treatment: "Could pick up coin in the Midwestern polka-schottische belt." The company stayed with Fairclow for nearly three years. Rondo 247 caught a review in Billboard on February 28, 1953 (p. 95). The take-away was more positive this time, but Fairclow couldn't shake his replacement status: "an organ solo reminiscent of the work which Ken Griffin used to do for this same label. The market for this kind of wax is always there." Fairclow eventually shared a 10-inch LP (RLP 42) with Arsene Siegel.

On January 6, 1951, a story on the merger of two New York-based record distributors casually mentioned that the combined entity, Douglas-Bruce, would be handling Rondo (Billboard, January 13, 1951, p. 14). The "addition" of Bruce as a New York distributor had gotten its own casual mention in the story of May 20, 1950. Of course, this implied that Rondo had shut down its own New York office. The last of the Ken Griffins to get reviewed in the trade magazine, on March 24, 1951 (p. 36) was Rondo 223 ("Put Your Arms around Me Honey" b/w "Margie").

After 1950, Billboard no longer ran stories about Rondo (the company was downgraded to occasional mentions in record reviews, song charts, and stories about distributors.) Judging from a Rondo 78 sleeve that we have located, printed toward the end of 1951, the company was putting its commercial focus on 10-inch LPs (see the list in Appendix D).

Two of the LPs, released in 1950, came out on an instructional subsidiary called Accompadisc (for whose products Rondo charged higher prices). These were "music minus one" compilations of piano accompaniments for songs. Accompadisc ALP-1 consisted of light classical selections such as "Indian Love Song"; the piano player, H. B. Moss, had previously guested on celeste at a couple of Ken Griffin outings. ALP-2 was a much more serious affair: four lieder by Schubert and six by Brahms, with Alexander Kipnis producing. Rondo extended the concept to dance accompaniment records, thouugh so far as we know these were not compiled on LPs. Begining in late 1951, Rondo repackaged some old material (Ken Griffin playing waltzes) with some new items (Maxham's Folk Orchestra demonstrating the quadrille) into a series of Rondo Folk Dance (RFD) singles. If all of these were released as planned, there were at least 10 RFDs.

After leaving Rondo, Elmer Ihrke would concentrate on teaching and on publishing music for the Hammond organ. A quick search at a used book site (http://www.alibris.com/search/books/author/Elmer%20Ihrke) will turn up a bunch of music collections for various models of Hammond organ, published between 1954 and 1961, with Elmer A. Ihrke credited as the arranger. Some of his arrangements were republished in organ music anthologies well into the 1970s.

In September 1952, Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart was included in Billboard's chart of Top Ten Songs. Captain Stubby's version, on Rondo 299, was duly cited next to some better-known renditions. Ken Griffin's version on Columbia  was one of many competitors with better distribution. On February 28, 1953, Billboard reviewed Rondo 301, still another Stubby offering.

 

We figure that the last Rondo in the main 100 series carried a release number in the low 300s. Recently, a copy of Rondo 305 showed up, a polka-flavored pop outing by Carmen Vincent and his Orchestra; it also carried the 1 and 2 side designations. Meanwhile, the last 550-series Rondo that we have seen, Rondo 643 by Bernie Roberts, also designated the sides as 1 and 2.

For 18 months, nothing more was to be seen in the pages of Billboard. Then, on November 27, 1954, the trade paper announced that the company had been sold. Julius F. Bard was no longer in the picture; the Billboard article (from the December 4 issue) reporting the transaction referred only to Nick Lany. The deal didn't come out of the blue; Lany told the magazine that Rondo's distributors had been notified several weeks earlier.

It was the Ken Griffin catalog that enabled the company to limp along after he left, then found it a buyer. Record Corporation of America had gotten its start by engulfing and devouring a big chunk of Sonora; now it was absorbing the entirety of Rondo (except for some leased items like the Don Pablos, which were returned to their original owners; some of the Don Pablos would reappear on a revived Latin American label). The Eli Oberstein Rondo would keep Ken Griffin's EPs on the list and recycle a bunch more of his music on new 12-inch Rondo-lette LPs. Rondo 10-inch LPs that interested Oberstein were recycled with new numbers on Royale: Royale 18110 used the same master as Rondo's Gabor Radics offering, with RLP-39 crossed out in the trail-off vinyl on each side. But would anyone have bought a record company for Max Gordon's back catalog?

On Rondo, it was the last usable Ken Griffin instrumental during the recording ban, a 1947 recording of his Bumble Bee on a Bender.

Billboard reviewed Rondo 1553 through 1556 in its "race" section on February 26, 1949, indicating that the series got its launch early in the year. In other words, most of the 1550s were released before the company's next
slew of Ken Griffin records, first advertised in the issue March 5, 1949.

Conclusion

Overall, Rondo's efforts in the jazz and R&B markets barely tweaked the company's trajectory. They were consequences rather than causes of its temporary wealth and fame. Because the Rondo 550 and 100 series have not been fully documented, we don't know exactly how many singles the company released during its Chicago years, but there must have 200 at least. The items we have listed in detail here add up to 16 releases, contributing less than 10% of Rondo's total output, and, we may be sure, way under 10% of the company's sales. We've gone to the trouble here because of their musical interest. We hope collectors will be able to sift more of these items out from the Ken Griffins, and that some reissue effort may eventually ensue.

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Credits and Sources


See Bryon Young's Web page (http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/kenhtml/Bryan%20Young%20Page.htm) for a load of interesting details about Ken Griffin's recordings, including a rundown of the lawsuit over You Can't Be True, Dear, which dragged out until December 1956–-after the organist had died, Broadcast had gone out of business, and Rondo had new owners.

The Ken Griffin Memorial page (http://www.theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/) reproduces his obituary in the Aurora, Illinois, Beacon-News.

Appendix B. The Rondo 100 Series

 

 


 

Matrix # Release# Artist                                   Title                  Recording Date  Release Date

 

U. 913 128
RLP-25
EPR-1
Ken Griffin at the Organ You Can't Be True Dear September 1947 April 1948
U. 914 128
RLP-25
RFD-1-B
EPR-1
Ken Griffin at the Organ Cuckoo Waltz September 1947 April 1948
U. 916 129-A
RLP-34
EPR-1
Ken Griffin Donkey Serenade September 1947 May 1948
U. 915 129-B
RLP-25
EPR-1
Ken Griffin Ciribiribin September 1947 May 1948
U. 917 130-A
RLP-25
EPR-2
Ken Griffin Doodle-Ee-Do (on 78)
Doodle Doo Doo
September 1947 prob. May 1948
U. 918 130-B
RLP-34
EPR-8
Ken Griffin American Patrol September 1947 prob. May 1948
 

 

 

UB 21351-M 134-A
RLP-25
Ken Griffin at the Organ Polka Pops June 1947 June 1948
UB 21350-M 134-B
RLP-34
EPR-8
Ken Griffin at the Organ Casey Jones June 1947 June 1948
UB 21347-M 135-A
EPR-12
Ken Griffin at the Organ Every Little Movement June 1947 June 1948
UB 21349-M 135-B
EPR-12
Ken Griffin at the Organ Valencia June 1947 June 1948
  136        
  136        
U 920 137-A
RLP-25
EPR-11
Ken Griffin at the Organ If I Had You June 1947 June 1948
U 919 137-B
RLP-25
EPR-2
Ken Griffin at the Organ Little Brown Jug June 1947 June 1948

 

 

UB8569-3-1 143-A Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Cuckoo Bird Waltz *vocal added 1948 1948
UB8568-3-2 143-B Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Every Little Movement *vocal added 1948 1948
 

 

 

UB 21352-M 146-B (78)
RLP-25
188-B (45)
EPR-4
Ken Griffin at the Organ Bumble Bee on a Bender prob. July 1947 July 1948
 

 

 

150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp If I Had You *vocal added 1948 October 1948
  150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp Brown Jug Polka *vocal added 1948 October 1948
 

 

 

UB9761
D9CB 1105-1
183-A
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Yes Sir, That's My Baby Early 1949 Late 1949
D9CB 1055 183-B
RLP-33
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ Love Was the Cause of It All Late 1949 Late 1949
 

 

 

186
RLP-27
EPR-3
Ken Griffin at the Organ You You You Are the One Late 1948 Early 1949
  186
RLP-27
EPR-2
Ken Griffin at the Organ Five Foot Two Late 1948 Early 1949
  187
RLP-27
EPR-3
Ken Griffin at the Organ You're My Love Song Late 1948 March 1949
  187
RLP-27
EPR-2
Ken Griffin at the Organ The Miller's Daughter Late 1948 March 1949
  188-A (78 and 45)
RLP-34
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ Lady of Spain Late 1948 April 1949
 

 

 

UB9286 188-B (78) Ken Griffin at the Organ With the Cosmopolitans | Sung by: Eddie Vand The Shades Are Down on Cobble Street Late 1948 April 1949
UB9288 189
RLP-34
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ with the Cosmopolitans Neapolitan Nights Late 1948 Early 1949
UB9289 189
RLP-34
EPR-6
Ken Griffin at the Organ With the Cosmopolitans After the Ball Late 1948 Early 1949
  190        
  190        
UB9954 191-A
RLP-34
EPR-8
Ken Griffin at the Organ The Wedding of Lilli Marlene July 1949 October 1949
UB9955 191
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Someday July 1949 October 1949
D9-CB-1056-1 192-A
RLP-27
EPR-4
Ken Griffin at the Organ By the Waters of the Minnetonka
By the Waters of Minnetonka [later pressings]
June 1949 July 1949
D9-CB-1053-1 192-B Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Hill Beautiful Wisconsin June 1949 July 1949
 

 

 

D9CB 1000 196-A
RLP-27
RFD-1-A
EPR-3
Ken Griffin at the Organ | Celeste: H. Moss Ting-A-Ling (The Waltz of the Bells) Late 1949 Late 1949
D9CB 1001 196-B Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Hill You Didn't Want Me When You Had Me Late 1949 Late 1949
D9CB-1002-1X 197-A
RLP-27
EPR-3
Ken Griffin At the Organ | Celeste: H. Moss The Skaters Waltz Late 1949 Late 1949
D9CB-1003-1 197-B
RLP-27
EPR-6
Ken Griffin At The Organ | Celeste: H. Moss Take Me Out to the Ball Game And The Band Played On Late 1949 Late 1949
  198-A
RLP-33
Ken Griffin at the Organ Souvenir Waltz   Summer 1949
UB9767 198-B
EPR-13
Ken Griffin at the Organ Ti Pi Tin June 1949 Summer 1949
UB9956 199-A
EPR-16
Ken Griffin at the Organ College Medley | Notre Dame - Wisconsin - Maine - Illinois - Georgia July 1949 October 1949
UB9957 199-B
EPR-15
Ken Griffin at the Organ The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi July 1949 October 1949
D9-CB-1102-1B 1010-1A
R-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Bells & Celeste) Jingle Bells Late 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1103-1A 1010-1B
R-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes) Oh Christmas Tree! Late 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1106-1A 1010-2A
R-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes) Hark the Herald Angels Sing Late 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1107-1A 1010-2B
R-1010
EPR-10
Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes) It Came upon a Midnight Clear Late 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1108-1A 1010-3A
R-1010
RLP-24
Ken Griffin At The Organ Up on the House-Top Late 1949 Late 1949
D9-CB-1110-1A 1010-3B
R-1010
Ken Griffin At The Organ Winter Wonderland Late 1949 Late 1949
 

 

 

UB9-1142 206-A Ken Griffin at the Organ | Sung by Karen Ford and Bill Snary Our Christmas Waltz September 1949 December 1949
UB9-1143 206-B Ken Griffin at the Organ Star of the East September 1949 November 1949
 

 

 

212 Ken Griffin at the Organ Santa's Coming Late 1949 December 1949
  212 Ken Griffin at the Organ Merry Christmas Late 1949 December 1949
  213-A
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Sentimental Me Late 1949 January 1950
  213-B
RLP-34
EPR-7
Ken Griffin at the Organ My Blue Heaven Late 1949 January 1950
  214
RLP-33
EPR-5
Ken Griffin at the Organ Tiger Rag   January 1950
  214
RLP-33
EPR-4
Ken Griffin at the Organ Till We Meet Again   January 1950
 

 

 


221-A
RLP-38
EPR-13
Ken Griffin at the Organ Half a Heart   February 1950
  221-B
RLP-38
EPR-14
Ken Griffin at the Organ Under a Red Umbrella   February 1950
  222
RLP-38
EPR-18
Ken Griffin at the Organ Music Music Music!   March 1950
  222
RLP-38
EPR-18
Ken Griffin at the Organ Jumping Beans   March 1950
E0-CB-3352-1 223-A
EPR-17
Ken Griffin At The Organ Put Your Arms around Me Honey January or February 1950 1950
  223-B
EPR-17
Ken Griffin At The Organ Margie   1950
E0-CB-3349 224-A
RLP-38
EPR-16
Ken Griffin At The Organ Wabash Blues January or February 1950  
E0-CB-3350 224-B
RLP-38
EPR-8
Ken Griffin At The Organ Stardust January or February 1950  
  225
RLP-38
EPR-15
Ken Griffin At The Organ Liebestraum   May 1950
  225
RLP-38
EPR-14
Ken Griffin At The Organ Bayadere   May 1950
  226        
  226        
  227 Ken Griffin At The Organ Tea for Two    
  227
EPR-11
Ken Griffin At The Organ Miss You  

Appendix D. Singles on Rondo with Overdubbed Vocals

 

Matrix Number Release Number Artist Title Overdubbed on Recording Date Release Date
  228-A Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal by Jerry Wayne You Can't Be True Dear Rondo 128-A   March 1948
  228-B Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal by Jerry Wayne Doodle Doo Do Rondo 130-A   March 1948
  328-A Ken Griffin: (Orgel) | Gesang: Jolly Franzl Du Kannst Nich Treu Sein Rondo 128-A    
  328-B Ken Griffin: (Orgel) | Gesang: Jolly Franzl Komm' in Meine Liebeslaube Rondo 135-A

 

 

UB8569-3-1 143-A Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Cuckoo Bird Waltz Rondo 128-B   1948
UB8568-3-2 143-B Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman Every Little Movement Rondo 135-A   1948
  150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp If I Had You Rondo 137-A   October 1948
  150 Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp Brown Jug Polka Rondo 137-B   October 1948
 

 

 

  283 Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill and Karen Ford Yes, Sir, That's My Baby Rondo 183-A    
  283 Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill Love Was the Cause of It All Rondo 183-B    
  287 Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill and Karen Ford You're My Love Song Rondo 187    
  287 Ken Griffin The Miller's Daughter Rondo 187    
  292-A Ken Griffin By the Waters of the Minnetonka Rondo 192-A    
  292-B
RLP-33
EPR-4
Ken Griffin Beautiful Wisconsin Rondo 192-B    
  298 Ken Griffin | Vocal: Bill Snary with the Songsmiths Souvenir Waltz Rondo 198-A    
  298 Ken Griffin Ti-Pi-Tin Rondo 198-B    
  421-A Ken Griffin At the Organ Featuring The Songsmiths Under a Red Umbrella Rondo 221-B   1950
221-A 421-B Ken Griffin At the Organ Half a Heart Rondo 221-A   1950

Notes on Appendix C: These records with overdubbed vocals are listed in the chronological order of the original instrumental releases from which they were derived. Where no vocal credits are included, that side of the record was carried over as an instrumental.
 
The discerning reader will note the absence of vocal credits on both sides of Rondo 292. That's because, for some reason, Rondo put out 192 with a vocal on Beautiful Wisconsin—which sounds as though Johnny Hill and Ken Griffin were actually in the studio at the same time—then put the instrumental version out on 292. (The rationale for the switch has proven elusive.)
 
There are two known Rondos that overbub a vocal over something besides a Ken Griffin organ solo. While the A side of 428 is yet another version of You Can't Be True, Dear, side B has Alicja Kusek's vocals dubbed
on top of a polka from Rudy Plocar's first session for the label.
                                                                                         

 

 

    

Billboard, December 10, 1949, p. 40

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Appendix E. 10-inch LPs on Rondo

 

LP Number Artist Title Release Date
RLP-24 Organ and Chimes [Elmer Ihrke, Cosmo Teri, Ken Griffin] Merry Christmas Melodies 1953 or 1954
RLP-25 Ken Griffin At the Organ July 1949

 

 

RLP-27 Ken Griffin The Wizard of the Organ October 1949

 

 

RLP-33 Ken Griffin At the Organ 1950
RLP-34 Ken Griffin The Wizard of the Organ 1951

 

 

RLP-38 Ken Griffin The Wizard of the Organ 1951

 

RLP-43 Ken Griffin Wizard of the Organ on Rondo Records 1952 or 1953
RLP-44 Ken Griffin Wizard of the Organ on Rondo Records 1952 or 1953

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Some Notes to Appendix D: As with most small record companies at the time, Rondo's 10-inch LPs generally reissued tracks that the label had already put out on singles. We have indicated on our 100 and 550 series lists which items were later released on LPs.

Every side out of the 40 included in the first 5 Ken Griffin LPs is on our list of the 100 series (Appendix B), as is every side on the Jimmy Blade LP and every side on the Olive Mason LP. There is just one track on the Max Gordon LP not presently listed in the 100s, and we are reasonably sure that every Elmer Ihrke track on his his two solo LPs and his other two shared LPs made a previous appearance in the 100 series. (For instance, RLP-24, which Ihrke shares with Cosmo Teri and Ken Griffin, supplements the 6 Teri and Ihrke tracks in the 78-rpm album R-1004 with one other Ihrke track, previously released on Rondo 109 and 120, and one side from Ken Griffin's 78-rpm album R-1010). On the back of RLP-28, as released in 1949, the statement is made that "All these selections [on RLPs 25, 26, and 27] are also available singly—(on 78 rpm records)." Every track on the 2 Rudy Plocar LPs is included in our 550 series listing (Appendix A).

Ken Griffin's last two LPs, RLP-43 and 44, are different animals. Not one of RLP-43's 8 tracks was released while he was still under contract with Rondo. The titles are Twelfth Street Rag, The Whistler and His Dog, Humoresque, Santa Lucia, Prune Song, Sentimental Journey, Freight Train Boogie and La Paloma. Between his return to the studio toward the end of 1948 and his departure from Rondo in March 1950, Griffin was recording at a much faster pace than even Rondo's aggressive release schedule could support. Some of these titles may, of course, have appeared on singles, as yet undocumented, between 1951 and 1953.

The same goes for RLP-44. What appears to be the label's very last LP consists of Heavenly Hawaii, Cielito Lindo, Serenade, Beer Barrel Polka, Funiculi, Funicula, La Golondrina, Dark Eyes, and Barcarole.

On the 17 4-track Griffin EPs released by Rondo, just one track out of the first 32, Lorelei Waltz on EPR-4, is not on our 100 series list (nor is it any of his 7 known LPs). EPR-11 includes Twelfth Street Rag and Prune Song from RLP-43. EPR-12 includes The Whistler and His Dog and La Paloma, as on RLP-43. EPR-13 has Humoresque and Freight Train Boogie; EPR-14 Santa Lucia and Sentimental Journey. The last four EPs corresponingly duplicate the contents of RLP-44. The couplings are Heavenly Hawaii and Cielito Lindo from EPR-15; Beer Barrel Polka, and Schubert's Serenade from EPR-16; Funiculi, Funicula and La Golondrina from EPR-17; and Dark Eyes and Barcarole from EPR-18.

RLP-25 was announced in Billboard; a later story, dated October 22, 1949, declared that Rondo had 4 LPs out; and four of the first five were listed in a small Rondo advertisement in the same trade paper on December 10, 1949. The release date on the Don Pablo comes from an ad for Kuras Furniture Appliance and Music store in Ludington, Michigan; it is listed among several "New LP 33 1/3 RPM Records" (Ludington Daily News, April 14, 1950, p. 8). Although the numbering suggests that RLP-24 was the first venture into the medium, the only copy we have seen looks like a 1953 or 1954 release. RLP-24 uses a red Rondo label in the standard 10-inch LP size, not the green 78-rpm style label that the company otherwise relied on (even on the last two Ken Griffin LPs, RLP-43 and 44).

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Overdubbing vocals wasn't considered a violation of the Musicians Union recording ban.

 

To Ken Griffin Home Page

 

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