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
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
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
RCA retired the label in the USA after World War II, and any
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
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
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.
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.
||The Webb Brothers
"Pop Said To Me"
||Peter Hiscock & The Starliners
||"Hooray For The Kind Of Luck"
"I'd Rather Have It There Than Anywhere"
||Ricky May with Latin Quarter Discotheque Combo
under direction of Jimmy Sloggett
| "This Little Boy’s Gone Rockin’"
"Spanish Harlem" (Leiber-Stoller)
||Bobby Thomas & The Beaumen
||Bobby Thomas & The Beaumen
||"That Lucky Old Sun"
"Hey Little Girl"
References / Links
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)
& Nightmares: Australia (Borderline Books, 1999)
Bluebird Jazz official website