Various Artists — The Wonder of Woolworths!

Think for a moment what’s gone missing from our High Streets in recent years.

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When I was a kid in 1962 the Safeway chain of supermarkets came to the Britain; it disappeared in 2004. Remember C & A? That chain disappeared in 2000. Several other household names have come and gone over the years. HMV disappeared from our towns and cities for a while, a move which came as a blow to record buyers. A much bigger blow saw the closure of Woolworth’s stores. Over the years Woollies became the biggest seller of records in the U.K.; in 1987 it was said that one in every four LPs sold in Britain was sold by Woollies.

The other “wonder of Woolies” was its budget-priced record label, Embassy that sold cover versions of the hits of the day, two different hits on each release, for four shillings and sixpence (22½ pence) as opposed to over six shillings (30pence) for the ‘real’ thing.

Now, you can re-live those happy days of Embassy with this sixty-eight, double CD, collection that boasts big hits of the 1950s like That’ll Be The Day, Living Doll and, among many others, Singing The Blues, not by The Crickets, Cliff or Tommy Steele, but by The Tunettes, Johnny Worth and David Ross. Try Sixties hits like The Everly’s Walk Right Back by Don Duke, Duane Eddy’s Theme From Dixie by Bud Ashton or John Leyton’s Johnny Remember Me by Bobby Stevens. These professionally made recordings may not have been exactly like the hits you heard on Luxembourg or the Light Programme, but, often they were indistinguishable from the originals and the talent that recorded them were often singers you did hear on the BBC, just working under a pseudonym. One of them, Maureen Evans, went on to have hit records of her own and the singers who sang the backing vocals behind names like Paul Rich, Jean Campbell or Bobby Stevens were The Mike Sammes Singers, famous from the radio show Sing Something Simple.

This is a fascinating collection of music that truly was one of “the wonders of Woollies”

AUSTIN POWELL
Author: AUSTIN POWELL

Austin Powell has spent his entire working life in the music business. From being an agent and manager of ‘beat groups’ in the sixties to working for major record companies in the seventies and eighties, he has also held management positions at radio stations in England, Wales and on the Isle Of Man. He continues to act as a consultant to several record companies and artists and presents a weekly 'oldies' show on Monday evenings on 101.8 WCR FM in Wolverhampton.

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