BELL RECORDS HISTORY

In 1952 Arthur Shimkin bought the Bell label from Benny Bell and became President of the company. Head of A&R was Morty Palitz and the musical director was Sy Oliver.

The original Bell records of the '50s generally tended toward cover versions of popular hits of the times. In it's early stages, Bell recorded popular music and comedy. The orchestral backup was first-rate on many of these recordings, with bands such as Sy Oliver and Burt Bacharach appearing.

By 1959, Al Massler was President of Bell. Massler formed Mala Records in 1959 as a subsidiary label to Bell, Mala recorded popular, rock and roll and R&B music. Massler also formed another subsidiary, Amy Records, in 1960. Amy recorded popular, rock and roll, ethnic, comedy and R&B. After Massler became president, they concentrated more on albums, much like budget pop labels such as Strand.

But generic pop music was dying out as the '50s closed, and by the turn of the decade, some changes needed to be made if the label was to survive. By 1959, the Bell label itself was almost inactive on the singles side. Instead of fighting Bell's established reputation when entering the rock and roll 45 marketplace, Massler shifted primarily to Mala and (later) Amy for singles, and used Bell as an album label. When one of the Amy singles ("The Madison" by Al Brown's Tunetoppers, Amy 804) unexpectedly hit, an album called Madison Dance Party [Amy A-1] was quickly issued. Actually, "The Madison," which made #23 on the Billboard charts nationally, would have been a bigger hit had not Columbia put out a competing song, "Madison Time" by the Ray Bryant Combo, which split sales (the latter made #30). A second Amy album [A-2], was a tie-in with Sick magazine (an early losing competitor to Mad).

By 1961, the Bell label itself was moribund, with a few albums and no singles being issued. The main activity was with Mala and Amy, each of which continued with about two dozen 45 issues per year, essentially without album issues. The Amy and Mala singles catalog was interesting, with most issues being well-produced stiffs, with an occasional chart single.

Larry Uttal, who was the owner of Madison Records, folded his Madison label and shifted his artists to Amy and Mala near the end of 1961. He purchased Bell/Mala/Amy outright some time between late 1961 and early 1964.

Go to the Bell Records chronological information page for more detailed information.