Party Records on 78 RPM, Ray Bourbon and a Role for Johnny Depp Vintage Sleaze
Party Records! No, not the Redd Fox, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts or Rusty Warren and her Knockers Up discs...I mean Party Records of the elusive 78 rpm kind. A fascinating, actually incredible part of our sound recording recent past. Look into it and you'll be scrambling to find your own wind-up victrola and scouring auction lists from record dealers for your own copies (and you can file them in one of the ungainly sleeve books like the logo for "Party Records" above)
What exactly ARE they? Well...though it might be better for me to refer you to the experts (hyper-linked here) the genre consists of somewhat jazzy, old-timey double-entendres sung by performers from the underground of their time...clubs, speakeasies and gatherings of women smoking while wearing pants and men dressed in gowns with exaggerated movements. This was scandalous indeed, and as you will see no less than a few performers and promoters were actually arrested for their Sophie Tucker like dirty sung ditties.
Who is a fan of party records? Well, cartoonist R. Crumb for one. He has recreated them for his Cheap Suit Serenaders discs, including the questionable "My Girl's Pussy" which needs no explanation.
One of the prominent party records companies (of which there were dozens) was the eponymous "Party Record Company" above. Carol Chapelle (who suggests you "shake your can" while attesting she "won't give it away" is a good example of the artists on the label...she recorded some ten sides of similar titles in 1942. The Party Record Company ran for a few years before being absorbed by the Musicraft company. Musicraft, so as not to confuse patrons, kept the smiling goon logo but reversed it to indicate, I suppose, their dramatic new direction in song. It must have been dramatic, as label owner president Paul Puner was arrested for pornography in New York! This information comes from the highly crazy and recommended site "The Blue Pages" which is the Encyclopedic Guide to 78RPM Party Records. On it, David Deihl documents the extraordinary history of the genre in painstaking detail...and what a history it is.
From the Blue Pages, we learn the Let's Have Fun label shown above was apparently a bootleg label! (and you thought it started with Dylan!) There is no artist or performer indicated, but I have listened to both sides and they are so good someone would have claimed responsibility...but the listening public was so hot to get their hands on the latest scandalous song, it didn't even matter who was screaming it...or who owned it.
Who was the most prominent (or at least most interesting) performer of the genre? Ray Bourbon (or Rae Bourbon...but believe me, it isn't the vagaries of his NAME which are remarkable) Ray did have other names, in fact a ton of them, but he clearly had two genders. Ray started out as a man, then a man in drag, then apparently as a woman, since he re-emerged after the well-publicized Christine Jorgensen sex-change operation and claimed to have had the same procedure, but some think he faked it.
Ray Bourbon's story, too incredible and extensive to relate here (including a trip through Texas with a trailer containing 70 dogs, a murder trial and more) is told on the truly amazing website for Ray Bourbon (see below.) I mean...JEEZ. The amount of research, information and scandal on this site alone will keep you busy for hours.
So will his discography. HUNDREDS of recordings, all scandalous and outrageous, on dozens of labels. I guess you could call Ray a "billion hit" wonder.
Scholar Randy Riddle has compiled the Bourbon story HERE and not only is it recommended, it is a MUST. I mean, where have i BEEN? More importantly, where have the publishers been? This is a story crying out for your kindle...and instead we are giving books by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Hulk Hogan?
Ray was arrested by the FBI, wrote a novel he published titled "Hookers" and met Mae West. Isn't that enough? And Hollywood gives us sequels of sequels? Johnny Depp is known for taking on challenging quirky roles...Hey Johnny? Have you considered Ray?
Just remember 78 records break as easily as the heart of any kid on Glee...so be careful with them. Records worth collecting are records worth protecting!
by Jim Linderman
Randy Riddle Site HERE
Blue Pages HERE
Two "Party Record" 78 RPM recordings and Folder Jacket, circa 1942 Collection Victor Minx