In addition to the regular procession of
unrelated entries, I’m going to try and do a sort of ‘theme’ every so often. The point of this is to force myself to post bits of larger topics that my brain usually tries to sit on until I’ve followed up every loose thread (Which never happens). There will probably be no rhyme or reason to the the ‘themes,’ and some will be more exhaustive than others. This time around it’s going to be Vinyl Anomolies. Let me know how it all works out for you.

     Over Christmas, I impulsively bought a
book called Vinyl Junkies, without ever
having heard of it. It’s another ‘fast’ book, with each chapter focusing on the record collector theme from a different angle. Some chapters lay on the ‘old guy romance’ a bit heavy, but there are enough really interesting chapters (The ‘professional record hunter’ chapter in particular) to make it worthwhile.

     One of the sections of the book deals
with R. Crumb and his collection. In the quoted interviews, he
mentions the Flexo record company of California, who manufactured
flexible records:

     “Living in the Bay area at the height of
the psychedelic explosion, Crumb let those records and that movement
pass him by. Why go after those records when you can find something as
exotic as records on the Flexo label – a short-lived San Francisco
outfit that made 78’s that actually bent? “Nobody knows what they’re
made of, because they kept the formula a secret. It was a small
company in the 20’s and 30’s who actually made unb reakable, flexible
records, and they’ve held up pretty well over the years. And there’s
some really excellent music on them – San Francisco jazz and dance
bands who have only been on Flexo. Over the years I lived out there, I
only ever found two or three of them. Terry [Zwigoff] beat me on that
one – he looked in the phonebook and found that one of the band leaders
was still alive. And somehow I never thought of using the phonebook.”

     My interest was piqued, so I did a bit of
internet research on Flexo records. A little searching with google
turned up href=””>this company
profile, written by director Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World) in
the liner notes for ‘San Francisco Jazz – The Flexo
Recordings 1930-1932:

     “Flexo Records were the brainchild Of
Jesse J. Warner. Originally manufactured in Kansas City starting in
1925, the “flexible” record that Warner designed and unsuccessfully
tried to patent came in a variety of colors. Used originally for
private custom records in sizes ranging from 3″ to 16″, and playable at
speeds of 78RPM or 33 1/3RPM, the “New Flexo” rcords, as they became
known, also included a handful of commercial sides by the Johnnie
Campbell Orchestra, a black band which recorded tunes including “Tin
Roof Blues” and “Jimtown Blues”.

     By 1929, the Kansas City company had
moved to San Francisco with Warner as recording engineer. “The Pacific
Coast Record Company” was located at 1040 Geary Street. Many West Coast
bands recorded for Flexo…including Jack Coakley’s Tait at the Beach
Orchestra, Lew Reynolds Flexo Recording Orchestra, and George Druck’s
Sweet’s Ballroom Orchestra.

     Jack Coakley served as “musical director”
for Flexo until 1932. His band recorded at least a dozen popular tunes
of the day. Flexo continued to specialize in private recordings as

     None of the musicians present at the
various recording sessions remember how or where “Flexos” were sold.
They don’t recall selling or giving them away at band performances.

     One clue to the marketing of Flexos comes
from a four page Pacific Coast Record Catalog that lists Flexos
#100-134. Numbers 100-122 are ten inches in diameter and play from the
inside out @ .75 each. Numbers 123-134 are eight inches in diameter and
play from the outside in @ .40 each. Here’s how the catalog touts
“unbreakable records”:

     “Phonograph manufacturers have been
searching for years and the record buying public has been looking
forward to obtaining a record that is UNBREAKABLE AND EVERLASTING. The
new FLEXO RECORD meets these requirements. It cannot be BROKEN OR
CRACKED; is of light weight for easy mailing and does not mutilate or
mar easily. The new FLEXO RECORD is constructed of a specially
processed material sufficiently delicate to produce the finest and
natural tone qualities. The new FlEXO RECORDS have been put through the
most trying and extraordinary tests, they have been thrown in the
streets, run over by automobiles and trucks for hours at a time, they
have been layed out under the burning rays of the hot summer sun
without materially affecting their rendition qualities. They will wear
almost indefinitely and are a permanent and lasting record. The PACIFIC
COAST RECORD CORPORATION, in the production of the new FLEXO RECORD,
has also developed the recording of sound waves by an entirely new
process of phongraph recording, giving you a true reproduction of all
sounds from the blare of a brass band to the whispered word. Only use
the ordinary, new steel needle for the reproduction of the FLEXO

     It seems Warner was more the inventor
type than a marketing genius, and by 1934, the Pacific Record Company
declared bankruptcy. Another company started up at the same address
called Titan Productions which continued to produce mostly advertising
records and radio transcriptions –and employed J.J. Warner–until

     I also found a great site called The Internet
Museum of Flexi / Cardboard / Oddity Records
that includes images
and sound clips form an original flexo record.

     These pictures are a start, but I’m most
interested in the ‘flexible’ properties of these records. I was unable
to find anything else online about the flexo label. I’ve yet to see a
flexo record come up for auction on eBay, and I’m sure if one ever does
the bidding will be way beyond what I’m willing to pay to satisfy my

     The rest of the Flexi / Cardboard /
Oddity Records site, however, is interesting in its own right. Among
the well-remembered cereal box and other food
promotional records are some true anomolies. These include
records that were used as POSTAGE in Bhutan
, a Psychedelic Furs 7″
that had the song pressed onto both the 7″ AND the sleeve itself
, and
a Brian
Wilson-penned flexidisc that was included with certain Barbie

     For the technically inclined reader,
there is a discussion of the flexi (not flexo) manufacturing process here.