Grand Award Records
|This article does not cite any sources. (December 2009)|
Grand Award began life as Waldorf Music Hall records in the early 1950s. Waldorf Music Hall records carry a logo "FDR" in a diamond on their front covers, an abbreviation of "Full Dynamic Range," but which might mislead some into believing that was the label name. Most Waldorf LPs are 10 inches. The label was devoted to the pop music of the day - largely anonymous musicians recording imitations of the popular styles of the time. A small number are jazz, mainly small group swing. Some of these are prized by collectors (reference to Goldmine Record Guide, to be filled in).
The most successful Waldorf Records were those by "Knuckles O'Toole" - honky tonk piano playing. Several ragtime pianists recorded under the "Knuckles" pseudonym; former big-band pianist Billy Rowland was the first, and several of his recordings have been released on CD. Rowland was succeeded in the late 1950s by Dick Hyman. (Hyman is heard in the 1970s ABC/Grand Award reissue LP "Knuckles O'Toole Plays the All-Time Greatest Ragtime Hits.")
Around 1955 the company began to transform into Grand Award Records. By this point Enoch Light was a major player in the company, both as a recording artist and as a company officer. For the next five years Grand Award records had a distinctive cover design consisting of a fake frame of black and white around a well-drawn illustration in the middle. Early ones carried the slogan "Great Music - Great Art", to emphasize the importance of the cover. Classical music was added to the roster. Most of the classical records had reproductions of European masters for the illustrations. The pop records had illustrations by American illustrators of the day - Tracy Sugarman, Elmer Wexler, Arthur Shilstone, David Stone. The "Knuckles O'Toole" records continued to be important, and are the easiest Grand Award albums to find. Among the pop records issued by the label are the Roaring Twenties series done by the Charleston City All Stars band, conducted by Light. Some famous musicians recorded for the label, typically after the period of their greatest fame. An example is Paul Whiteman.
In 1959 the company launched another label, Command Records. Command record covers were stark white with highly stylized illustrations. The artistic director was Charles E. Murphy, who would design many of the later Command LPs. Enoch Light's name was prominent on many albums both as musician and producer. A few of the earliest covers were designed by Josef Albers. Other fairly famous artists contributed as well. New Grand Award LPs were phased out by 1961, but the label name was kept for reissues at least until 1966.
The company was sold to ABC ca. 1966. ABC continued the Command label, and launched an experimental rock label ABC Command Probe as part of the division. This label was the first home of the Soft Machine. By 1970, the history of Waldorf Music Hall/Grand Award/Command essentially came to an end, although ABC used the Command label later in the 1970s for quadraphonic versions of albums released on its other labels. A few LP reissues (with the label now ABC/Grand Award) kept the music alive until about 1977.