The Meteor Records Story
Meteor Records was formed by the Bihari brothers who had launched the Modern Music label in Los Angeles after the war in the late 40s. The label soon became known as Modern Records and was a major player in West Coast R & B. In a few years they also formed RPM Records and would soon also launch Flair and later Kent. But in 1952 they started a new label in Memphis to be run by Lester Bihari called Meteor that would concentrate in the mid-South in signing and recording regional talent there. It would use the local pressing plant of Buster Williams which would give the new label the facilities it would need. In November of 1952 the first recording session for the new label took place and four sides were cut in just a half hour.
Elmo (Elmore) James on Meteor #5000 with The Broomdusters which included J.T. (Big Boy) Brown on tenor sax, Johnny Jones on piano, and Odie Payne on drums records "I Believe" / "I Held My baby Last Night". Bep Brown is on #5001 with two sax instrumentals - "Round House Boogie" and "Kickin' The Blues Around". Carl Green is the performer on Meteor #5002 with the tunes "My Best Friend" and "Four Years Seven Days".
In late February of 1953 Elmore James record in Chicago for the label. The result is "Baby What's Wrong" and "Sinful Woman" on #5003. In May of that year a recording session is held in North Little Rock, Arkansas with a blues combo that includes Sunny Blair on harmonica, Baby face Turner on guitar, Junior Brooks on bass, and Bill Rissell on drums. The result is Meteor #5006 - "Please Send My baby Back" with Sunny Blair on vocal, and "Gonna Let You Go" with Baby face Turner on vocal. Jimmy Wright did two sax instrumentals on #5007 - "Porky Pine" and "Scotch Mist".
Buster Smith recorded a blues version of the hit song "Crying In The Chapel" and it was coupled with "Leapin' in Chicago" on #5010. In 1954 Al Smith recorded "Beale Street Stomp" and the swing era classic "Slidin' Home" on #5013. The very first Meteor Records release that gets any airplay or sales outside the South is #5016, a blistering instrumental that is listed on the label as by Sax Man Brown with Elmo James Broomdusters, but is in reality the combo of J.T. (Big Boy) Brown. "Saxony Boogie" gets a boost from Moondog Freed in New York and is the label's biggest seller. The flip side is a slow blues sung by Brown called "Dumb Woman Blues".
In 1955 Woodrow Adams & The Boogie Blues Blasters which include Joe Hill Louis on guitar, and Joe Martin on drums record "Wine Head Woman" and "Baby You Just Don't Know" on Meteor #5018. "You Will Have To Pray" / "As Lonely As I Can Be" by Haward Swords is released on #5019. A session with well known blues performer Andrew "Smokey" Hogg done in Los Angeles is released by Meteor on #5021 (also on Crown #122) on the songs "I Declare" and "Dark Clouds". The last record issued by the label in 1955 is an attempt to duplicate their one big hit (#5016) and so Sax Man Brown & The Broomdusters record "Sax Symphonic Boogie". The flip side is "Flaming Blues".
By 1956 it is apparent that Southern based blues is not going to be a big sell among the growing teenage rock 'n roll market, but Meteor hangs in. Mary Edwards & The Saxons record "Chilly Willy" and "Uh Oh Mama" on #5031. Later in the year the oddly named combo Minnie Thomas & Slim Waters Lagoons record "What Can The Matter Be?" and "I Know What You Need" on #5036. "Standing On The Highway" and "My Last Mile" are recorded by Walter Miller on #5037. Memphis radio personality and R & B performer Rufus (Bearcat) Thomas records "The Easy Living Plan" and "I'm Holding On" on Meteor #5039. R & B stalwart Little Milton (Campbell) records "Let's Boogie Baby" and "Love At First Sight" on #5040.
In 1957 the label is barely alive as the Bihari Brothers consolidate their labels in Los Angeles. The last issue by Meteor is #5046 in late 1957. And so a bold experiment did not really work out for the Biharis, although they kept at it for five years. Their many successes with Modern, RPM, and Flair, gave them the opportunity to try and search out talent in the mid-South and have the recording facilities locally to produce the music. It did not succeed economically, but it remains a valiant effort as part of the story of the music.
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