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However, the popularity of big bands waned during the years immediately after the end of World War II. However, people still wanted to dance as much as ever.
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To satisfy this demand, rhythm and blues and western swing came into their own on the West Coast and in the southern and midwestern United States, respectively. Jeweler Sidney Siegel noticed the growing popularity of Latin dance music during the height of the war. It was reportedly in that he poured the assets of his Casa Siegel jewelry store into the founding of a record label.
Seeco Records was devoted to the kind of Latin music that Siegel loved. Rival labels would spring up in later years most notably, Tico Records in which tended to specialize in the "New York Latin" sound of the most popular mambo bands. Seeco and its sister label Tropical created a niche for itself by seeking out no pun intended and recording only the most authentic sounds; and if that meant traveling to some far-flung locale to record, so be it.
His upstart independent label became famous both inside and outside the United States due to the pedigree of its product. A "world music" label long before the term had been coined, Seeco was the direct forerunner of present-day companies like Putumayo and Island Records. Although originally intended as strictly a Latin music label, by the late s, its artist roster had diversified to include jazz, music hall and cabaret artists such as Cy Coleman, Elsa Maxwell, Billy Maxted, Tony Scott, continental sex kitten Eartha Kitt and cocktail pianist Hildegarde.
The Polyphonics, a trio of eclectic harmonica wizards, recorded for Seeco. Anyone in the mood to take a musical trip around the world had to look no further than the international section of their nearest record outlet. Housing the exotic treasures that Seeco marketed were eye-catching album sleeves that, in true Latin style, often depicted busty beauties dressed in costumes that barely concealed their feminine charms.
What follows is a brief look at those styles which were favored in the United States, and the Seeco artists who specialized in them. TANGO The early part of the 20th century found wealthy Americans mesmerized by the tango, an Argentinean import with links to a Cuban rhythm called habanera.
Played on violin, guitar and accordion, tango music inspired a sensuous dance among the lower classes of Buenos Aires; it quickly acquired a bad reputation because prostitutes danced to it in slit skirts while wearing no underwear!
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The famed professional dance team of Irene and Vernon Castle cleaned up the tango, imported it to the United States during World War I, and promoted it to such an extent that its popularity swept the nation during the s. Superstar Latin bandleader Xavier Cugat got his start playing tango accompaniment for early Hollywood movies, as well as for high society parties on the West Coast.
Emigrants from the north of Spain brought their folk ballad tradition to Mexico, and the French who briefly controlled the country during the 19th century brought the waltz and the polka. These forms can still be heard in the Tejano music popular among Spanish-speaking Americans in the southern United States.
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Ultimately, Mexico became world-famous for its beautiful and melancholy ranchera ballads, as performed by guitar, trumpet, violin and accordion ensembles known as mariachis. RHUMBA El son, an infectious music based on a five-beat rhythm pattern, was developed in the Cuban countryside during the late 19th century. By the s, it had migrated to Havana and formed the basis of rhumba, a style of music and dance that grew out of neighborhood street festivals. While initially taken up by impoverished Cuban city dwellers, the rhumba gradually became popular in polite society.
Seven-piece musical ensembles formed to play this new music; one of the most popular was Septeto Nacional, led by composer and guitarist Ignacio Pineiro. Pineiro and his group cut a critically acclaimed album for Seeco in Americans vacationing in Cuba acquired a taste for this exotic new sound and brought it home with them. More than any other Latin bandleader, Cugat understood the importance of image and marketing.
His shows featured beautiful girl singers in Spanish mantillas, flashy tango and flamenco dancers, virile and handsome conga drummers, musicians in ruffled pink sleeves, stage sets decorated with potted palms, and more often than not.
He helped himself to both the women and the movie exposure, starring with the likes of Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire. The undulating "Tremendo Cumban" by Machito and his Afro-Cubans is probably the most frequently licensed track in the Seeco catalogue. Graciela became famous throughout Latin-America for her quivering performances of ballads like "Novio Mio", but she was no slouch in the rhythm department, as her energetic Seeco recording of "Adivinanza" clearly demonstrates.
The siblings joined forces on sizzling tracks like "Mambo Infierno" and other successful marriages of hot jazz and raw rhumba captured at Seeco recording sessions. These ensembles included guitar, trumpets, piano, bass and conga drums, and were called conjuntos. Songs with false endings, like the hilarious "Dolorcito De Mi China", were his specialty. Seeco producers captured his musicians at their best on the album Clasicas De Un Sonero.
A stylistic division was becoming apparent. Strings were verboten with the new bands. Pianos and brass functioned as de facto rhythm instruments even while they carried the melody. Also, there was considerable jazz influence. The numbers of talented Latinos visiting the United States to perform swelled.
Significantly, every one of the aforementioned artists is represented in the Seeco catalogue. One the most famous charanga bandleaders was Charlie Palmieri, and his version of "Lullaby Of Broadway" is one of the brightest gems in the catalogue. Played on flat hand-held drums called panderetas, it was developed by 19th century Afro-Puerto Rican laborers.
Naturally, all of these artists recorded for Seeco. From the Dominican Republic came a piquant mix of Spanish melody and African rhythm called the merengue, and an accompanying dance with distinctive knee-bending steps. It melded rhythm and blues stylings with Latin rhythms as well as English with Spanish lyrics , and was so danceable that it showed great potential for crossover. By , the Palladium ballroom had closed, and Big Apple dancers were flocking to the Cheetah discotheque.
By listening to these classic recordings, salsa enthusiasts were able to trace the roots of their preferred sound. Many of those reissues can still be found in used record shops for quite reasonable prices. In addition, reissue labels in England, Germany, Portugal, Spain and other European countries regularly mine the Seeco tape library for compilation material, although CD reissues often use records for masters, as there is surface noise audible.
Now that Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin have crossed over to English-speaking pop audiences in a big way, and other Latin artists are poised to duplicate their success in the 21st century, these vintage recordings will likely be more in demand than ever. Plucking Spanish melodies on a harp up in heaven, Sidney Siegel is no doubt tickled pink to see that his faith in the longevity of Latin music has been vindicated.
The Seeco label had several subsidiaries, including Dawn , Bronjo , and Tropical. These labels are also covered in this discography. We have constructed this discography from various sources, including a Seeco Records Catalog, Schwann Catalogs from various years, and our record collections.
We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page.
We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with Seeco Records, which is currently inactive. Should you be interested in acquiring albums listed in this discography which are all out of print , we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. Requests for our supplying of records or finding records for you will be ignored. This story and discography are copyright , by Mike Callahan.
This series used a dark blue label. There are at least two Seeco labels, the first was black with silver print. The second Seeco label was mainly black with silver print. On the permeter of the label was a narrow band that merged from yellow to red to purple to green.
The left quarter of the label was blue with the "SEECO" logo in a black oval directly to the left of the center hole. A zero is added to number for stereo, for example monaural becomes in stereo. Williams  Reissue of Dawn Claire At Basin St.
East - Betty St. These have a silver label. Note that many of the albums that appear to be in the series, e. The SP series below is a different series. A zero is added to the catalog numbers for stereo issues, e. Below the logo were two parallel horizontal bars, within which "Gold Series" was written in script.
This series was reissued by Met-Richmond Records in the s and s, although not always with the same record numbers. Where we know an album was reissued by Met-Richmond, we note this. All albums are mono only until , when some albums begin to be issued in stereo.