Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Groovers of Note : Les Schriber and the Black & White Label

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Groovers of Note : Les Schriber and the Black & White Label

Article excerpt

One question that has not been addressed: since Lester (Les) Schriber [died 1965] already had Black & White as a 'first' label, including sixteen 12-inch 78s released on vinyl, why did he create Comet as a second label with non-vinyl pressings? The answer may be the choice of artists and the different markets for their recordings. For the most part, Black & White's earliest issues in its 1-42 range issued on 10-inch 78, featured pianists (Art Hodes, Cliff Jackson, Dick Cary, Hank Duncan, Gene Schroeder, Willie 'The Lion' Smith, and Ray Stokes) and clarinetists (Leon Albany 'Barney' Bigard, George 'Rod' Cless, Milton 'Mezz' Mezzrow with George Wettling, and Joe Marsala) associated with earlier chamber styles of jazz. At the same time, Schriber was releasing his first Black & White disc, Joe Marsala lost what was to have been a long-run summer booking at the Glen Island Casino when the Casino announced in May 1943 that it was closing. The sixteen 12-inch vinyl Black & White issues featured some of the same artists. The matrix numbers on these 12-inch vinyl issues conform to the system employed by RCA Victor. This suggests the pressings were done by RCA, possibly through help from Eli Oberstein who had rejoined RCA after leaving the company in 1939 to form his own record company, United States Record Company. Oberstein was involved with many labels during his career. Although he is not known to have been actively involved in Black & White or Comet, he may have provided some assistance since everybody in the business knew everyone else, especially in New York City

Schriber (or 'Schreiber,' as his name is sometimes spelled) was known in the New York City area as a collector. On Friday, July 17, 1942, and on another unknown date that same month, he recorded a total of nine sides featuring piano solos by Art Hodes that were intended only for his private collection. The first mention the author has come across that identifies Black and White Record Company as a business entity is a 'compliments' ad that appears on page 7 of the February 15, 1943 issue of The Jazz Record, the little magazine edited by Art Hodes and Dave Curran. This is followed by a second ad on page 6 of the March 1, 1943 issue that advertises:

'Wanted for Cash, scrap records 6 cents a pound. Send parcel post to Les Schriber, Black and White Record Co., 157 Belmont Blvd., Elmont, L.I.'

A fractional ad on page 7 of the April 1, 1943 issue announces:

'Black & White Record Co. Watch next issue for special announcement. Box 947, Church St. Annex, New York.'

An ad on page 2 of the April 15, 1943 issue says:

'Special Announcement. B&W No. 1 presenting Art Hodes at the piano: Snowy Morning, Four or Five Times. Approx imate release date June 1. Price $1.25 plus postage. Mail orders accepted now. Les Schriber, Black & White Record Co., Box 947 Church St. Annex, New York.'

A full-page ad on page 7 of the same issue announces the first of what will become a series of record auctions that Schriber will hold over the next year or so. An ad on page 3 of the May 1, 1943 issue provides more information about the forthcoming record releases:

'B&W No. 1. Presenting Art Hodes at the piano Snowy Morning Blues / Four or Five Times. Approximate release date June 1. Price $1.25 plus postage. Cash reservations accepted now. Shipping weight about 2 lbs. Better hurry, supply is limited.'

During the War years, when shellac was scarce, especially for a small, start-up record company like Black & White, a typical press run might be merely 100 copies. Normally, pressing companies would not want to be bothered with such small runs, but some would accommodate small independent companies by fitting short runs in on a stand-by basis between two larger runs or whenever there was downtime on the presses. In this sense, record pressing companies operated like printing companies that would typically fit in small job lots on stand-by when it was convenient. …

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