Oriole-American

I Found A Girl: The Valadiers. Oriole American, 1963

Some of the great early 60s’ American Motown soul singles were first released in Britain on Oriole-American, including Fingertips by Little Stevie Wonder, You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me by the Miracles, Do You Love Me by the Contours, Two Lovers by Mary Wells and so on. Much more famous later than they were at the time, none of these soul classics found their way into the UK charts. They were distinguished by a black and white rather than a yellow and white Oriole American label. Some people realized the power of Motown early on. I had two schoolfriends who avidly sought out the Tamla-Motown issues (and thanks to Cal Taylor for the scans – the only grubby one, Fingertips, is my copy.) I was keener on Phil Spector and was buying The Ronettes and The Crystals, which are far less sought after.

The Motown link was down to John Schroeder. Part of his deal on joining Oriole from EMI in 1962 was that the label should expand to license American material. He had noted that six or seven of the American Top 100 singles were always Tamla Motown releases (without having heard any of them), and that Tamla had been badly-served by its earlier British connections to London-American, then Philips. He persuaded the label owner, Maurice Levy to let him invite Berry Gordy to London, where Gordy was wined and dined and presented with the concept of Oriole-American. Gordy was careful enough to do the licence deal one year at a time.

Schroeder decided to release three singles simultaneously for impact.

NME 14 September 1962: the first three releases were simultaneous

Oriole-American issued nineteen Tamla-Motown singles and seven LPs, the main claim the label has to fame. Among them are some extraordinarily valuable rarities, such as I Found A Girl by The Valadiers (yours for £1000) and Found Myself A Brand New Baby by Mike and The Modifiers which Rare Record Guide rates at £800 mint. Discogs lists just the one sold, at £700. There is a promo advertised at £1750. Mike Valvano was the lead singer. He was from Detroit, but he was also white. The single is regarded because it’s a mix of doo-wop with the sort of choppy guitar beat group backing that would characterize the British invasion two years later.

I Found A Girl was by The Valadiers, another white vocal group. The record, the first Motown release of 1963, had been recorded in 1961, and the group were down to their last two members. It’s another leaning to doo-wop, not soul at all. The prominent bongos were played by Andre Williams, who co-produced it with Clarence Paul. Both of these pricey rarities are atypical Motown, which is probably why they’re rare.

Discogs have never recored a sale of a copy of The Valadiers, probably never having found one. There’s a note on popsike.com on a copy sold at auction for £1042 in 2012. This is the thing about really rare records … you can’t set a price because there aren’t any around. They’re “strictly auction” material.

The label wasn’t only based on Tamla-Motown, and other releases were from the Time label and include the original Devil In His Heart by The Donays, covered by The Beatles on With The Beatles. Then there’s Get Off The Moon (I Was Here First) by the Hugo Montenegro Orchestra and Watermelon Walk by The Five Counts.

Gallery- Oriole American singlesclick image to enlarge

As Schroeder says in his autobiography, Sex and Violins (2009), Oriole spent nearly two years promoting Tamla-Motown wholeheartedly to the UK. The main issue was airplay. They had The Big O Show three times a week on Radio Luxembourg, where we first heard the Motown records, but they couldn’t get airplay on the BBC Light Programme … the only option in those days.

(Oriole-American) never stood a chance. Unlike America there were few broadcast outlets in Britain for mainstream pop music, let alone for the rough-edged rattling R&B recordings from Detroit. Sharp was the contrast between the recordings that Oriole vainly marketed and 1962’s biggest UK hits by the likes of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard and Acker Bilk.
Adam White & Barney Ales, Motown (Thames & Hudson 2015)

Schroeder quotes Alan Freeman:

Alan Freeman My producer said it would stand out like a sore thumb, even though I was personally hooked. You have my word I will do everything in my power to help you guys get the recognition it truly deserves.

Schroeder also expressed his appreciation for Peter Jones at Record Mirror who regularly devoted space to the Motown issues. The result was that they had just the one hit, Fingertips and that wasn’t Top 30. It’s the single you’re most likely to find too. I have several New Musical Expresses from 1962 and 1963, and the advert for the first three singles came from one. However, I only found one other Oriole-American advert in them.

New Musical Express 8 March 1963

Berry Gordy was back in the UK in 1963 for more discussions with Schroeder, but had already set up meetings with Decca and EMI. EMI were the more receptive. The deal for EMI’s Stateside label to take over Motown distribution took just three hours over dinner between L.G. Wood of EMI and Berry Gordy. Oriole was out.

As soon as Oriole lost the deal to EMI’s Stateside during 1964, Mary Wells had the breakthrough hit with My Guy. This may be bad luck, or simply acknowledge EMI’s far greater marketing power.

The LP releases are all plain Oriole as with this Martha & The Vandellas LP:

Come & Get These Memories: Martha & The Vandellas LP, image from internet
Two Lovers: Mary Wells, Oriole 1963
Oriole American was on 45s but not on LPs

The only albums I’ve ever seen around were by Mary Wells. Another friend had a copy of Two Lovers at the time along with Do You Love Me by The Contours. I recall coveting them. The thing is that Motown was not album oriented and were masters of the two hits, two B-sides and eight fillers approach.

We’ll repeat what we said about Marmalade. We can’t do complete discographies of most labels, but with Oriole American, we can try. The catalogue numbers are part of the general Oriole series. They have standard Oriole sleeves. Releases are mainly either Motown or Time in the USA, except for the last gospel version of O Come All Ye Faithful by Marian Williams, which was Savoy. The Brownie McGhee / Sonny Terry release, also in 1964 says ‘Brent Music’ and Brent was distributed by Time in the USA. Doug Lycett’s After The Heartache was licensed from Arc in Canada.

catalogue
CB-A …
titleartistyear
1762You Beat Me To The PunchMary Wells1962
1763Do You Love MeThe Contours1962
1764Beechwood 4-5789The Marvelettes1962
1765Dark EyesHugo Montenegro1962
1769The Five CountsWatermelon Walk1962
1770Devil In His Heart / Bad BoyThe Donays1962
1775I Found Myself A Brand New BabyMike & The Modifiers1962
1782Let Me Entertain You / Small WorldMaury Laws & Orchestra1962
1792Get Off The Moon (I Was Here First) / SherryHugo Montenegro1962
1795Two LoversMary Wells1962
1799Shake SherryThe Contours1963
1803Stubborn Kind of FellowMarvin Gaye1963
1808If It’s Love (It’s Alright)Eddie Holland1963
1809I Found A GirlThe Valadiers1963
1814I’ll Have To Let Him GoMartha & The Vandellas1963
1817Locking Up My HeartThe Marvelettes1963
1819Come And Get These MemoriesMartha & The Vandellas1963
1823Heartaches and HappinessX.Lincoln1963
1824After The HeartacheDoug Lycett1963
1829Laughing BoyMary Wells1963
1831Don’t Let Her Be Your BabyThe Contours1963
1846Pride & JoyMarvin Gaye1963
1847Your Old Stand VyMary Wells1963
1853FingertipsLittle Stevie Wonder1963
1863Mickey’s MonkeyThe Miracles1963
1881Eefin-Nanny StompBilly Hutch, His Harmonica & orchestra1963
1946Dissatisfied WomanBrownie McGhee / Sonny Terry1964
1974O Come All Ye FaithfulMarian Williams & The Stars of Faith1964
Oriole American releases

So you want to hear some of those rarities and B-sides? It’s not impossible. You can find all the Motown ones on The Complete Motown Singles 1962 and 1963 CD box sets.

The Complete Motown Singles: Vol 2 1962, Vol. 3 1963

The compilations remind us that John Schroeder was selective about his releases, and did not take everything on offer. He skipped early Supremes, Kim Weston, The Temptations, Mabel John, Hitch Hike by Marvin Gaye.

Some of the albums are available … Do You Love Me is on amazon, but it’s an EU reissue, NOT an official Motown one, so taking advantage of the pre-December 1962 lack of copyright in Europe. Unofficial.

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