Making Demos

The first time I visited Fortune Records was February 1960 and I was going to be a singer, so my best friend and I skipped school to go make a demo record. When we got down to the Fortune studio on Third Street and walked in, a man wearing a hat and an overcoat came out said “Hi boys, are you lost or what?” Then he laughed and I explained that I had called last week about making a demo, then I asked again about the price just to be sure and he said “that’s right, I’ll give you couple of takes on a tape and then cut the dub for $7.50 – so are you ready? I said yes and gave him the money and we went to the studio in the back.

I recorded one song and went into the control booth to listen back. While listening the man said, “Well how do you like it?” I told him it sounded pretty good. He replied “What do you mean pretty good? I’m giving you my best sound!”

The building as it looked in September 2001, only a few weeks before demolition. 

After the other song was recorded he cut me the dub on the cutting lathe and we went back to the front where the record shop was. I started looking at records. At home I had maybe a dozen Fortune records and since every one had the name Devora Brown on the label I figured that she owned the company, but no one was around except for the three of us, so I asked the man in the overcoat and hat (which he had still on) “Where is the owner Devora Brown” He said “She’s my wife I’m Jack Brown.” 

I still have the record I made that day and a couple more cut at Fortune, and through the years I continued to visit the place many times buying records, listening to tapes of material to be released, and the best part was getting Jack to tell stories about the record business and hear him crack his funny jokes.

Every time I went into that place it was like walking into a time machine, because inside the building at 3942 Third, nothing ever changed. In fact it is essentially the same today with old records, tapes, letters, labels, envelopes and papers all laying around and sometimes not being touched for years. Devora Brown told me recently, “We just gotta get that front cleaned up”, but that’s the charm of the place, it’s the kind of place every collector of fifties music should get to see.


Notes thanks to Ron Murphy

Browns image snapped by Richard Hurley,
Fortune building image courtesy of David Meikle.


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