Lost in the Past Century – Century Records

Before School of Rock there was Century Records. Nothing against the 6-year-old guitar prodigy or the teen wonderkid singer songwriter, but who doesn’t love a creaky out of tune cover song played by a run-of-the-mill middle school band?

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Century Records was largely a franchise operation. Local recording companies across USA peddled Century’s LP Packages then sent their school recordings to Saugus, California to be pressed and printed. Century was the brain child of a guy named Keyser who was deep into plastics and vinyl.  In fact, Century eventually became a strictly plastics operation and stopped its franchising of school records all together.  But not before creating a library of unique no-frills LPs for amateur tin-ear archeologists to unearth and revive.

DSC_8306 copyALBUMCOVERS GROUP

In our unrelenting mission to rescue junked albums, we first ran into these LPs in thrift store bargain bins. They usually have a pretty generic cover with a distinctive sketch of the Century Records Building on the back. Some of the tracks are are pretty good, though we prefer the cuts with plenty of rough around the edges. These numbers illustrate the beauty of the Century Record concept: everyone can get a shot at being a recording artist and have the LP to prove it!

Such dillies include Alameda High School Band’s version of Greensleeves on yellow vinyl, the Byrd Junior High 1964 Band’s medley of hits from West Side Story, and the Wilson Junior High School Chorus’ 1967 rendition of the Impossible Dream. Standards like these become instant entertainment in a way that karaoke never could be.

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A few years ago, it dawned on us that we might be able to find the Century building as sketched on the back of the LPs– after all, Saugus is practically in our own backyard. Armed with a map, some Century LPs, and a camera, we headed north on Highway 5. We were certain this distinctive looking building would be easy to spot. No such luck.

We showed the LP to the owners of a local coffee shop, several gas station attendants, and even the woman on duty at the historical society.  No one had heard of the place let alone seen this building. Everyone was really nice though, and the historical society lady even thanked us for educating her about her own town. Alas Century Records was obsolete– erased from the local memory and urban landscape. We’ll just have to turn to the turntable for solace in Wilson Junior High’s The Impossible Dream.

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4 thoughts on “Lost in the Past Century – Century Records

  1. Would you like a salesman’s manual from century records. Pretty good condition, 1964. Free. From my dad.s he was a recording tech there. Has the century records binder and really vintage sales-speak. Hilarious and sad at the same time.

    1. Wow, thanks for getting in touch. That would be awesome! Is your dad still around? Did you ever visit that iconic building that is on the back of the record albums?

  2. Lost dad in1987. Gave away most of the records to a retirement home. His name is on the labels of many of the records er still find in some thrift shops. Nice to see! I remember visiting the factory only a few times. I think I remember the processing room, but very dimly. I remember the smell of the records being made. I remember the red blue and gold records, I think. I mostly remember desert-like landscaping, the crunch of rocks instead of glass, and a water dispenser with cold water in the waiting room. We still have a book with dad’s recording schedules and contracts and a framed gold medal top ten 1965 ninth place record. So nice to read your follow -up. I’m not so good with technology .is this the email for photos in case I can send them ? Thank you!

    1. So sorry to hear about your dad. However, it sounds like his memory lives on. What was his name? We’ll see if we can find it on any of our Century LPs.
      Your memories of the Century plant are neat– sight, smell, and sound!
      Check your email as we sent you an email address where you could sent pix if you’d like. We would sure would love it.

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