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CLASSICAL  September 2007

CLASSICAL September 2007

Subject:

Re: The Joyce Hatto Scam

From:

Donald Clarke <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 28 Sep 2007 16:43:21 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (117 lines)

On 9/28/07 3:57 PM, "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Then there was the doings of the likes of Elie Oberstein
>
>http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byform/mailing-lists/arsclist/2006/01/msg00007.html
>
>You can still view Lumpe's work on Royale at
>
>http://www.geocities.com/elumpe/

I didn't know about Oberstein's classical legerdemain.  For those who
are interested, here is an article about him.

   OBERSTEIN, Eli
   
   (b Elliott Everett Oberstein, d 12 July 1960 aged 58) Record
   producer, very successful during the Swing Era, then a colourful
   wheeler-dealer.  In the 1920s, Ralph Peer offered to record free
   for Victor in exchange for copyrights on the songs; he then
   discovered Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, formed Southern
   Music in 1928 and sold it to what had then become RCA Victor on
   condition that the company would throw pop copyrights his way.
   We first hear of Oberstein when Peer recruited him from Okeh to
   RCA to keep an eye on Peer's interests, but they became enemies,
   and Peer did not get many copyrights.  That impasse ended in
   1932 when David Sarnoff, worried about anti-trust trouble, sold
   Southern Music back to Peer.

   Oberstein became head of popular Artist & Repertoire for Victor
   and Bluebird when Ed Kirkeby left in 1936.  He had been instrumental
   in forming Bluebird, RCA's 35-cent label, a big success; he
   produced hits by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and other stars of
   the era.  RCA Victor in those days was famous for probity and
   also for not paying people very much; Oberstein was one of the
   first record producers (the term barely existing then) to make
   deals with songwriters, publishers and others in order to make
   a living; he pioneered some of what later came to be called
   payola but was surpassed in greed by later generations.  Before
   he was suddenly fired with no explanation at the end of the
   decade, he had brought Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw to the label.
   
   When he left, he tried to pull a Jack Kapp.  Kapp had left
   Brunswick in 1934, hired to run Decca Records as a new subsidiary
   of British Decca; he brought Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers and
   Guy Lombardo with him from Brunswick.  But Kapp had those artists
   under personal contract, so he could take them wherever he went;
   when Oberstein left RCA he had produced a great many records by
   big-name recording artists and expected some of them to follow
   him, but none did, and his United States company was soon bankrupt.
   (Dorsey may have been tempted.  His contract did not pay him any
   record royalties, and he had had quite a few hit records in less
   than two years.  Suddenly he had a new RCA contract that guaranteed
   him $60,000 a year.)
   
   During WWII Oberstein had labels called Hit, Elite, Classic and
   Varsity, selling recordings made in Mexico and new releases made
   as soon as he could sign with the musicians' union, on strike
   against the other labels in 1942-3.  (During that strike he did
   pretty much as he pleased, and was one of the few people who
   ever got the best of James Petrillo, leader of the musicians'
   union.  Petrillo was furious with Oberstein, who said that making
   records in Mexico "may be bootlegging, but it's legal.") For a
   while Oberstein was selling records in Firestone stores, because
   during the war Firestone didn't have any tires to sell to the
   public.  Johnny Messner, the bandleader formerly on Bluebird
   whose mildly risque recording of "She Had To Go and Lose It At
   the Astor" had sold over 100,000 copies on Varsity, conspired
   with Eli to start Tophat Records, specialising in the double
   entendre.

   In February 1945 Obertstein sold his studios, pressing plant and
   masters for more than half a million dollars to the Majestic
   radio company, who wanted to start a record label; he worked for
   Majestic until June, but his flamboyance was probably not a good
   fit and he was replaced by bandleader Ben Selvin.  With the end
   of the war the industry was optimistic that the record business
   would soon be booming; in July Oberstein was hired back by RCA,
   and he saw that the Swing Era was over, leading the transition
   to pop singers like Vaughn Monroe and Perry Como, but was bounced
   again in 1947, a scapegoat when the record business was in
   complete disarray.  In 1948 he formed Wright Records, revived
   his Varsity label and started Rondo; in July 1949 he had a
   contract with Columbia to market their budget label, Harmony
   (which ended with lawsuits, because if there was a hit on Harmony,
   Columbia would yank the artist back to the full-priced label).
   Oberstein had been sniffing around MGM, but when that company
   finally launched a record label it was Frank Walker who got the
   plum job.

   When the Majestic label was formed it had looked like a sure
   thing, because the company had a ready-made distribution system
   of radio dealers, but the label didn't last long.  Many post-war
   labels died because of inflation in the cost of materials and
   the Battle of the Speeds, which began in 1947-8: small labels
   couldn't afford to manufacture in two or three speeds.  At the
   same time Majestic was probably also trying to expand from radio
   into the T V business.  Mercury bought the remains of the Majestic
   label in 1948, probably to get singer/ bandleader Eddy Howard,
   who was making hits ('To Each His Own'), and Oberstein was later
   able to buy what was left of Majestic from Mercury, including,
   for example, eight tracks Majestic had made with Percy Faith.
   Oberstein spent the next few years recycling whatever tracks he
   controlled, which is why, when Faith became a big name at Columbia
   in the 1950s, his 1947 tracks appeared on labels like Royale,
   Varsity, Allegro and Rondo-lette.  It was Oberstein, still making
   a living.  He merged his Wright Records with Allegro and Regent
   to become the Record Corporation of America (RCA!) He later sold
   out to Pickwick International, keeping the Rondo label, which
   he marketed until he died.

Donald Clarke

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