Too Young: Jimmy Young, Polygon 78, 1951

Polygon and Nixa are the roots of the Pye label, and both were very early British independents breaking the EMI / Decca duopoly on record sales which existed in post-World War Two Britain.

Polygon was the older of the two, founded in 1949 by Alan Freeman (no relation to the DJ), and it ran until 1955. All evidence points to it revolving at 78 rpm only, no 45s, no 7”s, no 33s, no 12″.

Freeman was a song plugger who was keen to start his own label, and did so on inheriting some money. Initially his market was exporting to Australia. They set up an office in the prestigious Grosvenor Place, next to Sloane Square. The nickname Dead Parrot Records was used by Polygon (Polly- gone) employees decades before Monty Python adopted it.

Through Joe “Mr Piano” Henderson Freeman got in touch with Petula Clark, then seventeen. Clark had been a child star, but could not interest either EMI or Decca in her as a grown-up singer. She was managed by her father, Leslie Clark, who decided to invest in the new label and become a partner.

Freeman was Petula Clark’s producer from 1950 right through to 1963. He produced all 150 Polygon titles, including fifty by Petula Clark.  Ron Goodwin and His Orchestra provided the high quality backing.

The first releases on Polygon were a Louis Prima record, three Petula Clark titles and Jimmy Young with Too Young. The last sold 130,000 copies, so was a major 1951 hit. It pre-dates the Top Twelve chart, which began in 1952. Nat King Cole had done the original (US #1), but in the UK Jimmy Young was the better seller. Perhaps the connection to his surname amused BBC Light Programme radio presenters.

Gallery … click to enlargw

It’s also difficult to assess Petula Clark’s success as there are two years of releases before the charts started. When they did begin, her The Little Shoemaker got to #7 and her Majorca got to #12. As well as Petula Clark’s singles, Polygon had a #11 hit with West of Zanzibar by Anthony Steele and the Radio Revellers in 1954. Dorothy Squires had a #12 hit with I’m Walking Behind You in 1953.

Polygon: Spin With The Stars 78 sleeve

Lyragon was a Polygon sub-label which specialised in Calypso and jazz, with some interesting releases, including Lord Kitchener. It ran from 1952 to 1954, and some Petula Clark releases in Europe carried the Lyragon label. Like Island later, Lyragon was aimed at West Indian immigrants in the UK. They never released any 45s, though two LPs were released. Nixa dropped the label when it bought Polygon. Nowadays, Lyragon 78s would easily be the most valuable Polygon records.

Sweet Jamaica: Lord Kitchener, Lyragon 78,
November 1952

In 1955, Freeman was approached by Nixa and sold out to them.

Chris Barber Plays Vol 1: Chris Barber & His Jazz Band, Polygon Jazz Today 1956

The name lasted into 1956 on the 10” LPs in the Jazz Today series which had “Polygon presents Jazz Today, a product of the Pye Group of companies.”

The series was quickly changed to Nixa Presents Jazz Today. Note that the company name was now “Polygon Record Company (1954) Ltd.”

Pye adopted Polygon’s Spin With The Stars slogan and used it on late 50s and early 60s Pye singles.

The company stored its masters in two Nissen huts, and when Pye took over, they were demolished, and one still had the tapes inside when it was demolished. Consequently, most reissues are sourced from 78 rpm records. There are two CDs of Petula Clark’s Polygon recordings, and most are from master tapes, so stored in the other hut.

Petula Clark Polygon Years on CD … click to enlarge

Those two CDs are out of print. They were compiled onto a double CD set containing all the Polygon singles and B-sides: