I’ve written about Halmark before, but like the fable of the resurrection, it’s a story that is worth repeating: one of the cheapest (and consequently for the bad record enthusiast, one of the best) outfits in the field. Set up by Ted Rosen, almost all of Halmark’s output sounds as if it was recorded in the 40s or 50s; the entire catalogue is stuffed with sloppy, nonsensical lyrics and overwrought performances, and the performers are seldom credited.
Ted Rosen grew up in Boston spending his time, according to his son Jeff (who still runs the company his father established) with ‘a smile on his face and his head up in the clouds, writing new songs every day’. Moving to New York in pursuit of his dream of working as a full-time songwriter, his first break came when he wrote the children's song Herkimer The Homely Doll. Released by Sterling Holloway (the voice of Winnie the Pooh) on Decca in April 1954 Jeff would have you believe that ‘it ran up the Billboard charts’; it didn’t, but you can’t blame a son for being proud of his dad, and it was at least featured on the hit kid’s TV show Captain Kangaroo which began its record-breaking thirty year run the following year. Ted also claimed to have written a hit song for Rosemary Clooney, but if he did she doesn’t appear to have recorded it at any point during her career. He wasn’t a complete shyster though: Ted did write I Remember Mambo, a 1955 release by actor and singer Jack Haskell, and another song he co-composed (Too Late by Eddie Singleton and the Chromatics) was picked up by Brunswick for major distribution after it appeared on Rosen’s AMSCO label.
Like Jack Covais (Tin Pan Alley) and Lew Tobin (Sterling), Ted Rosen would often give himself co-credit on his companies’ song-poem releases. What sets his companies - Talent Incorporated, Halmark (occasionally appearing misspelled as Hallmark), Grand, AMSCO and Chapel - apart from the others though is the otherworldly quality of their productions, caused mostly because instead of using live musicians (a la Preview, Columbine, Tin Pan Alley or MSR) the company instead utilised a series of recorded backing tracks, or music beds as they're often known, for their recordings, employing the same backings again and again and again. This means that the same music track would appear as backing to a political song on Halmark, an overwrought ballad on Grand and as the tune to a hymn on Chapel, for example, and good old Ted he didn’t care how often these tracks were used. It made life simple for his small stable of vocalists: all they had to do was walk into the studio, have a quick squint at the lyric sheet, and fit the words as best they could around a track they had heard time and time again.
Anyway, just in time for you to enjoy your eggs and hot cross buns, here are the (as usual) uncredited Jack and Mary Kimmel with a pair of typically terrible Halmark cuts: He is the Resurrection and Life and From the Manger to the Cross.