The Silver Foil Series
"The Lady Who Gave Us The Music"
MORE ABOUT ETHEL GABRIEL
by JED HACKER
Let's take a stroll back in time to the magical 50's, and recall television broadcasting when NBC/RCA started transmitting color TV programming. The term or name given to this revolution is, you guessed it, "In Living Color." It's no surprise that the big brass in those years at RCA took a special fondness for the advertising packaging term "Living." This one word filtered down from Living Color - to Living Stereo - to what you're about to read, the story and creation of THE LIVING STRINGS.
About 1960 the explosion of FM Stereo radio was taking shape. I got hooked when I bought a copy of FM MUSIC PROGRAM GUIDE in late 1961. My father bought me the first (1961) General Electric FM Stereo radio, Model T-1000. From day one it had nice tone but NO separation. I was told to get a special antenna. We did that and still no FM stereo. I took the back cover off and poked around the tube circuits and voila! - a tuning coil loosened on the mutiplex board and upon tapping it back into place, FM STEREO was heard! One of the first records I heard on WTFM was "Living Strings, Music of the Sea" by Johnny Douglas, Camden CAS 639.
This Lp was released in late 1960; my copy is a 1-S meaning that it originates from the first batch off the record stamper. I still have it, still mint, "silver foil" jacket and all. The record is so good after almost 40 years (I was twelve when I bought it) that I get the impression my dear friend Ethel Gabriel especially pressed this one for me. Ethel told me recently "The Living Strings" was supposed to be on the higher-priced LSP series, but with the success of the "101 Strings" and "The Soul of Spain" RCA made a smart move in the budget arena. Henceforth Camden New Jersey pressed the Camden Lp's, and I guess at lunch hour as well as dinner, Campbell's soup was served. As of this writing Campbell's is still making their soup there but it's been many a moon since any records were pressed at the Camden plant. Heck, it's still nice to enjoy a bowl of clam chowder listening to "Music of the Sea" even after 40 years of its existence. The music is timeless, the soup has greatly improved!
I really don't think there is any relationship between Camden Records and Campbell's Soup but one lady at RCA Records had the good taste to create "The Living Strings," none other than Ethel Gabriel. Read her biography notes and you'll see.
About 10 years ago I found a record dealer in Chicago who had a small quantity of Living Strings Lp's and they were 1-S pressings. I paid his price, $30-$40 each, the "Silver Foil" covers. Yes there are collectors who started the "Shaded Dog" classical collector craze (my buddy Sid Marks - Marks Barks - Absolute Sound Ultimate Audio fame) and some prices are already in the $500-$1000 range. Yes, it's true, I'm into high end audio, and some of these guys listen to their mega-buck systems using my cable designs (more about that in future articles). Essentially, if you want more ambience, detail and startling center fill, it's all in the wire! Width and depth way beyond what is currently offered.
In the early 1980's I was music director at Bonneville Broadcast Consultants, later changed to System. You might have known this as WRFM in New York City or KBIG in Los Angeles. We were the premier beautiful music syndicator. I was introduced to Ethel about this time. When I think of the time I first bought CAS 639 and CAS 755 "Night Themes," by Hill Bowen, and on CAS 755 her name is duly noted as A&R coorcinator, mind you this is about 15-20 years before I worked in radio, I new I was in utopia.
Today there is tremendous growing interest in record collecting - they don't make them anymore. It is not uncommon for serious collectors to spend $5,000-$10,000 plus for a V.P.I. turntable to hear analog blow away a CD. So with this reporting I commence and proclaim the "Silver Foil Series" of records by Ethel Gabriel, RCA-Camden Records as a worthwhile very serious recollector area. In the way of London bluebacks, the Mantovani, my beloved friend Frank Chacksfield (who is conducting in heaven now), also Werner Muller. The London Decca Phase 4's are very collectable. The RCA Stereo Action Series (LSA) is a collector's choice, and there are more that I'll cover in a future article. Since most of the classics are gobbled up, the next wave is probably pop-orchestral for collectability. You record-hounding mugs wait 'til I discuss Warner Brothers!
Some last tales of the unexpected - when I was working for Bonneville I made it a policy of getting almost everything on master tape copy. I didn't tell Ethel every time I called RCA, I just spoke to her assistant and ordered whatever I wanted. After awhile I think the assistant told Ethel what I was doing. I was replacing many out-of-print Lp's with the source for our programming and mastering. This is something I initiated with all the majors, we had all the Percy Faith on master tape copy (thank you, Columbia!). Apparently I got so many RCA copy masters, Ethel called me one day in my office, screaming at me, saying I have to clear it with her first. Thank you, Ethel, although I wish you could scream at me again. I don't think it will happen, Bonneville became so big, they bought off most of the competition and self-destructed.
A warning to collectors and interested parties, buy these records NOW, there are no CD's yet of The Living Strings, and radio is finished! It seems George Melachrino and Mantovani knew what they were doing then, and now after Bachelor Pad and Spage Age, yes, you Esquivelian aficinados, this is next in line. By the time this has the screen, "Bouquet" and "Bouquet of Love" by Percy Faith should appear on CD on the Collectables label. Messgr. Bill Halvorsen will report further details. (Bill notes it ain't out yet, as of late May, they said there will be another delay of several weeks).
More to come, and may the "Silver Force" be with you.
Yours For Strings,
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