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Embassy Records. The label that reigned supreme, on Woolworth’s counters, from 1955 to 1965.

I’ve been trying to find out more information about some of the artists who recorded covers for the old Woolworth Label, Embassy. I’ve picked up a few of these here and there and I have managed to find some information regarding some of the artists, but not very much. I wondered if anyone here could shed any light.

From, some of the information I have so far, it’s clear that many of the earlier recordings on Embassy may have been dance band singers who started their careers in the 1940s, people like Denny Dennis, Sam Browne and Rita Williams etc and I know Pearl Carr made a couple of records for Embassy early in her career. Moving on towards the rock’n’roll era I read that Shorty Mitchell was actually orchestra leader Geoff Love and David Ross is Elvis’s dad (Costello not Presley), aka Ross McManus. Johnny Worth was one of the Raindrops and would later write songs for the likes of Adam Faith and Eden Kane using the pen name Les Vandyke (he also recorded the Embassy cover version for some of those songs, which would make him probably the only artist at Embassy to write and sing his own material for the label!)
I understand Dick Jordan (later to have a couple of chart hits on Oriole “Hallelujah I Love Her So” and “Little Christine”) also used the pseudonym Don Duke, similarly I believe that Bobby Stevens was a pseudonym used by Ray Pilgrim (which was not his real name either), who also recorded for Oriole (“Baby Doll”, which I have and “Little Miss Make Believe” which I don’t). I believe Ray Pilgrim also made regular appearances on radio’s Saturday Club in the late 50s. I have recently read that Rikki Henderson won his contract with Embassy through a competition run by Mirabelle magazine, but I have also seen a reference to a resident vocalist with the Denny Boyce Orchestra called Rikki Henderson (Rikki also apparently made one appearance on TVs Oh Boy).

Paul Rich, another Embassy regular may have been the vocalist with Lou Preager’s Orchestra and/ or an Executive with Pye Records. I read that Les Carle was a pseudonym used by Ken Barrie (Postman Pat); I had suspected that Ken Barrie would have recorded for Embassy when I found out that Mike Redway was one of Mike Sammes singers and I believe that both may have been involved in the recording of the Beatles album Sergeant Pepper. Mike Sammes, I understand recorded as Redd Wayne.
One artist for whom information has eluded me is Hal Munro, although judging by his accent I would guess he was of West Indian origin.

Of the girl singers, Maureen Evans went on to record for Oriole and later CBS (who bought out Oriole) and had a hit with “Like I Do”, covered for Embassy by Kay Barry. Kay Barry was possibly a pseudonym used by session singer Barbara Kay. Jean Campbell was quite prolific and I’m sure was at one time signed to Parlophone Records, she was also the voice behind many a TV jingle. She also recorded for another cover label “Cannon”.

I read that the group The Starlings was more or less made up from anyone who was around at the time of recording. The Typhoons, I’ve been led to believe were a group from Hull and the Jaybirds, it has been claimed, featured Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee (a claim refuted by this site). However, I have also been advised that Ray Pilgrim may have been involved in at least one of those groups if not both.

I haven’t mentioned yet, instrumentalists Bud Ashton and Steve Stannard, but they may have been Johnny Towers and Ted Taylor. I know early 60s session bass player Ron Prentice contributed to some Embassy tracks but he has only specified two titles that he can remember. I also know that Bert Weedon has emphatically denied any involvement with Embassy.

I would guess that ownership of the recordings belongs to CBS though it is unlikely any will be unearthed for reissue. Another question I have, is, I know many of the recordings made for Embassy were distributed across Europe and indeed the world on various labels such as Discofoon, Teeny, Corona and Golden Harvest, but were any distributed to other Department Stores in this country on different labels?

I think in part my interest in the Embassy label recordings is that the artists have been given some kind of identity, albeit in most cases, a false one. Unearthing the details of those identities has been my anorak task. More frustrating are the Top of the Pops albums of the 70s. I recently got a series of CD reissues and some of the tracks are less unbearable than I imagined. I remember me mam got us kids a TOTP LP from the very beginning of the 70s which we still have somewhere but I can’t remember listening to it, I wouldn’t have been any older than 11 at the time (I remember looking at the pic cover a lot). It was sort of green colour with a bird in a tank top and leather look trousers that were laced at the front and I think it’s got “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on it (now theme music for CSI Miami, in fact all the CSIs use Who tracks as themes). I know Tony Rivers was behind some between 1974 and 1978, but on his site he is not specific about who recorded what, he just gives generalisations, but one name he does mention is Ken Barrie who had recorded for Embassy. I think Tina Charles also recorded some tracks for the Top of the Pops series (is she the voice on the TOTP version of “When Will I See You Again”?). I think it’s widely known that Elton John did quite a few covers for the TOTP series early on (although it’s not clear why).

I welcome any information anyone has to offer particularly because the Embassy era was before my time, I started buying records seriously around 1972 although I did get some when I was about 7 or 8 for 1/-6 apiece (I think that’s how it used to be written) from a toyshop! that had earlier in the 60s sold records and were clearing remaining stocks. I got “Oh Lonesome Me” by Craig Douglas there and a few by Tommy Roe, and an Adam Faith record “What Now”.

Mickey White