See also: Nixa
Some information and some illustrations are repeated here
In 1953, Pye bought the Nixa company, continuing to use the name.
When Polygon was also bought in 1955, the combined label was re-named Pye Nixa, with the size of the Nixa logo on the joint labels decreasing year on year until it was dropped altogether in 1959.
In 1957, ATV (Associated Television) owned by Lew Grade acquired 50% of Pye Records, which then became a wholly-owned subsidiary in 1966, and the companies worked from adjacent office buildings in the Edgware Road, near Marble Arch. The studios were called Marble Arch Studios.
The Pye-Nixa era EPs galleries – click to enlarge
Nixa Hit Parade EPs 1957 to 1958
The domination of Donegan on Pye-Nixa … click to enlarege
Pye’s major stars of the fifties were Petula Clark and Lonnie Donegan.
Lonnie Donegan literally invented British skiffle when the Chris Barber Jazz Band were a few songs short at the recording of their first ten inch album in 1954. It’s said that they only knew four or five songs. Donegan was used to doing a skiffle set in the interval of their stage shows, and obligingly filled out the time with Rock Island Line and John Henry. Radio play got them released as a single much later, but in time for Christmas 1955, and washboards and home made tea chest one-string basses became a major craze, opening up music to the enthusiastic amateur (then including all of The Beatles, Keith Richards, Hank B. Marvin and Jimmy Page). That session was for Decca, and Donegan was paid a one-off cash fee.
He promptly moved his solo work to Pye, where he had over thirty hits between 1956 and 1962, including three number ones with Cumberland Gap, Putting On The Style and My Old Man’s A Dustman (Ballad of A Refuse Disposal Operator). He shifted from US folk originals to British music hall with Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On The Bedpost Overnight) and then My Old Man’s A Dustman, and continued to combine the two styles.
His popularity meant that he got both an EP and an LP in the 1956 pop chart, before LPs were refused admittance. He was also one of the rare British artists to hit the American Top Ten, which he did twice. Rock Island Line on Decca got to #8 in 1956, and Does your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour was an American #5 hit in 1961.
Donegan was an astute music publisher too, buying the rights to Nights In White Satin for cash (said to be £100) after seeing the Moody Blues perform it onstage. It has sold two million over the years, with writer Justin Hayward earning nothing. If you’re browsing record racks and see a plum label Pye disc chances are highest that it will be Lonnie Donegan.
Petula Clark’s hits for Pye span 34 years, moving from child star to pop pap (try Jumble Sale) to acclaimed middle-of-the road singer (Downtown etc) to chanteuse in French to an obligatory “album in Memphis” to the highest rank of Mature Established Star (1st class with honours). Petula Clark had started singing on radio in 1942, aged ten, and her dad’s Polygon label was one of the foundations of Pye Nixa. She just misses matching Donegan’s thirty-one hits, but in her case the time span is 1954 to 1988 with two or three number ones, depending on which chart you use. Sailor and This Is My Song feature in all the charts, but Downtown only got to #2 in the Record Retailer chart used by the BBC. But why worry? It got to #1 in America and sold three million copies. After that her next fourteen consecutive singles made the American Top Forty.
Nixa > Pye-Nixa > Pye
Eric Delaney Band Parade shows how Pye got added. Why Eric Delaney? I did lights on him for a whole summer and he had a circle of timpani with a different coloured light in each. You’d imagine that they lit on impact, but in my memory he had a row of foot pedals. He was a terrific entertainer with a good band who spent the summer backing major variety shows with his own spot.
Dorothy Squires Presents Stars In Their Eyes, 1956
That Ryan Gal! Marion Ryan 1957
How About You? Part 2, Dennis Lotis 1958
Hit Parade Vol. 2: Gary Miller 1958
In all cases only “Nixa” appears on the front cover. Pye-Nixa on the label.
Donegan on Stage (EP): Lonnie Donegan 1958, Nixa on front, Pye-Nixa on centre
Relax With Lonnie (EP): Lonnie Donegan, 1959. Pye, no Nixa
The transition begins with Pye being added to centre labels, then gradually Nixa getting smaller and disappearing. EPs tell the tale, though notably Pye generally eschewed a logo on the front sleeve.
There are surprisingly few popular releases, but it wasn’t the era. A small selection (click to enlarge)
Sleeves and labels
The Nixa sleeves illustrated both turned up on January 1958 Pye-Nixa records, 7N.15116 and 7N.15117. These were found by me two years apart.Our guess was that the sleeve was earlier but the sleeves are numbered by the retailer, and one is labelled by the owner. And the plum colour is lighter and brighter … more pink in it … than later. Whatever, it’s an original Nixa sleeve. Maybe Pye had a bunch of Nixa sleeves left over.
78s had a Pye-Nixa sleeve by 1958. Cherry Wainer was the Hammond organist on Jack Good’s Oh, Boy! renowned for playing with a cat sitting on top of the Hammond.
The chequered Pye-Nixa sleeve was certainly in use by then.
To add to confusion, we have a numbered Alone by Petula Clark (7N. 15112) in the later Pye chequered sleeve, but the plum colour is darker, like later discs, but it could be a later pressing. According to the chart books, Nixa became Pye-Nixa in the autumn of 1956, somewhere between catalogue # 15048 and #15063.
There are discs with 4-digit numbers like Lonnie Donegan’s Mr Froggy (3105) and Ottilie Patterson’s Trombone Cholly (2025). The Ottilie Patterson has a black centre label and “NJ” for jazz. Mr Froggy is one of the earliest discs to drop “Nixa” but is dark blue centre, not plum. Dark blue breaks the coour coding … that should be for Vanguard. The 4 digit numbers are Made in England, but not official UK releases. They were export copies. They got back in sufficient numbers.
Some Pye-Nixa hits
|Petula Clark||Suddenly There’s A Valley (Nixa)||1955||7|
|Lonnie Donegan||Lost John / Stewball||1956||2|
|Lonnie Donegan||Skiffle Session (EP)||1956||20|
|Lonnie Donegan||Bring A Little Water Sylvie / Dead Or Alive||1956||7|
|Edmund Hockridge||By The Fountains of Rome||1956||17|
|Lonnie Donegan||Lonnie Donegan Showcase (LP)||1956||26|
|Gary Miller||Garden of Eden||1957||14|
|Petula Clark||With All My Heart||1957||4|
|Gary Miller||Wonderful Wonderful||1957||29|
|Lonnie Donegan||Cumberland Gap||1957||1|
|Lonnie Donegan||Gamblin’ Man/ Puttin’ on the Style||1957||1|
|Lonnie Donegan||My Dixie Darling||1957||10|
|Gary Miller||The Story Of My Life||1957||14|
|Marion Ryan||Love Me Forever||1958||5|
|Lonnie Donegan||Jack O’Diamonds||1958||14|
|Petula Clark||Baby Lover||1958||12|
|Lonnie Donegan||The Grand Coulee Dam||1958||4|
|Lonnie Donegan||Sally Don’t You Grieve / Betty Betty Betty||1958||11|
|Lonnie Donegan||Lonesome Traveller||1958||28|
|Lonnie Donegan||Lonnie’s Skiffle Party (EP)||1958||23|
|Lonnie Donegan||Tom Dooley||1958||3|
|Lonnie Donegan||Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour||1959||3|
|Lonnie Donegan||Fort Wort Jail||1959||14|