Saturday, June 4, 2016

Vanity of Vanities - The Special Edition Label (1962-1990)

Vanity of Vanities - The Special Edition Label (1962-1990)

I would imagine most Texas music specialists have never heard of the Special Edition label out of Houston. This is not surprising. Although it lasted 28 years -- a staggering amount of time by local label standards -- and had at least 118 releases in all formats, very little of what they produced is of interest to collectors today. Special Edition was in fact a vanity record operation run by ACA Studios, used by musicians and bands who recorded there and then paid ACA to press a small quantity of vinyl for them. Predictably, hotel lounge singers, high school bands, and church choirs were the label's main clientele, but vanity labels have a way of surprising you, and lingering in the background are some appealing and now-rare R&B, black gospel, funk, country, zydeco, and punk rock sounds.

It's tempting the say that ACA went into steep decline starting in the late sixties, with its last 20 years producing almost nothing in the way of enduring music. But this would probably misstate things. ACA never intended to be a haven for country, rock, R&B, or soul musicians and labels, and the fact that they recorded so many great singles in those genres in the 1950s and early '60s can be attributable to the climate of those times rather than any perceived direction by the studio. The people making singles like crazy in the '50s were driven by dreams of stardom -- at least locally -- through radio airplay, but by the early '70s, radio had become completely corporatized, and those dreams were largely dead. The days of Macy Lela Henry enthusiastically ushering in local talent to record at ACA week after week were never to be repeated.

Bill Holford began mastering records in 1948 with the number 1000. Forty-two years and 6,000 masters later, Holford turned off the lathe one last time after master #7039, side two of a gospel LP by Kurt Thompson on Special Edition. The date was May 30, 1990. It was a quiet end to an operation that had once loomed large on the Texas scene.


The ACA master files (since 2011, publicly available in their entirety at the University of Houston Archives) are the primary source for this discography. Where possible, I have supplemented this research with other sources. It should be noted that although the files have columns for mastering date and label, these spaces are sometimes blank. Nor is the data always matched by the record. Some masters listed in the files show "Special Edition" for the label, but reportedly came out on other labels. It's also probable that some masters listed without a label were released on Special Edition. I've listed the mastering date wherever known; the session date is also listed in some examples. In most cases, the master numbers serve as the label's catalog number.

The files do not list individual song titles for LPs.

Artie Golden and the Golden Flames - Special Edition 2486 (mastered May 17, 1962)
ACA 5727 Dear Mary (Pettit-Golden-Holford)
ACA 5728 The Night is Young (Burton)

NB: Doowop. Golden also had efforts on Dart, Dodge, Sunshine, Bunky, among others. "Burton" is possibly Willard Burton aka Piano Slim, and the group is possibly Burton's. 

Piano Slim (mastered October 24, 1964) (recorded July 23, 1964)
ACA 5799 Purple Onion
ACA 5800 Teardrops of Love

NB: No copies known to exist. This is the same Piano Slim aka Willard Burton who had such singles as "Lot of Shaking, Lot of Jiving" (C and P) and "Whammy in the Gizmo" (Dart).  The Purple Onion was a local club in Houston that featured such talent as Piano Slim, Bongo Joe, and others. 

Peppermint Harris (Special Edition 1966)
ACA 5893 Twenty-Four Hours
ACA 5894 I Had a Dream

NB: Recorded January 19, 1965 (but not released until 1966?). A strong effort in the Duke-Peacock vein with a tight band. No mastering date listed. 

Jay Meadors (no date - 1966)
ACA 6236 Nina
ACA 6237 Woodchopper's Ball

Merely Daily (no date - 1967)
ACA 6262 LP Side 1
ACA 6263 LP Side 2

Mary Dee (no date - 1967)
ACA 6276 "On a Clear Day" LP Side 1
ACA 6277 LP Side 2

Patty and Charles Gribble (mastered March 11, 1969)
ACA 6332 EP Side 1
ACA 6333 EP Side 2

Kay Holford (mastered November 26, 1973)
ACA 6496 LP Side 1
ACA 6497 LP Side 2

Mrs. Harry D. Wilson (recorded February 6, 1974)
ACA 6507 "A Party with Mrs. Harry D. Wilson (Olivet Toadvin Wilson)" LP Side 1
ACA 6508 LP Side 2

NB: Home session from 94 year-old pianist. Mrs. Wilson was the mother of Cajun chef and TV personality Justin Wilson. Wilson had some of his albums mastered by ACA. A true vanity release, only intended to be given away to family and friends. 

Heard here.

Mike Wiggins (mastered October 17, 1974)
ACA 6538 Rain
ACA 6539 We All Create Our Own Kind of Hell

NB: Country artist from Linden, TX. 

Tony Gorody (mastered October 29, 1974)
ACA 6542 "Tony Gorody Plays and Sings the Warwick Favorites" LP Side 1
ACA 6543 LP Side 2

Raymond Green (mastered January 16, 1975)
ACA 6552 I'm Glad About It
ACA 6553 Fill My Cup

The Mitchell Chorus (recorded April 10, 1975)
ACA 6557 EP Side 1
ACA 6558 EP Side 2

St. Philip Presbyterian Church Choice Choir (mastered June 12, 1975)
ACA 6563 LP Side 1
ACA 6564 LP Side 2

Westbury High School Stage Band (mastered June 23, 1975)
ACA 6565 LP Side 1
ACA 6566 LP Side 2

Southern Travelers (mastered July 18, 1975)
ACA 6567 Something Came Over Me
ACA 6568 Jesus Remember

Barnes Spiritual Five (mastered August 18, 1975)
ACA 6571 LP Side 1
ACA 6572 LP Side 2

The Mountain Vagabonds (Die Bergvagabunden) (mastered September 19, 1975)
ACA 6575 LP Side 1
ACA 6576 LP Side 2

The Good Hope Celestial Choir (recorded November 22, 1975)
ACA 6597 "Take Me Back" LP Side 1
ACA 6598 LP Side 2

The Houston Post Office Chorale 
ACA 6601 "God So Loved the World" LP Side 1
ACA 6602 Side 2

Unknown artist (mastered April 8, 1976)
ACA 6613 unknown title
ACA 6614 La Vina del Senor

Texas Bible College (mastered April 20, 1976)
ACA 6617 "It's Jesus" LP Side 1
ACA 6618 LP Side 2 

The New Commitment (mastered April 20, 1976)
ACA 6619 LP Side 1
ACA 6620 LP Side 2

Gerald and Marguerite Pauley (mastered June 1, 1976)
ACA 6625 LP Side 1
ACA 6626 LP Side 2

All-City Boy's Choir (mastered June 28, 1976)
ACA 6629 LP Side 1
ACA 6630 LP Side 2

Ball Senior High School (mastered June 28, 1976)
ACA 6631 LP Side 1
ACA 6632 LP Side 2

Hott Butter Soul (mastered July 7, 1976)
ACA 6633 Come Walk with Me
ACA 6634 Gettin' the Funk

The Gospel Tornadoes (mastered July 12, 1976)
ACA 6635 I Feel the Spirit
ACA 6636 Peace in the Valley

Jerry Flewellen (mastered July 26, 1976)
ACA 6637 The Presidential Candidate
ACA 6638 I'm Partial

All-City Symphony Orchestra (mastered August 12, 1976)
ACA 6639 LP Side 1
ACA 6640 LP Side 2

Gustavo Palumbo (mastered August 25, 1976)
ACA 6641 "The Warwick Hotel" LP Side 1
ACA 6642 LP Side 2

Jeff Lawrence (mastered August 23, 1976)
ACA 6643 Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song
ACA 6644 Hallways of my Mind

L. Thorn and E. Holton / The Singing Assembly (mastered April 18, 1977)
ACA 6669 He's My Friend
ACA 6670 Been Born Again

Martha Williford and Louise Trotter (Special Edition 770412) (mastered April 26, 1977)
ACA 6671 "An Evening at the Brownstone" LP Side 1
ACA 6672 LP Side 2

FHS Singers/Furr High School (mastered May 6, 1977)
ACA 6673 LP Side 1
ACA 6674 LP Side 2

The Hayward Singers (mastered May 9, 1977)
ACA 6675 God's Plan
ACA 6676 Never Alone

Tony Gorody (mastered November 1, 1977)
ACA 6692 "Tony Gorody at the Warwick, Vol. 3" LP Side 1
ACA 6693 LP Side 2

The Northland Gospel Singers featuring the Mighty Spirituals (mastered November 18, 1977)
ACA 6694 Jesus is Alright
ACA 6995 You Ought to Know Jesus

NB: ACA file lists A title as "People Get Ready" and B title as "You Ought to Know Who."

Harold Farb (mastered December 8, 1977)
ACA 6696 "Farb Sings Jolson" LP Side 1
ACA 6670 LP Side 2

NB: Internet sources list the label as ACA.

St. Anne's Choir (mastered January 31, 1978)
ACA 6698 "Music at St. Anne's" LP Side 1
ACA 6699 LP Side 2

Henry Jackson (recorded February 9, 1978)
ACA 6700 Let Them Lay Where They Fall
ACA 6701 I'll Wake Up and Wonder Why I Cared

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (mastered March 13, 1978)
ACA 6706 LP Side 1
ACA 6707 LP Side 2

Cougar Brass (mastered May 23, 1978)
ACA 6710 LP Side 1
ACA 6711 LP Side 2

Blume's Orchestra (mastered August 8, 1978)
ACA 6714 LP Side 1
ACA 6715 LP Side 2

Dick Barlow (mastered August 31, 1978)
ACA 6716 "Dick Barlow at the Warwick" LP Side 1
ACA 6717 LP Side 2

Orgullo de la Frontera (?) (mastered December 4, 1978)
ACA 6722 Orgullo de la Frontera
ACA 6723 Trasnochador y Vagabundo

Stan Vancura (mastered January 3, 1979)
ACA 6726 Woman Why Don't You Quit Walking Around in My Mind
ACA 6727 Call the Law on Me

Carroll Atchison (mastered June 1, 1979)
ACA 6740-R "Come to the Chapel" LP Side 1
ACA 6741-R LP Side 2

Gary Robbins (mastered May 2, 1979)
ACA 6742 Walk a Little Plainer, Daddy (sic)
ACA 6743 My Mrs. Right

Bill Moffitt (mastered May 14, 1979)
ACA 6744 "Southwest Camps University of Houston Band" (1 sided LP)

Jake Thorpe (mastered June 1, 1979)
ACA 6749 "Feed My Sheep" LP Side 1
ACA 6750 LP Side 2

Stan Vancura (Special Edition 5001) (mastered July 10, 1979)
ACA 6751 I've Got to Change
ACA 6752 Pick Me Up on Your Way Down

NB: ACA file lists label as "Cresco."

Warwick Hotel 15th Year (mastered September 16, 1979)
ACA 6759 LP Side 1
ACA 6760 LP Side 2

Dan Thacker (mastered September 26, 1979)
ACA 6761 Santa Claus is Coming Back to Our Town
ACA 6762 Christmastime is Here Again

Faith Lutheran Choir (mastered October 12, 1979)
ACA 6763 "Songs of Faith" LP Side 1
ACA 6764 LP Side 2

Henry Jackson (mastered January 17, 1980)
ACA 6775 Best Man at Your Wedding
ACA 6776 Lips that Kiss so Sweet

Lake Charles Messiah Chorus (mastered January 17, 1980)
ACA 6777 LP Side 1
ACA 6778 LP Side 2
ACA 6779 LP Side 3
ACA 6780 LP Side 4

Cougar Brass (recorded February 24, 1980)
ACA 6793 LP Side 1 (1 sided LP)

South Union Adult Choir (mastered June 13, 1980)
ACA 6794 "We Shall Wear a Crown" LP Side 1
ACA 6795 LP Side 2

Glenn Burns and Pati Haworth (mastered June 13, 1980)
ACA 6798 "An Evening at the Warwick Hotel" LP Side 1
ACA 6799 LP Side 2

The Houston Harmonettes (mastered June 13, 1980)
ACA 6800 Forgive Me, Lord
ACA 6801 Payday is Coming After While

NB: A longtime Houston all-female gospel quartet, they were formed in the 1950s, but this is their only recording that I'm aware of. Lists the street address of ACA Studio's final location, 8208 Westpark Drive.

Arthur Poister (mastered July 11, 1980)
ACA 6802 LP Side 1
ACA 6803 LP Side 2

Christ Church Cathedral (mastered July 11, 1980)
ACA 6804 "Lift Up Your Voice" LP Side 1
ACA 6805 LP Side 2

Roger Guillory - Pyramid (mastered October 14, 1980)
ACA 6821 Yearning for Your Love
ACA 6822 Sincerely I Love You

Stewart Spiritual Singers (mastered October 27, 1980)
ACA 6823 Oh, When I Come
ACA 6824 Jesus is the Best Friend

Johnny Blaine (mastered December 18, 1980)
ACA 6829 I Just Want to be a Country Singer
ACA 6830 I'm Stayin' Stoned

NB: Possibly Pee Wee Trahan aka Johnny Rebel? He had recorded under the name Johnny Blaine in the 1960s. 

Lust (mastered January 7, 1981)
ACA 6831 Right for Night
ACA 6832 Get a Little Lovin'

Southland Singers (mastered April 1, 1981)
ACA 6835 Keep on Movin'
ACA 6836 Working on a Building

Jackson Boone and the Blue Jean Cowboys (mastered May 6, 1981)
ACA 6839 Big Armadillos and Lone Star Beer
ACA 6840 Ragtime Annie

Bill Hemsley (mastered May 27, 1981)
ACA 6843 Satin Doll
ACA 6844 The Purple Horizon

Loose Change (mastered July 1, 1981)
ACA 6847 Agent Orange (stereo)
ACA 6848 Agent Orange (mono)

C.J. Cole (mastered June 30, 1981)
ACA 6851 Big D

NB: Only one side noted for this single. Listed as "Cody Jack Cole" in ACA file. 

The Full House Band (mastered August 20, 1981)
ACA 6852 The Life I Chose
ACA 6853 Evil

The Full House Band (mastered August 20, 1981)
ACA 6854 Painted Faces
ACA 6855 Movin' 

Genuine Stairs (mastered October 5, 1981) picture sleeve
ACA 6860 Astroluxe/Sorority Sue (EP)
ACA 6861 Black Moped/Rockin' a Hard Place 

NB: Hard rock. Title on sleeve is "The Human Years." An early Andy Bradley production. 

Carolyn Rae (mastered October 13, 1981)
ACA 6862 Starting to Feel Like a Woman Again
ACA 6863 Second Time Around

Frank Bettencourt and Orchestra (mastered October 13, 1981)
ACA 6864 "At the Warwick" LP Side 1
ACA 6865 LP Side 2

Doug Driesel (mastered December 22, 1981)
ACA 6870 'Til I Get Drunk Again
ACA 6871 Ready, Willing, and Stable

St. James (mastered March 12, 1982)
ACA 6874 I Miss You
ACA 6875 Mr. Bass

The Gospel Assembly Band (mastered June 7, 1982)
ACA 6878 LP Side 1
ACA 6879 LP Side 2

The Wisdomaires (mastered June 10, 1982)
ACA 6882-R God Trusted Us
ACA 6883-R God Trusted Us (Part 2?)

NB: ACA file credits Winston Brooks. 

W. E. Tyler / William Arnt (mastered July 12, 1982)
ACA 6884 The Tennessee Waltz
ACA 6885 Texas Women Turn Me On

Bob Stewart (mastered July 27, 1982)
ACA 6890 Rainbow Road
ACA 6891 Tennessee Woman (You're Driving Me Crazy)

Charlie Shaffer Group (mastered September 29, 1982)
ACA 6898 "Warwick Hotel" LP Side 1
ACA 6899 LP Side 2

St. Mary's Catholic Church Choir (mastered October 21, 1982)
ACA 6904 LP Side 1
ACA 6905 LP Side 2

Joe Hughes (mastered December 1, 1982)
ACA 6908 I Know You Like That
ACA 6909 Boogie Down

NB: This is Joe "Guitar" Hughes. 

The Scarecrows (mastered February 1, 1983)
ACA 6914 (I Don't Wanna Be) No Dust in the Corner/Too Late Blues EP
ACA 6915 Joe's Problem/Bellboy

NB: Punk rock. ACA lists artist as "David McKinsey."

Madam Cosby and the Excelsiors (mastered February 7, 1983)
ACA 6916 Touch Me, Oh Lord
ACA 6917 Leanin' and Dependin'

Rick Hickman (recorded November 8, 1982)
ACA 6918 Time is Long
ACA 6919 Closer to Me

New Born (mastered March 21, 1983)
ACA 6924 "Are You Ready" LP Side 1
ACA 6925 LP Side 2

Charlie Shaffer (mastered July 20, 1983)
ACA 6934 "Charlie Shaffer at the Warwick" LP Side 1
ACA 6935 LP Side 2

Memorial Drive United Methodist Church (mastered July 20, 1983)
ACA 6936 LP Side 1
ACA 6937 LP Side 2

St. John the Divine Choir (mastered August 29, 1983)
ACA 6938 LP Side 1
ACA 6939 LP Side 2

Bob Hart (mastered September 19, 1983)
ACA 6946 In Cold Blood
ACA 6947 In Cold Blood (Part 2?)

ACA 6950 Blinded by Love
ACA 6951 Long Long Live Rock 'n Roll (sic)

South Main Baptist Church Choir (recorded April 19, 1984)
ACA 6952 LP Side 1
ACA 6953 LP Side 2

Stellar Unit (mastered July 12, 1984)
ACA 6954 LP Side 1
ACA 6955 LP Side 2

Texas Southern University Chorus (mastered July 12, 1984)
ACA 6956 "In Memorium - Ruthabel Rollins" LP Side 1
ACA 6957 LP Side 2

Warwick Hotel 20th Anniversary (recorded August 8, 1984)
ACA 6962 LP Side 1
ACA 6963 LP Side 2

Burk (mastered July 28, 1984)
ACA 6966 Feelin' the Heat
ACA 6967 Rock and Roll Fever

Dusk (mastered September 14, 1984)
ACA 6968 Hearts to You
ACA 6969 Tell Me About Love

South Main Baptist Church Choir (mastered October 30, 1984)
ACA 6973 LP Side 1
ACA 6974 LP Side 2

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Choir (mastered November 12, 1984)
ACA 6979 LP Side 1
ACA 6980 LP Side 2

Roy Mullins (mastered January 5, 1985)
ACA 6983 Casey Ridge Rag
ACA 6984 Dirty Dawg Blues

Gospel Soul Vibrators (mastered January 14, 1985)
ACA 6985 Where He Leads Me
ACA 6986 Do You Know Him

LC Donatto and the Slippers - Zoddico Band (mastered May 13, 1985)
ACA 6991 Don't Tell Me About Your Worries
ACA 6992 The Pop Special

NB: Recorded April 20, 1985. Donatto had been a mainstay on the Houston zydeco scene for years. This may be his first recording. 

Terry Inscore (mastered May 10, 1985)
ACA 6993 Lookin' Back Over Our Lives
ACA 6994 Rattlesnake Blues

St. Cyril Singers (mastered June 15, 1985)
ACA 6995 LP Side 1
ACA 6996 LP Side 2

Pat Babin (mastered July 9, 1985)
ACA 6997 If God is Dead
ACA 6998 US of A

The Potter and the Clay (mastered August 5, 1985)
ACA 6999 Nicodemus
ACA 6700 That Same God

Ricky Diaz (mastered August 8, 1985)
ACA 7003 "Warwick Hotel" LP Side 1
ACA 7004 LP Side 2

Cliff Luckey (?) (mastered August 9, 1985)
ACA 7005 It's Been Too Long
ACA 7006 Crystal Woman

Russell Jackson & His Band on the Strand (mastered November 6, 1985) picture sleeve
ACA 7015 My Galveston Gal
ACA 7016 Struttin' on the Strand

NB: A charming effort from this Houston jazz group (formed in 1953). "My Galveston Gal" is the 1933 Phil Harris song, which, according to the liner notes here, "was resurrected for the renewal of the Mardi Gras Festival in Galveston in 1985." The record came with an elaborate gatefold cardboard picture sleeve. No band members are named, but the names on their music stands ("Artie Pshaw," "Jack Beergarden") show that Jackson & company had a sense of humor. 

Mike Shrewsbury (mastered November 6, 1985)
ACA 7017 If Every Day Could be Like Christmas
ACA 7018 I'll be Home for Christmas

LC Donatto and the Slippers (mastered November 19, 1985)
ACA 7019 You're in Trouble
ACA 7020 Good Morning Virgie Mae

Terry Inscore (mastered February 5, 1987)
ACA 7030 Lolita from Lomita
ACA 7031 Rollin' Back Stranger

NB: Inscore also had a single on Odle.

Charles Rowland (Roland Smith) (mastered July 29, 1988)
ACA 7032 Shangrila
ACA 7033 I Believe

Charles Rowland (Roland Smith) (mastered April 10, 1989)
ACA 7034 Just a Closer Walk with Thee
ACA 7035 New York, New York

Rev. Kurt Thompson, Kenny Smith and Friends (mastered May 30, 1990)
ACA 7038 "You Never Gave Up on Me" LP Side 1
ACA 7039 LP Side 2

NB: 7039 is the final ACA master. 

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