Laurie Records was a New York-based independent record company that, over three decades from 1958, regularly cracked the upper echelons of the American charts. The movers behind the label were brothers Robert and Gene Schwartz, arranger Elliot Greenberg and multi-millionaire Allan I Sussel. The latter joined forces with Gene Schwartz after his earlier venture into vinyl, Jamie Records, had faltered. Sticking to the tradition of naming his companies after his offspring (Jamie was his elder daughter), younger sibling Laura Sue Sussel lent her name to the new partnership.
The company got off to a cracking start when one of their first signings gave them a fair-sized hit with ‘I Wonder Where’. Dion Francis DiMucci, known professionally to the world as Dion, was to become synonymous with Laurie Records. Having made a single for the Schwartz’s earlier company, Mohawk, Dion teamed up with the Belmonts in early 1958 and quickly became one of the biggest pop stars of the era.
Singles like ‘A Teenager In Love’ and ‘Where Or When’, both bearing the trademark Laurie Records paper label which sported four red corners with a black square where the hole was punched and the legend Laurie Records written above, raced up the charts.
In 1960, having placed eight Laurie 45s in the Hot 100, Dion parted company with the Belmonts. Laurie teamed him with another of their acts, the Del-Satins, who recorded in their own right and can be heard here on numbers like ‘Does My Love Stand A Chance?’ and ‘Teardrops Follow Me’.
Dion’s ‘Runaround Sue’, co-written with Ernie Maresca, who became a major force at the company, and inspired by the aforementioned Laura Sue Sussel, set the charts alight in October 1961, reaching the coveted Number 1 spot in the US and a more than decent Number 11 in the UK. The equally legendary ‘The Wanderer’, originally released as the B-side of ‘The Majestic’, quickly gained more plays than the A-side and rose to Number 2/UK 10 in February 1961. Dion subsequently moved to Columbia Records, where he saw out the Sixties pursuing a blues direction – though that wasn’t quite the end of the story with Laurie.
Our compilation to catches the label in its glory years, basking in the glow of its first wave of successes. Allan Sussel left in 1960 and, soon after, Elliot Greenberg acquired 12 per cent ownership. Dion’s singing style had rubbed off on acts like Kenny Chandler who, backed by the Del-Satins, recorded a number of sides for Laurie including ‘Leave Me If You Want To’ featured here.
Other hits during this era included ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’ by the Jarmels, a rhythm and blues act from Richmond, Virginia whose second 45 for the label this was. ‘Gee Oh Gosh’ was the B-side of their less successful follow-up, ‘I’ll Follow You’, released in November 1961. Bobby Goldsboro from Marianna, Florida, started his career with Laurie and you can hear his first single, ‘Molly’, on this compilation. He subsequently spent two years as Roy Orbison’s guitar-player and later cut a string of hits for Laurie starting with ‘See The Funny Little Clown’ before hitting the Number 1 spot in 1968 with ‘Honey’.
Returning to Laurie releases from the early Sixties, one of the most memorable was ‘He’s So Fine’ by girl group the Chiffons. Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee formed at James Monroe High School in the Bronx in 1960. Adding fourth member Sylvia Peterson, they originally recorded as the Four Pennies. Their first single, ‘He’s So Fine’, was written by manager Ronnie Mack and is included here. Released in December 1962, it reached pole position in the US the following March, selling over a million copies. In the Seventies former Beatle George Harrison was accused of plagiarising it for his ‘My Sweet Lord’.
Laurie also handled the American releases of acts already established on the other side of the Atlantic, such as Cleo Laine and Petula Clark, both featured here. The label would go on to enjoy huge success in the mid Sixties with another import and one of the British Invasion’s biggest acts, Liverpool lads Gerry & the Pacemakers, as well as hits with bands like the Royal Guardsman and the Barbarians. And as a lovely coda to their relationship with Dion, now re-invented as a serious singer-songwriter, he gave the label another big hit in 1968 with ‘Abraham, Martin And John’!
Laurie carried on into the Nineties when it was bought up by Capitol Music. Along the way it also set up several subsidiary labels like Rust, Legrand, President and Dolphin. Gene Schwartz passed away in 2002, soon to be followed by Allan Sussel. The label certainly left its mark and you can hear why in the grooves of many of the classic recordings on this set.