The Stepheny Label

© Robert L. Campbell

NEW: July 30, 2020


Revision note:

The Stepheny label opened (on a limited basis) in 1956, ramped up production in the summer of 1957, peaked in 1958, and function at a diminished pace through 1960 (for singles). There was a longer twilight for LPs. The earliest offerings suggest that Stepheny Records was intended to be a pop label. In time it branched out into jazz, Country, doo-wop, Exotica, R&B, and rock and roll.

It did not have a typical small-label background. Its founder and owner, Norman William Forgue, had been operating printing presses since his mid-teens. Before, during, and after his venture into the music business, he ran Black Cat Press (which specialized in miniature books), Normandie House, and The Norman Press.

He was also past 50 when he started the label. Norman Forgue was born in Chicago on November 12, 1904. The Forgue family was of French-Canadian origin, via Kankakee, Illinois; his father ran an ice delivery business. The Forgues lived at various addresses on the Near West Side. Norman had to go to work full-time when he was 13, in the composing room of a printing company. He worked as an apprentice in other print shops, worked briefly in the pressroom at Western Electric, then joined the Navy (where he ended up in the print shop). On returning to Chicago he was a compositor, then a foreman and a superintendant, at Book Press. With the experience he had acquired, Forgue started Black Cat Press in 1932, Normandie House in 1937, and (with a partner) a large printing company,The Norman Press, in 1939.

What drew Forgue into the record business, we don't know. The first Stepheny release could have been produced as a favor to some local performers who were friends of his. Betty Gilbart and Frank Paige were a husband and wife team who had probably been on the scene for some time. They had also written a song, "Still I Don't Care." Stepheny 45-01/45-02 consisted of "Still I Don't Care" and "Melancholy Baby," sung by Betty and accompanied on the Hammond organ by Frank. The 45 (we don't know of any 78s on the label, which arrived as they were on the way out) was sold in an elegant picture sleeve, using type faces that would have been instantly familiar to buyers of Black Cat and Norman books; the back of the sleeve gave a brief statement about the musicians and the new company. The address was 1800 Asbury Avenue, in Evanston, Illinois; the company would retain this location for the rest of its run. The record labels were generic in appearance, numbered the sides of the 45 consecutively (45-01, 45-02), and gave no publishing information about the songs—all signs that Forgue was new to the business.

The 45s were mastered and pressed by RCA Custom Pressing, in those days the go-to for a lot of small labels. The G prefixes tell us that they were recorded and released in 1956. If any attention was paid to them in any print medium, we haven't seen it.


1956


Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
GO8W-1121 Frank Paige—Hammond Organ | Betty Gilbart—Vocal Still I Don't Care (Paige-Gilbart) Stepheny A45-01 1956 late 1956
GO8W-1122 Frank Paige—Hammond Organ | Betty Gilbart—Vocal My Melancholy Baby (Norton-Watson-Burnett) Stepheny B45-02 1956 late 1956

1957 (45-01 Series)


After the Gilbart/Paige venture, there was no haste to record more material. From the RCA Custom Pressing numbers (which run parallel to those used by Salem), we infer Forgue suddently picked up his activity in July 1957, with a bunch of singers and vocal groups probably sharing a couple of studio bands.

The company was still putting pairs of numbers on 45s (starting with 45-03/45-04). It added BMI or ASCAP designations but still showed no publisher information on the labels. However, it had become apparent that, in the singles market, money spent on label design and printing would draw more of a return than money spent on sleeve design and printing. Stepheny was named after Norman Forgue's daughter. That in itself wasn't so unusual: Connie Toole named Theron after one of his sons. We have to say, though, that we've never seen a Theron label with Theron Toole's picture on it. The new red labels carried a black and white portrait of Stepheny Eveline Forgue, with the company name in white, in a distinctive script font. The company would keep this style of label for 45s through the end of 1959.

The first announcement of enhanced activity appeard in Billboard for September 23, 1957 (p. 20). It declared that Norman Forgue was running Stepheny Records in Evanston and that he had just put Jerry Allan, formerly a regional publicist for MGM in Kentucky and Indiana, in charge of sales. Jerry Allan was from Indianapolis, where he'd been active in public relations for LaRue's Supper Club and the 16th Street Midget Speedway, among other clients (Indianapolis Star, October 10, 1957, p. 46).

Billboard had sort of covered two Stepheny releases the week before (September 16, p. 55). These were Stepheny 45-07 by Sonny Jason and Stepheny 45-11 by Marsha Winters (identified by a matrix nmber). Billboard referred to Sonny "Jackson" and relegated both singles to the tail end of the review section, where records rated less than 65 out of 100 ended up.

Billboard's lack of interest was worrisome. Press attention was an urgent need, because Forgue was telling the trades he had "18 disks ready for release" (Billboard, September 23, p. 20). How do you advertise and sell 18 singles—nearly all by different artists, each of whom has maybe a local reputation—when your company is new, short on promotion, and seriously short on distribution?

To our present knowledge, 9 new singles were released in September 1957, each with a pair of numbers in the 45-01 series. (There are a couple of gaps, for releases we haven't verified; there could even have been something beyond 45-18.) Jerry Allan had his hands full.

Stepheny 45-11 got some positive text out of Phil Sheridan in the Philadelphia Inquirer (October 3, 1957, p. 11). On October 7, Billboard (p. 66) passed on two more Stephenys, 45-09 (Jodie Randall) and 45-15 (The Discorders). Ms. Randall's name came out as "Dottie" and The Discorders became the "Disorders." Billboard would not give a real review to anything on Stepheny Records until April 1958.

Allan had to change direction. Henceforward any serious promotion would be happening in Cash Box. Stepheny Records had never been mentioned there, so a few liberties could be taken. First, Cash Box reviewed the Marsha Winters record (identified as 45-12; October 5, 1957, p. 12). Next, Cash Box ran a story about a "new" label ("Stepheny Records Formed," October 12, 1957, p. 28). The same 18 new singles were ready to go, but 4 were "being distributed"—obviously the four that had already gotten a notice in print. We suspect that other 45-01 releases were already out by this time—probably all of them. The same issue of Cash Box ("Chez Paree Meeting," October 12, p. 42) carried a photo of Sonny Jason (Stepheny 45-07) at Chez Paree in Chicago, being intereviewed by the MC. Seated next to him was Jerry Allan.

On October 12, Allan put on an event for The Discorders, a vocal quartet from Aurora, Illinois. It was held at a record store, where members of the group autographed copies of "My Hula Hula Lulu." The Mayor of Aurora proclaimed it was Discorder Day. Norman Forgue presented the group with a silver record. And of course a representative of Cash Box was on hand ("Discorder Day," Cash Box, November 2, 1957, p. 38).

The company's next public move was to buy a full-column ad in Cash Box (October 26, 1957, p. 4). (The script logo, already familiar from the 45-03 series labels, keeps the ad from turning up in online searches by company name.) Although many of the titles were already familiar to DJs and distributors, all were assigned new release numbers, in an SF1800 series. It gave a more professional appearance to the 45s, which now also cited the music publishers, and reinforced the impression of a brand new company. The SF1800s will be covered in the next section


Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
H80W7106 Johnny Dane and The Discorders Why Did You Leave Me? (Nelson-Knoble) Stepheny 45-03 1957 September 1957
H80W7107 Johnny Dane and The Discorders Shootin' High (De Lucia) Stepheny 45-04 1957 September 1957
H70W7108 John Keston This (Roland) Stepheny 45-05 1957 September 1957
H70W7109 John Keston Waiting (Roland) Stepheny 45-06 1957 September 1957

Sonny Jason Warm Red Wine Stepheny 45-07
September 1957

Sonny Jason Easy Come Kisses Stepheny 45-08
September 1957

Jodie Randall Little Red Shoes Stepheny 45-09 1957 September 1957

Jodie Randall Lonesome Autumn Breeze Stepheny 45-10 1957 September 1957

Marsha Winters Stay Stepheny 45-11
September 1957

Marsha Winters My Last Goodbye Stepheny 45-12
September 1957



Stepheny 45-13




Stepheny 45-14

H70W-7235 The Discorders My Hula Hula Lulu (Foster) Stepheny 45-15 1957 September 1957
H70W-7236 The Discorders Nothing Else Matters (Roland-Orris) Stepheny 45-16 1957 September 1957
H70W-7237 Betty Gilbart and The Discorders You Can't Trust a Wolf (Foster)
You Can't Trust a Wool (Foster) [sic; one pressing]
Stepheny 45-17 1957 September 1957
H70W-7238 Betty Gilbart At Last (I Have Found You) (Roland-Orris) Stepheny 45-18 1957 September 1957


1957 (SF1800 Series)


The October 26 ad in Cash Box is the biggest that the company would ever place in a trade paper. It shows 8 titles, at least four of which had been in circulation for a while. Because the release numbers span from SF1801 to SF1817, we suspect that all but one of the 18 ready-to-go 45s was part of a big batch in October 1957.

We doubt Jerry Allan (or his successor, Mort Hillman) intended to push all 17 or 18 at once. At different times, Allan, Hillman, or Forgue would talk up one release selectively. The 1800 series review copies that went to Cash Box (and, hoping against hope, to Billboard) were also spaced over the next three months. Because review or mention dates don't line up with the release dates, we will go up to SF1817 in numerical order. Considering that the very last 45 on Stepheny Records would be SF1843, the label's production was significantly front-loaded.

It's clear from the H series numbers applied by RCA Custom Pressing, and from sub-credits to The Discorders and others, that SF1801 through SF1817 were the product of a few recording sessions spaced closely in time. It will take a lot of comparative listening (especially for the studio bands) to be able to say more.

Stepheny 1801, by Johnny Dane and The Discorders, coupled a rock and roll ballad with a vaguely Country number. It had previously been 45-03/45-04. 1801, which shows a credit to Stepheny's house publisher, Asbury Music, didn't get reviewed till January 1958 (Cash Box, January 11, p. 12; Billboard's brush-off misprinted the issue number, January 13, p. 72). The delay was a function of the promotional schedule; Norman Forgue had other businesses to run, and Mort Hillman was trying to plug one single in one place at one time.

We think Stepheny SF1802 was by a singer named John Keston. We have seen its precursor, 45-05/45-06. The songwriter on both sides, one Earl Roland, was apparently connected with Sunny, one of two music publishing houses owned by Seymour Schwartz. Schwartz, then still the proprietor of Seymour's Record Mart, was on hiatus from two forays into the music business, first with Seymour and more recently with the first incarnation of Heartbeat.

Stepheny SF1803 should be familiar, as it was by Sonny Jason and had already gotten a fair amount of marketing as 45-07 (Norm Forgue also mentioned it in a note to Cash Box on October 12, p. 40). Paul Foster had a hand in writing both songs; his name would show up frequently in Stepheny composer credits.

Stepheny SF1804 had been out there for a little while as well. Jerry Allan told Cash Box (November 2, 1957, p. 15) that it was getting "a big play" in Indianapolis. OK, Jerry Allan and Jodie Randall were both from Naptown. Mary Jo Hughes, to use her real name, was born in Indianapolis, probably in 1928, and was living in the Chicago area when she cut her record. She made a few appearances singing on TV; the Stepheny 45 was her only commercial recording.

Stepheny SF 1805 was the Marsha Winters single, again familiar from the 45-03 days. Jerry Allan and Norm Forgue had put in a word for it in Cash Box for October 12, 1957 (p. 14).

Stepheny SF 1806 was "My Hula Hula Lulu" by The Discorders, who had been duly fêted on October 12 in Aurora.

Stepheny SF 1807 we are fairly sure was "You Can't Trust a Wolf" by Betty Gilbart and the Discorders, b/w "At Last I Found You" by Betty Gilbart, no vocal group. Apparently her husband's accompaniment was not called for this time. The only review we've found is from Cash Box (February 1, 1958, p. 12). The lateness we attribute to SF1807 being last in the queue for Hillman's efforts. But the Cash Box review called it Stepheny "17," and the 45-17/45-18 is easier to find nowadays. On the initial release of 45-17, the label read, "You Can't Trust a Wool." Repairing the, er, howler may have led to a surplus of corrected 45-17 labels. Songwriting chores were again divided between Paul Foster ("Wolf") and Roland-Orris published by Sunny ("Found").

With Stepheny SF1808, we wander into the weeds. Copies still exist of the 45, credited to Joe Hayes with a band led by Ted Sieber. But it wasn't among the 8 singles advertised on October 26 and we haven't found any other press mentions on it. Presumably it was in the October batch, and it had a predecessor in the 45-03s. Maybe someone can enlighten us. And we have yet to turn up a copy of Stepheny SF1809.

Stepheny SF1810 was by a piano bar artist named Jack Ring, who is credited with piano and vocal in front of "rhythm accompaniment." Both tunes were his own. Maybe there was a precursor in the 45-03s? If so, it would be nice to see it. We'd figured Ring's line of work before we tried the newspaper search. He was working the piano bar at Mangam's Chateau when it came time to celebrate the New Year (Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1957, pt. 7 p. 10). Ring was competing with, among others, Buddy Charles (at the Black Orchid), Dorothy Donegan (at the London House), Chet Roble (at the College Inn lounge), Ramsey Lewis (at the Cloister Inn), and the Duke Ellington Orchestra (at the Blue Note). He probably did OK; a year later (Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1958, pt. 7 p. 10) he was still holding down the piano bar at Mangam's.

Stepheny SF1811 is another mystery, to us at least. Anyone seen it?

Stepheny SF1812 featured a singer named Jack Nelson. One of the numbers, "Return My Heart," was cowritten with Warren Knoble, a leader of pop studio bands. Although the Discorders appeared on additional singles backing other performers, Jack Nelson was the only artist to get two releases under his own name in the run-up to SF1817. Stepheny SF1815 again included a number cowritten by Warren Knoble ("Pretty Girl"). This was effectively Nelson's theme song, because his only other known commercial recording had been for Chance and it, too, included "Pretty Girl." Stepheny Records did little to promote Nelson's sides; neither SF1812 nor SF1815 is known to have been reviewed anywhere. Mort Hillman had a working relationship with the MC at a charity event, a DJ known as "Coffehead" Larsen. So he arranged for Stepheny performers to appear at a Muscular Dystrophy benefit in Milwaukee. On December 14 ("Disc Stars to Perform at M. D. Christmas Party," Cash Box, p. 40), an announcement put Jack Nelson among those scheduled (along with the Ebon-Knights). But when the event took place (December 17), there'd been a lot of slippage (Cash Box, January 18, 1958, p. 55). Stepheny's sole representative ended up being Del Clarke (who is not known to have released anything on the label; previously Nelson was to have been accompanied by Judy Valentine, who isn't known to have released anything either).

Stepheny SF1814 was advertised in October, so we are confident it was released then. It brought King Kolax and his band to the label, at a time when the veteran trumpet player wasn't doing so well commercially. The rationale for the record was obviously to showcase the work of a songwriter named Allen Hall, Sr. The same tune appeared on both sides, one vocal and one instrumental, like a reggae number with a "version" (not a very common practice in 1957). The vocal side featured Clyde Williams, who had been a member of a couple of vocal groups in Chicago, and around the time this session was made was singing with Sun Ra's Arkestra. On the instrumental side, King Kolax's current quintet got to stretch out a little. Clyde Williams was not invited back, but Norman Forgue included King Kolax in his plans for Stepheny LPs later on. Prentice McCarey, who played the piano in Kolax's quintet for several years, was also called on to write some songs for other sessions.

Mark Mitchell, a singer about whom we currently know nothing, was featured on Stepheny SF1816. This, too, was advertised in October 1957. "You Make Time Stand Still" was by Prentice McCarey. The flip, "Love's a Fire" was credited to Goldsmith, Kime, and Severson. Warren Kime was a jazz trumpet player in Chicago, and Paul Severson played trombone and piano and did a lot of arranging, sometimes for groups that included Warren Kime. Severson had recorded his own music for two other small companies in Chicagoland, Academy and Replica. Four Severson tracks also appeared in Ed Bland's eccentric film short, The Cry of Jazz, which got a few showings in 1959. Although Severson was mentioned in the film, it did little to promote his music, because his band was never seen and members of Sun Ra's Arkestra appeared to be playing two of the pieces. With such a degree of jazz involvement, it would be interesting to know who accompanied Mitchell on his record, but the labels to SF 1816 do not enlighten us.

Stepheny SF1817, last in the first batch, was by a vocal quartet from Saint Louis, The Ebon-Knights. From the H series matrix numbers, we can see that SF1814, SF1816, and SF1817 were recorded, mastered, and pressed somewhat later the sides featuring The Discorders. But all three were advertised in Cash Box on October 26. A real live Stepheny display ad (the second and last in Cash Box) ran on November 9 (p. 18), pairing the four Ebon-Knights with the four Discorders. So we take the later dates for other promotional activity as further indications of calendar management.

After 6 or 7 weeks with Jerry Allan, Norman Forgue replaced him with Mort Hillman. Hillman was available because his Salem label had just failed. Hillman's hiring was announced in Cash Box on November 23, 1957 ("Mort Hillman National Sales Mgr. of Stephany [sic]," p. 36). Guess who wrote it? The article happened to mention that he was going right out on the road to recruit distributors—and promote SF 1817. It also mentioned that Stepheny would be getting into LPs in due time; Salem had released three.

Not so coincidentally, the same issue of Cash Box related the first version of a discovery story: Forgue, while parking his car in a Chicago lot, had heard the Ebon-Knights performing for passers-by at the entrance to an alley. One sentence we are sure is true: "He learned they were from St. Louis and were broke." Supposedly the Ebon-Knights learned four tunes and cut their first sides in four days. However, the article also credits one Jerry Stadin with serving as arranger and musical director, and we have found no newspaper references to an arranger by that name. We further admit to skepticism regarding a 10-year (!) personal management contract with Forgue, and a 6-month gig he had gotten the group booked for in Las Vegas ("Stephany [sic] Signs New Group Discovery," November 23, 1957, p. 47). If Norman Forgue had written the article, he would have spelled his daughter's name correctly.

What did materialize is that Stepheny SF1817 got a positive review in Cash Box on December 7 (p. 14). And Phil Sheridan gave it another in the Philadelphia Inquirer (December 11, p. 34). Billboard couldn't be bothered.

Forgue and Hillman were able to land the Ebon-Knights a gig at Club Laurel, 5426 North Broadway, on a bill with the Don Thompson Quintet and Ann Marie Moss (Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 22, 1957, pt. 7, p. 9). Most importantly, the Ebon-Knights were factored into Stepheny Records' album plans (see below).


Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
H8OW7106 Johnny Dane and The Discorders Why Did You Leave Me (Knoble-Nelson) Stepheny SF1801 1957 October 1957
H8OW7107 Johnny Dane and The Discorders Shootin' High (De Lucia) Stepheny SF1801 1957 October 1957



Stepheny SF1802




Stepheny SF1802

H7OW-7110 Sonny Jason Easy Come Kisses (Easy Go Love) (Foster-Burrichter) Stepheny SF 1803 1957 October 1957
H7OW-7111 Sonny Jason Warm Red Wine Stepheny SF 1803 1957 October 1957
H7OW7112 Jodie Randall Little Red Shoes (Foster) Stepheny SF1804 1957 October 1957
H7OW7113 Jodie Randall Lonesome Autumn Breeze (Roland) Stepheny SF1804 1957 October 1957
H7OW-7114 Marsha Winters Stay (Roland) Stepheny SF 1805 1957 October 1957
H7OW-7115 Marsha Winters My Last Goodbye (Howard) Stepheny SF 1805 1957 October 1957
H7OW-7235 The Discorders My Hula Hula Lulu (Foster) Stepheny SF1806 1957 October 1957
H7OW-7236 The Discorders Nothing Else Matters (Roland-Orris) Stepheny SF1806 1957 October 1957

Betty Gilbart You Can't Trust a Wolf Stepheny SF1807 1957 October 1957

Betty Gilbart At Last (I Have Found You) Stepheny SF1807 1957 October 1957
H8OW-7268 Joe Hayes with Ted Steber's Band and Vocal Group What Good'll It Do (Philipps) Stepheny SF1808 1957 October 1957

Joe Hayes Please Stepheny SF1808 1957 October 1957



Stepheny SF1809




Stepheny SF1809

H7OW-8350 Jack Ring with Rhythm Accompaniment Who's Blue (Ring) Stepheny SF1810 1957 October 1957
H7OW-8351 Jack Ring with Rhythm Accompaniment Deetie (Ring) Stepheny SF1810 1957 October 1957



Stepheny SF1811




Stepheny SF1811

H8OW-8322 Jack Nelson Return My Heart (Knoble-Nelson) Stepheny SF1812 1957 October 1957

Jack Nelson Playboy Stepheny SF1812 1957 October 1957



Stepheny SF1813




Stepheny SF1813

HOW8-0114 Clyde Williams with King Kolax Band Baby You're a Little Bit Forgetful (Hall) Stepheny SF1814 1957 October 1957
HO8W-0115 King Kolax Band Baby You're a Little Bit Forgetful (Hall) Stepheny SF1814 1957 October 1957
H8OW-7293 Jack Nelson Pretty Girl (Knoble-Earnhart) Stepheny SF1815 1957 October 1957

Jack Nelson Stingy Kisses Stepheny SF1815 1957 October 1957
HO8W-0219 Mark Mitchell You Make Time Stand Still (McCarey) Stepheny SF1816 1957 October 1957
HO8W-0220 Mark Mitchell Love's a Fire (Goldsmith-Kime-Severson) Stepheny SF1816 1957 October 1957
HO7W-0223 The Ebon-Knights The Way the Ball Bounces (Irwin) Stepheny SF1817 1957 October 1957
HO7W-0225 The Ebon-Knights Poor Butterfly (Hubbell-Golden) Stepheny SF1817 1957 October 1957

1958 (Stepheny 45s)


As Mort Hillman tried to bring some order to the company's promotional efforts, Stepheny Records took a pause from the studio. As far as we can determine, sessions resumed right after the first of the year. Subsequent releases on the SF1800 series would carry the J prefix from RCA Victor Custom Pressings.

Another doowop group, the Mar-Vellos, was probably recorded right after New Year's 1958. Stepheny SF1819, "Come Back My Love" b/w "Boyee Yoing," was released before the end of the month. It is was the first Stepheny 45 to carry a new portrait at the top of the label. Billboard (February 10, 1958, p. 44) dumped another Stepheny release into its less-than-70 list. Notices on the Mar-Vellos are hard to find. We have learned they were the featured attraction at the Teen Age Easter Hop in the South Bend, Indiana, Armory. Accompaninment was by local musicians ("Rock 'n' Roll Four to Sing at Teen Hop," South Bend Tribune, April 5, 1958, p. 6)

Next came a group called the Cheerful Earfuls. The Earfuls were a quintet of trumpet, tenor sax, piano, electric guitar, and drums; they boasted they were versatile. It wasn't every combo that could be promoted for "Dixieland jazz and singing" and for leading a "Rock & Roll jam session"—during the same Tuesday through Sunday engagement (Decatur Sunday Times Herald, July 22, 1956, p. 42; July 29, 1956, p. 42).

The Earfuls, as their 1956 gig in Decatur, Illinois, might signify, had been on the circuit for a while. The core of the quintet consisted of the two Sotos brothers, who had left New York City for the Midwest and ended up running a club in Moline, Illinois, for a while. The Earfuls already had two singles out when Stepheny Records signed them. Both were on a very small label called Zale, whose frontman was a retired boxer. The most interesting thing about Zale is that the guy whose money backed the label ended up getting whacked in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on orders from the Mob. The Zales appear to be from 1956. Whoever produced them didn't want to rely on the Earfuls' instrumental contributions; they sang and a studio band directed by Mike Simpson took care of the rest.

The Earfuls had also landed gigs in Chicagoland before they came to Forgue and Hillman's attention. On December 7, 1956, they were at a Christmas Seal show at Morton High School; the announcement referred to them as "rock-'n'-roll recording artists" (Berwyn Life-Beacon, December 2, 1956, p. 7). In May 1957, they were playing the revived Brass Rail in the Loop (Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1957, pt. 7 p. 12).

The company sent the Earfuls out to a couple of events. Don Bell, a DJ in Des Moines, Iowa, was running "Bell Hops" at the Val Air Ballroom. This was one of the few venues for a band like the Earfuls in Des Moines—Iowa had a law against serving liquor by the drink until 1963, so anybody who tried to operate a nightclub was swiftly shut down. At Bell's second anniversary event on February 27, the Earfuls were scheduled to be on hand along with Ronnie Self ("'Miss Livin' Doll'," Cash Box, March 8, 1958, p. 41). On March 8, the Earfuls participated in an hours-long show put on by the record companies at the First Annual Industry-Wide Disk Jockey Convention, in Kansas City ("Huge Turnout at Deejay Convention," Cash Box, March 22, 1958, p. 23). Every major label had acts in the show, along with Fraternity and Argo.

The Earfuls were back at Decatur Cocktail lounge on April 18, 1958, for a 10-day engagement (Decatur Daily Tribune, p. 18). They were not typed by genre this time. The next month they were in a "Rock and Roll Revue" which, umm, featured "Favorite Chicago Jazz Units," at the Belmont Theater, Ashland and Lincoln. The Earfuls were billed second, after Tony Smith's Band (Chicago Daily Tribune, May 17, 1958, pt. 1 p. 15).

The Earfuls eventually broke up. A successor entity, just going as The Sotos Brothers, made a single for a company called Fredlo in 1961. Fredlo was based in Davenport, Iowa, where it operated at a rather sedate pace from 1956 through 1973; after Fredlo 6106, we know of nothing further by the Sotos Brothers.

The Ebon-Knights were back for a second session early in the year. (Few Stepheny artists got a second session). Stepheny SF1822, "First Date" b/w "Only Only You," was out in February and was reviewed in Cash Box (March 15, 1958, p. 12). "First Date" also became the title cut of the Ebon-Knights' LP on Stepheny (see below), which as far as we can tell used tracks from their first session in 1957 and this one early in 1958. Whether there was a third session we're not in a good position to know.

Mort Hillman was able to book the Ebon-Knights into the Apollo Theater in Harlem, in a show that opened Friday February 28th. They were well down the list; top billing went to Mickey and Sylvia and Billie and Lillie (New York Age, March 1, 1958, p. 17). The whole thing probably lasted one week, but it was the biggest spotlight the group ever got. The final newspaper mention we've found on the Knights was from a gig at the Chaudiere Rose Room, in Ottawa, Canada. At least Ottawa was warm while they were there. The Ebon-Knights opened on May 26, 1958 (Ottawa Journal, p. 11) and the club ran ads daily during the one-week stand. We doubt the group stayed together for much longer.

Perucussionist, bandleader, and composer Bobby Christian had been a Salem artist, and we are confident that Mort Hillman was responsible for signing him to Stepheny. A session late in the year resulted in SF1833, coupling "Caravan" with an original called "Boola." Judging from the J series numbers, there was a followup a week or two later, which contributed to at least one of his 1959 releases. Christian and band were playing a lot of engagements in 1958, but one in the approximate time frame was at the Martinique restaurant during the holiday season (Southtown Economist, December 24, 1958, p. 10). Stepheny Records eventually decided on a Christian LP, but the project was not carried out until well into the next year. "Boola" and "Caravan" would be included on it.

Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
J9OW-0360 The Mar-Vellos Come Back My Love (De Lucia-McDonald) Stepheny SF1818 1958 January 1958
J9OW-0359 The Mar-Vellos Boyee Yoing (Duncan-Johnson-Dapper) Stepheny SF1818 1958 January 1958
J9OW-0463 Cheerful Earfuls The Drag — Number One Stepheny SF 1819 1958 February 1958
J9OW-0464 Cheerful Earfuls The Drag — Number Two Stepheny SF 1819 1958 February 1958
J9OW-0465 Jerry Jaye Sugar Dumplin' (Jaye) Stepheny SF 1820 1958 April 1958
J9OW-0466 Jerry Jaye How Could You Lose Your Trust in Me (Jaye) Stepheny SF 1820 1958 April 1958
J9OW-0484 Grant Jones | Mike Simpson's Orchestra Soda Pop Rock (Les and Toby Weinrott-Mike Simpson) Stepheny SF 1821 1958 February 1958
J9OW-0485 Grant Jones | Mike Simpson's Orchestra Pinball Machine (Weinrott-Simpson-Jones) Stepheny SF 1821 1958 February 1958
J7OW-0498 The Ebon-Knights First Date (Daniels-Daniels) Stepheny SF1822 1958 February 1958
J7OW-0524 The Ebon-Knights Only Only You (Steele-Fulton) Stepheny SF1822 1958 February 1958



Stepheny SF1823




Stepheny SF1823

J8OW-0593 Bob Laurie | Allan Webster Orchestra How Much Can a Young Heart Care (Douglas-La Vere-Glazier) Stepheny SF1824 1958 March 1958
J8OW-0594 Bob Laurie | Allan Webster Orchestra Ching-a-Ling-Ling (Douglas-Mellan-La Vere) Stepheny SF1824 1958 March 1958
J8OW-2940 The Bush Leaguers Home Sweet Home of the Braves (Fulton-Steele) Stepheny SF1825 1958 April 1958
J8OW-2941 The Bush Leaguers Vacation Time (Fulton-Steele) Stepheny SF1825 1958 April 1958
J8OW-3048 Debbie and the Diplomats Burnin' the Torch (Mascari-Wenzlaff) Stepheny SF 1826 1958 May 1958
J8OW-3049 Debbie and the Diplomats Unchangeable Heart (Mascari-Wenzlaff) Stepheny SF 1826 1958 May 1958
J8OW-3198 Jack Fascinato and Orchestra Diggin' Duggan (Fascinato-Berke) Stepheny SF 1827 1958 1958
J8OW-3199 Jack Fascinato and Orchestra Road Runner (Fascinato) Stepheny SF 1827 1958 1958
J7OW-4939 The Sunny Nodaks North Dakota | Vocal (Steele-Fulton) Stepheny SF1828 1958 1958
J7OW-4940 The Sunny Nodaks North Dakota | Instrumental (Steele-Fulton) Stepheny SF1828 1958 1958
J8OW-5955 Bob Laurie | Allan Webster Orchestra Our Last Dance (Fox-Douglas) Stepheny SF 1829 1958 August 1958
J8OW-5956 Bob Laurie | Allan Webster Orchestra Cry and Cry and Cry (May) Stepheny SF 1829 1958 August 1958
J8OW-7641 Tommy Nichols | Joe De Salvo with the Villa Venice Orchestra Three Sisters (A-Tiri-Tumba) (De Salvo-Nicolosi) Stepheny SF1830 1958 August 1958
J8OW-7642 Tommy Nichols | Joe De Salvo with the Villa Venice Orchestra Miss You (Tobias) Stepheny SF1830 1958 August 1958
J8OW-9412 Bevi Wright Lost Love (Wright) Stepheny SF1831 1958 October 1958
J8OW-9411 Bevi Wright You Know You Belong to Somebody Else (Siras-Monaco-West) Stepheny SF1831 1958 October 1958
JO8W-1193 The Four Four's Where Are You (Maye-Spector) Stepheny SF1832 1958 October 1958

The Four Four's Are You Lonely Stepheny SF1832 1958 October 1958
JO8W-3098 Bobby Christian | The Man with a Sound Caravan (Mills-Ellington-Tizol) Stepheny SF1833 1958 1958
JO8W-3099 Bobby Christian | The Man with a Sound Boola (Sweetwater) Stepheny SF1833 1958 1958

Stepheny announced in 1958 that it was opening a line of 12-inch LPs. More were mastered and pressed than the company was ready to release that year; these will be listed under 1959.

Vee-Jay's advertising (for instance, on a picture sleeve for Abner 1029) declared that there was a stereo edition of the EP, SEP 1-900. Anyone seen this?


Stepheny LPs (1958)


The Fredie Wayne LP was the work of a band director, Fredie Wayne, and an arranger, Jerry Nowak. They assembled a rehearsal band that cut 10 tracks over two recording sessions (we can't tell you when each took place, but the liners indicate who was replaced on the second session). Trumpets were Dom Geraci (replaced by John Howell on Session 1); George Bean; Rudy Stauber (replaced by Andy Marchese on the second session); and Bob Haddick. The trombone section consisted of Ed Poggensee (Bill Corti took his place on the second outing); Bill Porter; Bob Gates; and Larry Ransom. Saxes were Lenny Gagliardi; Phil Bova (with Hank Stanley taking over on the second session); Tom Hilliard; Dick Kress; and Art Langille. The rhythm section was Art Quinn, piano; George Milazzo, bass; and Mickey Simmetta, drums. Mickey Carroll sang on "In the Blue of Evening" and "Shine." George Bean took all the trumpet solos; Bill Porter handled the trombone solos. Tom Hilliard, Lenny Gagliardi, and Dick Kress soloed; Hank Stanley's one solo, on "Shine," tells us the number was from Session 2.


Matrix Stepheny # Artist Title Recording Year Release Year

Stepheny LR8006 [stereo] Fredie Wayne and his orchestra Fredie Wayne and his orchestra 1958 1958
J8OY-7877 Side 1





Fredie Wayne and his orchestra Fredie's Blues (Wayne-Novak) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra Paladium Swing (Wayne-Novak) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra In the Blue of Evening (Adair-d'Artega) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra Harlem Mambo (Wayne-Novak) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra Cherry (Redman-Gilbert) 1958 1958
J8OY-7878 Side 2





Fredie Wayne and his orchestra Evelina (Arlen-Harburg) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra My Funny Valentine (Rodgers-Hart) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra Shine (Mack-Dabney-Brown) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra One for Janet (Wayne) 1958 1958


Fredie Wayne and his orchestra The Gold Digger's Song (Dubin-Warren) 1958 1958


Matrix Stepheny # Artist Title Recording Year Release Year

HBLP-8 Seymour The Heartbeat Trumpet Volume Two

N8OP-0901 Side One





Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) When Day Is Done 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) If I Had You 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Someone to Watch over Me 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Over the Rainbow 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Somebody Loves Me 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) These Foolish Things 1961
N8OP-0902 Side Two





Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Coquette 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Isle of Capri 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) It Had to Be You 1958


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Margie 1960


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) September Song 1962


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Tenderly 1962

About Bob Bell we know he had some association with WGN radio, because an advertisement for the WGN Big 10 Community Party, held in Lombard, Illinois (Chicago Daily Tribune, June 25, 1957, p. 18) put his name below those of several prominent DJs, and just above two house ensembles, Bob Trendler's band and the Starnoters. The Starnoters (under Reno Tondelli's name) made an LP for Stepheny in 1958 (see above). One of the added attractions at the Big 10 Party wasBobby Christian, who would have a single out on Stepheny in 1958, then two more singles and an LP in 1959.

Bell's one release on Stepheny, SF1834, was out in February 1959. Billboard quickly dispatched it, giving it one star on February 2 (p. 49). A blurb in the Suburbanite Economist ("Austin High Grad. New Recording Star," March 18, 1959, p. 20G), besides making it clear where Bell had gone to high school, called him Stepheny Records' "latest voice find." It noted that Bell had become a featured vocalist with the Air Force Band while serving in the military, and that after completing his tour of duty he sang in clubs in New York and Chicago.

The next Stepheny single was by Bobby Christian.

Colleen Lovett sang with the Teddy Phillips Orchestra. This is not merely apparent from her release on Stepheny SF1836, where the Phillips aggregation is credited on the labels. She and Teddy had gotten married in 1957. An item in the Daily Oklahoman noted she would be performing with Phillips and band at a Mardi Gras ball in Oklahoma City, on February 8, 1958 ("Band Leader Publicizes Annual Mardi Gras Ball," January 19, 1958, p. 2E). Lovett sang on both sides of a Teddy Phillips release on Limelight, a new subsidiary of Mercury; she also helped to write both songs. Limelight Y-3004X was released in April 1958. In May 1958, she sang with the Phillips ork at the annual Back Scratch Show in Tyler, Texas (Tyler Morning Telegraph, May 14, 1958, p. 1). On October 30, 1958, an ad in the Marshall County News of Marysville, Kansas (p. 5) gave her major billing in ad for a Veteran's Day dance that the Phillips band was going to play (one can see from the locations that the band did a lot of touring). On January 18, 1959, the Phillips ork with Lovett as featured vocalist was at the Chase Club in Saint Louis (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 18, 1959, p. 88)

During 1959, Teddy Phillips also released a quintet record that used two male vocalists. It was on Thanx, an imprint operated for a hot minute by Bud Brandom. The arrangements were by Jack Fascinato.


Stepheny 45s (1959)

Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date

Bob Bell Love in the Mornin' Stepheny SF1834 1958 February 1959

Bob Bell Strangers Stepheny SF1834 1958 February 1959
K7OW-2867 Bobby Christian | The Man with a Sound Aloob (Christian) Stepheny SF1835 1959 1959
JO7W-3211 Bobby Christian | The Man with a Sound Frankie and Johnny Cha, Cha Stepheny SF1835 1958 1959

Colleen Lovett Cla-Wence Stepheny SF1836 1959 May 1959

Colleen Lovett Wishin' Stepheny SF1836 1959 May 1959
SW-40001 Eddie Thomas Truly, Truly, I Do (Raleigh-Edwards) Stepheny SF1837 1959 July 1959
SW-40002 Eddie Thomas Eight Slow Freights (Ross-Morris-Dixon) Stepheny SF1837 1959 July 1959
U-7674 Tiger Tom I Love You Truly (Hill) Stepheny SF 1838 1959 1959

Tom and Tiny Is the World Ready for Me Stepheny SF 1838 1959 1959
B-5458 Bobby Christian and Orchestra English Toffee (Christian-Walker) Stepheny SF1839 1959 October 1959
B-5459 Bobby Christian and Orchestra Jumpin Jack (Sweetwater-Neius) Stepheny SF1839 1959 October 1959


Stepheny LPs (1959)


The Bobby Christian album came out in 1959, but unlike any other Stepheny LP it was a compendium of old and new material: eight new tracks and six old ones, according to Bob Budler's notes. Some of the tracks dated back to 1956, so there were no boasts on the back liner about recording in stereo, nor was there a stereo release. Also for this reason, the liners did not give personnel for the band, which had probably changed several times; we merely learn that the leader can be heard on drums, vibes, piano, chimes, tympani, xylophone, and bongos. However, we are told (unusually for Stepheny, which didn't like to the name the studio) that the tracks were variously recorded at RCA Victor and Boulevard in Chicago.

Bob Budler's liners mention that Christian started doing regular college appearances on October 27, 1956, at St. Joseph's in Collegeville, Indiana, and that prior to each gig he would prepare a "concert" plus dance arrangement of the appropriate fight song, which he would donate to the college afterwards. Budler also mentions that Christian had six children--while shaving 11 years off his age.

"Boola" and "Caravan" were from Stepheny 1833, Christian's first for the label. Working back from there, "Tootie Flootie" b/w "East Avenue Express" had been on Phonograph 1023 (reviewed in Billboard on May 26, 1958, p. 42). Hillman didn't have to strain himself to get "My Theme" and "Indian Hop," which had been released in 1957 on Salem 1010. There was no attempt to revive "Crickets on Parade" (Salem 1001); Christian's 1956 single on Formal FR-1002, with "Grasshopper Jump" and "Blowing Bubbles," was included instead.


Matrix Stepheny # Artist Title Recording Year Release Year

MF4012 Bobby Christian and His Orchestra Smooth Man
1959
K80P-0748 Side 1



[H7OW-0469]
Bobby Christian My Theme (Christian-Armentrout) February 1957 1959


Bobby Christian Yesterdays (Kern-Harbach) 1958 1959


Bobby Christian Misirlou (Pina-Tauber-Wise-Roubanis) 1958 1959


Bobby Christian River's End (Christian-Reda-Armentrout) 1958 1959
[JO8W-3098]
Bobby Christian Caravan (Mills-Ellington-Tizol) 1958 1959


Bobby Christian Figments (Christian) 1958 1959


Bobby Christian Always (Berlin) 1958 1959
K80P-0749 Side 2



[ ]
Bobby Christian Tootie Flootie (Christian-Louis) 1958 1959
[ ]
Bobby Christian East Avenue Express (Reda) 1958 1959


Bobby Christian Noodlin & Doodlin (Christian-Louis) 1958 1959
[JO8W-3099]
Bobby Christian Boola (Sweetwater) 1958 1959
[G8OB-4115]
Bobby Christian I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles (Kendis-Brockman-Vincent-Kellette) 1956 1959
[G8OB-4116]
Bobby Christian Grasshopper Jump (Christian-Mazza-Mangus-Lata) 1956 1959
[H7OW-0470]
Bobby Christian Indian Hop (Christian) February 1957 1959

Matrix Stepheny # Artist Title Recording Year Release Year

HBLP-8 Seymour The Heartbeat Trumpet Volume Two

N8OP-0901 Side One





Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) When Day Is Done 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) If I Had You 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Someone to Watch over Me 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Over the Rainbow 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Somebody Loves Me 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) These Foolish Things 1961
N8OP-0902 Side Two





Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Coquette 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Isle of Capri 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) It Had to Be You 1958


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Margie 1960


Seymour Always 1960


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) September Song 1962


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Tenderly 1962


Seymour My Buddy 1961

Stepheny 45s (1960)


As 1960 rolled around, Stepheny Records was clearly on the way out. On November 1, 1959, the Louisville Courier Journal ran an engagement announcement for Stepheny Eveline Forgue and Robert Wadlington White (section 3 p. 2). They had met at the University of Kentucky. If plans were followed, the wedding took place in Evanston in January 1960. Stepheny's portrait was no longer on the 45-rpm labels. These were suddenly black on orange and carried the logo of a independent record producers' association that that the company had joined. Where the portrait had been, a 3-dimensional sound emblem (previously employed on the front cover of the company's stereo LPs) was now visible. We don't think this signified that the 45s were all in stereo. One final label variation would appear when the company issued a Christmas 45.

Stepheny LPs continued for a little longer, but as the release numbers rose, quantities pressed and sales declined. The company kept using its special LP label stock (which included the portrait) until it ran out of blanks—which happened in 1961 or maybe even later.


Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
BS-5460 Don Norton | Mike Simpson Orchestra and Choral Group Hold Me (Shuster-Oppenheim-Little) Stepheny SF1840 1959 February 1960
BS-5461 Don Norton | Mike Simpson Orchestra and Choral Group Trees (David-Kilmer) Stepheny SF1840 1959 February 1960
SHE-834 Danny Janssen Mirror on the Wall (Janssen) Stepheny SF 1841 1960 June 1960
SHE-835 Danny Janssen Blue Moon (Rodgers-Hart) Stepheny SF 1841 1960 June 1960
SF-1842-1 The Rockin' R's Walkin' You to School (Volz) Stepheny SF 1842 1960 September 1960
SF-1842-2 The Rockin' R's Bewitched (Rodgers-Hart) Stepheny SF 1842 1960 September 1960
SH-6050 Danny Janssen Winter Wonderland (Bernard-Smith) Stepheny SF1843 1960 November 1960
SH-6051 Danny Janssen Christmas All Alone (Janssen) Stepheny SF1843 1960 November 1960


Spinning 45s (1958)


Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
J8OW-3544 Eddie Thomas So Sincere (Raleigh-Edwards) Spinning HM6001 1958 May 1958
J8OW-3546 Eddie Thomas Frankenstein Rock (Ross-Morris) Spinning HM6001 1958 May 1958
J8OW-3437 Jim Eddy Cry, Cry, Cry (In My Heart) (B. Loomis-C. Loomis-Stevens) Spinning HM6002 1958 May 1958
J8OW-3438 Jim Eddy The Bells of Love Spinning HM6002 1958 May 1958
J7OW-3440 The Petites Marguerite (Holbrook) Spinning HM6003 1958 May 1958
J7OW-3441 The Petites Blessed Are They (Steele-Fulton) Stepheny HM6003 1958 May 1958
J7OW-3439 The Petites Sweetie Pie (And Honey Bee) (Steele-Fulton) Stepheny HM6005 1958 1958?
J7OW-3442 The Petites Who Kicked the Light Plug out of the Socket (Roddie-Brown) Stepheny HM6005 1958 1958?
JO8W-1194 Jay Hayes Lovey-Dovey-Love (Fox-Roberts-Sawyer) Stepheny HM6006 1958 October 1958
J7OW-1195 Jay Hayes Suzy (Watson-Douglas) Stepheny HM6006 1958 October 1958


Spinning 45s (1959)


Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
JO8W-3110 Lee Talboys and the Sing-Chronizers Baby, Baby (Talboys) Spinning HM-6007 1958 January 1959
J8OW-3111 Lee Talboys and the Sing-Chronizers Does It Mean Anything to You? (Spencer) Spinning HM-6007 1958 January 1959
K9OW-3607 Jimmy Doyle Five Minutes More (Styne-Cahn) Spinning HM6008 1959 1959

Jimmy Doyle My Gypsy Love Spinning HM6008 1959 1959
DC-5453 Larry Dowd and the Rock-a-Tones Why, Oh, Why Spinning HM6004 Spring 1959
[Des Moines]
July 1959?
DC-5455 Larry Dowd and the Rock-a-Tones Forbidden Love (Maye) Spinning HM6004 Spring 1959
[Des Moines]
July 1959?
DC-5451 Larry Dowd and the Rock-a-Tones Pink Cadillac (Dowd-Mitchell) Spinning HM6009 Spring 1959
[Des Moines]
May 1959
DC-5452 Larry Dowd and the Rock-a-Tones Blue Swingin' Mama (Fiscel-Dowd-Mitchell) Spinning HM6009 Spring 1959
[Des Moines]
May 1959
DC-5456 The Rhythm Steppers Featuring Fred Horrell Hey Little Lola (Barnett) Spinning HM6010 Spring 1959
[Des Moines]
1959
DC-5457 The Rhythm Steppers Featuring Fred Horrell My First Broken Heart Spinning HM6010 Spring 1959
[Des Moines]
1959


Spinning 45s (1960)


Matrix Artist Title Release Number Recording Date Release Date
BST-4015 The Suades Featuring Rosie Stevens Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby (Perkins) Spinning HM 6011 1960 1960
The Suades Featuring Rosie Stevens Wrong Yo Yo (Alan) Spinning HM 6011 1960 1960
BST-4021 The Idylls Love Me Again (Burns) Spinning HM 6012 1960 July 1960
BST-4022 The Idylls Annette (Mertes) Spinning HM 6012 1960 July 1960

Stepheny LPs (1960 on)


Matrix Heartbeat # Artist Title Recording Year Release Year

HBLPS-707 Seymour The Heartbeat Trumpet Volume I
February 1962
M8OP-2564 Side One





Seymour Some of These Days 1958?


Seymour Melancholy Baby 1961


Seymour Somebody Loves Me 1961


Seymour Marie Elena 1961


Seymour Japanese Sandman 1960


Seymour My Buddy 1961
M8OP-2565 Side Two





Seymour When My Baby Smiles at Me 1961


Seymour Danny Boy 1960


Seymour I Want a Girl (Just like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad) 1960


Seymour My Wonderful One 1961


Seymour Does Your Heart Beat for Me



Seymour Always 1960







HBLP-8 Seymour The Heartbeat Trumpet Volume Two

N8OP-0901 Side One





Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) When Day Is Done 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) If I Had You 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Someone to Watch over Me 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Over the Rainbow 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Somebody Loves Me 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) These Foolish Things 1961
N8OP-0902 Side Two





Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Coquette 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Isle of Capri 1961


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) It Had to Be You 1958


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Margie 1960


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) September Song 1962


Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet) Tenderly 1962

Presumably the Paul Glasser Stepheny LPs were offered to concert and dance goers until inventory ran out. This could have taken a while; we have seen copies of MF4016 with stock Stepheny labels and new labels not on Stepheny stock. Norman Forgue made his final statement about the record business in 1963. He put a want ad in the Chicago Tribune offering 15 pieces of good quality audio equipment for sale (June 16, 1963, section 3 p. 2).


By the end of 1960, Mort Hillman was already out of Stepheny Records. His departure drew no ink in the trades. Hillman wasn't finished with the business, just with Chicago. He probably moved to New York City right away. The next sighting we have on Hillman is as a sales representative of a New York-based company. He would work for 3 or 4 there. In January 1965, he was making appearances with artists who recorded on Regina (James Wilber, "the Popular Beat," Cincinnati Enquirer, January 24, 1965, p. 13-E).

When not selling records, Hillman took some time off to sell ad space in Record World magazine. This was an upstart competitor to Billboard, which had scorned him, and Cash Box, which hadn't drawn the sales he was hoping for. We see Hillman's name on the masthead (Record World, December 25, 1965, p. 4) as Advertising Manager, Eastern Division. Record World's offices were in New York City, but it had a separate West Coast Division. In March 1966, he was wedded to Ruth Herbst, a medical technician (New York Daily News, March 3, 1966, p. C16). This was at least his second marriage.

In June 1968, Hillman became Vice President for Sales and Promotion at Audio Fidelity (James Wilber, "the Popular Beat," Cincinnati Enquirer, June 30, 1968, p. 9-G). This was the biggest company he ever worked for. Hillman remained in New York City (more specifically in Whitestone, Queens) for at least 30 years.

In 1980, Mort Hillman went into politics. He ran as a Democrat for a seat in the New York State Assembly, holding it for 6 terms. In 1992, he lost narrowly when redistricting put him up against a Republican incumbent from a formerly adjoining district ("New York Legislature: Leaders Buck National Anti-Incumbent Trend," Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, November 5, 1992, p. 8A).

Hillman retired to Delray Beach, Florida, where he was heard from during local political controversies. Mort Hillman died in Florida on February 3, 2014, at the age of 87 (Cincinnati Enquirer, February 26, 2014, p. 14). His wife Ruth died in a nursing home in Newtown, Connecticut, on January 9, 2017 (Cincinnati Enquirer, January 11, 2017, p. 6B). She was 98.


In 1974, Norman Forgue sold his interest in the Norman Press, which relieved him of most management duties. But he kept Black Cat going. A number of newspapers picked up a feature article on him from the Chicago Sun-Times (Gary Wisby, "The Incredible Shrinking Books," San Francisco Examiner, November 18, 1982, p. E5; nearly a year later it showed up as "Tiny Books Are a Tall Order," Central New Jersey Home News, October 20, 1983, p. A23). Black Cat Press was about to publish its 90th book. Forgue was spending a good part of his time crafting other miniatures, such as 1/8 inch tall human figures carved from matchsticks, and toy dollhouse rooms cast in lead, complete with even tinier doll dishes. He used a saw that could cut to one thousandth of an inch. A somewhat updated version from the Associated Press (Charles Chamberlain, "Craftsman Is, in a Nutshell, a Giant among Miniatures," Elmira Star-Gazette, March 21, 1983, p. 12A) mentioned that he had 150,000 miniatures in his home in Skokie. Many he had carved or molded himself; the rest he had assembled from parts and painted.

On May 18, 1984, the Chicago Tribune published Madeline Forgue's obituary (section 4 p. 12). The terse item indicated that Stepheny had remarried and was now Stepheny Houghtlin—also, that Stepheny had six children. On October 20, 1985, Norman Forgue's obituary followed (Chicago Tribune, section 2 p. 15). He was 80 years old.


Norman Forgue's papers are in the Chicago Public Library (see https://www.chipublib.org/fa-norman-w-forgue-collection/). We learned a little more about him and about Black Cat Press from a 2014 article available at Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin's website: https://stephenyhoughtlin.com/2014/03/17/the-black-cat-press-remembering-norman-w-forgue-1904-1983/. As we noted above, he died in 1985.

We benefited from the 45 rpm discography on Stepheny at http://www.globaldogproductions.info/s/stepheny.html as well as the 45cat.com listing for the label. However, Global Dog covered only the SF1801 series. Discussions at 45cat.com have recognized some relationship between the 45-01s and the 1801s, but not the company's Cash Box rebirth trick. For Stepheny LPs, the 1999 discography by Both Sides Now is still helpful, though it is incomplete and the prefix given for the stereo releases is incorrect. Spinning was an unfortunate, way too obvious, name for a record label, but 45cat.com shows its complete output. So does discogs, where the Stepheny subsidiary is the seventh Spinning label.


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