The payola scandal of 1959 carried over into 1960, but the ultimate impact on the record industry proved to be minimal. While it was true that sales declined slightly in 1960 (less than .25%) and that the major labels improved their position in the market in 1960, it would be an error to assume that ASCAP and the major labels had won their battle with the independents. Rather, it was a case of the labels previously known as the majors turning more and more to the popular rock and roll genre that had been championed by the independents, and by the development of new "majors." By 1960, an increasing portion of America's entertainment dollar was being spent on records. This phenomenon had not gone unnoticed by media corporations such as ABC, MGM, Warner Brothers and United Artists. With the financial backing of these parent companies, these labels were able to sustain a level of success that smaller, regional labels could not reach. In 1960, the five original majors and these "new majors" occupied the top eight spots in Billboard popularity ranking.
While the major labels didn't exactly experience a resurgence of their chart presence in 1960, they could at least be said to have "stopped the bleeding." The five majors occupied four of the top five spots in the Billboard popularity ranking and their share of the popularity points rebounded from its low in 1959 (23%) to 34%. But that was still far from its 1956 share of 66%. In terms of the number of top twenty records produced, the majors were no better than 1959 (24%) with 37 of the 150 records that made the top twenty.
For the most part, the returning success of the old "majors" was the result of the recruitment of rock and roll acts to the labels. RCA (which had embraced rock and roll from the beginning with its purchase of Elvis Presley's contract from Sun) reclaimed its position as the top label as it welcomed Elvis Presley back from the army. Presley had five top twenty records, including three number ones: "Stuck On You," "Are You Lonesome Tonight" and "It's Now Or Never." But it wasn't just Presley's performance that made RCA number one. They also boasted artists Sam Cooke ("Chain Gang" -- #2), Floyd Cramer ("Last Date" -- #2), Jim Reeves ("He'll Have To Go" -- #2) and Neil Sedaka ("Stairway to Heaven" -- #9). Columbia's number two ranking wasn't due to rock and roll artists, but instead the production of a country disc and an orchestra instrumental. Marty Robbins' "El Paso" was the first number one of 1960 and was in the top ten the first seven weeks of the year. Percy Faith's "Theme From a Summer Place" was the universally recognized top record of 1960 and spent eight weeks in the top spot. Mercury made the top five with Johnny Preston's number one, "Running Bear," but mainly due to the success of the more r & b sound of Brook Benton. Benton had solo success ("Kiddio" -- #7) and as a duet with Dinah Washington ("A Rockin' Good Way" -- #7; "Baby, You've Got What It Takes" -- #5). Decca's top five ranking was solely due to Brenda Lee who had the label's only top twenty records, including the number one's "I Want to Be Wanted" and "I'm Sorry." Capitol's hard times continued as the label only had two top twenty records with Jeanne Black's "answer" song, "He'll Have to Stay" being its best at #4.
By 1960, MGM could be considered a "new major." It had all the characteristics of the initial "majors" as it had its own record manufacturing plant along with a distribution network. It was the third most popular label of 1960, mostly because of Connie Francis. Two years earlier the label was ready to terminate her contract. Francis' first ten releases had flopped and MGM notified her that her recording session on October 2nd, 1957 would be her last. She was encouraged by her father to make an old 1923 song, "Who's Sorry Now" her last effort. The record appeared to be doing no better than her previous efforts, but on the January 1st broadcast of American Bandstand, Dick Clark played the song and commented "here's a new girl singer headed straight for the number one spot." It didn't quite make the top, but it reached number four in March and enjoyed eleven weeks in the top twenty. MGM continued to be grateful for Clark's selection of "Who's Sorry Now" as a Bandstand entry. The premier female vocalist had seven top twenty records in 1960, scoring two number ones with "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "My Heart Has A Mind of Its Own." The label also reached the top spot with Mark Dinning's epitome of teen tragedy, "Teen Angel."
ABC-Paramount had begun in 1955 and risen to the top of the Billboard popularity in 1959. ABC took advantage of its association with American Bandstand and put the third most records in the top twenty in 1960 (9) with artists such as Steve Lawrence ("Footsteps -- #7), Paul Anka (Puppy Love -- #2) and Lloyd Price ("Lady Luck" -- #14). And with the signing of Atlantic's Ray Charles ("Georgia On My Mind" -- #1), the label insured continued success.
Warner Brothers was not pleased in 1957 when its movie and television star Tab Hunter produced a number one record for Dot records. While the company had exclusive rights to Hunter as an actor, it didn't have a record division and quickly set out to rectify the situation. The label began operation in 1958. In 1959 it had its first top ten record with "Kookie, Kookie" by Ed Byrnes. In 1960 it followed that with another spinoff from its television series, "Sixteen Candles" by Connie Stevens (who played the character, Cricket, in "Hawaiian Eye"). But the label's big success in 1960 came from its signing of Don and Phil Everly when they split with Cadence records over royalties and disagreements over musical direction. Warner Brothers offered the duo a ten year million dollar contract and the Everly's quickly signed. For their first release on Warner Brothers, they selected "Cathy's Clown" which they had written. "Cathy's Clown" was number one for five weeks in the spring of 1960 and would be the only number one the Everly Brothers would have for the label.
The Everly Brothers' former label, Cadence, was still able to get some mileage out of their top artists in 1960 with "Let It Be Me" (#7) and "When Will I Be Loved" (#8) both making the top ten. ("When Will I Be Loved" and "Cathy's Clown" were both in the top twenty on July 18th.) Cub records rounded out the top ten labels of 1960 with two successful Jimmy Jones' records: "Good Timin'" (#3) and "Handy Man" (#2). (Cub was a subsidiary of MGM which was established to handle the company's "rhythm and blues" releases.)
Many small labels continued to catch lightning in a bottle in 1960. Herald ("Stay" by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs), Leader ("Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" by Brian Hyland) and Lute ("Alley-Oop" by The Hollywood Argyles) all had only one record in the top twenty, but they all went to number one.
A total of 55 labels managed to place records in the top twenty in 1960, with thirteen having number ones. Of those, two newcomers were of special significance. Parkway records was established in 1958 as a partner with Cameo and both labels benefitted from their close association with American Bandstand. While the labels' artists enjoyed exposure on the nationally broadcast daily television show, Bandstand host Dick Clark noted that the program benefitted from being able to tap into the label's talent pool at almost a moment's notice when other acts would cancel. Cameo's 1960 success was dependent on Bobby Rydell's seven top twenty entries with "Wild One" reaching number two. Parkway's big record was Chubby Checker's "The Twist" (#1) a song which Dick Clark had a major role in promoting to take advantage of the new dance the teens were doing on Bandstand. Even more would be heard from Parkway in succeeding years as "The Twist" would become a national craze.
Another harbinger of the future in 1960 was the release of "Money (That's What I Want)" by Tamla records. Berry Gordy had been writing songs for performers such as Jackie Wilson in the Detroit area when he realized in 1959 that the real money making place in the industry was in the production of records. He borrowed $800 and set up Tamla records. Jackie Wilson introduced him to Barett Strong who he signed to the label. Strong teamed up with the label's receptionist, Janie Bradford, to write "Money." After its release, the demand for the song was too great for the fledgling label to handle so it was leased to Anna records and was distributed by Chess records. It would rise as high as #23 on the pop chart and stands as the first hit record for what would become the Motown empire. In addition to the success of "Money," Tamla was also responsible for the recordings by Marv Johnson which were leased to United Artists. Marv Johnson had three top ten hits in 1960.
By the end of the year, the payola scandal that had shaken the industry had played itself out with hearings by the Federal Trade Commission, The Federal Communications Commission, and ultimately Congress. For the most part, the record labels emerged unscathed while the careers of many disc jockeys, most notably Alan Freed, were ended. Dick Clark rid himself of all his music industry holdings and, continuing to claim that he had never accepted payola, emerged relatively unscathed. Rock and roll and the music industry continued to prosper.
Labels such as Tamla and Chancellor were continuing to show in 1960 that the record business was indeed the home of the American dream if you could just find the right record. But often times it was the record companies that prospered while performers profited very little. In 1959 Jobete Music, the song-publishing company for Motown, registered a copyright for "Money (That's What I Want)." It listed Barrett Strong as one of the songwriters. Three years later, his name was removed (apparently by Motown executives). The song not only had its original success in 1959, but also made the top twenty in 1964 by The Kingsmen, and was featured by the Beatles on their second U.S. album in 1964, "The Beatles' Second Album." All of this was making money for the record companies, but not for Barrett Strong. You can just hear him shouting, "The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees I need money, that's what I want."