Monday, September 23, 2019

Richard Stewart Custom Recording Tape and Disc

You know, you always hope that each obscure Colorado record find has a happy story attached to it. For the most part they do, but then you find something that goes in the complete opposite direction of cheerful.

So, I've had this homemade two-sided, 10" compilation for years. I always loved the Fort Collins label, showing three skull and crossbones. The selections on the disc include Johnny Cash, Elvis, Bob Wills, Red Foley, and the Light Crust Doughboys. I thought it was time to investigate the Richard Stewart Custom Recording Tape and Disc label further.

I wasn't prepared for what I found.

Richard "Dick" Stewart was known around Fort Collins as a popular local organist, and senior at CSU. He married his sweetheart, Clarice, on March 24, 1957, and they immediately started a family.

On June 16, 1958, Dick Stewart was robbed of his wallet. The offender then burglarized the family home, and fled to Wyoming, where he was arrested for the crimes.  Just 11 days later, Dick Stewart died, at the age of 25. The cause of death was believed to be diabetes. His death was so shocking, at such a young age, it made the front page of the paper.

 Fort Collins Coloradoan - July 28, 1958
Click to enlarge

Dick Stewart Found Dead
Richard “Dick” Stewart, 25, local musician and Colorado State University senior was found dead in his home at 823 South Shields Street Sunday night. The discovery was made by a friend Alan Char-key, of 712 West Olive Street, who had gone there to 'visit him.  Mr Stewart, the son of Dr. and Mrs. James D. Stewart of Albuquerque NM,  formerly of Fort Collins, had long been afflicted with diabetes. The young man was born at Chicago, July 7, 1933, and came here with his parents in 1946. He had lived in the Shields Street home since Dr. and Mrs. Stewart moved to Albuquerque several months ago. He was church organist. Mr. Stewart had served as organist for several Fort Collins churches most recently for the First Christian Church where he played for the service Sunday morning. He was graduate of Fort Collins High School and was to have begun his senior year at CSU this fall.

I couldn't find any additional information on the Richard Stewart Custom Recording Tape and Disc label. It's quite possible this was simply a test pressing for homemade recording equipment. The address of the studio, 825 S. Shields, is now home to a travel agent, and a family planning center.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Al DiNero and the Esquires

Going through a large stack of Duodisc, Silvertone, National Hollywood, and Wilcox-Gay Recordio records this week, which I had obtained, several years ago, from my Pueblo record buddy, Joel Scherzer.  There was always a mystery to these, as the labels only showed a few notations (in pencil), with the names "Al," "Art," "Frank," "Virgil," and "Jim." A few others only noted songs, including "Mona Lisa," and "Twilight Time." Thankfully, several showed 1946 and 1947 dates, so I had that to go on.

The records are in poor shape (as are most home recording discs of this age), but I could make out jazzy, accordion-heavy, 1940s-era instrumentals, from a pretty tight band.

Just when I was about to dive into my Internet search, I saw one other record in the box.

Sadly this 1946 record, a cover of the Ink Spots "To Each His Own," is not in great shape, so I can't offer up a sound clip. Even trying to digitally clean it up proved unsuccessful. While the male singer is uncredited, the label mentions that it was recorded by the group, The Esquires.

The dots were all about to be connected.

Al DiNero (the "Al" on all of those home recordings) and the Esquires, were a southern Colorado music staple, from the 1940s through the 1970s. Based in Pueblo, the group would perform up and down the front range, but mainly in the immediate Pueblo/Colorado Springs area.

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
December 21, 1968

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
February 12, 1970

When Al wasn't performing, he was running Al DiNero Accordion and Music stores at several locations along Northern Avenue, then in the Sunset Shopping Center, in Pueblo.

Al passed away in 2007, at the age of 87. According to his obituary, in the Denver Post  "He began playing at age 5. By 14, he went to local beer gardens to play in the evening and came home with $2, which he gave to his family."  The story goes on to quote Frank Caruso, who played with Al in the Esquires (and I assume the "Frank" listed on these home recordings), and would later form his own group, the Serenaders. “His love was the accordion."

Born in Pueblo on Dec. 21, 1919, Al graduated from Central High School. According to the obituary, he had his own orchestra while still a teenager. Later on, he toured with the USO, with Rex Allen and Roy Rogers. He worked at the CF&I steel mill, was a jeweler and trained racehorses.

Al's musical impact on the Steel City was mentioned in 2011, during the 125th anniversary of the Bessemer neighborhood. A story in the Pueblo Chieftain refers that, "Generations of Italian and Slovenian families took lessons from him, including former U.S. Representative, [the late] Ray Kogovsek." The story mentions, "Kogovsek remembered promising his dad, Frank, that playing the accordion would 'be my life’s work' if he bought a shiny new $300 accordion from DiNero. 'Three months later I gave it up,' he said."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Never Judge a Gospel Record - Ever.

 So I was visiting the local thrift chain today, digging through the LP bins, when I spotted this Greeley family faith-based recording, from the Parker Quartet, entitled Unshackled, featuring former Shook-Parker Gospel Singers members Don and Alvera Parker.

The Shook-Parker foursome disbanded in 1960, after releasing two fantastic old-fashioned country gospel albums.

While the Shook side of the group went on to record several albums, I hadn't seen anything from the Parker side, until today. There was no year indicated on the album. but I noticed it was a Rite pressing. According this fantastic Rite record pressing site, I was able to determine that it was recorded in 1971. The pink-colored label on Unshackled noted the price was half off the $1.99, so I decided to invest a buck in yet-another Colorado religious LP (not that the discount would have mattered, as I still would have purchased it, at $1.99 - 😀).

So I get home, and put my latest vinyl find on the turntable. Sure enough the album was your typical family, heavy-harmony, gospel recording. So I leave the room, to make lunch, with the record playing in the background. Then I hear this:

(2:34 - wait for the surf rock-vibe, starting at :43)


Oh it gets better. Yet another surprise, from the next cut - a moody, Byrds-vibe, instrumental:


The back of the album indicated that it was sold at "church activities and meetings." Don and Alvera later moved to Longmont.  Alvera passed away in 1997. Don passed away in 2011.

Don and Alvera Parker tombstone - Lyons Cemetery, Lyons, CO
 (note the name of the LP is added to the tombstone).

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Solve the Mystery: Presto 3628

Hey all! So I found this unmarked, 78rpm, Presto aluminum plate lacquer disc at the KGNU record show, last week. It was in a box next to a few others I grabbed (including the Rocky Mountain Radio Council disc). There appeared to be grooves on only one side, so I plopped it on the turntable, to give it a listen. Out came this very amateur country recording - just a guy and his guitar:


The recording runs almost 5:00 long, and it has its share of goofs, but the singer sings on. There is absolutely no information regarding who the singer is, what the name of the song is, or even if it was made in Colorado. The disc shows "3628," along with the Presto logo. The fantastic Phonozoic website shows that this most definitely a 1940s-era recording.

I'm taking a stab in the dark that someone on here might be able to solve the mystery.

Yes, I did an exhaustive search on some of the lyrics, and came up empty.

Presto sold lots of blank discs, as well as recorders, of which amateur singers used to make demos, or gifts for family and friends. I'm idly wondering if this might be the case here, and we will never know who this mystery singer is.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rocky Mountain Radio Council

So I found this record, at the annual KGNU record and CD sale, last week - a one-sided, lacquer-coated, 33 1⁄3 rpm, instantaneous recording disc, on this very cool Rocky Mountain Radio Council label.

Upon putting it on the turntable, I heard a photography-related instructional program, performed with a Dragnet radio show narrative.

No idea who the announcers / voice actors are, as there are no credits listed. There is very faint writing on the label, but I can't make it out. There is no etching on the runoff.

In 1937, University of Wyoming President A.G. Crane, proposed a radio project, similar to that of the University Broadcast Council of Chicago. He called it the Rocky Mountain Radio Council. It was one of the first set up by the National Committee on Education by Radio (NCER), funded by John D. Rockefeller.

According to an Internet search. "Crane envisioned a wider radius of broadcasting, proposing that a multi-state consortium, centered in Colorado and Wyoming, create a regional broadcasting initiative in which widely separated populations would have access to the same free education"

Within its first year, RMRC provided more than 200 education programs to radio stations, from 30 college and university partners.

1941 Radio Annual

The RMRC was housed at the Brinton Terrace row houses, located just off of 17th and Lincoln (21 E. 18th Avenue), behind Trinity Methodist Church.

Brinton Terrace Row Homes
(Demolished 1956) 

In 1949, A.G. Crane was elected governor of Wyoming. A year after his election, the RMRC folded (given this date, and the fact the Dragnet radio show ran from 1949-1957, we can probably assume this recording was made, shortly before the group disbanded, in 1950. However the Graflex 22 camera, mentioned in the narrative, was made from 1952-1956), but not before it joined up with Denver Public Schools, the Denver Public Library, and the University of Denver, to discuss the concept of educational television for the city. Through those efforts, in 1956, KRMA-TV became the state's first public television station. In 1970, KRMA became a member of the national Public Broadcasting Service (rebranding as Rocky Mountain PBS, in 1997).

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Labor Man on Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!

Now that my own laborious task of moving is done, and I have all of my Colorado records unpacked and back on the shelves, I thought I would offer up some audio, related to particular days or events, in upcoming blog posts.

I dug out one of my favorite Colorado (by way of Minnesota) LPs, the self-titled Danny Holien. You will find lots of online posts elsewhere, on this stunning vinyl gem, so I won't copy and paste the details, but if you get a chance it's worth reading up on him, and finding his one and only 1972 album recording.

Have a safe holiday!