The pop output of Everest Records has been unfairly overshadowed by its complex and highbrow beginnings. When Harry D Belock founded the label in 1958, he intended to create jazz and classical recordings that would show off the quality of his Belock Instrument Corporation’s recording machines.
Belock, who had been a soundman in Hollywood in he Thirties, was a pioneer of multi-channel mixing consoles. He had a state-of-the-art recording studio built in Bayside on Long Island where the label’s recordings would be made. Raymond Scott, a classically trained musician who had worked at CBS Radio and NBC Television, was the man entrusted with directing the musical side.
While jazz and classical album recordings were the label’s flagship offerings, a less celebrated series of pop and country singles kicked off in 1959 and continued through to 1965. We begin our exploration of that catalogue with the second release, Dolly Dawn’s ‘Running Wild’. It featured the Snapper Lloyd Orchestra, and, like A-side ‘I’m Through With Love’, was advertised as ‘From the United Artists Picture Some Like It Hot’. Dolly’s real name was Theresa Maria Stabile, and she made her name before and during Wolrd War II, recording for Bluebird, Okeh and Elite.
Several other notable women recorded for Everest. Patsy Cline’s tracks were reissues, having been cut for the Four Star label before she found real fame. Ketty Lester, in contrast, had toured Europe as a singer with Cab Calloway’s orchestra and, returning to California, recorded her first single, ‘Queen For A Day’/‘I Said Goodbye To My Love’, for Everest. She was then spirited by producers/songwriters Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga to Era, where she had her career-defining ‘Love Letters’ hit.
New York-born Gloria Lynne recorded many sides for Everest before slipping into obscurity, then making a comeback in the Nineties. Described by one critic as ‘An excellent singer whose style falls between bop, Fifties middle-of-the-road pop and early soul,’ the versatile Lynne started out singing in church and in 1951 won the legendary talent competition at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. In 1958 she was discovered by Raymond Scott and signed to Everest. We feature two songs, including ‘You Don’t Have To Be A Tower Of Strength’, a Burt Bacharach-penned answer song to Gene McDaniels’ ‘Tower Of Strength’ now regarded as a Northern Soul classic.
‘Trees’ is an engaging piece of doowop from Los Angeles vocal quartet the Baysiders, consisting of Jackie Walker, Sally Stevens, Jim Mitchell and Jim Patton. Walker, who’d previously recorded for Imperial and Dot, is also featured on the solo ‘Take A Dream’, while Stevens later became an in-demand session singer in Los Angeles.
Legendary saxophonist King Curtis recorded a long-player of easy-listening standards for Everest, but we feature ‘Jay Walk’/’Lone Prairie’, a single cut after the album’s 1961 release. Curtis went on to be Aretha Franklin’s musical director and play on a slew of soul classics until his death in 1971.
The first 45s compiled here were issued on white labels with a distinctive ‘summit’ logo and ‘Everest’ running round the top in a semi-circle. By late 1959 the label colour had changed to blue, with the writing and logo in silver. It changed again to a less interesting black with Everest spelled out in multi-coloured capitals, though a small ‘summit’ logo was retained either side of the central spindle hole.
The Raymond Scott Orchestra, led by the label’s A&R director, covered the Forties jazz standard ‘How High The Moon’, while the Supertones’ organ-led ‘Slippin’ And Sloppin’’ (which was split either side of a single) was a very different kind of instrumental. Billy Grammer was a country guitarist who’d recorded for Monument and moved on to Decca after a couple of 1960 singles (the Mel Tillis-penned ‘Big Big Dream’ was A-side of the first); he ended up a Nashville sessionman.
Rockabilly Jimmy Isle recorded three singles for Everest, having previously had a spell with the legendary Sun imprint. His releases, including ‘Billy Boy’, appeared in Britain leased to the Top Rank label. His brother Ronnie co-wrote many of his successes – and, while Ronnie died young in an auto accident, Jimmy lives in Nashville but has reportedly turned his back on music.
Founder Harry D Belock was initially very ambitious for his label, telling High Fidelity magazine that ‘We’re out to surpass Capitol. We’re not shooting marbles.’ But two years after its formation, Everest Records cut back on its classical side, opting to release more popular fare, and Belock was eased out of the running of the company. By 1962 the label had been sold to his accountant. The Bayside studio continued operating for a few more years and then was broken up, its equipment being sold to engineer Robert Fine.
We can’t claim all the recordings here will show off your hi-fi system to greatest effect, but they have a charm that typifies US pop of the pre-British Invasion era. Press play and take your listening pleasure to new heights…