It was 1975, and I was in Los Angeles taking a week's worth of short courses in Chemical
Engineering at UCLA. Sitting in the hotel after class one afternoon, I looked around in the yellow pages
to see what record companies were in the area. I was astounded to find Claridge Records listed at 6362
Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 306, in Hollywood. Claridge Records! I thought they were in New York, and
had closed a decade earlier!
This was before the days when I was writing for Goldmine, in the days when I was working for the Washington, DC, oldies station. Like all record collectors, I had a want list, and the #2 record on my want list for as long as I could remember had been "Don't Fool with Fu Manchu" by the Rockin' Ramrods, on Claridge Records. This was a record that scraped the bottom of the WLS Top-40 in 1965, and although I liked it at the time, I had never seemed to find a copy. Wow! Was this the same Claridge Records?
I dialed the phone. A secretary answered, and I explained that I was a visitor from far away, and I had been looking for one of the singles on Claridge for years, and in fact, it had been #2 on my want list for years. Might they still have a copy of "Don't Fool with Fu Manchu" that I could buy?
She told me to hold on, and a few moments later she returned with a smile in her voice and said, "Mr. Slay would like to talk to you."
Mr. Slay? THE Mr. Slay? Frank Slay, of Swan Records production, songwriting, "Flying Circle," and all that? Yes, THAT Mr. Slay.
Frank Slay got on the line and the first thing he said was, "Are you kidding me? We couldn't GIVE that record away when it came out, and now after all these years, someone is looking for it? Well, come down to the office and I'll give you a copy."
He explained that the group was from Boston, and when they heard that the movie The Face of Fu Manchu was coming out, they thought it would be great to do a song as a tie-in with the movie and appear at the opening where they could give away free records. At that point, the group had just signed with the brand-new Claridge label. They managed to talk the movie theater into letting them show up and give out the records, which noted on the label that the song was "Inspired by the Seven Arts Film The Face of Fu Manchu."
"We made one mistake, though," Slay admitted. "We gave out the records as people were coming into the theater, not going out. What a disaster. Records were flying all around like flying saucers during the movie, records were on the floor broken in half, records were everywhere. What a mess. Few of the people at that theater had ever heard of the group, and fewer still wanted their records."
The Rockin' Ramrods, earlier known as just the Ramrods, were made up of Bill Linnane (lead guitar), Vic Campisi (rhythm guitar), Ronn Campisi (bass), and Jesse Henderson (drums). Linnane was eventually replaced by Lenny Cerelli. They started in 1962, and at times backed another Boston artist, Freddie Cannon. They started recording in 1963 for the tiny Explosive label with "Jungle Call," an instrumental co-written and produced by Freddie Cannon. By 1964, they recorded a single for the Bon- Bon label, then several sides for club-owner Bill Spence's Plymouth label. By summer, 1965, they had another single, this time on the Southern Sound label. They became the house band for Boston's Surf Ballroom (owned by Bill Spence). When the Rolling Stones came to Boston, the Rockin' Ramrods were the opening act.
The Rockin' Ramrods signed with the new Claridge label in the fall of 1965. Claridge was a label based in New York, a division of River Bottom Enterprises. Frank Slay, who ran the label, had been closely associated with Freddy Cannon's success during the late 1950s and early 1960s at Swan, and it was probably through this connection that Slay sought out the Rockin' Ramrods as soon as he set up the label.
"Don't Fool with Fu Manchu" was issued in October, 1965, and by November 12, made an appearance on the Chicago charts at #37 for one week. It didn't chart nationally, and in fact, the group was virtually unknown outside of their home town of Boston. The group recorded one more single for Claridge. When Claridge ceased operations in 1966, the Rockin' Ramrods went back to Bill Spence's Plymouth label, where they had a local hit with "Bright Lit Blue Skies," but not much else was happening for them. By 1969, the group had changed their name to Puff, but they didn't last much longer than that.
The first incarnation of Claridge, the New York incarnation, lasted for 19 singles and no albums. Two of the singles were actually the same, but credited to different artists. Claridge 304 was "Rudy Vadoo"/"She Rides With Me" by Joey & the Continentals, a Cleveland band who made it into a local hit. Reaching for a national audience, Slay reissued the record as Claridge 312 and gave the group a hipper moniker as the "G.T.O's." Still no success. Most of the other singles were by unknowns. Slay threw in the towel a mere year or so after the label launched. Well, at least temporarily threw in the towel.
Slay moved to Los Angeles by the early 1970s, and in 1974 re-activated the label. This time, the label lasted five years, until 1978. Slay started with Freddie Cannon, who reissued "Palisades Park"/"Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" as Claridge 401, then recorded some new material. Most of the other artists were non-charting disco or novelty artists, including Chinook (who had Claridge #400), Five Easy Pieces, Skye Keegan, the Citizen's Band, Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis, Frankie Gee, D.C. Larue, Dave Diamond, Mike Boyd, Wet Bull, Kid Blast, Buddy Landon, Larry Bell, Cardella DiMilo, Fred Smerdley & the Dixie Pixies, Bruce Scott, the Magi, Jeromy Hugh Stuart, and Total Unity. The Citizen's Band and Fred Smerdley singles were novelties.
By far the best selling act for the California incarnation of Claridge was a Denver group called Sugarloaf, who had a top-10 hit in early 1975 with "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" [Claridge 402], a saga about a rock band trying to get on the radio. Sugarloaf was front man Jerry Corbetta (vocals/keyboard), Bob Webber (guitar), Bob Raymond (bass), and Myron Pollock (drums). Slay had been producing the band for some years, back to their first hit, "Green-Eyed Lady" in 1970 [Liberty 56183, #3]. When he re-activated Claridge, Sugarloaf was a natural.
Sugarloaf's followup single, "Stars in My Eyes" [Claridge 405] managed to reach #87 in the summer of 1975, but the next offering, "I Got a Song" [Claridge 408] stalled at #110 in November. An album released in the spring of 1975 charted, but not spectacularly.
Slay shifted from rock and roll to disco by 1976, but with little chart success. In all, the California Claridge released 37 singles, three albums, and a few 12" disco singles.
|Both the 45 label from the 1960s (far left) and the first album label from the 1970s (near left) were red with silver print, with "CLARIDGE RECORDS" vertically at the far left of the label. Around the bottom of the label in 1965-66, it said, "MFGD. BY CLARIDGE RECORDS, A DIVISION OF RIVER BOTTOM ENTERPRISES, INC., NEW YORK, N.Y., U.S.A." After the move to California, this changed to, "MFGD. BY CLARIDGE RECORDS, 6362 HOLLYWOOD BLVD., L.A., CA 90028, MADE IN U.S.A."|
|After the Sugarloaf album, the Claridge label changed to red with a crest at the top (far left). The deejay version was white with black print with the same design (near left). Claridge 1001, in the album series, was actually a 12" disco single with the new red label; after that, the disco singles used the 5000 series.|
Number - Title - Artist - [Release Date] (Chart) Contents
CL 1000 - Don't Call Us-We'll Call You - Sugarloaf /Jerry Corbetta  (4-75, #152) I
Got A Song (S)/Myra, Myra (S)/Lay Me Down (S)/Wild Child (S)//Don't Call Us, We'll Call You (S)/Lookin'
For Some Fun (S)/Round And Round (S)/We Could Fly So High (S)/Colorado Jones (S)/I Got A Song
CL 1001 - Too Hot to Stop/Blue Don't Care - Five Easy Pieces  12" disco single.
Too Hot To Stop (6:33)//Blue Don't Care (5:12)
CL 1002 - Bo and Ruth - Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis  I Feel Love in This Room
Tonight/To Make You Love Me/Train of Desire/You're Gonna Get Next to Me//We Got the Recipe/Easy
Loving/Sure Got a Thing for You/Can You Feel It/Grandfather Clock/Stay Out of My Kitchen
CL 1003 - Kid Blast - Kid Blast  Requiem Death Of Innocense/Money To
Burn/Switchblade Love/Quicksilver Girl/Jack The Ripper/Gasoline Girls/Cocaine Cowboys/Leather City
USA/Do The Hump/Top Ten Mantra/Ballad Of Kid Blast
12015 - The Rockin' Ramrods - Rockin' Ramrods  This album contains the "A" and "B" sides of eight singles the group recorded for a number of labels from 1963-1966. The single label and number, as well as release date, is in brackets. All tracks are mono. I Wanna Be Your Man [Plymouth 2961/2, 12-64]/I'll Be On My Way [Plymouth 2961/2, 12-64]/The Girl Can't Help It [Bon-Bon 1315, 4-64]/She Lied [Bon-Bon 1315, 4-64]/Got My Mojo Working [Claridge 317, 4-66]/Play It [Claridge 317, 4-66]/Mr. Wind [Plymouth 2963/4, 7-66]/Jungle Call [Explosive F-101/2, 1963]//Wild About You [Southern Sound 205, 7-65]/Cry In My Room [Southern Sound 205, 7-65]/Don't Fool With Fu Manchu [Claridge 301, 10-65]/Tears Melt The Stones [Claridge 301, 10-65]/Flowers In My Mind [Plymouth 2965/6, 1967]/Mary Mary [Plymouth 2965/6, 1967]/Bright Lit Blue Skies [Plymouth 2963/4, 7-66]/Indian Giver [Explosive F-101/2, 1963]