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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Columbia Royal Blue Record

In the early 1930s, in the worst throes of The Great Depression, industry everywhere suffered. But perhaps not nearly as bad as the recording industry. In the previous decade, record sales were at an all time peak. But then came the stock market crash of 1929 and suddenly, people were having to make choices not on what they want, but what they need. For just survival.

And making it worse for the record sales was radio. There was really no point in buying the latest hit songs with what little money you had when you could hear them ad nauseum on the radio. And most people didn't.

However this meant the recording industry had to come up with brand new gimmicks. Daring ones.

The Columbia Royal Blue Record wasn't the first "coloured vinyl" (actually, shellac.) That goes way back to cylinder records.

And early Vocalion Records were reddish brown. But shellac colours were extremely rare on disc records. They were virtually all black.

And if you were a Columbia phonograph dealer struggling to stay alive in late 1932 (In those days, your phonograph dealer was usually also your record store.), you had a serious problem. No one is buying the records. And the radio stations were killing you.

So Columbia unveiled their Royal Blue records. With this record, which described the basic terms for the dealer.

They sounded amazingly good for a 78 and if you play them today with a 3.5mil diamond stylus and a magnetic cartridge, there is VERY little surface noise.

The Royal Blue line however only lasted a year. 


  1. Royal Blue Records stayed in print into late 1935 at Columbia's eastern US plant in Bridgeport, CT. The western plant, in Los Angeles, had Royal Blue laminate left over and kept using it into 1936 - sometimes even on Columbia's sister labels, Brunswick, Melotone, and Vocalion.


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