Saturday, July 23, 2016

K-Tel Records Presents... Compilation LP's (AS SEEN ON TV!)




Redartz:  Greetings, everyone!  Way  back when, in the days before YouTube, Ipod shuffle, or even cd's, many fans of popular music longed for a way to amass a collection of tunes. Preferably, that is,without having to buy hundreds of 45's. And sure enough, those TV commercial mainstays K-Tel (as in the "pocket fisherman") and Ronco (as in "kitchen magician") gave us a way to do just that: the compilation lp.  From the late 1960's through the early 1980's, anyone watching television would be very familiar with these lp's, due to the heavy airplay their commercials got (" Original Hits, Original Stars!"). Usually featuring about 20 songs, sampling widely through the popular music of the times, these albums gave us the chance to pick up many of the most recent hits at a pretty cheap price (actually, they also offered some collections of older hits as well). 

These albums could be found at record stores, of course, but were also available at department stores and even pharmacies, often prominently displayed in stands with that little red box ("As Seen On TV!").  I recall convincing my mother to buy my first one at a JC Penney's ( the Ronco "Get it On" shown here ).  Chances were you would find several favorite songs among the track list (in this case, I wanted it for Jim Stafford' "Spiders and Snakes"; the store was sold out of the 45 but the song was included on this record, along with sooo many others!). Sure, there would likely be a few cuts that made you grit your teeth, but overall you got a pretty good mix- rock, pop, soul, disco, even an occasional country crossover or novelty hit. 


Get It On!, 1974
Check out that track list...


























 Of course, there was a down side- sometimes the songs would be edited versions, trimmed down to about 2 minutes or so. This was frustrating to a music fanatic like myself, but in those pre-internet days, it beat wading through a dozen radio stations trying to tape your own variety mix (believe me, I tried). And the track mix was varied enough to provide exposure to some unfamiliar music- not every song was a top ten hit. My favorite tune off "Get it On!" turned out to be "Painted Ladies" by Ian Thomas, a song I'd never heard before getting that lp. 

At any rate, that lp started a love affair with compilation albums that, for me, continues today. Now my cd shelf is filled with "Billboard's Greatest Hits" discs, Time/Life discs, and countless others. Yet those old K-Tel albums from the 5-and-dime still hold a lot of charm. In fact, I have them recreated as playlists, complete with scans of the album covers. Below are a few more from my archives. Do you have any fond memories of these albums; favorite discs, songs you first discovered within the paper sleeve of a Ronco record?







7 comments:

Colin Jones said...

The product I most associate with Ronco was "The Buttoneer" which attached buttons to a garment without having to sew them on - it sounds really useful but I don't know how good the Buttoneer actually was as I never saw one. Anyway, Ronco always reminds me of Christmas because their products seemed to get advertised a lot on TV in the run-up to Christmas. And yes, we had K-Tel compilations too but throughout the '70s in the UK there was a series of albums called "Top Of The Pops" which were compilations of the latest chart hits sung by session singers rather than the original artists (Top of The Pops was also a BBC TV show that ran from 1964 till 2005 but there was no connection with the albums). Nowadays it seems strange that people were willing to pay for compilation albums featuring songs not sung by the original artists but the Top of The Pops albums continued for over a decade so they must have been fairly popular. But in November 1983 "NOW That's What I Call Music Volume 1" was released in the UK which has been a hugely successful series which continues to this day - NOW Volume 94 has just come out.

Graham said...

You are correct, Redartz.....that was a GREAT way to get a collection of your favorite songs without having to buy tons of albums. I had several K-Tel collections over the years. The best thing about them were that you could get them locally. I lived about 40 miles from the nearest record store back in the 70's, and folks just didn't make a 40 mile trip out of the blue back then, but these records/tapes were actually in our local grocery store and the one convenience store that we had in town. They usually had a good solid selection of familiar tunes, with maybe one or two thrown in that you didn't know, but they were good songs. One of my favorites was one of the last ones I picked up in the late 80's, with songs from R.E.M., Jason & the Scorchers, the Cruzados, etc...., but there were lots of good ones in between. I even remember a compilation of the Spinners' hits, which I thought was unusual to have an album with just one featured artist. Those were good times.

The Groovy Agent said...

I bought a lot of those Ronco and K-Tel compilations from the late 70s to the early 80s--for the price of 4 or 5 45rpm singles, you could get 20 songs on a 33rpm album! For a kid on a $2.50 a week allowance (and spending the majority of it on comicbooks), these were treasures! I don't have any of the 8-tracks or cassettes left, but I still have a half-dozen or so of the 33 rpm albums. Like Redartz, back in the good ol' Napster days (shhhhh!) I made dozens of cds based on those great albums.

Oh, and who had a Mr. Microphone?

Martinex1 said...

Redartz, what a great nostalgic topic. I can remember watching reruns of Green Acres or Lost In Space and there wasn't a commercial break that didn't include a Ronco or K-Tel ad. I was always trying to read the song offerings as the titles scrolled by so quickly. And as a kid I wanted an in the eggshell egg scrambler - ha - maybe some day! And yes Groove, I had a Mr. Microphone, "Be back to pick you up later!" Who could forget that?

Redartz said...

Thanks for each of your comments, everyone!

Colin- Those "Now" collections started appearing in the US back in the 90's. Guess we were a bit behind you; I have a few of those. Their Christmas collections are excellent!

And your mention of the "Top of the Pops" cover versions made me think of my father. He had several collections of pop tunes done by studio musicians; seems like it was the Longines Symphonette. Sounded like elevator music...

Groove- yes, the price was a big plus on those lp's. Like you, my budget was stretched with comics already!

Edo Bosnar said...

I well recall the ubiquitous television commercials for these - you're right Martinex, they were constantly aired during the syndicated reruns. To be honest, though, I didn't have any of these. The closest was this album my older sister and brother ordered from a TV commercial (after getting the o.k. from my mom) which featured something like the "20 Greatest Hits of All Time" or something similarly bombastic. I remember some of the songs were "Mockingbird," "Hooked on a Feeling" and "The Night Chicago Died" but none of them were by the original artists. There was also that rock and roll version of the Lord's Prayer, which puzzled me as a kid, although I later learned that it apparently was actually something of a hit in the earlier '70s (sung by a Catholic nun from Australia, go figure). I can't recall which company released it, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't K-Tel, just because the cover was this drab, orange and brown affair with no illustrations or photos on it - the K-Tel albums covers were usually pretty flashy as I recall.
Anyway, that album did get considerable play on our turntable, but both of my older siblings were disappointed about the whole not-sung-by-the-original-artists thing, so they never ordered any compilation albums again, and their lesson kind of rubbed off on me...

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I still have a bunch of these on record and cassette: Hitline, Rock '82, Sound Explosion, Blast Off, Hit Explosion, Chart Action (though mine has a different cover from the one you showed...it's from 1984, I think); I had one called Electric North, with just Canadian artists on it, but I lent it to a friend and never got it back.

I think I still have the first Mini-Pops album too...was that from K-Tel? Anyway, great topic!

Mike Wilson

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