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LEEDON RECORDS

L1 leedon

BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS

Description: Australian record company in Australian in the 1950s and early 1960s

Known For: Records

Location: NSW, Australia

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BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE
Leedon Records

An Australian record label active from 1958 to 1969.

It was founded by American entrepreneur Lee Gordon in early 1958.

In Australian in the 1950s and early 1960s, locally distributed labels such as Pye and Parlophone and indigenous labels such as Coronet had few Australian rock’n’roll artist on their rosters; their main focus was on local releases of British and American artists or, in the case of Coronet, mainstream vocalists or artists who performed in the so-called “hillbilly” style (which later became known as country music).

The advent of Leedon Records in 1958, soon after the establishment of Australia’s first Top 40 charts, played a significant role in the development of Australia’s local rock and pop scene, especially in the decade following the label’s acquisition by Festival Records in 1960.

Entrepreneur Lee Gordon established Leedon and its sister label Lee Gordon Records in early 1958.

He then secured the Australian release rights to the American Roulette Records label and signed a pressing and distribution deal with the Australian Record Company (which was later taken over by CBS Records).

Leedon’s first releases were “Oh, Oh I’m Falling In Love Again” by Jimmie Rodgers and “(Make With) The Shake” by The Mark IV.

Other releases included singles by Duane Eddy, Huey Piano Smith, Dion & The Belmonts, Dick Dale and Little Junior Parker, “Rock On” by Johnny Rebb (September 1959) and two novelty singles recorded by Lee Gordon, “Get The Message” and “She’s The Ginchiest”.

Notable among Leedon’s early releases were a couple of wild singles credited to the mysterious Johnny ‘Scat’ Brown – “Indeed I Do” (Leedon 514) and “Mama Rock” (Leedon 518).

The flip sides of both records were performed by totally different artists, despite the fact the b-side of “Indeed I Do” also listed Johnny Scat Brown as the singer.

The performer of ‘Little Star”, the flip of “Mama Rock” was shown as Moon Rockets, another mystery act.

These singles were preceded by another Leedon single (#008) also billed to Johnny ‘Scat’ Brown which featured cover versions of current American chart hits, Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” and David Seville’s “Witch Doctor”.

However aural evidence suggests this first Johnny Scat Brown single release is a completely different artist. Some of these singles were released locally in the face of ’embargo’ restrictions placed on them by publishing companies such as Chappell Music.

Indeed I Do” and “Mama Rock” had been recorded in the USA, featuring vocals performed by an Elvis Presley-soundalike singer.

The singer’s identity was unknown to Leedon staff at the time, as the tapes had been sent to them from the USA by Lee Gordon without any recording details. As a result, company manager Alan Heffernan created the pseudonym Johnny “Scat” Brown.

According to former Leedon employee Max Moore, Heffernan’s cousin discovered decades later (the 70s), that although there was a real Johnny “Scat” Brown performing in the USA, the person who had recorded “Indeed I Do” and “Mama Rock” was noted rockabilly artist Johnny Powers.

During 1959 leading Australian rock’n’roll singer Johnny O’Keefe was engaged as the label’s A&R manager.

Although he was still contracted to Festival Records at the time, O’Keefe was able to work as a consultant to Leedon, and he signed a number of other prominent Australian artists including Lonnie Lee, The Delltones and Warren Williams.

According to Leedon employee Max Moore, O’Keefe did not receive a salary for this work, so he was compensated with an increase in his fee for appearances on Gordon’s famous “Big Show” concert tours, on which he had become a regular featured attraction.

However, by 1960, Lee Gordon’s business enterprises were making significant losses, and without consulting Heffernan (who was also the general manager and chief accountant of Gordon’s promtions company Big Show Pty Ltd), he sold the label to Festival Records for a reported figure of AU£10,000.

Leedon continued operation as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Festival until 1969.

The Leedon “LK” series was started in June 1961 with Lonnie Lee’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and from this point on the lebel’s releases were made up almost entirely of Australian artists.

Johnny O’Keefe featured very prominently in this series. Early recordings by The Bee Gees can also be found in the series as well as many classic beat-era singles by bands such as Ray Brown & The Whispers and The Showmen.

The label’s final release was a reissue of “She’s My Baby” by Johnny O’Keefe which had been recorded in 1959.

By the time the label was folded in 1969, it had released 420 singles.

The Leedon LK Series featured many prominent Australian artists including Barry Stanton, Booka Hyland, Warren Williams, Ian Crawford, Paul Wayne, Jerry J. Wilder, The Barry Sisters, The Dee Jays, The Taylor Sisters etc.

All got their big break with Leedon, who nourished and supported them throughout their careers—with shows and gigs along the way.

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