Golden Guinea

SEE ALSO: Marble Arch

Two of my very first three LPs, at Christmas 1962 were Golden Guinea: All The Hits By All The Stars, a Cameo-Parkway compilation, and A Picture of You by Joe Brown.

All The Hits By All The Stars: Golden Guinea LP 1962, UK #19 hit album

The first releases of Elektra, Cameo Parkway and Chess compilations were put out on Golden Guinea which makes a small percentage of its massive output of LPs collectable. However, in charity shops, this is the image that Golden Guinea has:

Italian Hits: 101 Strings, 1961

It was 1961. All things Italian were hot. Espresso coffee, scooters, Martini, trattorias, Sophia Loren, Italian suits, winklepickers, though pizzas were still to come for the average British person. There had been a run of Italian chart hits like Volare.

Golden Guinea had such a large easy listening and classical output.

So in this we’ll cherry pick some more interesting releases. The one below is one of so many that are probably ‘not interesting’ to the majority of collectors. There are no other listings for ‘Mac’ Gant and His Tennessee Dew Drops, who I assume never existed.

Square Dance: ‘Mac’ Gant and his Tennessee Dew Drops, 1963

Golden Guinea was Pye’s pioneer budget LP label (with LPs retailing at 21/-, a guinea or £1.05). In the early 1960s, regular LP prices hovered around 32/6d, or £1.12s. 6d, 0r £1.52.5. So it was about a third cheaper. They were inspired by the success of Saga at selling cheap classical LPs initially, as well as Woolworth’s Embassy, who had also realized that the average non-speciaist shopper for Beethoven’s 5th didn’t know or care who was performing it. .

Guineas were beloved of lawyers, auctioneers, antiques dealers and horse racing. A price in guineas left one shilling more than a pound, or 5% as a commission to the lawyer’s clerk, the auction house or the jockey. A guinea coin was traditionally gold.

Golden Guinea released in stereo early, but at a premium of 6/6d. No one had thought out that pressing and packaging was exactly the same whether stereo or mono.

They hadn’t factored in the vagaries of UK purchase tax, and the changes meant price fluctuation interfered with the ‘guinea’ concept. So a 1961 increase required an over-sticker:

Then in 1963 , being an election year, saw a decrease in ourchase tax, which meant more labels, and advertising the whole range at 19/- (90p). They’d just about printed the inner sleeves with 19/- when it went back up with the new government, this time to 19/11d (99.9.66p) Of course stereo still had a premium at 25/6d (£1.27.5). It’s notable that other labels had more sense than to print prices on sleeves.

Pye advertised Golden Guinea on its generic 1961-62 singles sleeve, which went on any label- but Golden Guinea didn’t do singles,

Some artists had their albums released on Golden Guinea in the first place, so Joe Brown’s A Picture of You and Here Comes Joe were on the budget label, even though the single of A Picture Of You had been a #1 hit. The album A Picture of You was #3 in most charts, but #1 in one chart. At first sight, an artist would be irritated by moving to mid-price, meaning you had to sell 33% more records to make the same royalty. In practice royalty rates on pop were extremely low, and the mid-price probably caused it to sell so well.

A Picture of You: Joe Brown, Golden Guinea LP 1962

Golden Guinea was the home for two Lonnie Donegan ‘Greatest Hits’ compilations. Both charted, but was that the low price or because they were compilations of his most popular songs?

A selection. Among them you have gems like The Guitar Player by Davy Graham (worth £50 in near mint condition). I doubt that this was a genius in A&R with far sight, as much as finding a rated and available folk guitarist, because folk guitar was popular. Davy Graham was already known for Anji on a Topic EP (it’s not on the Golden Guinea album, but is on the 2003 Sanctuary CD reissue.) They struck gold.

Davy Graham: The numbers on this album are a mixture of jazz and folk influences. I think that every number has its own particular mood. Before I play I don’t know exactly what notes will come out, but I know the mood the number conjures up in me, so that on the framework of, say, a 12-bar blues with a slow tempo and a minor key, I can make the guitar cry by whining the strings
Sleeve note.

AllMusic. The Guitar Player is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, instrumental acoustic guitar record of the 1960s and 1970s British folk scene… the release of the classic The Guitar Player in America, some 40 years after its initial issue, is still an occasion for great celebration and is a candidate for reissue of the year.
Thom Jurek, All Music


The rest:

TV themes were being put out by every label. Eric Delaney was likeDavey Graham, compiling popular instrumentals in a big band way. The Laurie Johnson Orchestra had had a big hit with Sucu Sucu, but they may not have thought them worth a full price release. Mark Wynter was 60s pop star template, and this LP is 1963. The Joe Brown / Mark Wynter LP is one side each.

Many LPs had previously been issued on other Pye labels.

For example, the 1957 Nixa Jazz Today series LP Murderers’ Home: An Anthology of Negro Worksongs and Country Blues was defined as jazz. It consists of Alan Lomax’s field recordings on Parchman Farm from 1947.

When the LP was reissued on Pye’s mid-price Golden Guinea label (the later destination for much Pye Jazz), it still had GOLDEN GUINEA JAZZ across the top. That was in 1965 at the height of the blues boom, so is an odd classification. The darker GOLDEN GUINEA JAZZ SERIES title was little used.

Left: Nixa Jazz, 1957. Right: Golden Guinea Jazz 1965

it was not just a reissues label either.

Golden Golden Guinea inner sleeve

Golden Guinea LPs ranged from cover versions (the Hitsville series) to last year’s full price LPs to highly collectable stuff outside the mainstream.

Trad jazz

Jazz Britannia: Various artistes 1961 LP
The Pye Jazz roster, straight to Golden Guinea

The trad jazz boom was dominated by Golden Guinea in 1960 to 1962. Every party had those Chris Barber, Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk albums. The first 1961 releases didn’t have the Golden Guinea top strip, but Golden Guinea it was. They were taken from Pye Jazz.

The second volume has the top strip. Both of these were chart hits.

The Best of Ball, Barber & Bilk UK #1 LP 1962
Golden Guinea’s greatest hit

The Best of Ball, Barber and Bilk was a number one album chart hit. They were compilations of the three separate bands rather than recordings with Chris Barber on trombone, Kenny Ball on trumpet and Acker Bilk on clarinet. The relationship of Pye’s Golden Guinea midprice and Marbe Arch budget labels is indicated by the re-appearance of the 1961 / 62 albums on Golden Guinea as Marble arch releases in 1966 and 1967.

They tried combining pop singer Garry Mills (2 Rs in Garry, so the British one) with Kenny Ball. It doesn’t work for me.

Miki & Griff

Miki and Griff did ripoff cover version singles in the first place, aiming to nick the hit from Steve and Eydie with I Want To Stay Here, and from Burl Ives with a Little Bitty Tear.  They managed to go from a Pye release to a Golden Guinea reissue within the same year, 1961.

They were still soldiering on in 1972 with tHe Country Side of Miki and Griff on Golden Guinea. Note the centre label was unchanged. The top strip had gone.


One of the first releases in 1960 was a cover versions LP, but of older middle of the road stuff. As was the style of early budget labels like Embassy and Saga, they made up ‘The Golden Guinea Concert Orchestra’ which was conducted by Eric Jupp.

Memories Are Made of These (Songs That Sold A Million): Golden Guinea Concert Orchestra 1960

Like every other label, they went for an LP of cover versions of Twist Hits in 1962, and in Embassy style credited it to ‘Fats &The Chessmen.’ (Fats, like Fats Domino or Chubby Checker … dominoes, so chess, chessmen, same board as checkers).

To cover all the bases, they also issued Chubby Checker’s Twistin’Around The world in 1963.

They released themed compilations of original Pye singles, Honey Hit Parade and Best of Radio Luxembourg. Both were Radio Luxembourg related. of them got into the charts.

Honey Hit Parade, 1962 GL129
Best of Radio Luxembourg, 1963 GL208

Honey Hit Parade consisted of of previously released singles from Pye, Pye Jazz and Pye International. It had some major ones too … Blue Moon by The Marcels, Goodbye Cruel World by James Darren, But I Do by Clarence “Frogman” Henry (all Pye International), Midnight in Moscow by Kenny Ball (Pye Jazz), Romeo by Petula Clark (Pye).

Thank Your Lucky Stars: Various Artists Golden Guinea GL190

It was followed by a TV tie in, Brian Matthews Introduces ABC Televisions ThanklYour Lucky Stars (GL190). This also had Pye hits … A Picture of You by Joe Brown, Green Leaves of Summer and March of The Siamese Children by Kenny Ball. Then it included Pye covers of American hits, crucially which had been released as singles. Mark Wynter’s Venus in Blue Jeans had stolen the hit from the original.

The Best of Radio Luxembourg was a hybrid between originals and cover versions. Joe Brown’s That’s What Love Will Do was an original. While the rest were basically covers, but some had been released as singles in the cover versions wars with originals. Julie Grant’s Up On The Roof, and The Kestrels Walk Right In had both appeared just before on Thank Your Lucky Stars. Others had appeared on the full-price Smash Hits series of covers by named artists. It had a carefully chosen catalogue number, GL 208 (Radio Luxembourg was on 208 metres and its call sign always added ‘on 208.’)

One step up was Smash Hits- Jimmy Justice, The Kestrels, The Eagles which were cover versions by name artists.  However, these were all full price. The Kestrels were Piccadilly, Jimmy Justice, and The Eagles (Bristol instrumental group from 1962, not the famous ones) were Pye. After they’d tried the three albums for a year, they took several tracks from each and put them out as Golden Guinea.

Country Style in 1963 was a three artist compilation.

Country Style: Lonnie Donegan, Miki & Griff, The Countrymen, 1963


Then they moved on to the anonymous covers in 1963. Note the rear adverts on Hitsville Volume 2. There was a hierarchy of cover versions, with anonymous covers like Hitsville at the bottom. There were three releases and the first two were Top Twenty LP hits.

Cover versions worked in Britain, as Embassy had proved. That’s because the Musician Union rules restricting the time the BBC could play recorded music meant that is what you heard on the dominant BBC Light Programme: covers live in the studio from tired session men with an ageing singer.

These Pye cover versions have never achieved the minor cult status of the Woolworths Embassy covers, or the later Avenue cover EPs (some featuring a young Elton John.) They’re probably the same musicians who did the BBC Light programme live on Monday, Pye Tuesday, then Embassy on Wednesday. From Me You has irritating tinkling piano and the plodding bass player simply demonstrates how much better Paul McCartney was. They can’t even do the Oooh. The attempt at Roy Orbison’s I’m Fallingis so deeply dire that it is funny. The poor guy has not a chance at following Roy Orbison’s notes.

They’re not good. The surf classic, Pipeline, is so feeble that I’d put any teenage garage band up against it, let alone The Chantays original. The same girl singer does It’s My Party and Da Do Ron Ron. Ray Charles Take These Chains From My Heart with its stretched and extended vowels sounds like Max Bygraves (it isn’t). Twist and Shout as if sung by a pre-teen boy? (Probably an older man with an elastic band tightly round his testicles) I’ll spare you the B-side, except for Bo Diddley. At least it’s not a faithful cover, and they thought adding an organ might plaster over the lack of feel. The lead guitar is trying. Really trying.

American licenses

Then you have the highly desirable Golden Guinea releasess from the Chess, Cameo Parkway and Elektra catalogues.

The Rhythm & The Blues: Various Artists 1963

The Chess / Checker The Rhythm and The Blues shares tracks with the full-price Pye International series The Blues Volume 1 – Volume 3.

The Soul of Harlem: Orchestra Del Oro, 1961

The Soul of Harlem was licensed from Miller International in 1961, and features The Ochestra del Oro, the world’s largest dance band with 94 players. Mostly drummers by the sound of it. They had several albums licensed to Golden Guinea between 1960 and 1962.


Elektra couldn’t get a look in with other majors, and Pye considered them mid-price. The Limeliters was released in 1961.

The Limeliters: The Limeliters, Golden Guinea LP 1961

Releases had a prominent Elektra logo on the front sleeve.

THe Folk Scene: Various Elektra artiss: Golden Guinea LP 1962

Bravo Bikel: Theodore Bikel, 1959 Elektra, 1961 Golden Guinea
Empty Bed Blues: Josh White, early Elektra, 1962 Golden Guinea

Elektra also did Sound Effects Records and we got the Golden Guinea versions just to make a change from the BBC Sound Effects everyone else used.


Children’s titles. Loved for the sleeves.

Golden Guinea spoken voice

They re-issued most of their comedy LPs on Golden Guinea. I’d say that Hancock’s The Blood Donor / The Radio Ham is the most frequent Golden Guinea secondhand album.

The Golden Guinea Popular Series

Later inner sleeves focussed away from classical

These appeared from 1966 to 1971, and essentially re-issued earlier Pye and Pye International albums intact, often with the original cover art.

The Golden Guinea versions include major albums like Chuck Berry, Hey, Bo Diddley!, The Kinks. The pressings will be from the same factory as originals. The Kinks LP in mint condition (which it won’t be) rates at £175 mono to £200 stereo with a Pye label. On a Golden Guinea label that changes to £25 and £30.

This 1965 release Rhythm & Blues Vol. 2 draws from a wider range. It includes Tommy Tucker’s Hi Heel Sneakers. A lot is doo-wop (The Moonglows, The Sonics) or proto-soul ( Etta James) or girl group (Jan Bradley, The Radiants) rather than rhythm and blues. Pop idol Steve Alaimo is hardly rhythm snd blues, but the song Every Day I Have To Cry Some was a US hit, and on Chess sub-label Checker. It’s all credited to Chess.

Collector Series

Vaughan Williams Symphony #8: Sir John Barbirolli, 1966 LP

Golden Guinea Collector Series were famous (i.e. old) classical recordings which were granted a black and gold label.  A lot are by Sir John Barbirolli. The Vaughan Williams #8 is stereo  though they are recordings from 1956 and 1957, released on the Collector Series in 1966. So I’d guess re-processed. Checking on line, this series goes for £18 o £20, which is high for a budget classical LP.

45 rpm …

Under the heading “Established Favourites” (i.e. reissues) it also carried the same sort of easy listening / jazz / light classical fare as Pieces of Eight, a Pye EP series at budget price.


Although Golden Guinea was an LP label, they did release a few EPs, with the same yellow label as Pye’s Pieces of Eight series, which they apparently replaced. The early ones were samplers designed to sell albums, which are illustrated on the sleeve. It’s possible they introduced the word ‘sampler.’ Five shillings (5/-) for an EP was really cheap (25p). A single cost 6/8d (33.33p) and an EP cost about 10/6d (52.5p).

Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen: EP 1961

It’s hard to see why Kenny Ball had a Golden Guinea EP when all his singles and EPs were on Pye Jazz. Kenny Ball had a run of very successful EPs on Pye Jazz. The explanation is those huge-selling trad compilations from Golden Guinea, The Best of Barber & Bilk Vols 1 & 2, and The Best of Ball, Barber & Bilk, which identified him closely with the label. This is also old stuff, nit his hits – those went on Pye Jazz EPs.

Golden Guinea was also used for special deals, like the Woman’s Own Specials series. Woman’s Own was then he best-selling women’s magazine. They extracted EPs from existing LPs.

Top TV Themes: Woman’s Own Special No. 3, 1962

Golden Guinea in the album charts

The Guinness Book of Hit Albums labels some Golden Guinea releases as ‘Pye’ but it was the Golden Guinea version that charted. They had a strong run from 1961 to 1963. Then they started directing potential chart albums elsewhere by early 1964.

Best of Barber & Bilk Vol 1Chris Barber, and Acker Bilk1961 4
Best of Barber & Bilk Vol 2Chris Barber, and Acker Bilk1961 8
Honey Hit ParadeVarious artists1962 13
Best of Ball, Barber & BilkKenny Ball, Chris Barber, Acker Bilk1962 1
A Golden Age of DoneganLonnie Donegan19623
A Picture of YouJoe Brown1962 3
All The Hits By All The StarsVarious Cameo Parkway artists196219
Adams SingersSing Something Simple 196215
A Golden Age of Donegan Vol. 2Lonnie Donegan196315
Hitsville!(anonymous) 196311
The Best of Radio LuxembourgVarious artists1963 14
Hitsville! Vol 2(anonymous) 196320

The Golden Guinea label was still releasing in 1974, but by 1967 Pye were increasingly using the full budget Marble Arch label instead.


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