Who pressed Esquire?

What we know:

British Library documents make reference to a relationship between Peter Newbrook/ Carlo Kramer’s label and Decca pressing. At least the first half of Esquire’s catalogue bear the same pressing die marks as other labels known to be pressed by Decca at that time, in the late ’50s. The second half bear pressing die marks that have no known connection,  possibly independent plants of Oriole (Slough and Bucks) before CBS took them over around 1964 – around the time Esquire folded. Or equally possible, still Decca.

Here is the Decca connection:

Esquire-vs-London-Deca

Not conclusive, but no doubt the exact same dies were used to press these two records. Decca New Malden pressed all London, a Decca-owned subsidiary label. Apart from the first few titles, the outer-rim deep groove appears fairly consistently  on the first fifty Esquire titles, and then on the majority of the next fifty. From 32-100 a different pattern die appears on Esquire, whilst London move to a conventional “Blue Note” style deep groove. Either dies changed, or pressing plants changed, or both

There is only one Esquire title in my 72-strong Esquire collection which is not pressed with US Prestige stampers – 32-157 – Charlie Parker Bird is Free – a recording licensed to Esquire by Charlie Parker Records, the company created by Aubrey Mayhew and Charlie’s widow, Chan Parker, to capitalise on Parker’s only  legacy, his recordings.

This looks like a disparate collection of Parker recordings for which no US metalwork would have existed and certainly not under Prestige’s business. Hence Esquire would have to have had it mastered from tape – by their independent pressing plant. The Esquire catalogue number 32-157 would place it in the final year or two of the label, which ceased at 32-194.

Exhibit 2:

Parker-esquire-labels

Esquire would almost certainly have used the same pressing plant as all their Prestige titles, which reveals a fairly close match to the matrix format of Oriole, as found on all CBS  post 1965/5  pressings.

UK--main-pressing-plant-matrix-code-formats- philips one L

It doesn’t follow the house format of the big three majors Philips, EMI and Decca, however it does follow fairly closely if not exactly the format of Oriole at around the time the Parker title would have been pressed. Not an exact match but it comes closer than any othe majors and my theory about Decca just bit the dust

ORIOLE-vs-ESQUIRE-(detail)

Oriole was at the time probably one of the few UK independent pressing plants, filling its work schedules with Embassy Records chart hits covers for distribution by FW Woolworths, and whatever other work they could get independently of the majors – like for example, Linguaphone language-teaching records, and Carlo Kramer’s Esquire would be a perfect candidate. I am not a big fan of Oriole pressings for CBS, but in the matter of Esquire, they were being supplied with original US stampers. All they had to do was fill them – the hard stuff had already been done in the US.

It is not absolute proof, but it’s enough to convince me – until someone turns up with a better explanation.

My thanks to LJC reader Steve for prodding me to make the connection.

UPDATE (December 13,2013

Decca still in the frame. LJC reader Tom kindly sent me a picture of a UK locally mastered Esquire pressing – shown here side by side with a Decca matrix for London Records around the same time

esquire-matrix-and-London-Decca-1600-LJC

Esquire photo courtesy of Tom

Looks like Decca to me too, despite the absence of an engineer code.  The separation of codes by hyphens, the font (compare the L and 1), the sharpness and  clarity of the depth of the stamp, the use of a Decca-unique code rather than the record catalogue number, it confirms to me Esquire did have a relationship with Decca. The Parker Esquire is less convincingly Decca. The odd angle at which it is positioned smacks Oriole in the early Sixties. (A mid-Fifties Oriole is totally different from all of these)

Mystery remains open for discussion

12 thoughts on “Who pressed Esquire?

  1. I started this ball rolling a while back but have done some further research and can now add some additional thoughts which may be of interest to you so here goes.
    I was luck enough to buy some Esquire eps at a boot sale a year or so back from an elderly gent who informed me he had been a record presser for a company called Selecta. He had stored these in his garage for years and decided it was time to part with them. None had picture sleeves but looked unplayed and they were of Prestige material (Miles, Monk, Rollins) he was a bit vague but told me they were made from metalwork produced by the Swedish Metronome label who issued Prestige in Sweden and also had a reciprocal deal with Esquire and I do have some UK Ronnie Scott titles on this label in the collection so I decide to dig a bit deeper into his story.
    From what I can discover Selecta were owned by Decca and pressed records for small independent labels but not at New Malden their plant was based in South East London in Southwark and later moved to nearby Lewisham, many of the uk pressed reggae records were also produce here. At this time both Esquire and Riverside were distributed in the U.K. by a company called central record distributors or CRD which was run by a man called Ken Lindsay. He realised there was a market for modern jazz in the U.K. but a small one so he had to keep costs down. By importing metalwork from elsewhere it only needed labels & sleeves printing up and pressings to be made, cutting out the lengthy expensive mastering process from copy master tapes. Ive no concrete evidence here but it seems likely as the EP’s were made this way and at this plant the higher quality Esquire LP’s were produced likewise but with the RVG metalwork. I’ve no idea as yet how the Riversides were produced here but at this period they would have been the earliest U.K. Pressings with white labels and blue and black text.
    However the RVG link goes further still. From looking up some old Billboard magazines online (they were an old US Music paper, a bit like our Melody Maker or NME I suppose) it appears Lindsay in 1962 brokered the deal of his life by getting Alfred Lion to agree to letting his company CRD to import Blue Note records in small quantities direct to the UK. At last he could offer a finished product and from the greatest name in Jazz recording (IMHO). At this time Lindsay dropped the distribution of Esquire and Riverside I don’t expect he considered them worth continuing with any longer. Riverside as we know where then taken up by Philips ( blue & silver label) and as for poor old Esquire they seemed to disappear shortly after. That’s about as far as I can get at present. Hope this info may be of some interest to you.

  2. I’ve noticed the earlier Esquire pressings have a thin deep groove at the very edge of the label.
    Like your picture here:

    Earliest pressings of London Records LPs have the same pressing feature:
    http://www.popsike.com/LITTLE-RICHARD-HERES-LITTLE-RICHARD-UK-LP-EXEX/130601205641.html

    Does this thin outer deep groove have a name?

    It would seem to indicate that up till around sometime in 1957 Esquire was being pressed by Decca as I have not seen this kind of deep groove on any other UK record company LPs.

    Any thoughts

    • The cobblers children are often not well shod. I have 78 Esquire 32- series and I have never tried to create a catalogue sequence photographic timeline of the labels. Sounds like something worth doing. These things often reveal otherwise hidden transitions.

      I have seen that label rim outer groove many times, and you may be right – this could be there proof we need. I’ve seen it on plenty of vintage Decca London American. Decca also pressed Contemporary Vogue and I think I’ve seen that groove on them too. Time to connect all the dots, thank you, well spotted, John

    • Finally got around to a full labelology of all my Esquires, updating the post above. You are spot on the money, the first half of Esquires look definitely the work of Decca. The second half, we lose the physical similarity of the outer-rim deep groove. It is either Decca moving to new dies, or it is another manufacturer. It is pretty consistent, so it is not shopping around to various plants. One step forward at least.

  3. Well chaps, I don’t know if this’ll help, hinder or make no difference at all…
    I’ve got a number of Esquires in my collection for the music-Miles, Sonny Rollins, a couple of Monk EPs, but also one for the cover. Ralph Steadman, fresh out of art college created a number of Esquire covers including Marching With the Happy Wanderers (32-044) from 1958. It is a quinessentially English marching band affair and as such is, I assume, an Esquire ‘original’ ie., not an imprint for another label. The Matrix is a straightforward looking one ELP-1017-A and ELP-1017-B, and typeface-wise, looks for all the world like a Decca code to me. I’ll happily email LJC a photograph if it helps…

  4. Hmm… I hate to play devil’s advocate (who am I kidding, I love to play devil’s advocate), but I am not overwhelmed by the visual evidence above. It seems to me that the typefaces between the Esquire and the Oriole are far from identical. Also, both suffixes are fairly generic (1A being used by everyone from Warner Bros. to Columbia). Moreover, one master sequence uses numbers and the other letters, which seems dissimilar.

    I wasn’t able to find any other examples of matrix numbers beginning with a ‘ZX’ prefix.

    Steve, it’s intriguing to me that you have a recording of Peter Newbrook stating that Decca never pressed LPs for Esquire when I thought we had unearthed an interview with Newbrook stating the that Decca in fact _had_ pressed records for Esquire in this earlier thread:

    https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/workin-with-the-miles-davis-quintet-1956/

    As far as I know, no one has been able to actually listen to this interview, but the abstract seems to clearly indicate that Newbrook discusses both Decca and British Homophone pressing records for Esquire (thought it’s not clear during what time period):

    http://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Oral-history-of-recorded-sound/021M-C0090X0084XX-0400V0

    I don’t have any specific experience with Oriole pressings, but I can say the one Esquire pressing I own (“Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet”) is both unusually heavy (~240g) and the vinyl seems to have weathered the brutal wear and tear of early mono record players conspicuously well relative to the two other Prestige pressings of the same title in my possession. Are either of these things characteristic of Oriole pressings?

    It seems possible judging from LJC’s Esquire pressing of PRLP 7024 that Esquire may have even looked across the Channel for pressing plants on some occasions. At any rate, it seems doubtful to me at this point that Esquire utilized only a single pressing plant for the entire duration of their Prestige reissues.

    It strikes me that the best way to potentially identify different pressing plants would be to establish distinct die patterns, labels and vinyl weights. Unfortunately, I only have the one pressing to contribute, but I would be fascinated to see what the results of such a survey would be. I do have many Decca pressings I could examine (I swear I have recognized Decca die patterns on some of the Esquire pressings posted here).

    Steve, is there any chance you could transcribe the relevant part of your Newbrook interview? Also, it would be terrific if there was any way someone could finally access the British Library’s Newbrook interview and provide the relevant part of that as well.

    • Not a perfect match by any means, I agree. Close, but may be not close enough. The jury is still out. I need to check out Pye Records. That’s a possible missing link. I must also check some Oriole pre-CBS – I have a couple.

    • Gentlemen, it appears we are in very deep waters with the Esquire label. I think LJC has established the important link between Esquire & Oriole and it seems pretty conclusive to me, they certainly pressed them and may have been the main source, but for how long and if any other companies were also used is open to further questions. Esquire ran from 1948 to about 1964, a good innings for a small company and right in the critical years when everything was happening, musically speaking. I suspect they must have used different pressers from time to time. When you take the major UK producers of the period out of the equation (which I always have) there aren’t that many left to choose from.
      Of course the dead wax beautifully illustrated (as usual, LJC) above does have a different logic to it from CBS/Oriole, but as Esquire were supplying metalwork for pressing only and as UK, US & French all seem to have been used along with Swedish Metronome metalwork for some 45rpm Extended Play issues, they could add any further info for their own purposes during production along with what already existed (RGV, Prestige numbers etc) CBS would have had a completely different system and would have been cut locally via US copy master tapes. But the typeface and setting would, I expect be added in production and that is vital here as it matches so closely.
      I will have to try and transfer the interview I have on tape, also I would love to hear the British Library recording. I’ll try to see if there is any way of accessing it, as any final conclusions should take in all available evidence this could be important. Hell I just want to hear it now anyway!

  5. Well what is there to say in the face of such overwhelming evidence? I am suitably impressed and never thought anyone would get to the bottom of this problem. The Esquire label has always fascinated me (early UK Bop / Van Gelder / Prestige) and a few early acquisitions got me started collecting modern jazz on “Vintage” vinyl (i.e.1950’s/60’s) about 12 years ago, but I have been listening to this wonderful music for most of my life. The thing is that no-one has ever known very much about Esquire, even amongst the more knowledgeable collectors, dealers & Hi-Fi buffs that have crossed my path. All the evidence I have managed to come by, however, checks out against your own findings and I have to conclude you have finally cracked the conundrum for us all.
    Oriole and with the US metalwork they sound better than any other Oriole pressing we are ever likely to hear, but as Sherlock Holmes would put it “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. I suggest we reward ourselves with a glass of claret or something similar.
    Cheers!
    p.s. I’m also compiling a little interesting info regarding UK Riverside releases, those early white label ones issued before Philips began producing them. I’ll let you know if it amounts to anything of interest, hopefully soon. Steve.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s