Local labels as merchandise

bearded man wearing sunglasses holding a trombone
Albie Donnelly from Supercharge.
Courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

One of the great benefits to musicians of a local record label has often been that it alters their profile from being known only as live performers to that of recording artists, without removing them from the local community. At the same time, as recording artists it gives them a product to sell. In much the same way as with records produced by major companies, records produced for local sale have usually contained a mixture of music that was familiar to an audience, and music that was new - but importantly they have also helped the familiar to reach a new local audience.

In 1971 award-winning songwriter Alan Richards started his own Liverpool-based publishing company Stag in Water Street, as a publishing arm for burgeoning songwriters. Soon he added Stag Records as a point-of-sale label. This provided local artists with a limited run product that could be retailed at gigs. A Stag recording would also provide the artist with a product to tout to agents for further engagements and/or production and publishing companies.

In effect this was Liverpool's first proper record label but, as with earlier labels, artists still had to provide Richards with the required finance before he would undertake each project. Stag began at a time when cabaret in Liverpool was at a peak. The Shakespeare and the Wooky Hollow enjoyed national prominence as cabaret venues, while locally the likes of the Garston Woodcutters and the NUR in Dean Road contained very popular cabaret lounges. These venues also allowed cabaret and country artists to retail their own products, which not only boosted the artists' cash flow and profile, but enabled fans to enjoy their favourite's repertoire on their new 'smoked Perspex'-covered music centres.

This was a substantial change from the past and local artists such as the Jacksons, Al Dean, and Mickey Finn received greater local exposure via these recordings. This also occurred at a time when local radio was in its ascendancy and many Stag records found their way onto the turntables of BBC Radio Merseyside presenters Bob Azurdia and Monty Lister. Richards offered the singers two alternative deals: one, pay up front for the service or two, paying on hire purchase.

Several important recordings by Liverpool-based artists were made in this time. Perhaps the best known is Tom O'Connor's live album 'Alright Mouth', which eventually sold over 40,000 copies. Such was its popularity it was later distributed by Woolworths. However record collectors attach greater significance to other albums, among them 'From Music to Madness' by Supercharge. Supercharge was a Liverpool super group formed by the best late-1960s rhythm and blues musicians. The band later signed to Virgin, but at this stage (1973) enjoyed a large fan base based solely upon their appearances at The Sportsman and the Dove and Olive pubs. Supercharge arranged a one-off album deal with Stag, with the entire LP being recorded at Abbot Sound Studios in Chester. It ranks as one of the finest of such local label recordings. The initial run of 1,000 sold out quickly and the album is now hard to find. Another highly collectable Stag album, also recorded in Chester, was by Liverpool-based heavy rock group Pinnacle.

When CAM Studios closed in the early 1970s some of its equipment went to the new Amazon Studios in Kirkby. Amazon was a highly professional outfit and over the years recorded several local and nationally-renowned performers at their well appointed studios. They also launched a record label, Jungle, which served a similar purpose to Richards' Stag enterprise. In the late 1970s and early 1980s several Jungle singles and EPs were issued, such as those by the Blue Magnolia Jazz Orchestra, Cy Tucker, Terry Fletcher and Whiskey River.