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The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography:
An Inquiry Into The Snader, Studio, And Camay Companies

by Iván Santiago

Page generated on Sep 17, 2021

I. Scope And Authorship

This supplementary essay grew out of my research on behalf of another discographical page -- a page specifically dedicated to Peggy Lee's TV videos, or telescriptions. While searching for information about the ten videos which Lee filmed in 1950, I realized that a detailed history of the telescription business had yet to be written. All the consulted texts elicited the same disappointing results: matters pertaining to the world of telescriptions were dispatched within a few short paragraphs, and not always in accurate detail. This page is meant to be a serious step toward rectifying such paucity of information. It discusses the creation, development, and modus operandi of the two companies that were responsible for the production of all known telescription clips. In addition to the Snader and Studio telescription companies, the page pays attention to a third outfit of interest: the record label Camay, which was the first to issue audio-only versions of the Snader videos made by Peggy Lee and other artists. (Side note: readers wanting to see pictures of the relevant Lee videos and albums should take a look at this discography's music shorts page.)

II. Historical Definitions Of The Telescriptions

Described by the contemporaneous press as "visual records for television," telescriptions were the tube's earliest music videos. When they were brand new, the business trade also referred to them as "short TV films, about three and a quarter minutes in length, [which] are to TV what open-end transcriptions are to AM" (with AM being used in this quote as a synonym of radio.) Other early definitions will be quoted in the ensuing paragraphs.

III. Snader Enterprises: Main Company Players (& Preliminaries)

The man behind the "telescription" concept was Louis D. Snader, a wealthy real state developer (ann erstwhile musician) whose properties included various theaters in Southern California. With the advent of television, his main focus of interest had shifted from the big-screen lots to the small-screen arena.

The idea to film short music videos for television came from Jack Teagarden. The legendary trombonist told Snader about it at a party that both were attending. Teagarden also came up with the notion of having "disc jockeys" on screen, introducing the videos. Snader found the entire concept appealing.

In 1949, the businessman approached local TV stations, asking if these ideas held appeal to them, too. The response was encouraging enough to prompt him to carry the full concept to fruition. In order to fully finance the enterprise, he quickly entered into a partnership with two other businessmen, Alexander Bisno and Samuel Markovitch. Bisno seems to have been in charge of sales, in particular. The original board of directors would indeed consist of those three men, along with two presumably minor partners (Frieda Richkind, Nathan M. Dicker. The starting company was estimated to be worth $1,050,000.

Obviously, the music films had to be shot first somewhere, and soon. In the ensuing weeks, Snader would rent space time at a suitable studio and negotiate multiple-video contracts with various artists' managers. The paperwork stipulated that, by virtue of doing just one telescription session a year, artists would officially hold an exclusive-for-TV-only contract with Snader. (This clause was probably deemed beneficial to the artists' careers, on account of the widespread visibility that it could provide. It ensured that their work would be repeatedly and regularly televised all across the nation.)

A Variety article with a September 11, 1950 byline formally announced the enterprise to the trade at large. The article characterized Snader Pictures, Inc. as a "new firm" which would "get under way in about 90 days," and which would "specialize in 15 and 30-minute viddilm series." A follow-up stated that, with about 80 films already in the can, Snader had begun screening sample clips for potential sponsors gathered at the Hotel Delmonico (New York) on September 19, 1950. He was scheduled to continue to do so until the end of the month, when a similar process would be followed in the Chicago market.

Snader also sought to court both music organizations and the industry's press. By trying to negotiate fair rates with all parties involved, he garnered a lot of good will from the music industry.  A Billboard article published on September 16, 1950 touts him as "the first indie pic maker to sign the 5 percent royalty deal" which was being demanded by the American Federation of Musicians at this point in time. (This deal with AFM was described somewhat differently by Duke Goldstone, producer of the telescriptions. His description will be offered in the next section.) Mr. Snader had also agreed to the Harry Fox firm's $50 publishing flat fee for synchronization rights per telescription -- a fee which, by mid-1951, would be raised to a $100 advance against two percent of the gross.  Still further, all contracts with the performers containing clearly stipulated that the artists would be receiving royalty payments.

Evincing the degree of favor that Snader was earning, a follow-up article on Billboard magazine (September 30, 1950) let readers know that he had " ... indicated his adherence to the theory that the creators of show business -- the actors, musicians, writers and now publishers -- should be given the opportunity to share in the returns." We are also told about the businessman's ongoing negotiations with music publishers:  Mills Music had already agreed to let him use their songs on TV films, and he was confident that other publishers would soon follow suit.  All these transactions (and their press announcements) were taking place shortly before Snader's "big opening" event:  his screenings of the telescription pilot reels, to be held in New York City.  He naturally hoped to pleasure and entice the clientele expected to attend (representatives of TV stations, agents present on behalf of artists or interested companies, et cetera).

After naming himself the project's executive producer, Snader hired Louis "Duke" Goldstone as director, editor, and producer of the films. Joseph F. Biroc was named director of photography, Harold Godsoe production supervisor, and another Duke (Volstomz) was put in charge of general production. Rudi Feld was eventually hired as production designer. Additional names mentioned in the press included Lou Victor (coordinator) and George Van Marter (art director). Distribution was granted to a company called Kaufman Associates.

As for the positions of musical director and talent coordinator, both were held by bandleader and pianist Phil Moore -- but not for long. By late November 1950, Billboard magazine was reporting that Moore had resigned, and Snader had picked Harry Zimmerman as his replacement, at a $50,000 annual salary. (Zimmerman, known for his work with Dinah Shore, was also the musical director of the Mutual network).

Eager to make a dent on the then-fresh TV industry, Louis Snader also tried his hand at producing and importing TV programming at low cost. To wit: Dick Tracy (1950), Alexander Korda Features (1951) (a series of 13 British film imports, one of them being the 1950 movie The Wooden Horse), and a pre-syndicated, 1952 edition of The Liberace Show (1952). Alexander Korda Features was actually a series of 13 British film imports, one of them being the 1950 movie The Wooden Horse. As for the Snader edition of Dick Tracy, it was a half-an-hour series with an adolescent target audience. (The impresario acquired it after its initial 13-run episode; it lasted until 1952, when the star's fatal heart attack killed the series' chances as well). Still further, there were two late 1951 fifteen-minute documentary-style features, one of them called This Is The Story ("famous tales, recreated by Ed Prentiss") and the other Washington Spotlight (a weekly program with "columnist Morgan Childs as moderator of a round table discussion with two Washington figures"). These TV shows were distributed to local TV stations nationwide under the same corporate name used for the music films (Snader Telescriptions, Inc.), with business offices located at 328 South Beverly Drive, in Beverly Hills, California. (Later on, the corporate name behind some of these non-telescription projects would be changed to Combined Television Pictures, Inc.)

For Duke Goldstone (1914-1998), these telescriptions seem to have signified his incorporation to the TV medium, too. The man who was appointed to be director, producer, and editor of the telescriptions had spent the previous decade directing and editing mostly short-film projects at Paramount and Universal -- from columnist Hedda Hopper's Hollywood party reels to George Pal's puppetoons (including Jasper's In A Jam, featuring Peggy Lee). During and after the telescriptions period, Goldstone further worked on Snader's other programs (Dick Tracy, The Liberace Show) and in various assorted series which do not seem to have counted with Snader's involvement, such as the young Betty White sitcom vehicle Life With Elizabeth. Goldstone was an active part of just above every step related to the actual making of the telescriptions, being (partially) responsible for even the set designs. 

IV. Filming At Snader Enterprises

Goldstone and Snader began filming their telescriptions in 1950. The cost per transcription in the Los Angeles area was initially reported to be in the vicinity of $1,800. (Before the shooting started, Goldstone had calculated that the cost of filming a telescription could be kept at around $900 -- a modest estimate which might have further enticed Snader to hire him, but which Goldstone would later refer as "a ridiculous small amount of money.") As the months went by, trade magazines were told that total expenses per transcription had raised to about $2,500, with the price tag being expected to climb to $3,000 if the company proceeded with its plan to film in New York as well.

During the project's earliest months, the press also stated that the signed artists were being offered scale deals and a 5% in royalties. As already stated, the American Federation of Musicians was also receiving a 5% royalty on gross revenues. (Several decades later, Goldstone seems to have had a somewhat different recollection of the nature of this deal. In his own words: "Snader made a deal with Petrillo and signed, as a producer, to pay residuals, except for telescriptions ... [which] were gonna be sold as a library." If I am not misunderstanding, Goldstone was claiming that Snader's deal with the head of AFM called for no payment of royalties on telescriptions.)

The shooting of the telescriptions took place at Hollywood Center Studios, also known as General Service Studios. Hollywood Center was an independent, non-network affiliated lot; it would become a popular location for early television shows, including Perry Mason and the earlier seasons of I Love Lucy. (This discography is naturally concerned with the location for the California-filmed telescriptions, among which Peggy Lee's entries are included. Around February or March of 1951, Snader inaugurated an East Coast branch which filmed at the Fox Movietone Studios in New York City, under the general supervision of choreographer, B-movie director and eventual low-budget film producer Arthur Dreifuss. Lee did not film any of her telescription in the Big Apple.)

Per AFM regulations, each act had an allotted time of three hours, just as in a regular recording session. During those three hours, Goldstone and company typically set out to produce a minimum of five numbers. Artists were given free rein to perform as they wanted and to record what they wanted, being expected to essentially bring their concert or nightclub repertoire into the studio. "We let them do their normal act, and we only recorded it on film to show to television audiences," Goldstone declare long after the fact.

A budget enterprise, the company would shoot the videos quickly but proficiently. Most telescriptions were filmed in one take and with no editing. A 1951 article in Business Week states that Snader Enterprises was shooting up to seven performances each morning and five more in the afternoon. Speedy shots were possible thanks to the professionalism of the parties involved. "We did that because most of the entertainers we had were used to working in clubs and on the stage, and they were all so good at following the lines," director Goldstone stated, decades later. Talking to the Associated Press in mid-October 1950, Snader nearly bragged about the fast turnout: "When you walk on one of our sets, it looks like Gone With The Wind. You wonder how we can afford so many people." 

Nowadays, viewers of these early TV clips are more apt to wonder at their inexpensive look. The sets are the most obvious evidence of a low-budget enterprise. They are just basic backdrops -- though serviceable enough, and never tacky nor unpleasant to the eye. Some of them amount to little more than curtains or a wall. Over time, each of these backdrops was probably shared by dozens and dozens of performers. With only minor ornamental modifications, the same nightclub set surrounds, for instance, both Herb Jeffries in "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home" and Peggy Lee in "Why Don't You Do Right?" Ditto for Jeffries' "Solitude" and Sarah Vaughan's "You're Mine, You." (A September 20, 1950 article on Variety mentions that Herb Jeffries and Peggy Lee had just filmed for Snader. Lee's first set of telescriptions was recorded and filmed on September 13 and 14, 1950. I so not know the date on which Jeffries telescriptions were recorded, but it's likely to have been on those same days, or thereabouts. One of the two acts would have come in the morning, the other in the afternoon.)

Initially, Goldstone took care of the sets by himself. Soon enough, though, a production designer was hired. The objective was to inject more visual variety into each artist's batch of clips -- while still keeping a low-budget imperative. Rudi Feld's sets obeyed this imperative while earning points for their flexibility of design: they had easily removable and re-attachable parts. Thanks to such flexibility, the allotted three hours per artist were not consumed in set redesign, or in the task of relocating film equipment from one backdrop to another.

Visual variety was also attained through combined camera work. Each film was simultaneously filmed on three cameras, obviously placed at different angles. (The invention of this three-camera system has been erroneously credited to the I Love Lucy Show, whose debut took place in 1951. The system had actually been in periodic use since 1947.)

The visuals were only half of the production, of course. Just as important was the audio -- an area in which Snader's telescriptions actually ranked above the norm.

Besides being intended for a new medium (TV), the telescriptions significantly differed from previous music shorts on the matter of audio recording. Unlike the Soundies that preceded them, or the MTV-era clips that would eventually follow them, the Snaders avoided lip synchronization. In other words, the singers heard in these TV clips dwere not asked to record a music track after they had shot the film track. There was no need for it. The audio from each shoot had been successfully captured during the actual filming. The microphones had not captured any substantial camera noise, nor other aural obstructions.

The most frequently used microphone at the Snader sessions was an Altec. In his reminiscences, Goldstone characterized it as "a little thin mike that looked like a pencil." It can be clearly seen in some telescriptions, including the very earliest ones, as well as those which were were set up to look like nightclub appearances. Peggy Lee's telescribed renditions of "Why Don't You Do Right," "What More Can A Woman Do," and "You Was Right, Baby" can be counted among the examples. (See also Lionel Hampton and Martha Davis, per the catalogue comments to be made in the next section.)

In other telescriptions, including several belong to the Peggy Lee batch, the mike was hidden probably to create a more natural visual picture. For the telescription "I Don't Know About You," set as a schoolroom, the mike was hidden in the vase of flowers that lay on the teacher's desk. In "I May Be Wrong," a small plant on top of a table poorly carries out the job of hiding the Altec. A bouquet of flowers is probably camouflaging the mike during Lee's rendition of "While We're Young."

In his recollections for the documentary TV's First Music Videos: The Snader Telescriptions (on DVD from Storyville, 2005), Goldstone singled out Peggy Lee for commentary about microphone-related challenges. At issue: Lee's habit of snapping her fingers to the beat of uptempo numbers. For "It's A Good Day," the challenge was met and solved through the placement of the artist in front of a set of French windows, whose ledge was filled with plants. Lee sang while keeping her hands busy -- first on the task of opening the windows, later by pruning the plants with scissors. Her hands were also kept at work in "I May Wrong," where she spent portions of the number sewing. And, perhaps out of habit, Goldstone gave her something to carry (a newspaper) even in "I Only Have Eyes For You," a ballad for which she would have not done any finger snapping.

V. The Snader Catalogue

An article from the June 22, 1950 issue of Billboard magazine announced that, following a deal set up that same week, jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton would be the first artist to film a Snader telescription. It is also stated that he would actually be shooting five of them.

On July 22, 1950, Hampton was indeed one of the first two acts to film telescriptions. Goldstone's and Snader's schedule called for the filming of a minimum of 10 telescriptions per day, five of them by one artist, and the other five by a second artist. On that debut day, the act who followed Hampton was the singing-pianist Martha Davis And Spouse (aka bass player Calvin Ponder). The very first telescription, number 0101, was a Hampton rendition of "Midnight Sun." Telescription #0102 would be the first to feature a female vocalist: future jazz legend Betty Carter, doing a brief scat vocal on Hampton's interpretation of "Cobbs' Idea."

As part of his strategy to introduce these debut videos to their best advantage, Louis Snader told the press that he planned to strike mutually beneficial deals with the local TV stations of the areas where Hampton was playing. Indeed, these initial videos were offered for free to the stations. And, as an added bonus, Hampton was asked to film spoken suitable introductions for them -- introductions probably tailored to the stations and areas where they would be watched.

The aforementioned Billboard article adds that the following acts were scheduled to shoot telescriptions as well: Desi Arnaz, Diana Lynn, Herb Jeffries, and Jon & Sondra Steele. At that incipient period, the enterprise was planning to film 40 telescriptions per month, with the long-term outlook being the accumulation of 400 videos, to be sold as what Billboard called a "library service." By mid-September 1950, Snader and the press were further reporting that he had "completed 50 films to date." In mid-October, readers learned that the producer had "already made 130 of them and w[ould] have a backlog of 360 in a year."

Another list of performers "already lined up" for shooting was distributed by the Associated Press, through various newspaper articles published on or about October 19, 1950: Patricia Morison, Peggy Lee, King Cole, Diana Lynn, Mitzi Green, Cab Calloway, Mel Tormé, Lionel Hampton and Herb Jeffries -- in that order. The full list would of course keep growing, becoming not only much larger but also musically diverse. Granted that jazz and pop acts made up the bulk of it, the mix also included artists from the realms of opera, country, and rhythm and blues. Here is a generous sample: Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, The Bobcats, Teresa Brewer, Les Brown, Frankie Carle, The Page Cavanaugh Trio, June Christy, Pete Daily And His Chicagoans, Martha Davis & Spouse, The DeCastro Sisters, Clark Dennis, The Delta Rhythm Boys, Duke Ellington, Firehouse Five Plus Two, Tennessee Ernie Ford, The Four Aces, The Four Freshmen, The Guadalajara Trio, The Ink Spots, Burl Ives, The King Sisters, Danny Kuuana And The Pagans, Steve Lawrence, Nick Lucas, Diana Lynn, The Bob Mitchell Choir Boys, Patricia Morison, Red Nichols And His Five Pennies, The McGuire Sisters, Tony Pastor, The Pied Pipers, Carl Ravazza, Ole Rasmussen and The Nebraska Cornhuskers, Tex Ritter, Rubinoff and His Violin, George Shearing, Arthur Lee Simpkins, The Starlighters, Gale Storm, Jack Teagarden And His All-Star Group, Wesley Tuttle, Merle Travis, Bobby Troup, Miguelito Valdez, Sarah Vaughan, June Valli, The Weavers, Lawrence Welk, The Whippoorwills, Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, Frank Yankovic, and a few others who will be mentioned in the paragraphs that follow.

Capitol artists such as Mel Tormé and June Christy seem to have been among the earliest acts to film telescriptions, too. Tormé's five-video batch dates from August 23, 1950, and was assigned the numbers 1001 to 1005. Nat King Cole's earliest batch is also from August, his second batch from September. Peggy Lee shot her ten telescriptions in September, too. All these Capitol recording acts were probably brought into the Snader project through their common manager, Carlos Gastel.

For the remainder of 1950, the press continued to track down the progress of Snader's telescription catalogue. By December 9, 1950, a total of 207 videos was being claimed. Half a year later (July 7, 1951), another Billboardarticle informed readers that "[p]roduction on three-minute TV films is picking up. Snader on June 22 started production on a new series of 400 films. Many of these are being done in color." (The comment about color is curious. None of the telescriptions that I have watched are in color, except for a 1950 Sarah Vaughan video that appears to have been artificially colored.) During this second year and the third one, the number of videos shot on a given day would increase sometimes, reaching up to 13 in total.

The grand total amount of Snader telescriptions has been established to be 754, all of them dating from the 1950-1952 period. When it comes to dating each of these individual Snader videos, errors have resulted from researchers' and writers' misunderstanding of the telescriptions' opening cards. The dates on them refer to their release and/or copyright, not to the day of recording. Case in point: Nat King Cole filmed 10 of his telescriptions in August and September 1950 but, according to his discographer Klaus Teubig, they were not registered until February 19 and April 1, 1951. Other artists' telescriptions were filmed in late 1950 but not released until later, hence bearing the year 1951 or even the year 1952 in their opening cards.

An additional source of confusion stems from the fact that the Snader telescriptions were sold to another firm or company -- as will be discussed in one of the sections below. The opening cards of that second company supply the date in which the firm copyrighted or came to re-release the material (i.e., 1953 and later). 

According to comments made by Snader's talent coordinator Phil Bloom (Variety, September 20, 1950), all artists were "inked to three-year deals" and "guaranteed one session of five numbers plus options and royalties." These guarantees might or might have not been modified as the firm's catalogue grew. To my (admittedly partial) knowledge, less than a dozen artists filmed ten or more telescriptions. Joining Peggy Lee as acts who made exactly that number are Irving Fields, Allan Jones, and The King Sisters. Jon & Sondra Steele may also belong to this select group, and ditto for Lionel Hampton (I know of nine Hampton clips; I suspect that I remain unaware of an additional one.) Gale Storm made a minimum of 11. Both Jack Teagarden and opera singer Marina Koshetz shot at least 12. So did Toni Arden -- some of them solo, some of them in a double billing with her brother Jan. At the top of the pack is Nat King Cole, with 15 (plus additional entries that are alternate performances of three of the 15 titles). Of course, there could be additionally prolific performers of which I have no knowledge at the present time.

VI. The Snader Model And Its Target Audience

At a time when radio personalities were just beginning to migrate to television, and radio producers were trying to translate their program into the tube language, Louis Snader was following a logical trajectory. Relying on the model that Jack Teagarden had originally suggested to him, the entrepreneur thought of telescriptions as the tube's equivalent of radio transcriptions. Accordingly, he envisioned the telecasting of the three-minute videos on a show fully dedicated to them, each one announced and "played" by a disc jockey.

Snader had one specific target audience in mind. "The trouble with most daytime television shows is that the wife has to neglect her housework if she wants to enjoy them," he asserted during one of the previously mentioned interviews -- for The Associated Press. "But she can enjoy our shows even if she can't stop to watch them."

A savvy businessman, Mister Snader not only filmed at budget cost but also offered his telescription catalogue at low prices and in more than one option: "either on a per sue or unlimited basis," a Variety reporter explained. According to the same report (from the issue dated January 24, 1951), "[s]tations can lease them for a year, with rentals based on set circulation n each area."

Such flexible price tags attracted the interest of the many local TV stations that had begun to worry about both the high production costs of their own shows and the mounting fees commanded by even non-primetime syndicated programming (e.g., B movies, British films). Not surprisingly, the company's advertisement focused on such client worries. Witness, for instance, this 1951 pitch, which is filled with exacting references to the high price tags commanded by the TV programs of the day. By January of 1952, Snader was reporting to be doing successful business with 25 TV stations (10 of them in the previous weeks, 15 having agreed to join in February).

On the topic of target audiences, readers of this page might be wondering if television was the only medium in which these videos were shown. According to Peggy Lee discographer Ron Towe, the songstress' ten telescriptions "were also transferred in two groupings of five songs each to 16 millimeter film and released to movie-houses as musical featurettes under the titles Peggy Lee And The Dave Barbour Quartet, the other Peggy Lee With The Dave Barbour Quartet." 

If Towe's comments are accurate, it stands to reason that Snader telescriptions by other artists would have also played at movies theaters. So far, I have not come across indication that such was the case. Other sources refer to Snaders as being played on television only, and to Soundies as being the ones that did make it to both movie theaters and the tube.

Actually, telescriptions would be eventually incorporated to a series of movie featurettes titled Showtime At The Apollo, which would be played on both television and the cinema. Ron Towe was not referring to those multiple-artist flicks, however. He was talking instead about the packaging of one-single-act videos for theatrical distribution. (For the benefit of readers interested in the Showtime At The Apollo series, I should add that it will receive coverage below, under section XII.)

VII. Airing: The Disc Jockey TV Shows

To judge from congratulatory notes published in the trade magazine Variety, the premiere showing of the Snader Telescriptions took place on Friday, October 27, 1950. The showing was scheduled for 10 p.m. at KTLA (channel 5). During the 1950s, KTLA was a nominally independent though Paramount-owned TV station. Back in 1947, it had become the very first Western US station to be licensed for commercial telecasting. 

The programming format proposed by Snader (i.e., videos introduced by disc jockeys on the tube) was promptly adopted in the Hollywood area. Among those who pioneered the TV showing of telescriptions was radio disc jockey and jazz concert promoter Gene Norman (who would become a record label owner at a later time, too). In the documentary TV's First Music Videos: The Snader Telescriptions, Norman's description of his career includes the following statement: "it all started with radio and television here in Southern California. On television, I was the original on-camera disc jockey, introducing all the Snader telescriptions." (Released on DVD in 2005 but probably produced in the 1980s, this fine self-promotional documentary is narrated by the man himself.) His Gene Norman Show was simulcast daily from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. by local radio station KLAC (then the property of The New York Post's publisher, Dorothy Schiff) and by tube station KHJ (an independent TV channel, though loosely affiliated with the radio branch of NBC).

Norman's program also aired in other local TV stations through the nation. The May 16, 1951 issue of Variety announced that it had just been picked by KNBH in Maryland, where it would be telecast thrice a week. Placed by that same station on the October 22, 1951 issue of the magazineBroadcasting, an advertisement further stated that "Peggy Lee, The King Cole Trio, Patricia Morison, Tex Ritter, Red Nichols And His 5 Pennies, Cab Calloway, Mel Tormé and a host of other stars appear every week on The Gene Norman Show. The show is viewed from 10:30 to 11:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.” This ad (currently available online through the courtesy of The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland) also describes the Snader Telescriptions as "glamorous ... top-quality motion pictures of well·known singing, dancing and musical novelty acts … filmed in Hollywood expressly for television" and introduced by Norman "[w]ith rare technique."

Thus Norman and station KHJ were among the first to televise the Snader transcriptions, and to understand their possible appeal. "I left television alone until the right deal came along," Norman was quoted on the August 1951 issue of Capitol News. He continued: "I have always felt unless there was a visual gimmick, records were for radio. The Snader Telescriptions, revolving around records, were what I was waiting for." Interestingly, he makes mention of another pioneering attempt (one about which I do not have information): "these films flopped on another station because they were trying to pass them off as a live vaudeville show. I introduce them and talk informally about the entertainer or have an occasional guest."

Besides KHJ-TV's The Gene Norman Show and the unidentified program to which Norman alludes in the above-quoted article, several other TV shows can be counted among those which pioneered the airing of telescriptions. Only one of them has been noticed by writers of music books. To be discussed in the next paragraphs, that show dated from 1951 but did not emanate from Los Angeles, nor from New York City.

In early 1951, financial necessity triggered a change of programming at Philadelphia's WFIL-TV. Roger Clipp, the station's vice-president, refused to continue paying the ever-mounting prices that film studios were charging for B movies, regularly airing then at stations such as this one in the afternoons. Seeing the Snader telescriptions as a viable substitute, Clipp purchased the rights to the telescriptions at what press reports rated as a cheap fee ("several thousands"). Clipp promptly created several shows built around the telescription library: Stars At Midnight (one-hour show, telecast thrice weekly), Stage Six (daily in the afternoons, from 4:30 to 5:30, hosted by the station's sport director, Tom Moorehead), and an after-school program starting at 3:30.

Called Parade Of Stars, that after-school show essentially followed the same concept and format as Gene Norman's. Characterized by Variety as a "jazz authority and longtime Philly fave," host Bob Horn was said to hand-pick telescriptions from the Snader library, simulcasting them on both WFIL radio and WFIL-TV. Live music guests were occasionally added to the mix. One of the few format differences from the LA originator would the the addition of earlier videos or shorts, made by the Soundies companies. (Music shorts from companies such as that one had been originally shown at movie theaters and at commercial establishments with suitable equipment -- e.g., coin-operated film jukeboxes).

Parade Of Stars premiered on January 29, 1951. On his first TV gig, Horn is said to have showcased over a dozen telescription clips, including some by "Patricia Morrison, Peggy Lee, King Cole, Jimmy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton and George Shearing." Reviewing the premiere, Variety also describes how the clips were introduced: the popular radio dee jay would look at trade papers, from which he would share some item of current information about bandleader or singer." (This modus operandi is also likely to have been patterned after Gene Norman's.)

The show continued into 1952, by which time Moorehead had ceded his hosting post to Horn. It was around then that Parade Of Stars underwent a change of name as well. Because the radio edition of Horn's show had long been known as Bob Horn's Bandstand, the TV show was simply renamed Bandstand.

In Lisa Jo Sagolla's book Rock 'n' Roll Dances Of The 1950s, we learn that this revamped version (i.e., Bandstand) premiered "with Horn seated at a table where he conducted an interview with ... trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, followed by a Snader of Peggy Lee singing Mañana." Unfortunately, neither the minor modifications in format nor the expansion of Horn's airtime elicited signs of popularity or increased viewership. Hence, after the first few weeks, Horn and company resorted to emulating the format of another show -- a radio show, actually -- in which teenagers were asked to come into the station, dance to popular records of the day, and talk about their schools. This borrowed concept, introduced on the October 7, 1952 episode of the televised Bandstand, caught on with teenagers immediately, and stayed popular for years to come.

Between 1953 and 1956, changes of personnel also ensued, the most critical of them being Horn's firing. After a few other personalities were briefly tested as replacements, another WIFL radio disc jockey took over for good: Dick Clark. Next, in 1957, the local telecast went national, changing its name to the more nationally appropriate American Bandstand. (Readers interested in this topic are welcome to consult my main source, the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. Although it is first and foremost about Parade Of Stars, this source is more reliable than many a dance 'n' rock 'n' roll book currently in print. Hence it merits treatment as a primer. As for the books, the bull of them fail to accurately cover or even represent the history of the precursors to American Bandstand -- two or three exceptions side, including Sagolla's above-quoted text.)

While Philadelphia's Parade Of Stars was evolving into a dancing show geared toward teenagers, other TV markets continued to air telescriptions within the original disc jockey model. In may of 1952, ABC's station for the New York area (WJZ-TV) got into the act with The Bill Harrington Show, a three-times-a-week program designed to replace the movie programming that had hitherto filled WJZ' 5:30 p.m. time slot. Harrington, a multi-talented performer (baritone, pianist, accordionist) who had once substituted Frank Sinatra in the popular radio show Hit Parade, was slated to serve as disk jockey, musical entertainer, and guests' interviewer. He was said to feature about a dozen Snader telescriptions per hour-and-a-half show, including some by Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, and The Harmonicats.

The model or format under discussion was imported, too. Judging from the information found in an online page created by the Canadian Communications Foundation, the CBC network had bought telescription prints even before first going on the air (September 1952). The network actually built a variety show around them. Televised in Canada in 1953, CBC's After Hours mixed the telescriptions with comedy delivered by Canadian actors. 

VIII. Airing: Other TV Formats

Besides the disc-jockey-show format, TV stations used the Snaders as fillers between regular programming. That usage seems to have grown to become the most common. In the tube's early years, local stations did have a steady need to fill empty space between regular shows, the latter not yet being too many. Also, just as nowadays, the finishing time of sports events could not be minutely pre-determined. Due in part to their brevity, telescriptions were considered to be convenient, especially handy time fillers. Since they tended to be sold in large packages, they also constituted an easy way to acquire a serviceable catalogue of visual entertainment.

TV stations could typically air anywhere between one and five telescriptions at a time, depending of course on how much free space was there to fill. Syndicated, pre-packaged telescription programs became one of the alternatives. If 15 full minutes were available, the station had the option of featuring a pre-packaged 3-to 5-transcription program concentrating on a single artist, and presenting such a set as the given artist's show. Or the pre-packaged set could simply consist of telescriptions by various artists. Two examples of such types of sets were Sponsor's Guestbook and The Music Stand, both 15-minute syndicated shows that featured telescriptions by, among others, Peggy Lee, and whose prints circulate among collectors nowadays.

"Yes, it's your Sponsor's Guestbook," we hear the announcer of one of these programs tell us in a voiceover at the start of the episode, "with tonight's nationally famous guest star, lovely singing star Peggy Lee. And here's your hostess, the girl who sings them in, sings their praises, and tells you the intimate stories behind their successes, Jean Christian." The hostess indeed offers a fair share of biographical details about Lee, and even suggests that Lee herself shared such details with her. (Since Lee's published interviews had me most or even all of such details available, it is likelier that the show's research team culled them from magazines and other periodicals.) In-between the biographical tidbits, three Snader telescriptions are played: It's A Good Day, Mañana, and I May Be Wrong. After the first telescription has run its course, Christian takes the opportunity to remind TV viewers of their need to shop for the holidays -- an exhortation which suggests this show's original airing time to be within one of the holiday periods of the years 1951-1953. (She also announces that a commercial from the show's sponsor will be seen next. My VHS copy of Sponsor's Guestbook does not include the commercial, and the originally syndicated print might have not contained any. Most likely, the identity of the sponsor varied from one local TV station to another, and thus each station would have needed to create its own commercial in consultation with its sponsor.) The target audience presumably being the typical housewife to which Mr. Snader had referred in his comments to the press, the episode under scrutiny ends with the hostess' declaration that the next episode's guest will be "handsome young singer Herb Jeffries." Closing credits do stipulate that "the musical portions of this program are produced by Snader Telescriptions" -- a fact further borne out by the upcoming appearance of Jeffries, another vocalist who filmed telescriptions.

The announcer of the other sampled show, The Music Stand also resorts to a voiceover, during which he introduces this 1954 episode in the following manner: "The Music Stand, starring Peggy Lee and Duke Ellington. Presented by this station and your unit of The American Cancer Society. Number one in our book, Why Don't You Do Right?. Peggy Lee, please stand by." The show's two other telescriptions are Lee's What More Can A Woman Do and a rendition of "Sophisticated Lady" by Duke Ellington And His Orchestra. Halfway through the episode, the announcer tells us that he has "a message from special guest Burt Lancaster." The Hollywood actor is then shown; he gives a short speech on behalf of the fight against cancer and the need for us to "give generously." After What More Can A Woman Do ends, the announcer takes the opportunity to proclaim that "every woman can do more and every man as well, when you ask to give to the American Cancer Society." The closing credits state that the "musical sequences [were] courtesy of Studio Films, Inc.," the company to which Snader eventually sold his telescription catalogue.

Other shows that are presumed to have followed similar patterns included the Night Owl Varieties, With Stan Chambers (Los Angeles' KTLA-TV, telecast at 10:15 p.m. since at least the first week of 1951) and Hollywood Guest Book (Maryland's WMAR-TV, debuting on June 10, 1951). The latter's airing time was advertised as "immediately preceding and following Film Theatre On The Air on Sunday afternoon[s]."

IX. Internal Rifts

Gene Norman and Duke Goldstone are the only featured talking heads in TV's First Music Videos: The Snader Telescriptions, a documentary that I assume to have been filmed in the 1980s. (It is available on DVD from the Storyville label. In addition to the commentary, this 51-minute overview samples from over 40 telescription clips. YouTuber GSMovieMoments has expertly isolated the narration from the sampled telescriptions, and supplied it as a 12-minute feature here.) As this documentary moves along, unified by Norman's narration and enriched with Goldstone's commentary, it becomes clear that neither of those gentlemen had fond memories of Lou Snader, who was deceased by production time.

Goldstone does acknowledges Snader's prominent role as the man who set up the telescription enterprise, but otherwise presents him as little more than a financially obsessed businessman. Goldstone's presents the enterprise as divided into two branches, one run by him the other by Snader and his business associates. From Goldstone's perspective, only his branch was creatively active. He would have been responsible for most executive actions, too. Meanwhile, Snader and his associates were not seriously interested in anything but finances and business opportunities -- or so would Goldston have us believe.

Here are Goldstone's own words, at length: "I was the producer, director, and I guess I also came up with the ideas ... And I also was the editor. But unfortunately, the Beverly Hills batch of Snader telescriptions was very busy raising money and their interest was in making money fast. They really weren't too concerned with making musicals other than that was a good place to bring prospective investors. The Hollywood branch, which I was the head [of], we continued to make pictures ... 10 a day, 12 a day. Finally 16 a day, because that would keep our overhead down and we continued to make them at an average of $900 a piece .... [B]ecause all of the artists who worked with us were under contract to do Snaders exclusively on television ... the basis was laid for the biggest talent agency that ever existed, but only the production group in Hollywood realized that was the case. The group in Beverly Hills were too busy raising money. and it was because of that that they weren't able to continue the production effort. They weren't able to keep track of who was in, and who was out, and where we were."

After that extended commentary from Goldstone, the documentary dispatches the decline of Snader's telescription business in a few sentences. "Then the whole venture fell apart in a fine mess of litigation," Norman summarizes. "Snader's investors were screaming for their profits, but they never got them." A wistful assessment from Goldstone is interjected at this point: "Probably, if it had gone the way it should have gone, as a legitimate enterprise, it would have made a difference in the history of Hollywood and possibly of the television industry."

The most cutting verdict is reserved for the documentary's conclusion. Norman tells us then that "Lou Snader wasn't exactly a great businessman, and his intentions weren't exactly noble, but somehow he managed a top-notch crew and accidentally captured major stars in some of their most memorable performances. Not a bad legacy to leave behind."

Online, Snader's relatives have disputed the way in which the documentary depicts the businessman. They contend that Goldstone took excessive credit for his involvement in the making the telescriptions. Identifying himself as Lou Snader's grandson, a gentleman named Tom Snader has shared online the viewpoint that he received from his mother and grandfather: "the information I was told is that Goldstone tried to muscle his way in ... [My grandfather] was extremely successful in real estate and other business ventures ... He was well respected throughout the industry."

X. The Sale To Studio Films

A second telescription company, called Studio Films, was set up some time in 1952. It seems to have initially followed the same model as the Snader Telescriptions Corporation, thus becoming Snader's emulator (and, perhaps, competitor) in local markets. Originally based in Cleveland but eventually operating in New York as well, Studio Films was either owned or represented by Ben Frye, about whom I have found only a few credits -- no biographical information. Frye is listed as co-producer or associate producer of two obscure, unsuccessful Broadway plays that opened in 1960 and 1961. He also produced and/or wrote the scripts for the Studio telescription films which will be discussed below.

In 1952, the full Snader telescription catalogue was sold to Frye's Studio Films for the sum of $600,000. The various book and internet sources that make reference to the transaction state that the sale resulted from the fact that Snader's business had flopped or was facing bankruptcy. However, such statements seem to stem from facile assumptions on the part of the sources' writers, and while not altogether wrong, do need qualification.

A report in the January 24, 1953 issue of Billboard magazine points to a more complicated story. From that report, we learn that Snader had gone to court to "contest ... the Frey sale on the grounds that he had not been consulted, and claimed the deal could not be legally executed since he as a partner had not given his approval." More specifically, Snader was arguing that Bisno and Markowich (his business partners in the telescriptions venture) had sold the catalogue without his consent or involvement. For his part, Bisno alleged that failure to sell would mean the company's bankruptcy, and that Snader had failed to deliver on his promise to top Studio's $600,000 offer. The article also mentions various additional matters in need of legal resolution. One of them was the pending return of the investments that about 200 individuals had made on the Snader telescriptions, and which collectively totaled nearly a million dollars. (At the time, only $200,000 of that total sum had been returned.)

It thus seems that the catalogue was indeed sold due to the prospect of bankruptcy, in order to pay the debts to the investors. But, whether such was or wasn't the reason, the court case makes it clear that Snader professed to have had no part in the sale, and no desire to honor it.

Unfortunately for Snader, the court ruled against him. Faced with the adverse legal decision, the business' founder acquiesced, and the sale of the Snader telescriptions catalogue to Studio Films was ratified as legal. In return for his capitulation, Snader was given the right to use the brand name "Snader Telescriptions" in any forthcoming musical shorts made under his production.

Meanwhile, Studio Films was granted the right to use the name "Snader Telescriptions" for all the existent, purchased videos. Studio indeed made use of the Snader name, while also making alterations to the film prints. The opening cards of many a Snader print were actually replaced with cards that credited Studio for the given video. Furthermore, the prints' original copyright dates (1950, 1951 and 1952) were changed to 1953 and 1954.

As for Louis Snader, the businessman continued to produce syndicated budget programming. Or he tried to do so. Despite an early 1953 claim to the effect that he was already planning to do a new batch of music films, there is no record of any post-1952 telescriptions under his name. Instead, Snader seems to have concentrated on creating and producing a syndicated version of The Liberace Show, circumscribed at the time to Los Angeles television. Subsequently, yhe 1953 syndicated edition of the show would prove a national success, but it is not clear if he was still at the helm then. Further down the line (1955), Snader made plans for an Art Mooney Show, too. Unfortunately, his plans had to be cancelled due to the high fees that the AFM was asking for shows slated to be kinescoped and syndicated. Thereafter, Louis Snader's track grows cold. (In the other sources at hand, Snader's only additional appearance pertains to a court complaint made in late 1951 by a 20-year-old aspiring actress named Joan Gilbert. She alleged that the 50-something-year-old Snader had lured her to his home, and that he had attempted to rape her there. About a month after the filing, Snader was declared free of charges. A death certificate was issued in 1971 for an LA-based gentleman named Louis D. Snader, who had been born in Russia in 1897.)

XI. The Studio Telescriptions

Studio's own catalogue consisted of about 300 telescriptions, most of them seemingly filmed between 1952 and 1954. The very first Studio Telescription might have been a Jon and Sondra Steele performance of their 1948 hit "My Happiness," which they had re-recorded for Coral Records in 1950. (The song itself dated back to the 1930s.) Studio gave the number 0901 to this telescription. The Steeles were a Hollywood-based married couple who happened to be Caucasian, and whose hit, originally released on their own label, Damon, fell squarely under the sub-genre of old-fashioned pop. The fact that the Steeles had been able to set up their own label a few years earlier leads me to wonder if perhaps they were financial backers of the Studio company, or if they paid the expenses for their Studio telescription. (Alternatively, this video could have been originally shot for Snader, in which case it was simply re-releasing it first under Studio's name. The matter is unclear because my sources do not reliably clarify whether this telescription was originally made by Snader or by Studio. Do notice, though, that The Steeles are among the acts known to have recorded for Snader.)

Unlike "My Happiness," a large portion of the ensuing Studio telescriptions featured African-American acts singing rhythm & blues, doo-wop, and other music genres that were gradually taking over teenage audiences in cities and suburbs. Among the artists who filmed Studio telescriptions were Faye Adams, Ruth Brown, The Clovers, Larry Darnell, The Larks, Amos Milburn, Big Joe Turner, Dinah Washington, and The Paul Williams Band. In addition to those music acts, sketches by bantering comics were shot as well.

Overall, the Studio telescription batch comes as even more of a budget and hurried production than the original Snaders. As already stated, apparent company owner Ben Frye is usually credited as the producer -- sometimes as co-scriptwriter, too. One Joseph Kohn is credited as the director. A third name in the mix is Leonard Reed, a multi-talented artist who was in charge of the comedy sketches -- writing, directing and sometimes acting in them. His main trade was tap dancing; he would dance professionally for the entirety of his adult life. Harlem-based, Reed also wrote songs such as "Holiday In Harlem" (recorded by the Chick Webb Orchestra, with vocal by Ella Fitzgerald), produced stage shows at the Cotton Club, and had a five-year-long vaudeville act with another man who had later gone on to a solo career as well, Willie Bryant, and who will receive further mention below. (In fact, Reed and Bryant are credited with creating the tap step known as the shim sham shimmy.) Reed also became a lasting master of ceremonies and manager at Harlem's Apollo Theater, the renown venue that would start or jump-start the careers of many African-American artists.

XII. The "Showtime At The Apollo" Ruse

Following the Snader precedent, Studio continued to offer the telescription catalogue to local TV stations, for use as filler. The Studio firm also continued (or allowed others to continue) the practice of packaging telescriptions as syndicated music variety shows, exemplified by the above-mentioned 1954 program The Music Stand. But, by 1955, Studio Films had come with a packaging concept of its own.

In a series of 13 half-an-hour films called Showtime At The Apollo, telescriptions featuring African-American acts were deceptively presented as segments from live concerts. As part of the deception, the films included stock footage of an audience supposedly sitting at the Apollo, and the soundtrack was peppered with canned laughter and applause. Hired to play the role of the fake concerts' master of ceremonies was Willie Bryant -- the former vaudeville partner of the film's director, Leonard Reed. In each film, Bryant (an experienced showman with previous credits as a bandleader, vocalist, TV host, and disc jockey) would feign being onstage at the Apollo in front of a live audience. In reality, Reed had filmed Bryant's announcements and comments at the Studio company's Manhattan soundstage.

The ruse had viewers believe that various acts were ensconced behind the Apollo's stage's curtains, waiting for their turn to perform. Not so: these supposedly new and live performances were actually just the old telescription videos. As for the audience, there was none with Bryant. (Nor had the original Snader and Studio telescriptions been filmed with a general audience in view.)

Brought in alongside Bryant were a few acts -- comedians, tap dancers -- with whom he interacted, thus making it less obvious the the film's other segments were videos. What's more, a few brand new Studio telescriptions were shot with Bryant present, talking briefly to the given artist, before the performance. It is no surprise, then, that viewers who knew no better fell for the ingenious ruse. (So have, less justifiably, the poorly informed authors of various music books.)

Given director Leonard Reed's aforementioned ties to the Apollo, he might have been the person who came up with the conceit. He certainly seems to have been in charge of the films' non-video segments (e.g., the direction of the sketches). Also pointing to Reed, erstwhile a vaudevillian, is the "revue" format of these fake concerts. They come across as updated vaudeville shows.

As previously mentioned, there were 13 TV episodes of Showtime At The Apollo, each lasting anywhere between 16 and 30 minutes. The contents consistently combine telescriptions (five to seven per episode) with tap dance routines and/or comic sketches. All the episodes mix Snader and Studio performances. For instance, Showtime At The Apollo: Beale Street Review includes Snader videos by Cab Calloway, Herb Jeffries, Martha Davies With Spouse, and Sarah Vaughan, along with Studio videos by The Larks and Amos Milburn. Tap dancing by Bill Bailey and comedy routines featuring Nipsey Russell are also featured.

The Showtime series was shown not only on syndicated television (1955) but also at movie theaters (1955 and/or 1956). The movie versions roll on for over an hour, stitching together the contents of two or more of the half-an-hour TV versions. There were at least four of these movies (Rock 'n' Roll Revue, Rhythm And Blues Revue, Harlem Jazz Festival and Basin Street Revue). Unlike the TV outings, none of the flicks bear the word Apollo in their titles, and there is no on-screen identification of the venue where the 'concerts' are supposedly taking place. 

Besides the various William Bryant-hosted clip packages performed by African-American acts, Studio Films also put together a separate series of packages, featuring only Caucasian artists. Frank Fontaine served as master of ceremonies. An early such package (1954) went by the name of Showtime Musical Varieties. Another, sent out in 1955, was simply called The Frankie Fontaine Show. Unlike the Bryant packages, the Fontaine ones have been barely documented and disseminated. (I have not been able to watch any of them.) I believe that these Fontaine-hosted packages resorted to the "live variety show" ruse as well.

XIII. Popularity (Or Lack Thereof)

Dismissals of the Snader telescriptions can be found in quite a few music books about rhythm & blues and rock music. The authors of such texts tend to characterize Snader's videos as perennially unpopular artifacts, old-fashioned even back when they were current. Those characterizations are overstated. Granted: the Snader telescriptions were not representative of the music favored by the typical teenager of the early 1950s.

Then again, Snader's acknowledged target was not the teenage demographic but a potentially more loyal audience. He aimed at catching the attention of American housewives who, homebound for most of the day, were becoming increasingly attuned to the tube as their house chore companion.

Some degree of insider support can also be gleaned from a September 6, 1952 Billboard article which tells us that "Snader Telescriptions were voted the best non-network musical films produced for TV by station executives."  We are additionally told that telescription programming drew a 26-point score, "far outdistancing all competition." (That having been said, the author of the article does point out that the category received relatively few votes.  In a related ballot for top "non-network TV film show," the telescriptions were among 36 programs which did not make the top ten but did receive votes.) 

As provided by him in his documentary TV's First Music Videos, Gene Norman's own commentary on the matter is also worth quoting. Norman does not hesitate to to state that the telescriptions became "very popular on TV; we got excellent ratings." While it could be said that he had a vested interest in proclaiming that his documentary's subject was popular, an industry insider of his caliber is not likely to overstate a point that music researchers could doublecheck for veracity.

Albeit similarly self-promotional, an ad placed on the June 20, 1953 issue of Billboard magazine is worth our consideration as well.  The ad lists 54 stations from across the nation that were "using" the Studio/Snader telescriptions at the time.  A photocopy of a letter from a satisfied customer is also part of the ad.  Monroe Mendelsohn, director of Sales Promotion at United Television Programs, shares that "[o]ne of our earlier problems, being a comparatively new operation, was to back our programming up into the earlier part of the afternoon, and yet to do so on a solid commercial basis.  We started programming from 4:00 to 4:15 PM Monday through Friday using your telescription service,  Our plan was to sell this strip in participation spots and then back up our programming as this was accomplished.  In less than two weeks after the inauguration of this plan we had expanded the show to a full hour and a quarter and it is completely sold out! ... Needless to say, we feel that your telescription service is one of our most valuable sales assets and look forward to continuing our association through the years to come."

There is reason, then, to rank the telescriptions several notches above the biased categorization of "unpopular." 

XIV. Continuity, Decline, And Preservation

After the aforementioned period, the telescription world does seem to have fallen into near oblivion, however.  Having combed through TV schedules and TV literature from the second half of the 1950s, I am sorry to report that telescription material is rarely ever mentioned or listed.  I have thus come away with the impression that, during the late 1950s, telecasts featuring the Studio and Snader telescriptions took place on a very reduced capacity.  Time blocks with few watchers, such as the wee hours and early mornings, might have become niche periods. 

At the outset of the 1960s, the trail goes cold. By then, telescriptions had apparently become a thing of the past.  (Television's past, that is.) 

In trying to understand this phasing out of the telescriptions, various plausible explanations can be brought forth, of course. The most obvious of them would be saturation: after five years, these performances might have been watched one too many times by the target audience.  In general, music video tends to have a rather ephemeral hold on mass audiences. Their pioneer broadcaster, Gene Norman, ackwnoledged that saturation indeed played a part in the equation: "I kept running the films of TV, but people had seen the same clips too many times. So, they stopped watching."

Two or three of the consulted sources have proposed a more concrete reason.  During these same years, the networks started to regulate the length of their programs in a manner far more rigorous than ever before. Enactment of such regulations would have substantially decreased the stations' need for filler material.

And how did the telescriptions fare after television no longer seemed to want them at all? In the words of fellow music fan/researcher Jeff Missine, who first alerted me to the matter:  [d]uring the 1960's and early 1970's, thousands of Snader and Studio Telescriptions 16mm prints were sold to "home movie" hobbyists by Blackhawk Films in Davenport, Iowa.  They were listed in Blackhawk's catalog as "Big Time Musicals" and priced around a dollar per print in quantities of 3 or more; sold on a "pot luck" basis, no choice of titles; you sent in your money and you got whatever was on the shelf. (Blackhawk, long the licensed 16mm and 8mm distributor of Hal Roach's Laurel and Hardy comedies, specialized in large-scale liquidations of used TV film prints.)

In more recent times, numerous Public Domain labels have kept the memory of the telescriptions' catalogue alive through their release on budget VHS tapes and DVD discs. Unfortunately, such releases are all too often mismatches of telescriptions with clips from Hollywood films and television shows (plus Soundies), jumbled together in a manner that evinces little regard for chronology, order, or historical context. (There are, however, a few well-presented and unified releases of this type out there - e.g., The Ladies Sing The Blues. For a sample of the good, the bad, and the ugly, consult this discography's short visual forms pictorial page, particularly sections VI and VII).

As for the current whereabouts of the original telescription film negatives, there is cause for deep regret. Having burned down in a fire, none of the Snader negatives are believed to exist anymore. One source of consolation is thus the survival of the aforementioned 16 mm reels, originally sent to TV stations, and eventually sold to hobbyists. (Nowadays, such reels occasionally turn up for auction at eBay.)

But the history of the telescriptions reached past the confines of American territory. During the second half of the 1950s, these music videos actually enjoyed something of a renewal in Europe, where they were watched on jukebox machines. Their temporary trendiness overseas is believed to have contributed to the rise of the next wave of music videos: the Scopitone  films, which originated in France (ca. 1959) and went on to blossom on European soil during the 1960s. The Scopitones also established themselves in the United States, where they had a bumpy seven-year run (1963-1969).  Like the Soundies from an earlier period (1940-1947), Scopitones were devised to be watched on specialized jukebox machines at public places (e.g., diners, roadhouses, amusement centers, clubs, hotels, pool halls, taverns or barrooms), and customers were often expected to pay for play.
A continuous line can thus be traced in the history of music videos.  The line travels back in time from the Scopitone and Cinebox films of the 1960s through the Snader/Studio telescriptions of the 1950s to the prolific Soundies of the 1940s.  (Though never attaining comparable popularity, the competition should also be mentioned:  in the 1960s, Cinebox and Color-Sonic; in the 1940s, Featurett and, though they tended to specialized in areas other than music, Movietrola, Phonovision, Talk-A-Vision, and Vis-O-Graph.)

However, the Snaders differ from those earlier and later video forms in some key aspects, including the choice venue for which they were primarily intended. Telescriptions were originally meant to be watched in the TV sets of American homes, rather that in the jukeboxes of commercial establishments. For that reason, the Snader is more of a forefather to the MTV video craze of the later Twentieth century than any Soundie, Scopitone or musical short ever was.

An Overview Of Camay Records

XV. Camay: What's In A Name

Because of the name that the label under discussion chose for itself, some fellow readers might assume that Camay was a venture set up by Procter & Gamble, makers of the Camay bar soap. I certainly made that assumption at first. Nevertheless, I have found no evidence to support this possibility. Most tellingly, the LPs themselves do not feature any identification or connection to the Procter & Gamble family. Camay also being a personal last name, and the name of various streets or courts in CA, OK, SC, and TX, an alternate possibility would be that such a name was shared by the label's owner, or that the owner had a domiciliary connection to one of said Camay locations. However, I have come upon no evidence pointing in that direction, either. The matter remains unclear, due to the scarcity of available data.

At any rate, the main connection between Camay Records and the Snader/Studio Telescriptions is the fact that the record company issued many of them on audio-only form. In fact, Camay LP Ca 3003 features the audio of all ten Peggy Lee telescriptions. (The same LP can also be found in an abridged, seven-track version.) The history of this company and its marginal, co-lateral involvement with the telescription business will be explored below.

XVI: Camay's Founding Period / Camay's 45-RPM Catalogue

According to the online Both Sides Now Discography, the Camay label was set up in 1961 by men whose last names were Ames (first name Don) and Weiss (first name Hal). At that time, the label issued only singles, a practice that continued during 1962 and 1963 (or so says the same source). Other sources corroborate and add valuable details to this general picture. A brief note in the October 9, 1961 issue of Billboard magazine states that Camay belonged to the Sinclair Records family of labels — the family's other labels being Whale, Mermaid, and Blast. The same Billboard note identifies Don Ames as head of Sinclair Records, along with Vinnie Catalano. (Hal Weiss is not mentioned by Billboard. If the details given in both of these sources are accurate, perhaps it should be presumed that Weiss was running Camay under Ames' stewardship.)

An internet search for Camay 45-rpm singles failed to turn up more than a handful. Three of them are sung by Ronnie Hayden, and re-confirm the connection to Don Ames and Vinnie Catalano. There is Cam 2001 ("S.O.S." / "Too Late"), conducted by Catalano and given a 1961 release date by one of the online pages consulted. Then there are the follow-ups Cam 2002 ("Wyoming" / "The Letter") and Cam 2003 ("You Know You Belong To Somebody Else" / unknown), the latter listing Ames as its producer. I was able to retrieve data for only one additional Camay single ("Man Of Stone" / "I Believe"), sung by Jeff Hunter) and bearing catalogue number Ca 6000.

Having found no traces of any additional singles, I am left to wonder if these four discs constitute the full extent of Camay's 45-rpm catalogue. (Incidentally, the above-mentioned finding of a Camay single numbered 6000 should not be deemed proof of the existence of hundreds of singles preceding it. On the contrary, the fact that the catalogue numbers of all the found singles are within the 00s adds to the impression of a scant audio library. Notice also that all the items in the 2000 series are by just one artist.)

Another disconcerting detail about the Camay singles is their inclusion of a logo akin to a shamrock. It appears in Cam 2001 and Cam 2002. (As for the other singles, I've seen only promo copies of them, neither of which bore the shamrock. But I can neither confirm nor deny that the logo appears in the promos' commercial counterparts.) 

This shamrock-like logo is absent from Camay's LPs. The absence arises further suspicions: could the icon stand for an original label owner who, by the times the LPs were made, had sold the company to another party? I am inclined to think that such was the case; some of the comments to follow will point in that direction. 

XVII. Camay's LP Catalogue

Camay's LP series made its debut appearance within the last month of 1962.The first two releases, Ca 3001 and Ca 3002, were advertised in the December 8 and 15, 1962 issues of Billboard magazine. The debut album, Ca 3001, was also the subject of a review in the December 15 magazine issue.  (Incidentally, numerous online music auctions give a 1958 date to every Camay album. The auctioneers' source for the 1958 dating is unknown to me. The evidence presented in this page indicates that the year 1958 is much too early to be correct.) 

Judging from catalogue listings in the back covers of some Camay LPs, the label released at least 43 albums, beginning with a Country & Western Bonanza (Ca 3001) and ending along the same genre lines, with a Deck Of Cards (Ca 3044). In-between, the company's catalogue covered a large variety of genres, without settling for any singular focus or thematic leaning -- other than variety itself. "Music for every taste" was the slogan found in some of the albums' back covers. 

In the estimation of the discographers at the label-oriented website Both Sides Now (David Edwards, Mike Callahan, Patrice Eyries, Randy Watts, and Tim Neely), "most if not all of the material was leased from other labels and not recorded directly by Camay."

XVIII. Camay’s Catalogue Alterations And Its Metamorphosis Into A Low-Budget Label

Catalogue matters pertaining to the Camay label are complicated, confusing, and poorly documented. Thanks to the listings in the back covers, all titles and catalogue numbers are known. However, lurking behind such seemingly complete listings is the fact that some if not many of the LPs were released more than once, with each version using the same catalogue number but variously changing the given album’s title, tracks, label, or artwork. The Peggy Lee item (Camay 3003) is a case in point, as illustrated at length in section VIII of this pictorial page.

Another example is Camay 3002, originally issued as a 12-track collection with a red-colored label and the title The Great New Sound Of The Crew Cuts. (Its cover may be viewable here.) Later on, Camay re-released it as a 10-track issue with a green label and the title The Crew Cuts Sing Folk. (That cover might be viewable here.)

Cases such as that of the Crew Cuts album suggest that Camay might have started out as a regular, bona fide company aiming at competing within the mainstream market, yet shifting eventually gears to become a low budget outfit. As first noticed by Eric Graf during an exchange of messages about this record company, the existence of promo copies (for the earlier 45-rpm singles and for the first version of the Crew Cuts LP) also point in the direction of a label that was not originally low budget.

XIX. Camay's Audio-Telescriptive Catalogue

One of Camay's specialties was the release — on LP — of audio taken from Snader and Studio telescriptions. Among Camay's telescriptive offerings on vinyl were Sassy Meets Shearing (Sarah Vaughan, George Shearing), Boy Meets Girl (Mel Tormé, June Valli), The Swinging Chicks (June Christy, Fran Warren), and Champagne And Caviar (Lawrence Welk). None of such LPs disclose that the tracks originated in the world of telescriptions, however.

It should also be noted that the sonic fidelity of all Camay’s telescriptive LPs is generally atrocious. Those which I have sampled sound as if they had been taped at an amateur's home, straight off a regular TV set -- and none too successfully. Presumably, and despite any promotional claims to the contrary, sound quality was far from being a significant concern among the folks at the helm of the Camay label. Also suggesting a low-grade budget outfit is the less-than-inspired artwork or design of most Camay albums.

XX. Camay's Peggy Lee And Nat King Cole LPs: Dating, Reissues, And Lawsuit

Camay's first two LP issues were named Country & Western Bonanza and The Crew Cuts Sing Folk. As originally issued, neither album appears to have contained audio from telescriptions. (The reason for my use of the qualifying words “as originally issued” is that Camay released this album at least twice, using the same title and catalogue number but different artwork and different tracks for the second release. The track listing of the originally issued version starts off with Don Gibson’s “Run, Boy” and closes with Billy Bird’s “Hey, Good Lookin’.” The second version’s track listing runs from Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Woman Is A Five-Letter Word” to the Cass County Boys’ “Gotta Get Me Someone To Love,” and does feature audio from telescriptions. The release date of that later version is unknown to me, but I presume it to postdate the first version by at least a year. In any case, the original 1962 issue of Country & Western Bonanza did not include audio from telescriptions, and hence it does not qualify as the first of Camay’s telescriptive showcases.)

Instead, Camay's earliest telescription LPs seem to have been their third and fourth releases: Peggy Lee's Greatest and Nat "King" Cole's Golden Hits. The exact year in which these two albums were issued is a bit of a mystery. As previously mentioned, Camay's first and second albums had been advertised in December 1962 issue of Billboard magazine. Since the Lee and Cole items were next, it would be logical to expect their release date to fall somewhere between December 1962 and, at the latest, March 1963. Surprisingly, however, a May 30, 1964 Billboard article tells us that

"[a]t press time the trade was buzzing with reports about the debut of a new budget line, Camay Records, whose initial releases would include albums with sides by Capitol artists like Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee and other sides by Lawrence Welk, and Frankie Carle. There was considerable speculation as to where the reported Camay masters came from. Camay's office stated it would provide details, but none was forthcoming. Meanwhile, it was learned that Capitol's legal department was looking into the matter - in the events that the Camay product appeared on the market. It was also learned that Capitol of Canada was studying the situation. Tradesters were of the opinion that the Camay masters of Cole and Lee probably were derived from soundtracks used years ago when Louis Snader produced a series of TV shorts. An interesting aspect of the speculation was the matter of licensing. The Snader licenses were synchronizations rather than mechanicals, and it was questioned whether performances cleared under a synchronization license could be transferred to disk without authorization."

The writer of this Billboard article seems to have been entirely unaware of the two Camay LPs that had been advertised back in 1962. He seems similarly unaware of the fact that the label itself went back to 1961.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is the aforementioned Both Sides Now discographical website's assignation of the year 1963 to all the albums in the Camay catalogue, including Peggy Lee's Greatest. Without any further information on the matter, we are left with various possible explanations for the apparent discrepancies:

(1) The two earlier Camay LPs (3001 and 3002) might have been unexpectedly cancelled after they had been advertised and announced in 1962. The label would have started anew in 1964.

(2) Only Camay 3001 and Camay 3002 were released in 1962. The label would have then faced difficulties that would have caused it to stop production until the second half of 1964.

(3) The writer of the Billboard article was woefully misinformed: the LPs by Cole and Lee had been issued in December 1962 or early 1963, along with subsequent ones in the series. In 1964, Camay was actually reissuing the Cole and Lee LPs.

(4) Other possibilities.

I am currently inclined to support possibility #3: it is my suspicion that the Lee and Cole LPs were being re-released in 1964. The earlier versions would have gone unnoticed by Billboard and by the Hollywood music trade, in part because only the first two Camay LPs had received any advertisement, and in part because distribution might have been initially limited to the New York or New England area. (The label had a New York address.) In 1964, Camay would have become ready to attempt nationwide distribution and might have tried to portray itself as a new label.

Scenario #2 is also striking me as a fine possibility — although, admittedly, it would partially negate my main choice, possibility 3. Under possibility #2, Camay would have been reactivated in 1964, when its very first batch of releases would have included the Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole items. Neither album would have been issued before. As for the second version of Country & Western Bonanza, it would have come out at the same time as the Lee and Cole album batch, or in an ensuing batch, that same year. Since the tracks and artwork of Country & Western Bonanza were different from the 1962 version, there would have been justification to deem it a brand new issue.

(Whichever of the aforementioned possibilities is correct, new ownership of the company and/or a different internal configuration, including a full shift to a low budget m.o., are likely to have been at play. It is worth noting here that Peggy Lee's Camay LP exists in three different editions; you can see pictures of them in section VIII of this page. Of the LP's three editions, only one carries credit to Pathé. Apparently, Camay's partnership with Pathé was eventually broken or discontinued. The legal matter explained in the next paragraph could have been one of the reasons.)

In 1965, a lawsuit against Camay was jointly brought forth by Peggy Lee and Maria Hawkins, the latter being Nat King Cole's widow (more popularly known as Maria Cole). According to Peggy Lee discographer Ron Towe, "the objection was to the choice of album titles, which clearly misrepresented the artists' work." The Supreme Court ruled in the ladies' favor, temporarily forbidding the distribution and sale of both Peggy Lee's Greatest and Nat "King" Cole's Golden Hits. The parties eventually reached an agreement, whereby the titles were changed and the track selections abridged to the claimants' satisfaction. Presumably released in 1965 or 1966, the new LP editions were simply called Peggy Lee (7 instead of 10 tracks) and Nat King Cole (8 instead of 12 tracks). It is interesting to notice that every single track penned by Lee and Barbour was kept in the abridged version of her LP. Also kept: a song written by Lee's friend Alec Wilder ("While We're Young") and a blues number that Lee had popularized back in the early 1940s, when she was a vocalist with The Benny Goodman Orchestra ("Why Don't You Do Right?"). Only the bona fide standards ("I Cover The Waterfront," "I May Be Wrong," "I Only Have Eyes For You") were dropped; perhaps royalty payment for them was higher.

XXI. Pathé Films, Camay Records And Studio Telescriptions: Sales, Partnerships, And Other Connections

Camay's earliest telescription LPs identify the record label as a "division of Pathé Records, Ltd." That identification suggests that Pathé either bought Camay from Don Ames and partner(s) or entered into a contractual partnership with them. (Incidentally, the Pathé identification is not found in any of the aforementioned 45-rpm singles. It is present in LPs only. In addition to the Camay albums, the same Pathé identification can also be found in LPs from the bilingual Caliente Disco label. That label’s Pathé-identified titles include Miguelito Valdés and Tito Guizar’s Los inigualables, numbered 1000, Carlos Ramírez’ Bonitas, with number 1001, and Duelo Musical, which features Geri Galian Chuy Reyes and bears the number 1003. My thanks to Eric Graf for alerting me to Pathé’s connection to that label.)

During the years in which the Camay LPs were released (first half of the 1960s), Pathé was internationally known as a long-standing French film and music company which had a British branch as well. Decades earlier, there had also been an American Pathé branch, whose specialties were newsreels and film shorts. In 1947, that American branch had landed in the hands of Warner Bros.

Later on, in 1956, Warner Brothers sold its Pathé library to Studio Films. Studio Films was the same company that, back in 1953, had acquired the Snader telescriptions. After this acquisition of the Pathé library, Studio is said to have changed its name to Pathé Pictures, Inc. 

And thus, coming full circle, we find out that the telescriptions under discussion created a connecting thread among the four companies mentioned: Pathé, Snader, Studio, and Camay.