The label was named after Camden, New Jersey, original home to the Victor Talking Machine Company, later RCA Victor. Early RCA Camden reissues were mostly of historic classical and popular recordings from the extensive Victor Red Seal and RCA Victor catalog. The long play albums originally sold for $1.98 retail and consisted of strictly monaural recordings, mostly drawn from 78-rpm masters. Camden also issued 45-rpm "extended play" (EP) records, including contemporary performers such as Snooky Lanson and Jack Haskell, at a suggested retail price of 79 cents.
RCA Victor originally reissued its older classical symphonic recordings on the Camden label using the real names of the orchestras involved. But soon, to avoid competing with recent recordings by the same orchestras, a series of pseudonyms were used, drawn primarily from the names of hotels in nearby Philadelphia. Here is a partial listing of the real orchestras and their pseudonyms:
- BBC Symphony Orchestra - Thames Symphony Orchestra
- Boston Pops Orchestra - Festival Concert Orchestra
- Boston Symphony Orchestra - Centennial Symphony Orchestra
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Century Symphony Orchestra
- Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra - Star Symphony Orchestra
- Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra - Sussex Symphony Orchestra
- London Philharmonic Orchestra - Stratford Symphony Orchestra
- London Symphony Orchestra - Jewel Symphony Orchestra
- Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra - Marlborough Symphony Orchestra
- National Symphony Orchestra - Globe Symphony Orchestra
- Philadelphia Orchestra - Warwick Symphony Orchestra
- Paris Conservatory Orchestra - Seine Symphony Orchestra
- RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra - Regent Symphony Orchestra or Golden Symphony Orchestra
- Henri Rene and his Orchestra - Cosmopolitan Orchestra
- San Francisco Symphony Orchestra - World Wide Symphony
- Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra - Savoy Symphony or Schuyler Symphony Orchestra
- Toronto Symphony Orchestra - Dominion Symphony Orchestra
- Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - Danube Symphony Orchestra
- Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra - Cromwell Symphony Orchestra
The RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra was a New York City "pick-up" orchestra drawn from members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The New York City Symphony Orchestra, created by Leopold Stokowski in the 1940s, recorded for RCA Victor and some of its recordings were issued on Camden under the name "Sutton Symphony Orchestra," not to be confused with a British orchestra with the same name.
In the mid 1950s, RCA Camden began releasing some rhythm & blues and, later, rock and roll recordings, for example, an EP of such songs by "The Honey Dreamers". In 1958, Camden released some albums in stereo and subsequently issued popular stereophonic recordings by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Living Strings and Living Voices.
In Canada, in addition to handling the U.S. releases on the label for the Canadian market, the RCA Camden Imprint was also used to issue both Current and Compilation albums by RCA Victor Canada's Country Artists. There were a number of such albums issued in Canada that were never available in the United States.
From 1968 to 1975, RCA Camden issued a series of compilation albums featuring recordings by Elvis Presley, who recorded for the main RCA Victor label. These albums primarily consisted of repackagings of Presley's 1960s-era movie soundtrack recordings, however several albums, such as Elvis Sings Flaming Star also featured previously unreleased material, while another album, Let's Be Friends featured most of the soundtrack to Presley's final scripted film, Change of Habit. Two later compilations, Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, Volume 2 and Separate Ways actually featured then-current chart hits for Presley that were issued on LP on RCA Camden, instead of the usual RCA Victor label (resulting in both albums - which otherwise featured previously released and generally undistinguished movie and studio tracks - making the US charts). In 1975, RCA leased the reissue rights of several different Camden albums, including Presley's, to Pickwick Records, which subsequently reissued several of them under its own branding. RCA eventually regained the rights to the Pickwick-leased recordings and reissued several of them in the 1980s.
During the early- to mid-1970s, as the fame of another RCA artist, Dolly Parton, grew, the label reissued much of her earlier RCA Victor material in a series of budget compilations to capitalize on her more recent success. Just the Way I Am, Mine, Just Because I'm a Woman (not to be confused with Parton's 1968 debut RCA Victor solo album of the same name), and I Wish I Felt This Way at Home were all issued between 1972 and 1976, and were largely made up of lesser known material Parton had recorded for RCA during the late 1960s and early '70s. As with the Presley reissues, RCA also leased the reissue rights to the four Parton Camden albums to Pickwick, which rereleased the albums during the late 1970s. The Camden label continued into the compact disc era and was still active in Canada and the UK and other countries until at least the early 2000s.
From the liner notes of several 1957-58 Camden releases:
|“||How This Record Bargain Is Possible
There are certain similarities between RCA Camden Records and paperback reprints of great books. In both instances works of merit are reissued in lower priced editions.
There are also many differences between the two: a paperback book is printed in smaller, less readable type on paper inferior to that used in the original. In the case of RCA Camden the sound characteristics are vastly improved over the original RCA Victor edition. Instead of using inferior material RCA Camden uses the very same compound used in present-day RCA Victor "Red Seal" Records.
Where, then, is the economy? The highest cost in the production of a record is the recording cost- the cost of paying the musicians, arrangers, etc. In the case of RCA Camden Records this cost has been liquidated due to the successful sale of the record on the RCA Victor label. Mr. G[eorge]. R. Marek [Vice-President and General Manager of RCA Victor Records at the time], in his statement on this jacket, points out another economy: artists' willingness to accept a lower royalty rate so that their works may reach a wider audience.
Other things make RCA Camden Records a bargain. The same engineers, the same skilled factory technicians, the same Artists and Repertoire experts who produce records by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Perry Como, Harry Belafonte and Elvis Presley employ their skills and experience in the production of RCA Camden Records.
At the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, New Jersey, a program of research into techniques to improve the sound of all RCA records is continually in progress. RCA Camden has the fruits of this research at its disposal. This is an advantage that few high-priced and no other low-priced records can offer.
RCA Victor also used a modified and shorter version of this statement in the liner notes of early releases on the RCA Victrola label.