RCA Camden was a budget record label of RCA Victor, created by 1953 to reissue recordings from earlier 78-RPM releases. The label was named "Camden", after Camden, New Jersey where RCA Victor's studios, offices and factories had long been located.
RCA Victor originally created the Camden label to reissue older 78 RPM Red Seal classical recordings on LP records. In the mid 1950s, RCA Camden began releasing some rhythm & blues and, later, pop, country and rock and roll recordings. For example, Camden issued a 1956 LP of Little Richard's very first recordings made for RCA Victor in 1951 and '52, padded with four tracks by Buck Ram and his Rock n' Ram Orchestra. In 1958, Camden released some albums in new stereophonic sound and subsequently issued popular stereo recordings by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Living Strings and Living Voices. Camden also produced a "Designed for Dancing" series, with titles by Xavier Cugat and Perez Prado, and others. The Camden label was headed by long-time RCA Victor record producer Ethel Gabriel beginning in the late 1950s.
RCA Victor originally reissued its older 78 RPM classical symphonic recordings on the Camden label using the real names of the orchestras involved; but soon, to avoid competing with recent full-priced recordings by the same orchestras, a series of pseudonyms were used, drawn primarily from the names of hotels in nearby Philadelphia, across the Delaware River from RCA Victor's headquarters in Camden. 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 assembled for recording sessions mostly during the 1940s and '50s; It was made up primarily of members from the NBC Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. The New York City Symphony Orchestra, created by Leopold Stokowski in the 1940s, recorded for RCA Victor and some of its recordings were reissued on Camden LPs under the name "Sutton Symphony Orchestra," not to be confused with a British orchestra with the same name.
In 1960, RCA Victor launched the RCA Victrola label solely to reissue classical and operatic recordings from the Red Seal catalog; With a few exceptions, RCA Camden ceased reissuing former Red Seal titles and began offering many more albums by RCA Victor's pop and country music artists. 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. Country music was extremely popular in Canada, and RCA Camden issued a number of such albums 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; some 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, originally issued as singles on the RCA Victor label. The inclusion of these hit singles resulted in both Camden 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 most of them under its own branding. After Presley's sudden death in 1977, demand for his recordings increased greatly. RCA regained the rights to the Pickwick-leased recordings and began reissuing and repackaging several of them.
During the early- to mid-1970s, as the popularity of RCA country artist Dolly Parton, rapidly grew, RCA reissued much of her earlier material in a series of compilations on the Camden label 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 Victor during the late 1960s and early '70s. As with the Presley titles, RCA also leased the reissue rights to Parton's four Camden albums to Pickwick, which reissued the albums on their own label during the late 1970s.
The Camden label continued well into the compact disc era and was still active in Canada, Australia, 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.