The Most Outrageous (and Queerest) Record Label of the 60s
by JD Doyle
Almost nothing is known about the mysterious 60's record label Camp Records. They released an album and ten 45 rpm records of gay parody songs, most done with effeminate voices. I believe they were issued in the early 60's, as they all appeared in an ad in the gay magazine Vagabond, dated 1965. The address on the album record jacket was PO Box 3213, Hollywood, California, and it credited all selections to "Different Music Co, Hollywood." The "Queen Is In The Closet" LP was released at least as early as June 1964, as an ad for it appeared on the back cover of that month's issue of "One Magazine." And, of course, as we do not know who released these records, we do not know if they were meant to make money from laughing at gay people, or if the producers were gay themselves.
The artists singing most of the songs were uncredited, or with names obviously made up, like Byrd E. Bath and B. Bubba, but one name stands out, Rodney Dangerfield. That name credited on one of the songs, and possibly another. This would have been very early in Dangerfield's career, as his website bio says he decided to devote his career to comedy at age 40, which would have been in 1961. But I don't think it was the comedian we know; just a prop name used for the release. Dangerfield disclaims any knowledge of it, and it's been reported that "Rodney Dangerfield" was used as a pseudonym for performers going back to at least the thirties. The name is used as an in-joke for various characters on Old Time Radio series years before the Rodney we know came along.
A second album released on the label was called "Mad About the Boy." It was filled with mostly well-known Broadway and cabaret songs that were originally sung by women. This album kept the pronouns intact, making them very gay. They were done in lounge style, without a campy approach...in other words, done "straight." The liner notes state: "The primary reason for doing this album was to prove that good songs could and should be sung by everyone. Gender should not be the determining factor as to who should sing what." The notes later say that the male soloist and other artists on the album are well-known "Hollywood, TV, and screen personalities" but "we are not at liberty to reveal true names." I have no idea if all this is true, or simply hype. The album probably came out in 1964 or 1965, as it pictures on the back all the previous releases of the label. And it is also advertised in the 1965 issue of Vagabond (see more, below), so I believe it was the last record they released.
An amusing characteristic of the records they issued was the "label numbers" they gave them. Almost all of them are tongue-in-cheek gay references, if the letters and numbers are read individually. For example, ICUR1-2 becomes "I see you are one, too" or variations of that, along with 2B8 I believe being "to be ate." "45CC" for the single "Spanish Bar Fly" is likely referring to "45, Si, Si," and "OUR 2-2" could be "our tutu." And the "Mad About the Boy" album's numbering was "RU-1," which of course is "are you one?" meaning "are you gay?"
In 2012 I was able to interview Murray Garrett, the producer of an LP called "Love Is A Drag," where the gimmick was it was all songs sung to a male, and sung by a male. It was released in 1962 with a veil of mystery, as the singer was not identified. My interview unveiled his name, fifty years after the album's release. As this LP preceded the Camp Records album "Mad About the Boy" by several years, I asked Mr Garrett if he had any information. He had heard of it, but never knew who was behind it. And he was in a position to know, as he was on the West Coast Board of NARAS. He remembered people calling him up asking about the Camp album, but he never heard the back story.
So, what was the intended market for these recordings? I think it could go two directions, with one providing amusement for straights wanting to laugh at their perception of gay men. The other market was gay people themselves in providing the common sense of humor in their secret lives. The humor that exaggerated the campiness, the mincing, and the swishing...even with their negative stereotypes, could have provided some sense of community. In those days, when almost everyone was in the closet, and fear of persecution or worse was very real. It was really all they had.
Where would you locate copies of these records? I suggest "bookmarking" them on eBay, and then be prepared to wait a while for them to show up. I regularly monitor eBay for gay-related recordings and in the last few years ones from Camp Records now rarely are featured. As trivia, I personally found the single "Mixed Nuts" hardest to find, taking me a number of years. In general they all show up so rarely I could not pick one to call the most common or easily found.
I've tried to give as complete a history as possible of this label, as it's truly unique to our culture. I show scans of all the records in my collection, and you can hear them as well. I don't think anyone as ever tried to do justice to this subject, but there are still many unknowns. If anyone reading this has additional information, please, please contact me. So, enjoy the photos and music...they are indeed very rare and give a unique look at gay humor of that time.
CAMP RECORDS DISCOGRAPHY
[click on the title to hear the song, or on "mp3" to download the sound file]
weekend of a hairdresser (2:46) mp3
about the boy (2:19) mp3
your cursor over the record label to see the "flip" sides.
A Disclaimer regarding Rodney Dangerfield, of sorts...
Dangerfield's autobiography came out he was interviewed
KAPELOVITZ: Is it true that you recorded gay comedy albums in the '60s?
DANGERFIELD: How do they start these rumors? Jesus Christ!
KAPELOVITZ: There are 45s with the name Rodney Dangerfield on them. One song is titled "Stanley the Manly Transvestite."
DANGERFIELD: I'm not singing that.
And I tend to believe him, based on some additional info on this topic, from one of my site visitors, Steve Thompson:
Hi, JD, I'm not even
gay but I found your site fascinating, particularly the Camp records
section. I wanted to point out, though, in reference to Rodney Dangerfield's
purported participation on some of the records, that "Rodney
Dangerfield" was used as a pseudonym for performers going back
to at least the thirties. The name is used as an in-joke for various
characters on Old Time Radio series (including several times on JACK
BENNY) years before THE Rodney came along. A similar name in theater
was "George Spelvin" which was later used by various actors
in porn films of the seventies. In fact, "GeorgINA Spelvin"
actually kept the name and became a fairly big star in the field.
And, now for the other album...
This cover was itself a parody of the cover of a best selling Julie London LP.
Below, a close-up of the "letter" from the back cover
Above is the earliest reference I've found "dating" the Camp Records label. The ad appeared on the back cover of the June and July 1964 issues of "One Magazine," which is certainly a logical placement for the ads. By the way, it was rare for "One" to have any commercial ads. The ad does not mention the 45s, so there is still no information if they were released before or after the LP.
The rest of the magazine also gives a fascinating look at the underground pre-Stonewall gay culture. It's solely a catalog, and contained no articles, just opportunities to purchase books, cards, and other...well, let's call them "accessories." These items were no doubt very hard to obtain then, so a catalog like this was likely one of the few sources available.
Click on the ads for larger versions
And, below, from "Drum" Magazine, September 1965 (thanks, Adam)
Interesting that it only advertized 8 of the 10 45s, does that mean the other two came later?
And the same ad was in another issue of Drum, from August 1965
Special Bonus!...Click Here to read the whole Drum Magazine, a look at gay publishing in 1965
just in (Dec 2012)...another early "dating" source...
Article on Camp Records from Discoveries Magazine, December 2005
was incorrect about the names of the models. Their names were
here's another oddity, the scan of whick was sent to me by Darryl
This certainly raises more questions than it answers.
by the way, Darryl has a very cool blogsite, World's Worst Records
And, don't stop here, please visit the rest of my site......