Wednesday, December 2, 2009

K-Tel Makes The Best Cheesiest Music Ever!

You went and tried other types of cheese, like those "Now!" music series, but somehow the cheese didn't have the proper flavor. So you went to your local music store and tried all of those dozens upon dozens of other cheeses, but yet, the flavor was still off, or it smelled funny, or the texture wasn't the same.

So you went back home to wallow in your misery because deep down you just know, that the original was still the best. It was the most cheesiest, the most flavorful, the most lip smackingest, tongue teasiest cheese you ever had.

You savor the memory of listening to groups like the Hudson Brothers, Gunhill Road, The Ohio Players, and Reunion. You salivate at the prospect of being able to listen to music from Billboard's Top 200. But then you get sad when you realize that K-Tel doesn't do music anymore, but instead does pharmaceuticals.

Then suddenly out of the blue, you have a vision, a hallucination, that yes! you do have the cheese! But where? The storage room! You run to the storage room and rip the door off the hinges (for you know that the need for cheese is always insatiable). There, buried somewhere deep in the far corner of the room, is your beloved K-Tel music.

Furious, you dive into the clutter, digging through the debris like a dog possessed, you throw pots, pans, yarn, tools, books, tables, rackets, trees, the flower bed, the vegetable garden...until you hit THE STORAGE TUB with your head. Ravenous, you tear the lid off with your teeth and jam your head in to inhale the delicious moldy cheesy aroma. Delirious, you close your eyes and slowly drift away.
In the 1970's, if you wanted one of those weird compilation albums, chances are you were able to find it from K-Tel Music. For the majority of the 70's and into the very early 90's, K-Tel music was the premier label for any and all types of compilations in the major genres of rock, pop and country.

No matter what you liked for music, you were able to find it with K-Tel. Be it novelty, on hit wonders or well known pop schlock, you were able to find it through K-Tel. They were the first (along with the original Sessions Music, not the punk label of the same name) to use television as a exclusive medium for advertising.

When I was old enough, I was able to purchase some of these compilations through the mail or more likely than not, through my local department store. Eventually I wound up with a collection of about two dozen or so albums, and these today remain the only exception to my personal rule of avoiding greatest hits packages.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and so did K-Tel music. People eventually found other types of compilations to play in the new format of the compact disc, and I believe that signaled a major death blow for K-Tel because they didn't change with the times.

The brief comment in that little story about pharmaceuticals was based on a search I did about five years ago when I got to wondering about K-Tel music, since I had a tape compilation from the mid-90's that was produced by K-Tel. The initial search found that K-Tel was now producing pharmaceuticals for the health food industry, and had gotten out of the music biz.

However, while doing research for this post, I decided to Google K-Tel music again, and this is what I found: a fantastic business story about the rise, fall and rebirth of K-Tel music, and this funky little blog about K-Tel records (unfortunately, it hasn't been updated for over a month, so I don't know if it will be around much longer).

So if you ever see any of these bad boys at a tag sale, pick a few of them up. You just might be surprised at what kind of music you'll find on it. Who knows, you might find a deserving artist that tickles your fancy and spurs you to go on a search that ultimately expands your horizons.


  1. I was clearing out an old box of crap I found in the loft a couple of years ago and found one of those "tape" contraptions. Not having a "tape player", I couldnt find out what was on it for a couple of weeks until I went somewhere that would have a tape player (even at 34, I can still count on my Mum.) Wow...did I used to listen to that stuff? There was cheese, toast, a cheese board and a whole squrty cheese thing coming out of that tape.

    I couldnt help but destroy the evidence. Actually, My Mum still has it.

  2. I have to admit I remember many of those albums and songs. K-TELL IS DEAD. LONG LIVE K-TEL.

  3. Those ads were some of the original infomercials, were they not?

  4. I haven 't heard of K-Tel in YEEEEEEARS!!

    My very first album when I was 13 was -- you got it -- a K-Tel.

    "Dumb Ditties" complete with...

    -- Seven Little Girls (sitting in the back seat kissing and a-huggin' with Fred!)
    -- I'm a nut (I'm a nut, my life dont' ever get in a rut.)


    -- The Monster Mash.
    K-Tel did catch on in a flash (of Georgie's shorts.)


    Wait -- I think that was a k-Tel album.

    I gotta get over to those links NOW before they up and disappear.

    memories.... lighting the corners of my mind....

  5. One of my favourite albums of all time is called "Juke Box Jive". A double album in the shape of a juke box. I still have it of course, although I ripped off one of the sleeves by mistake. It was my introduction to Rock & Roll. It was because of that compilation that I actually started running Bobby Vee's fan club.

  6. I had completely forgotten about K-Tel. I never had any of those records but I remember the ads for them. And I remember the Ohio Players.

  7. Sy: A “tape” contraption? My dear sir, I still have many of those “tape contraptions” sitting in my cubicle, of which I still happened to listen to from time to time. I also still have a few of my dad’s 8-tracks (now that is really dating me) as well, although I don’t have a player anymore.

    David: I actually used a quite a few of those K-Tel songs on more than a few c.d.’s that I’ve burned, simply because I wasn’t able to find any of those songs floating around at my local used record store. Still amazed at the nifty editing job they did to squeeze all of those songs in. Yes, K-Tel is still alive, just like Elvis.

    Travis: I do believe they were some of the original infomercials, when they were blessedly less than a couple of minutes in length. They were always a blast to watch.

    Jannie: Got you beat. One of the first albums that was bought for me, was a Brady Bunch album. But I digress. So glad I was able to bring up some pleasant memories for ya. J

    Joe: That is very cool. A great way to get an introduction to a genre that really became your calling card.

    Charles: Ah yes, the Ohio Players. I got hooked onto them by listening to “Funky Worm”. Got a few of their albums. I think I got introduced to the (now) classic rock genre as a teenager by listening to K-Tel, because up until that time, I used to listen to pop music (what was called “pop” back then, is now the oldies from the 70’s).

  8. Cool post. This one reminds me of my friend Darth Weasel (link on my blog if you want to check it out.)

  9. Thanks.

    I'll also check out the link. Currently on a search and destroy for new blogs again.

  10. Ahhh, I never had any money left over from anything to buy records.
    BUT, I played my pink radio all the time. Name sounds like I should know it..........nope, nothing. :)Bea

  11. Wow, it was fun hearing K-tel again!

    Everybody needs a little cheese in their life!

  12. Bea: I never had much money to buy those kind of records. I had to bug my parents to buy it for me.

    Talon: We always need the good cheese product as a staple of our diets.

    I still got some K-Tel at work, whenever I need the fix.

  13. What distinct sounds came out of the 70s, from K-Tel to Classic Rock, back when people actually bought albums :/ From what I've heard, cds(albums) are at their lowest sales in history right now.

  14. When I was young I was obsessed with K-Tel's Mini-Pop Kids.

    I'm talking OBSESSED...

  15. Joanne: I believe you are right. There are so many different ways of purchasing new music (including new releases on vinyl) that once again, the major labels are simply not keeping up with the times.

    Bschooled: Mini-Pop Kids? That's a new one on me. I had at one point, a board game by K-Tel called "Hit or Miss". Basically you attempted to forge a career in the music biz, and even inculded a 45 that you played to see if you had a hit, a flop or broke even.

  16. I remember those K-Tel days. I loved those album days.

  17. K Tel was buried by Time Life Collections

  18. Kelly: I still buy albums wheneve I get the spare money and time together and go down to my local used record store to buy them.

    Bearman: I have a few of those Time-Life collections. Unfortunately, I was stupid enough to get them as cassettes instead of CD's (which were just emerging in popularity back in the early 90's). So now I got about $1,000 worth of cassettes that I really can't play anymore because they're so old that the tape got stretched out just enough that you can actually hear the song going about a couple beats slower than normal.

  19. I have a couple of compilation CDs - 100% Disco and R&B favorites from the 70s, etc.

    I had completely forgotten about K-Tel. :)

  20. Hi Lynn, glad to see you again.

    I have very few compilations, simply because I'm from the old school of wanting to experience the entire spectrum of a particular artist, instead of just a greatest hits package.

    But I do enjoy the K-Tel stuff, simply because it had the music that no one really played on the radio, and it helped me to a small degree, get hooked on different artists that I've might not otherwise pay attention to.

  21. I should prob look thru the stuff in storage sometime- Don't think any Ktel are there, but do remember the tv commercials!
    I sunk most of my bux into beatles as a teen. Still play cassettes in my truck...

  22. Buying The Beatles as a teen is a good thing....still playing casettes is a good thing as well.

    Yeah, K-Tel did have some of the freakiest commercials out there at the time. The original info-mercial king they were.

  23. OMG you so brought back many happy musical memoriers with this one. Gotta check out those links. Hehe Gotta admit I had the Hudson Brothers album. Heading down to Buckland Hills Mall tomorrow to brave the hordes for a Christmas gift at one of the stores there. Hoping for some good decorations to get pictures of too.

  24. Good luck at Bucklands....I went to Westfarms last week on Black Friday and the crowds weren't too too bad....

    Glad I was able to brighten your day a little bit.


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