DEAR JERRY: In the 1960s, a bag of snacks I bought came with a mail-order coupon offering a magical record for about a buck. Right away I sent for it, having no idea what to expect.
When it arrived, I played it and found it unlike any other record I'd ever known.
The record is long lost now, but I still remember being flabbergasted by how you never knew which one of several different popular songs you would hear when you put the needle down.
One song I can recall is “Quiet Village,” which was quite a big hit then.
Any chance you know of this record?
Norman Conway, Kankakee, Ill.
DEAR NORMAN: Indeed I do. Moreover, I can likely identify the snack you munched while filling out that coupon: potato chips.
The official title of this six-track EP is either “Laura Scudder's Magic Record,” or “Red Seal Magic Record.”
Prominent is a Dick Dastardly-type cartoon character on the front cover covertly whispering: “Psssst! Hey Kids! What Will Play Next? Only the Needle Knows!”
Side 1 (“For Eight Years of Age Up to Really Old Like 15 and Over”) plays “Peanut Butter” (Marathons); “Tijuana Taco” (Brass Original); and “Quiet Village” (Arthur Lyman).
Side 2 (“For Small Children”) plays three uncredited tunes: “Mechanical Man;” “Merry Go 'Round;” and “Under the Double Eagle.”
“Peanut Butter,” a 1961 single for the Marathons (a.k.a. Vibrations) is the only hit recording used.
Choosing this song made sense, since peanut butter is another of Laura Scudder's products. Tacos Tijuana or otherwise were not.
“Tijuana Taco” is simply an attempt to play on the success of Herb Alpert and His Tijuana Brass.
“Quiet Village” made the Top 5 in 1959, but by Martin Denny and His Orchestra. Still, Arthur Lyman's version is excellent, understandable since Lyman once played in Denny's orchestra.
Other text on the cover describes the action quite accurately:
“Fool Your Friends! Fool Yourself! Play this like any other groovey record. Anytime you want, just pick up the needle and put it back down … and you will never know what song will play.”
Adding to the mystery is how the tune selection is completely random, with no predictable pattern of play.
You can hear the same song two consecutive times, or not again for many plays.
Red Seal and Laura Scudder both ordered the magic discs from George Garabedian's Mark 56 Records, a California company based in Anaheim.
George is well known to music collectors for his 1958 hit “Mr. Grillon,” a very funny “Gunsmoke” parody of an incident at the Long Branch Saloon.
Credited to the George Garabedian Players (Mark 56 801), we find the Marshall too romantically distracted by Kitty to comprehend his deputy (Fester) and his news about Doc having been shot with an arrow.
Simply put, the process stamps multiple, but not overlapping, tracks into the plastic disc. Each track has its own entry point, which is why the song selection is as random as a roulette wheel. Whichever one on the spinning disc meets up with and grabs the needle is the one that plays.
When I asked Mr. Garabedian about the Magic Record, he shared the following:
“We did that record around 1969 and sold it through coupons attached to potato chip bags.
“We must have sold over 100,000 copies.
“As far as I know, no one has ever used the process again.”
As for being used again, there have been several made by companies other than Mark 56. For more on those click here.
IZ ZAT SO? George Garabedian may be right about no one using the Magic Record process after the Laura Scudder project, but something akin to it came out long before 1969.
A 1951 single by the Fontane Sisters, “The Fortune Teller Song” backed with “Fifth Wheel on the Wagon” (RCA Victor 4106), utilizes a similar gimmick for the A-side.
On “The Fortune Teller Song,” any of four different versions of the song will play when the needle hits the plastic. Each take provides a different ending to the story, which of course gives the fortune teller four chances to get it right.
It is often said “everything old is new again,” and that may be true with regard to “The Fortune Teller.”
When the first season of “24” came out on DVD, one of its special features offered fans an alternative ending one in which Jack Bauer's wife Teri survives.
In the original season finale, Teri is shot to death.