Friday, April 8, 2016

Vogue Picture Records

Most people wouldn't recognize the name Tom Saffady, but in 1946, he was the wunderkind of the recording industry and at the age of 30, great things were expected of him and his company, Sav-way Industries.  Not much is known about the company other than they produced the first vinyl-based picture records.  Published under the Vogue label, they were known for their high quality and superior sound.

I found these examples at an estate sale last weekend.  I've included rips of the songs below each side of the record.

Since our young lady here is clearly still alive, I have to assume that's not her heart she's offering up, but rather, possibly, that of her lover whose ghost's profile hovers angrily behind her.

 I Surrender Dear - The King's Jester's and Louise

 S'posin' - The King's Jesters and Louise
Given the wistful look in her eye, I'm guessing she's the one doing the s'posin of holding hands, dancing and proposing.

 Blue Skies - The Hour of Charm All Girl Orchestra and Choir

Seville - The Hour of Charm All Girl Orchestra
Here we see a saucy little dance number, perhaps a rumba or a somba.  Watch your eyes, señor.

As I said, great things were expected from Saffady and his company.  This article from Billboard magazine from October 26th, 1946 gushes with praise.

A Look at Vogue's Glamour-Puss Disk Plant and Fifty Fabricators

DETROIT, Oct. 19.—Harassed by the shortage of plastic, which is also a major problem with other manufacturers, Tom Saffady, head of Vogue Recordings, has moved to install his own plant here for fabricating the vinylite which is an essential ingredient in the picture disks. Process, known as calendering is a bottleneck in the production of records from vinylite and Vogue is believed to be the first record plant to put in its own equipment for this purpose—something fairly comparable to a metal-processing plant establishing its own steel mill.  
Motors Needed
Saffady and Al Lynn flew out to the West Coast to get the principal machinery required from a rubber plant out there. This is now installed and the new celendering plant is all set to turn as soon as controls for the 150-hp. motors required can be obtained. The new addition will take the raw vinylite and turn it out in strip form for use in the record presses, relieving Vogue of dependence upon other fabricators and the uncertainties of truck transportation. Work was done for a time as a courtesy by the Bakelite Corporation, sole supplier of the raw vinyllte, and lately by a company in Ohio, but transportation difficulties constantly hampered production. Saffady says the capacity of the calendering plant is sufficient to turn out raw stock for 1,000,000 records a month. Vogue is now producing about 300,000 disks monthly and expects to step up within two months to 500,000. The output will be up to the million-disk figure with three-shift operation, according to Al Lynus, technical chief. Actual increase in production is now being held down by top naval priorities set on vinylite, which is being used to coat naval vessels, but this priority is scheduled to be released within the next two months.  
Ups Plant Cost to Mil
Vogue execs say cost of the calendering plant is around $80,000, bringing the total cost of the record plant to approximately $1,000,000. Coincident with the disclosure of the viny-lite plant, details of the record plant itself, which has had a large part of the industry guessing for at least a year past, were disclosed to the press for the first time during a visit to the plant by The Billboard correspondent. Plant now has facilities to turn out records complete from raw material to finished product under one roof—from the recording and the raw vinylite to the complete disk. Recording facilities, like just about everything else in the plant, appear to have not only the most up-to-date equipment but a series of special Saffady touches in the way of improvements. The recording studio, in charge of Harvey Dodge, formerly of American Soundcasting Company, has been rented on a number of occasions by other record companies for their sessions. Aluminum, received in large coils, is stamped out for the center cores, which makes the disks unbreakable. In one section of the plant and prepared for the presses on a production line paralleling the plastic line. The aluminum and plastic meet up at the presses which have Saffady-devised time and temperature controls.  
42 Presses Now, More To Come
The paper labels, incidentally, are the only items not made In the plant —- and the chief problem in scheduling a regular flow of production because of the difficulties involved in getting out four-color printing. There are at present 42 of these presses, with 12 more to be delivered, each with a  capacity of 40 disks per hour. Excess plastic trimmed off the disk after pressing is salvaged and re-used in the new calendering plant. The record itself is budded on a new machine developed at this plant to assure a smooth edge. There are a series of other special tricks of technique in the process, particularly in producing the mothers and stampers from the original masters or down mostly too technical for treatment here.
Unfortunately, the novelty wasn't enough to overcome the more than 50% higher cost over standard record prices and the company folded in less than a year with only 74 titles produced.   Sadly, Tom Saffady passed away from leukemia at the age of 37 in 1954.


  1. wow, amazing. i had no idea they had picture-disk technology that early. late 60s and more recently, for sure. but the 1940s seems so early!

  2. doh - forgot to mention: have you heard of ? it's a super fun site. if you make an account, you can upload songs for their playlists. might be a good way to help preserve the stuff you're ripping for posterity.

    1. >have you heard of
      No, I haven't, but I will check them out...if I can figure out how many "o"s that is.


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