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Huntington's Roots in Early Rock 'n' Roll

Author highlights Huntington Station recording studio's part in early days of rock 'n' roll.

Who knew Huntington Station was home to an independent record label and vinyl pressing plant in the early days of rock 'n' roll?

The studio and plant on Broadway are long gone, with the building now housing a car rental office, but the songs and memories live on.

Stories about rock 'n' roll's early era took center stage at the Huntington Public Library when author John Broven talked about his book, "Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers," last week.

Broven, who now lives in Cold Spring Harbor, is a retired British banker who parlayed his long-time interest in things rock 'n' roll into articles for two music magazines and two other music-related books. He shared stories of the early period and his father-in-law Clark Galehouse's Golden Crest studio, which was located on Broadway in Huntington Station.

"I call it part of Huntington's secret history," Broven told those attending the lecture.

But Golden Crest isn't the only bit of local rock 'n' roll history – two other early independent music publishers he interviewed also lived in the area. One, Gene Goodman, brother of American jazz musician, clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman, just celebrated his 95th birthday, Broven said, while the other, Hymie Weiss of Woodbury, passed away in 2007.

Broven said the recording business was wide open at the beginning, a Wild West where just about anything went. He called the independent label owners "the ultimate risk takers" as they recorded new acts, pressed sample records and distributed them to radio stations, hoping for airplay so their client bands would become hit makers.

Golden Crest had some rock 'n' roll and R&B, as well as classical, educational and softer teen-oriented material. It had a Top 40 hit with a single from The Wailers, "Tall Cool One," that was No. 36 during a 13-week stay on the charts in the summer of 1959. The song made it to No. 38 on the charts again in 1964, when Galehouse took advantage of The Beatles' popularity and reissued a 1959 Wailers' album, "Fabulous Wailers," titled the second time around as "Wailer's Wail." Another Wailers song, jazzy instrumental "Mau-Mau," made it to No. 68 on the charts.

Broven explained that Golden Crest started out in a garage in Roslyn, then moved to Huntington Station by 1952, where eventually there was a warehouse, print shop and recording studio, in addition to the pressing plant. The business was a family affair as Galehouse named the pressing part of his business Shelley Productions, after his daughter, and a teen label also was called Shelley.

Aside from being a convenient one-stop shop, Golden Crest broke ground in another area. "Their innovation was to have a photograph of the artists on the label," Broven said.

Copies of Broven's book can be ordered through Book Revue or Amazon, or from the University of Illinois Press (orders@press.uchicago.edu or call 800-621-2736). It is chock-full of rock 'n' roll and R&B history, loaded with detailed interviews and the stories of the back-room producers, publishers and performers who helped shape rock 'n' roll into the major industry it is today.

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