It's Friday night, 1965. The men are all congregating in the back room den. Stogies are sniffed and then smoked. The best scotch is poured. A new deck of cards is opened for the weekly poker match. And later, after everyone is just a little bit sauced, the 16mm projector may come out of the closet and show that scandalous film loop of the women in high-heel boots spanking each other. But every evening still needs something to start the party rolling - and that's where the stag party record comes in. These recklessly lewd and wonderfully droll albums featured songs by bawdy, buxom beauties* (mp3 download), and were a mainstay in the secret private world of men, much to the chagrin of the US Postal Service.
Fortunately for this under-served group, the early 1960s saw the brief rise of Camp Records (aka Different Music Company). This small Hollywood company produced ferociously "out" gay stag records, including a slew of saucy comedic singles with titles like "The Weekend of a Hairdresser", "Stanley the Manly Transvestite", and "I'd Rather Fight Than Swish!". The performers of these songs were credited under such drag-worthy pseudonyms as Byrd E. Bath, B. Bubba, Sandy Beech, and... Rodney Dangerfield?!?
The legendary comedian (whose real name is actually Jacob Cohen) vehemently denied any connection to his Camp records namesake, and upon listen it is pretty obvious that this is not the same voice that moans about "no respect". By the way, the name Rodney Dangerfield isn't even that uncommon, at least not to those who are fans of Jack Benny. He originally coined it as a gag name for his popular radio show in the 1940s.
But enough trivia about names - what of Camp Records? They released ten singles and two full length LPs during their brief mid-60s run, and little is known of who they where or what happened to the label. It comes as little surprise that anonymity was the name of the game. No matter, they still left a wonderful legacy behind.
I was first introduced to their wonderful vinyl subculture through a roommate of mine who found The Queen Is in the Closet while working at a record store. The record had little information, and unfortunately it was snatched out from under him by none other than that obsessive record collector Jello Biafra. But my friend was able to make a quick cassette dub of it, which in our circle of friends became an instant favorite (and a rather mysterious one - since he forgot to write down any song titles).
Most of the Camp Records' catalogue consisted of gay parodies of traditional songs, with over-the-top lisping vocals and arrangements that were described by the label as "un-hackneyed". Camp Records was not making fun of gay culture, their goal was merely to get those gay stag parties kick-started! The result is rather hilarious (you can easily imagine Paul Lynde acting out nearly every song), and yet also relates many different aspects of the hidden queer lifestyle. Their final release, the full-length Mad About the Boy, avoided the comedy and instead featured "straight" performances of classic female torch songs as sung by gay singers. These were purportedly well-known Hollywood stars who chose to remained uncredited.
From The Queen Is In the Closet (mp3s)
Weekend Of A Hairdresser Li'l Liza Mike A Naughty Cal-Tale I'm So Wet What Can The Matter Be? A Bar Is A Bar Is A Bar Good Old Fashioned Balls Florence Of Arabia London Derriere Down By The River Drive
Camp records singles (mp3s)
I'd Rather Fight Than Swish - B. Bubba I'd Rather Swish Than Fight - B. Bubba Mixed Nuts - Byrd E. Bath The Ballad Of The Camping Woodcutter - John & Kay Holmes Leather Jacket Lovers - Sandy Beech Stanley the Manly Transvestite - Rodney Dangerfield
Here is still more information and downloads from JD Doyle, host of the Queer Music Heritage show at radio station KPFT in Houston. Click around the rest of his site for more finds from the history of queer music.
And for more Camp Comedy check out Ken's post featuring Teddy and Darrel's "These Are the Hits, You Silly Savage", produced by future California Lt. Governor, conservative Christian, and label magnate Mike Curb. Not surprisingly, this recording is not mentioned in his current discography.
* That "bawdy buxom beauty" at the beginning of the post is none other than cabaret star Terri "Cup Cake" O'Mason, performing "My First Piece" off of the Adam Stag Party Special #2. You can get her even bawdier signature song, "Cup Cakes" ("...and there's a cherry on each tip."), at the 365 Days Project (scroll down to July 14th entry).