In 1998 I started collecting old radios from the 1930’s and 1940’s. It was about that same time when my aunt, Margaret Hall, gave me the below picture disc from her record collection. It was a nice visual to show the kind of music that would have been played on the radios of the 1940’s.
It’s a 78 RPM Vogue Picture Record with the colorful artwork right under the grooves. The 10-inch record was put together with an aluminum core, paper artwork, and clear vinyl holding it all together. When picture records came out in May of 1946, they were popular for the novelty, and for the improved sound of the vinyl compared with the older shellac records. However, Vogue records were only manufactured until April of 1947, because the company, Sav-Way Industries in Detroit, had financial problems. In total, there were about 74 different records released during that one year.
I collected a few Vogue records over the years. The 1940’s artwork was done by multiple artists, so the styles varied. I really like the dance orchestra theme of the record my aunt gave me, and the cool jazz look of the instruments on the above record. By the way, “Musicomania” preceded Beatlemania by almost two decades.
Although the songs were usually well known, like George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”, the artists were not necessarily well known, nor well named, like…The Hour Of Charm All Girl Orchestra.
“Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” was a big hit for Scotty Wiseman (who wrote it) and his wife Lulu Belle. It was also a hit for Gene Autry. The 1946 Vogue picture record has the look of post-war America. Van Morrison must have liked the title, because he used the same line for his song, “Have I Told You Lately”, that was made popular by Rod Stewart. They’re both good songs.
“Stardust” is one of the most-recorded songs of all time. You can see that instead of being recorded by a Big Band, it was done by a Large Chorus.
And this one was by a small band…The Charlie Shavers Quintet…although from the artwork you might think it’s a trio.
One of the nice things about Vogue records is that you get completely different artwork on the flip sides. Below are the same six records shown above, but with the artwork from the other sides. You can click on the images to enlarge.
Vogue picture records are collectible, but generally not extremely rare, because who would throw them away? Values vary greatly, ranging from about $25 to over $100 for titles that are available; however, a couple of extra-rare ones could cost into the thousands.
The picture record process was also used for some children’s recordings and sporadically for novelty collectibles, but picture discs (as they are now called) have never been consistently produced.
In 1978, I picked up this 33 1/3 RPM album of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:
The famous album cover was on one side, and the drum head on the other, although the record was produced later with the cover photo on both sides. In 2017, Apple Records recreated the picture disc for the Sgt. Pepper remix.
Linda Ronstadt’s Living In The USA album was also available as a picture disc in 1978. There was a wide variety of artists and music styles that got the picture disc treatment in the late 70’s and early 80’s, then sporadically in the following decades. They were usually limited novelty items rather than primary releases, plus Compact Discs mostly replaced records in the late ‘80’s.
Our picture discs are currently being displayed on this bookcase. I’ve sold most of my old radios, but you can still see a couple dozen of them in the photo (click to enlarge). You can view the full radio collection at my other site, Radios Past. Just click here https://radiospast.com
With vinyl albums making a comeback, maybe picture discs will make a comeback too.
Bonus Disc: Almost forgot…I have this 45-RPM single.
This is a 20th Anniversary 7-inch picture Disc of “I Feel Fine”, which came out in England in 1984. More of The Beatles’ singles got this same treatment at that time.
Update 2021: Just when you think picture discs are a thing of the past, Apple releases this one on October 15th, 2021.