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

Prior to CBS acquiring Oriole Records and Levy Sound Studios the British CBS franchise was ran by John Humphries and since late 1951 Philips Records had held the long-term contract for CBS’s pressing and distribution within the UK. In 1959, briefly CBS decamped to EMI Stateside, however this lasted only several months and they were soon back with Philips where they were credited on Philips livery as Columbia Records, USA. In 1958 they again decamped, this time temporarily to Pye.


In 1964 as part of a European expansion plan Columbia (CBS) momentarily (probably as a smoke screen) targeted Jeffrey Kruger and his grandly titled, ‘Ember Records International Company Ltd’ based in Hove. Ember had a tiny pressing facility (Philips equipped - in Brighton) but the factory was just too small, and it was geographically constrained… Ember’s premises allowed no possibility of expansion and further, and as I have written elsewhere this may have been a ruse to distract the competition. Oriole and Philips often manufactured Ember’s blanks and transferred to metal their masters, subsequently CBS’s head honcho; Goddard Lieberson turned his guns onto Oriole and Levy. (Q.I. Lieberson was from Stoke on Trent, his parents emigrated to the US.)

Levy was acutely aware that the New Bond Street studio was a little ‘tired’ and needed a makeover, and that the Aston Clinton plant was reaching the end of its usefulness. Nevertheless in commercial terms Oriole Records represented a respectable purchase. Lieberson did not want a studio, but acquiring one was an unexpected bonus. Morris in his usual dilatory way arranged a threadbare contract and on the 21st


of  September 1964 'shook hands' over the ‘gentleman’s’ arrangement for his company to retain both the Oriole label and its core British management. Morris was to remain (nominally) Managing Director… but this was a sinecure, Morris had virtually retired to his home in Windsor and henceforth had little direct connection with the company.


EMI owned the UK copyright to the Columbia style so the company was registered as CBS Columbia, shortened to CBS with the ‘Box, Eye and Chevron’ trademark device.


After the takeover CBS appointed two yanks to run the new CBS Record Company, Maurice Oberstein (marketing) and Ken Glancy as acting Managing Director. Glancy immediately appointed the Anglo American Rodney Burbeck as publicity manager and by stealth progressively a number of key positions were filled by US staff. One exception was the Brit, Mike Smith who in 1965 was to become musical director, Mike was ex Decca and he brought with him a number of successful acts. Reg Warburton who was Oriole’s head of A&R retained his position until early 1967 when Derek Everett, from EMI, replaced him.


The first CBS records were issued in late February 1965 and the Oriole style was then officially ditched… I cannot ascertain with certainty, however I believe Embassy Records was discontinued at the same time. Although occasionally the label was revived for ‘specials’. Immediately after the takeover what remained of Oriole’s stable of musicians had their contracts cancelled, while some like Maureen Evans negotiated new contracts. In the period October 1964 to February 1965 little recording or manufacturing was completed, and Philips were handed a short-term contract to press on behalf of the company, and I would suspect that during this interregnum Aston Clinton was refitted. Early CBS recordings used new Philips manufactured presses and I am informed it is almost impossible to differentiate the Philips pressings from CBS/ Oriole.


The New Bond Street office was closed in early 1967 and CBS devolved to Theobalds Road. Morris Levy severed all remaining ties with CBS in 1967.


Also in 1967 the Bond Street studio was leased and became independent (but still owned) of CBS. All manufacturing was ceased in the mid seventies. Aston Clinton became the storage facility for CBS, when production was transferred to Belgium and Germany. Sony bought out the remnants of the CBS Empire in 1988 and today; Sony uses the old but much enlarged Oriole factory as its distribution depot.


 Acknowledgements again to Alex Balmforth for this final part of the Oriole story.