Mary Butterworth “Mary Butterworth” (Custom Fidelity, 1969)
A few years ago, probably 6 years or so, I was at a flea market in Alma, AR hunting thru records in a box. What a remarkable story this is sounding like, huh? Record collectors live a dangerous life not many folks would believe. On your hands and knees looking thru old boxes in sometimes moldy wet back corners of places. Risking getting bit by spiders. But it is thrilling in a way that is hard to describe to someone who doesn't care. Someone who just doesn't understand. But for those of us who do it as a lifestyle. There is the thrill of the unknown when you walk into some junk shop in a little place off the highway between somewhere and somewhere else and you ask the person at the counter if there are any records for sale and they lead you somewhere down the isle and point to a few boxes. This sometimes a drag when you start to go thru it and it's shit like Bing Crosby's Christmas album or Wham's Greatest Hits or...well, you get it. But when I walk up to that big box or two in that place you've never been before and the one showing is something like Deep Purple or The Pentangle, there is an excited feeling. Hope! Because you just don't know what you may find! I've spent my whole life doing this and it's still thrilling. One of the coolest things in this is that a lot of times you can get some great treasures for a dollar or two each. I'm not a cheapskate but I'm saying it's just part of it. I am at the point now where the records I'm looking for are quite pricey, re-issue or otherwise. But still sometimes the "my new favorite" album is some band I find in one of these boxes that I have never heard of. I do things a lot of the time I refer to as "label shopping". Meaning if it's on Viva records or Double Shot or Impulse! or something like that it most likely WILL be worth buying. Or you recognize names of players or sometimes it was simply recorded in the 60's or early 70's and the cats on the cover look like they know there way around a joint. And man oh man I have gotten lucky a few times!
Ok so where were we? Oh yeah, Alma, Arkansas, and I have told this story many times on my radio show. But I was at this little place in Alma, I forgot what it was called (that's what I say when I don't want to give up secrets) but I'm looking thru this box of Lps and come across a record called Mary Butterworth, which by the way, is possibly a very misleading name. I might add that in this box the other items were of no interest at all, at least not to me, and nothing even close to what Mary Butterworth is. The other records in the box were things like Tom T. Hall and George Strait, maybe Mel Tillis, but no other rock and roll. At the time I had never heard of Mary Butterworth at all but in the categories I mentioned above, it was obviously recorded in the 60's and the cats looked like they knew their way around a joint. The cover looks like it is homemade. It is all hand drawn in black and white with a big monster looking guy, a spider with an eyeball on it's back, a caterpillar crawling on a curtain rod. On the back It has pictures of the guys in the group which are Michael Hunt (drums, vocal), Michael Lachus (Hammond), Michael Ayling (bass, flute, vocal) and Jim Giordano (guitar) and hand drawn calligraphy written like maybe in Latin (?) says: "To raise vp ye hellish shade of Ag, whom ye scribe rendereth as ye Toad's bvtler, invoke 1st ye IIVII daemons" and then goes on to list names I guess thanking people.
Well, I bought it for $.75 and when I got home I looked it up in my Goldmine book and it is worth $75.00 in VG, $150.00 in VG plus and $300.00 NM. I am proud to say my copy is in very very good shape cover and all. I have heard rumours of this album selling for over a $1000 a copy though! And I guess I should mention, that it is well known now, one of the songs on this Lp was used in Sofia Coppola's film Lost In Translation which surely helps to add to the popularity (and say's something about Sofia too)
Custom Fidelity is a label that, as I understand it, was in the business of making a record for people that came in the door wanting to record a record and pay these people to help them accomplish that. Meaning they are not a "Warner Brothers" or "Electra". No talent scouts looking for the next big teenage group to sell a million copies. If you had the money they would record it and press it for you. As I understand it, there may have been only 350 originals pressed. I could be wrong about that. And this, friends, is what makes this a private press album. They had no distribution thru record shops and only sold copies to friends and at gigs. This is why I had to make this story about Alma too. Alma? How the hell did it make it there?!
The band is from southern California. They formed in the spring of 1968 and recorded this album in 1969. The record has a very warm beautiful pro sound. This is the kind of record that was made to play thru vacuum tubes and horn-loaded Klipsch speakers. It is very organ heavy with the sickest echo-y drum sound you could ever hope to hear. Actually, there are echo-y, little spacey flourishes in the production all over this. The lyrics are mostly about girls (hey, what's wrong with that?). To my ears there is not a bad song on the whole record. Very psychedelic, a little blues, the songs are well arranged, played well and beautiful. Well worth it's great reputation as one of the sought after private press psych classics of the 60's. It's only 6 songs and probably not much more that 30 minutes. This is their only Lp but I think they have one 45 also.
Review made by Phillip R. Eubanks (of Plastic Magic)/2013
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