Pickwick Records

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, May 24, 2008 05:30pm | Post a Comment

In 1950, Cy Leslie formed Pickwick Records out of the ashes of children's music label Voco records. Before that, he was in the recorded greeting card business. By '53 he was building his budget LP empire. This would eventually include the Design, Bravo, International Award, Hurrah, Hilltop, Quintessence and Grand Prix imprints as well as very popular children's records on the Cricket, Mr. Pickwick and Happy Times labels. In the UK many releases were issued under the Hallmark Records moniker.  Specializing in genre releases early on, the focus was on the honky tonk piano, lounge and pop vocal market.  Utilizing unknown session players and stock photography, Pickwick filled dimestores with cheap fodder. Later licensing agreements with major labels like Capitol, Motown and RCA brought a bit of legitimacy, but the company was still churning out plenty of fodder. A favorite subgenre of mine is the hit movie exploitation album. (I've been saving images from various film exploitation albums for a future posting.)  Especially prevalent in the UK during the late 60's and early 70's were compilation albums by Top of the Pops, Mirror Image, Kings Road and a host of other phony bands doing covers with production values seemingly just a step aboveMSR level recordings.

In the mid 70's, Pickwick began issuing albums on the De-Lite and P.I.P. labels. This proved to be a very successful venture, with platinum sales from Kool and the Gang and solid hits in Gary Tom's Empire and Crown Heights Affair... Novelty acts P.I.P.'s Dinner With Drac LP probably didn't sell as well...In 1978 Pickwick was scooped up by Polygram, apparently just to score the Kool and the Gang contract. A great move on the part of PolyGram as Kool and the Gang's biggest hits were yet to come. Universal has controlled the catalog since their merger in 1998 with PolyGram...

Relevant Tags

Pickwick Records (1), Kool And The Gang (2), Gary Tom's Empire (1), Crown Heights Affair (1), Cy Leslie (1), Dimestore Records (1)