Starday « custom series » (1953-1960) : an introduction – how did a flourishing small label to operate on custom releases

Although the STARDAY Record Company were not, by any means, the first to dabble with custom pressings, they became – almost fifty years later – one of the most famous and their vanity pressings are greatly sought after nowadays. What was originally a sideline to scrape a few bucks together, and add more songs to their growing music publishing portfolio, the “custom” or “vanity” business began to really flourish after 1956, when every Tom Crook, Lee Voorhies or Red Moore wanted to make a record of their own. The almost total lack of exposure left the vast majority of the releases dead in the water, but the artist could walk about, handing out his or her own record, a little like a vinyl business card.

Of course there were other companies competing for the custom-pressing dollar;  RCA, COLUMBIA, and to a lesser extent CAPITOL, had extensive custom pressing services, even if sometimes the end product was marred by the use of recycled wax and an inferior sound quality. The Rite Pressing Co from Ohio were more prolific, but again the sound and the quality of the pressings was not always going to help anybody get airplay. STARDAY on the other hand, had many releases that have great sound. Sure, there are a few “bedroom” recordings – Plez Gary Mann for example, and a few that appear to have been recorded in the “outhouse” most notably the “Lo-Fi” Trice Garner release. However, on the whole the sound and recording quality always seemed a lot clearer than the competition, thus making airplay an easier bet. Of course, most of the artists couldn’t afford the deals involved in the payola scandal so it didn’t make much difference. (suite…)