A story of American Independents.
Six years ago, during the renovation of the Hollywood Palladium a long buried secret emerged. Under layers of renovated facade was found:
American Recording opened here in '59 or '60. It was owned by Richie Podolor (who was also the in-house producer) and Richie's best friend, Bill Cooper, was the engineer. The biggest thing to come out of the place was "Alley Oop" on Lute records. The label said it was by The Hollywood Argyles. The Hollywood Argyles was really Gary Paxton and Kim Fowley and some $25 a day session players. The story is that since the studio was on the corner of Sunset and Argyle in Hollywood, bingo, The Hollywood Argyles.
By 1961 Lawrence Welk (now the big cheese in residence playing 'champagne music' to hoards of unhipsters every weekend and taping the occasional segment of his television program out of the Palladium) told them they were too noisy and they had to leave. So move they did.....to Studio City, in the Valley.
Podolor bought a little old building that had been a small Chinese Restaurant (which, incidentally, had been opened in 1940 by genius cinematographer, James Wong Howe!) and American Recording Co. was reborn on the south side of Ventura Blvd. at Tujunga.
Before I go any further, American has a website with some amazing photos that they do not wish to be re-used and I intend to honor that, but make sure to visit their site. I mean, check this out, Richie Podolor was the first one to ever place a mic inside a kick drum!
So, who recorded in that li'l ol' shack between the years of 1961 - 1981? Well, do the names Donovan, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, 3 Dog Night, Black Oak Arkansas and Alice Cooper ring a bell? In fact, a lot of Steppenwolf and damn near all of 3 Dog Night.
So now, why am I doing this post? Well, one day a few months back, I found myself wandering the location of Ventura and Tujunga, where there now exists.....wait for it......a strip mall, and I found on the sidewalk some love letters in the sand. (that is the closest I'll ever come to referencing Pat Boone, I promise)
The top photo has the hand written signature of Bill Cooper and the drawing of a guitar that was the symbol Podolor used as his signature.
Mike Curb was there in '63 working with Richie and Bill on The Hondells record along with a virtual Who's Who of the Wrecking Crew like: Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco, Carol Kaye, Larry Knechtel and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
The irony of Curb's name here is that in the same year, 19 year old Mike Curb started his first company. It was called Sidewalk Records!
In that same year there was another act working at American. They too did a little sidewalk scrawin':
It was Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers that inspired 4 Canton, Ohio high school students to form a singing act they called The Triumphs in 1958. In '61, and now called (the less inspired) The Mascots, they recorded for the first time and got some regional radio play.
Things really started to break for them though when they moved to the coast with the new name, The O'Jays. They were signed to Imperial Records and Producer H.B. Barnum took them into American Recording where "Lonely Drifter" (their first charting single) was immortalized in wax. While there, their name was immortalized in concrete out front. This was one of the first times the name The O'Jays was written anywhere and, if you take a walk down Ventura, these 50 years later, it's still there.
All of these names, these legends, in the music industry were once just kids with a dream, a 10 minute break and a block of wet cement.