By George Petersen
I’VE MENTIONED THIS BEFORE, BUT ONE OF MY weekend activities is flea marketing, which is essentially searching for the unexpected. After years of doing this, I have yet to run across that fabled mint LA-2A or box of old Neumanns for $15, although there is this persistent urban myth about some guy who bought a “defective” U87 in a pawnshop for $20. As the story goes, the pawnshop owner evidently tried to test it by connecting it to a mic input on an old P.A. head that didn’t have phantom power, so the mic “didn’t work” and he sold it cheap. If anybody out there knows any details about that, let me know so we can verify the story—or at least give me the location of that pawnshop so I can shop there too!
Anyway, a couple weeks ago, on my usual local flea market jaunt was this junk dealer with cases and cases of 45 rpm records. All by artists on the now famous (or infamous) Rocshire Records label. This immediately brought up my memory of interviewing the people at Rocshire Records, back in 1983. (It’s in the September 1983 issue to be exact, in case you want to read the entire text, but sorry, our online archives don’t go back that far—yet.)
The interview, made just as Rocshire was starting, painted a picture of how a dream label would operate. The concept? Rocshire’s slogan was “Home of the Artists” and was dedicated to total artist support. This included use of their state-of-the-art recording facility, and plans to build rehearsal facilities and a live sound company—all for the exclusive use of the Rocshire artists on their label. Run by Rocky Davis and his wife Shirley (hence the name “Rocshire”), it was a true family-owned business that really seemed to care about the acts on their roster.
Among those artists signed to the MCA-distributed Rocshire Records were 1960s Brit sensations Chad & Jeremy, former Tower of Power vocalist Lenny Williams, Detroit favorites Adrenalin, Alcatrazz (with Yngwie Malmsteen) and a number of other bands, including The Suttons (former Motown act) and Eddie & The Monsters, featuring former “The Munsters” child actor Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster).
And with a beginning roster like that, how could you lose? Well, there’s one point that I haven’t mentioned so far, and curiously, it wasn’t mentioned in that interview I did back when the label was starting out. You see, Rocshire was financed entirely by some 12-15 million dollars that Shirley Davis had embezzled from Hughes Aircraft, while she was working as an accountant there. Now most people who could steal such an amount would simply disappear and end up living the good life on some faraway country. Yet the Davis family somehow felt that laundering all that dough into some low-profile operation (like a record label) was a good idea. Not so smart, evidently. The pair were eventually caught and ended up serving time.
It just goes to prove that old adage. If you want to make a million bucks in the record biz, just start out with $15 million.
George Petersen is an independent journalist/author/producer. Visit him on Facebook or at www.audioinfosource.com.
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By George Petersen