Category: subsidiary label of RCA (Australia)

Date: ca. 1964-66

Location: Sydney, NSW

Ownership: RCA Australia Pty Ltd


In Australia the Bluebird label was a shortlived pop subsidiary of RCA Records, which appeared briefly in the mid-1960s, but its history goes back to the early 1930s and the name is still in use today.

RCA Records established Bluebird in 1932. At this time the combined impact of the global Depression and the introduction of broadcast radio had drastically affected the recording industry --  many labels had folded, and the remaining companies were forced slash prices to survive, and by 1933 sales had hit an all-time low. In 1932 the American Decca label began selling records at 35 cents -- which was less than half the previous standard price of 75 cents -- and other companies soon followed suit. The American Record Company (ARC) established a stable of lower-priced labels including Mellotone, Oriole and Perfect, which were sold through mail order and dime stores, and RCA responded with the new Bluebird imprint, which became one of the most successful budget labels of the 1930s.

Both Decca and Bluebird were important outlets for "hillbilly" (country) music. Decca concentrated on the American southwest, signing many new 'cowboy' and western swing acts, while Bluebird focussed its attention on the American southeast, recording many artists from that region who performed in the emerging style that is now known as bluegrass. By the late 1930s Bluebird had become an important outlet for both country ("hillbilly") music and jazz, and in the early Forties it recorded many leading Chicago blues performers (e.g. Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Bill Broozny) whose sound and style were an important influence on early R&B and rock'n'roll.

RCA retired the label in the USA after World War II, and any popular Bluebird artists were moved to the main Victor label, but the company revived Bluebird in the 1950s for jazz releases, bugdet-priced reissues from the Victor catalogue and children's records. RCA Canada also used the Bluebird imprint for many local releases there in the 1950s and 1960s.

RCA had established an Australian subsidiary in the mid-1950s and released its first locally-made recordings in late 1956. It launched the Bluebird label in Australia ca. 1964 but it released only a handful of singles, all catalogued in RCA's standard '100000' series. All but one of these singles were by local performers -- country duo The Webb Brothers, pop band Bobby Thomas & The Beaumen, Peter Hiscock & The Starliners and New Zealand-born jazz singer Ricky May -- although the first local Bluebird release (1964) was by British pianist Winifred Atwell, who was a regular visitor to Australia.

The second Bobby Thomas single (1966) appears to have been the last on Australian Bluebird and it was evidently retired after this release. In recent years the BMG congolmerate (which aquired RCA Records in the 1990s) has revived Bluebird as a jazz label.

Noel McGrath's Encyclopedia records that comedy songster Peter Hiscock went on to co-write a song called "A Certain Mr. Brown", which he recorded for Festival in June 1971. The song was based on the melody of "Click Go The Shears" but the lyrics told of the exploits of the mysterious "Mr. Brown", an anonymous criminal who successfully extorted $500,000 from QANTAS after claiming he had placed a bomb on one of their planes.

The Beaumen's "Hey Little Girl" was anthologised on the compilation LP 25 RCA Recycled Rock Relics in the late 1970s. As far as is known, none of the Australian Bluebird recordings have been officially reissued on CD.



Cat. # Date Artist Title
101575 1964 Winifred Atwell "Revival"
101623 1965 The Webb Brothers "The Fox"
"Pop Said To Me"
101632 1965 Peter Hiscock & The Starliners "Hooray For The Kind Of Luck"
"I'd Rather Have It There Than Anywhere"
101643 1965 Ricky May with Latin Quarter Discotheque Combo
under direction of Jimmy Sloggett
"This Little Boy’s Gone Rockin’" (Darin-Curtis)
"Spanish Harlem" (Leiber-Stoller)
101647 1965 Bobby Thomas & The Beaumen "Lavender Blue"
"Blue Feeling"
101683 1966 Bobby Thomas & The Beaumen "That Lucky Old Sun"
"Hey Little Girl"

References / Links

Globaldog Productions
RCA Australia discography

Glenn A. Baker
liner notes for 25 RCA Recycled Rock Relics (RCA, 1979)

Neil V. Rosenberg
Bluegrass: A History (University of Illinois Press, 2005)

Bluebird Records

Vernon Joyson
Dreams, Fatasies & Nightmares: Australia (Borderline Books, 1999)

Bluebird Jazz official website