One label I’ve always found rather baffling is Manor, a 1940s New York-based outfit that issued some of Dizzy Gillespie’s first records as a leader, black vocal groups, gospel, jump, western swing and other stuff. Through studying discs and old Billboard reportage, I discovered for myself that Manor was the dominant imprint among three 78 rpm labels, of which the other two were Regis and Arco. Regis predated Manor and Arco ran alongside, and later postdated the main label. Regis began during the recording ban making vocal-only discs in 1943 and Arco finally closed its doors in 1953, apparently never making a 45 rpm single, though Regis/Manor did market at least one 78 rpm album set, and Arco eight known 10″ LPs. In addition there was a Kay-Ron label, of unknown origin or purpose, that reissued at least six Regis-Manor-Arco masters on 45 rpm records in 1953. From the information I have gathered in the table below, it appears that Regis-Manor-Arco handled just around a thousand masters in those ten years, though only about half of that output was released, and some masters were sourced from outside. In order to make sense of the three labels together I have assembled a spreadsheet of known releases. There are few dates, and I don’t have all of the matrix data; I am likewise missing a couple of artist and title entries for records known to have been released. I invite ARSC members and interested others to fill in these missing details as they uncover them, facilitating the recovery of information relating to this significant label group.
Regis Records was founded in 1943 by Irving Berman out of the G&R Record Shop in Newark, New Jersey, listed at 162 Prince Street; the first mention of it in Billboard in February. Regis was a very, very small operation and some of the earliest matrices issued on Regis have the sound of home disc cutting equipment; Berman promoted his brand through local radio advertising and charged 53 cents a disc. In 1945, Berman’s company either moved to New York City (313 W. 57th), or at least took out a post office box there, and Manor was launched. While exact circumstances remain unclear, it appears that Manor was a better capitalized outfit than Regis had been. Many Manors bear the legend “Clark Record Co., Newark, N.J.” According to David Diehl, Clark was already operating for some time before Regis appeared; it supplied biscuits in the 1930s and offered shellac substitutes during the Second World War. Eli Oberstein also pressed some discs through Clark after he had an interruption of service with the Scranton facility; according to Diehl he moved all of his masters to Clark after US Record Corp. went out of business. Apparently the association with Clark was downplayed, if not altogether discontinued, around 1947. Labels read both “Manor Record Co., Newark, N.J” and “Manor Records Company, General Office, New York 19, N.Y., U.S.A” and some point the label ink changes from gold to silver.
The company reorganized at least once; by 1949, Regis had long been discontinued and Arco is instituted, and the company’s address moves back to New Jersey. The Manor imprint is retired around 1950, and Arco continues alone until 1953 when its last releases, and the Kay-Rons, roll out. Arco records are credited to the “American Record Company, Newark 7, New Jersey” but bear the same staff and notes device that decorated Manor. At its end, Arco issued eight known 10″ LPs, all drawn from previously issued catalog; AL 4, “Irving Berman Presents Jazz At Carnegie Hall Volume One – An American Jazz Festival” utilizes a concert recorded by Norman Granz and replaces Granz’ name with Berman’s as producer and presenter.
Known matrix numbers start at 1065 and run to highest known 1855 with a few odd discs in other number series. The matrices are variegated by a system of letter prefixes, which — when removed, as in the “Mx no letter” field in the spreadsheet — reveal that for the most part the number sequence does not duplicate, though around 1400, they do — the “B” and “I” matrices conflict a little. Also, two titles claim mx. E1265; “You’re Heaven Sent” is used on Manor 1009. Overall though, this indicates that the letters refer to specific studios where the recordings were made, the letters employed being: A, B, C, D, E, F, H, HS, I, M, MG, N, S, U and W. This was a strategy used by other New York labels of the period such as Hit/Majestic; “C” may mean “Chicago;” the three masters by gay pianist Rudy Richardson were made in Chicago, where he was based. “W” — if the same use at Hit/Majestic holds true for these labels as well — was for World Transcriptions, though Eli Oberstein also used it for recordings made away from the prying eyes of the AFM. “MG” is a prefix commonly used by Mercury Records; as Norman Granz used the Regis label to issue JATP material, a backdoor connection to Mercury is not wholly out of the question. “N” appears to stand for “Norman Granz.” “E” indicates the Empire Recording Studio, located in the Empire State Building and used by Joe Davis, among others. Columbia Records re-released a couple of Manor sides in their 30000 series around 1950, and substituted their own matrices for Berman’s. These Dizzy Gillespie titles continued to surface on Columbia and Epic reissues into the 1960s. Adjacent releases by The Four Tunes and Savannah Churchill may have originated with Manor, but have no known equivalent release, appearing only on Columbia. Most Regis-Manor-Arco matrices repeat the letter code after the matrix number, i.e. “S-1117-S”. I have elected to eliminate the repeat of the initial letter.
It is unclear what happened to this family of labels after 1953, or its vault, though the existence of Kay-Ron might provide a clue. A lot of interesting records came out on Regis-Manor-Arco, and the quality of pressings are often poor, made from recycled records or lesser grade shellac, though as David Diehl points out in regard to the “W” matrices, “I’ve heard sound pretty hi-fi under the grunge.” Late Arcos are made from a vinylite compound, rather than shellac, and deliver somewhat better sound. Despite enjoying some hits on the R&B charts, the Regis-Manor-Arco group never came close to enjoying the market share held by Mercury or King, but it did outlast many larger post-war indies, such as Majestic and Musicraft.
According to Jerry Zolten, the biggest artist on the Regis-Manor-Arco family of labels was Savannah Churchill, and this makes sense — she made more masters for them than any other artist, and these discs are the most common in the field. Zolten writes “to further attest to Savannah Churchill’s popularity, about a year ago I found a woman’s compact make-up kit circa 1940/50s shaped like a record with the Manor imprint and Savannah Churchill etched into the metal.”
Make-up Compact adorned with Savannah Churchill record label; photographs graciously supplied by Jerry Zolten.
Another major hit was scored by Deek Watson and the Brown Dots with the first, 1945 recording of the standard (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. Deek Watson was a founding member of the Ink Spots; being ousted after quarreling with Bill Kenny, Deek established the Brown Dots in 1944. Deek Watson’s tenure in his own group proved impermanent, and the Brown Dots continued without him under the name The Sentimentalists, and then The Four Tunes, backing up Churchill and later recording for Jubilee.
Gospel was very important to Regis-Manor-Arco and among the first Regis releases were records by The Coleman Brothers, a New Jersey-based jubilee that had previously recorded for Decca. Apparently all but the last two of their Regis records were made in 1943, but these were issued piecemeal throughout the forties. This seems to have been a strategy employed by the company as a matter of routine; stockpile a bunch of matrices with an artist, and then slowly let them trickle out over time. This has resulted in a wide variety of dates on recordings; recordconnexion.nl, for example, lists the Coleman Brothers’ Manor discs in dates ranging from 1945-47, though according to the spreadsheet below, most must date from 1943.
The Wikipedia article for The Cats and the Fiddle lists their Regis-Manor-Arco discs by release date from 1946 to 1950, but they appear to have been made in 1944-45. And this might be regarded as a general rule, that products from Regis-Manor-Arco are generally earlier than thought to be, with the release sequence of little relevance to recording date. Regis-Manor-Arco also recorded Rev. Utah Smith, Ernestine Washington and the Dixie Hummingbirds in their gospel program; Does Jesus Care by the Georgia Peach was a big seller, and today is still relatively easy to find.
Jazz and R&B dominate the Regis-Manor-Arco roster. The Dizzy Gillespie sides sold well and were once considered coveted collector’s items, but their market value have been compromised over time by their poor sound and relative commonality. Luis Russell made only two Manors — he was recording more extensively with Apollo at the time — but his Garbage Man Blues sold well. The post-Jimmy Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra recorded for Manor, as did Big Sid Catlett, Erroll Garner, Oscar Pettiford and short-lived swing-to-bop pianist Clyde Hart. The labels also did a little bit of trading in straight blues (Lonnie Johnson, Ralph “Bama” Willis, Skoodle Dum Doo) and released some Calypso records, though its hard to determine if those discs originated with Manor or came from outside. While jazz, gospel and R&B remained the main fare at Regis-Manor-Arco, there were white artists represented on the label as well. Dance band pop, polka and some Jewish records appeared on Regis-Manor-Arco in addition to three country and western artists; among them, Whitey Carson was a disabled veteran of World War II that went into entertainment after his discharge, making his discs for Regis in 1944, though as usual they came out over a period of a couple of years, with some appearing on Manor.
Regis-Manor-Arco’s jazz program is rather similar to the short-lived one conducted by Don Gabor at Continental from 1944-47, and likewise the whole label’s focus is so similar to Apollo that one may wonder if Irving Berman was related in some way to Ike and Bess Berman that founded Apollo out of their record store across the Hudson. Apollo likewise pressed its own discs, and the composition of early Apollos is similar to that of Regis-Manor-Arco, though they moved to better material around 1946. A preliminary investigation into a possible family relationship between all three Bermans has only revealed that Ike’s original birth name was “Behrman,” so perhaps there was none. Moreover, David Diehl recalls seeing a Manor ad where they boasted three pressing plants were pressing their discs.
Guide to Spreadsheet
The spreadsheet can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8EtJO1uKObHSnh6dFlGazdNTUk/view?usp=sharing
Most of it is self-explanatory, with columns provided for parallel releases for Regis, Manor and Arco. The “Manor 2” field accounts for additional Manor releases of same titles, Regis discs that were likewise issued with two different stock numbers, the Columbia 78 issues and Kay-Ron items. “Albums” refer to inclusion of a disc within a 78 rpm album set or 10″ LP. Once you have added new matrix data, select the whole sheet minus the top row of field names and select “Sort” in the “data” menu; it should already be set to sort on “Column J.” Even if you don’t have a matrix to add, feel free to update titles and billing; some of that information may be truncated or in some way wrong. New discs, of course, are always welcome.
Dating is all from secondary sources, and I was careful not to interpose my own dates. Many of the dates here are derived from Manor release data and obviously are largely impossible for recording. One of my intentions with this project is to get a better sense of the true chronological sequence of these recordings. So there is an “Old Rec_Date” field which contains dates as received, and a “”New Rec_Date” field which is designed for more specific kinds of dates once they are established or discovered by contributors.
Special thanks to Jerry Zolten, David Diehl, Ty Settelmaier, Robb K. and Rebecca Forste for contributing to this project.
Uncle Dave Lewis
Appendix A: Arco 10″ LP Releases
AL 1 Jazz at the Philharmonic Volume 2
AL 2 Jazz at the Philharmonic Volume 3
AL 4 Irving Berman Presents Jazz At Carnegie Hall Volume One – An American Jazz Festival
AL 8 Dizzy Gillespie and his orchestra
Appendix B: Artist Roster
Baron Bill (Bill Cook)
Lonnie Johnson & Blind John Davis
Skoodle Dum Doo and Sheffield
Ralph Bama Willis
The Calypso Troubadours
June Carlson with Roy Jordan
Lord Invader, Felix & his Internationalists
Lord Invader, Lord Beginner & Felix & his Internationalists
Felix [Mendelssohn] and his Internationalists
Vickey Williams’ Mango Men
Whitey Carson Texas Cowboys
Foggy River Boys
Bobby Gregory Cactus Cowboys
John Bock at the piano
La Motta Brothers Orch.
Johnny Layne Orch.
Betty Norton with the Manor Orch.
The Dixie Hummingbirds
Georgia Peach & Matchless Love Gospel Singers
Johnson Brothers Juvenile Quartet
Roy Jordan and the 4 DiLovelies
Kings Of Harmony Of Alabama
Sister Lillie Mae Littlejohn
Sister Lillie Mae Littlejohn & Skyline Singers
Matchless Love Gospel Singers
Prophet Powers and the Holy Mount Singers
Selah Jubilee Singers
Silver Echo Quartet
Sky Light Singers
Rev. Utah Smith, the Travelling Evangelist
Summit Gospel Singers
Ernestine B. Washington & Dixie Humming Birds
Ernestine B. Washington & Heavenly Gospel Singers
Ernestine Washington & Southern Sons
Rev. Frederick Washington, preaching
The Willing Four
Tiny Bradshaw Orch.
Big Sid Catlett All-Stars
Sid Catlett Regis All-Stars
Charlie Brantley Orch.
Slim Gaillard & Bam Brown
Erroll Garner Trio (aka Slam Stewart Trio)
Dizzy Gillespie & All Stars
Dizzy Gillespie Orch.
Clyde Hart’s All Stars
Coleman Hawkins All Stars
Hoyt Hughes Orch. (Dizzy Gillespie)
International Sweethearts Of Rhythm
Jazz at Carnegie Hall
Jazz at the Philharmonic
Al Killian Orch.
Jimmie Lunceford’s Orch., dir. Eddie Wilcox
Manor All Stars
Don Michael, America’s Only One Arm Pianist
Joe Morris Orch.
Teddy Napoleon Trio
Teddy Napoleon Trio with Gwenn Bell
Milt Page Trio featuring Oscar Pettiford
Oscar Pettiford All Stars & Rubber Legs Williams
Trudy Richards & Pete Rugolo Orch.
Timmie Rogers Orch.
Luis Russell Orch.
Aaron Sachs and the Manor Re Bops
Slam Stewart Trio (aka Erroll Garner Trio)
Ben Ventura’s Bop City Five
Eddie Wilcox with the Jimmie Lunceford Orch.
Esy Morales Orch.
Castiros Vamurras Orch.
Robert Crawford & Scarletiers
Manor Military Band
Ted Black Orch.
Ted Black Orch., Dick Edwards, vocal
Gwenn Bell with Teddy Napoleon Trio
Lenny Herman Hotel Astor Orch.
Ida James with John Hunt Orchestra
Jack Segal and the Barbara Carroll Quartette
Paul Bascomb Orch.
The Cats and the Fiddle
The Cats and the Fiddle & Austin Powell
Savannah Churchill & Benny Carter Orch.
Savannah Churchill & Five Kings
Savannah Churchill & Four Tunes
Savannah Churchill & Ralph Herman Orch.
Savannah Churchill & Al Killian Orch.
Savannah Churchill & Red Norvo Quintet
June Davis & The Cats and the Fiddle
Jack Fine with Tiny Bradshaw Orch.
The Five Kings
The Four Tunes
Manhattan Paul with Paul Bascomb Combo
Joe Medlin Orch.
Gail Meredith & Cedric Wallace Trio
Hal Mitchell and the Madmen
Gene Phipps and his Hot Five
King Richardson Trio
Rudy Richardson Trio
Six Bips and a Bop
Tab Smith Orch.
Tab Smith Orch. & Trevor Bacon
Tab Smith Orch. & Jimmy “Baby Face” Lewis
Tab Smith Orch. & Margaret Watkins
Tab Smith Septet
Roy Stevens All Stars
Deek Watson & his Brown Dots