Enoch Henry (Light) and the Journey From Budget Records to Recording Fame
Enoch Henry Light was born in August of 1905 in Canton, Ohio enjoyed a rich and successful career in music reaching impressive heights.
But his beginnings were rather humble. For much of this story I once again plunged into the fine publication which I recently cited once again – Brian McFadden’s “Rock Rarities for a Song – Budget LP’s That Saved the Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
His chapter on the Synthetic Plastics Company (known as SPC) makes mention of director Enoch Light’s early involvement with the budget recordings especially the “Promenade” label which featured “excellent sound-alike versions of pre-rock hits” according to McFadden. Enoch would remain long with the company which was founded by Daniel Kasen who originally focused on producing buttons and garment industry accessories.
Enoch Light started off in the late 1920’s forming his own band primarily performing in New York City and for a time France. Sometime during the 1940’s his band became “The Light Brigade” most often working out of prestigious hotels.
Light and Waldorf Music Hall Records
From 1954 until 1959 – Light headed up Waldorf Music Hall Records which was founded to produce records to be sold in the nation’s “Woolworths” retail stores. “Waldorf” was Enoch Light’s official first project or “Project 1” and thus Grand Awards and Command records became “Project 2” for historical reference purposes – It would all culminate with his final label “Project 3”.
Light and Command
Enoch gained a reputation for producing, directing and recording excellent arrangements of songs and he first created the “Grand Award” label in the 1950’sand by the 1960’s had founded his own record label “Command”.
Grand Award targeted adults who Enoch reasoned cared about more about quality audio techniques and sound, as well as higher end audio equipment. Enoch released many high-quality long plays on the label and experienced a more than favorable reception from the record buying public – He even managed to place a pair of singles on the Hot 100 charts, “I Want to Be Happy Cha Cha” (#48 in 1958) and “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” (#99 in 1959).
The Command label featured a large stable of musicians including Dick Hyman, Richard Hayman, Doc Severinsen, Terry Snyder and the All Stars and even Count Basie and many, many more.
The Other Ray Charles
But as far as the popular charts go, none were more successful than Enoch Light and His Light Brigade and “The Ray Charles Singers” (the other Ray Charles).
Ray Charles was born in September of 1918 in Chicago, Illinois. In 1959, Perry Como christened Charles’ back-ground singers “The Ray Charles Singers. Their sound with Charles’ arrangements has been credited for being the birth of “Easy Listening Music”. Oddly, several of the “Ray Charles Singers’ would be used by producer Jack Hansen for background vocals on some of Buddy Holley’s final recordings.
In reality, the Ray Charles Singers were a revolving and ever-changing cast of professional singers, sometimes recording, sometimes appearing live. The Ray Charles formula called usually for 12 males voices and 8 female on each session to get the sound just right. Participants appeared regularly on the Perry Como Show and were the voices behind many popular commercials.
The Ray Charles Singers had been recording for a long time before coming to Enoch’s Command, as far back as 1951. They came to the label in 1962 and didn’t make much of a stir until in 1964 they got a hold on “Love Me With All of Your Heart”. The song was originally penned in the Mexican language “Cuando Calienta el Sol” – Charles heard the song on a ship cruise and brought it to Enoch’s studio. Ray Charles died on April 6th of 2015 at the age of 96.
Enoch’s Chart Success
And that brings us to Enoch’s chart success. I guess I was fairly shocked to learn that any “Command” label LP by Light would have logged any serious degree of success. But Enoch landed 19 of them on the Billboard Hot LP Charts from to 1966, with two going all the way to number 1. His first chart topper was “Persuasive Percussion” conducted by “Terry Snyder & The All-Stars” and produced by Enoch Light. The song hit the top in early 1960 and remained number 1 for 13 weeks and enjoyed a 124 week chart run.
His second number 1 came the following year in 1961 with “Stereo 35/MM” which was in the top spot for seven weeks and remained on the charts for just over a year. He entered the Top 10 LP’s on 8 occasions and had a total of 25 charting long plays, his last coming in 1971.
How many times have I waded through bins and boxes of long plays and pushed these long plays aside with a sneer. If I had an ounce of refined culture and good taste, I could have profited by forking over a mere 50 cents or even less!
A couple of diversions from Light’s usual artists included “The Free Design” and “The Critters” in 1968 who released two LP’s on the Enoch’s “Project 3” record label – a project which followed his sale of Command. The Critters’ Command recordings came two years after their success with “Younger Girl” a John Sebastian tune and then “Mr. Dieingly Sad”. The “Soft Machine” even made a 1974 appearance on the Command label.
After Command, Enoch moved on to the “Project 3” record label which would survive until 1970.
Enoch Light would pass on the 31st of July in 1978 four years after his retirement.