The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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Dare 620

No. 10   March 17, 1962




The story of Billy Joe and his “group” is a mere blush in the grander tale of Lou Bedell.


He was born Louis Bideu, March 21, 1919, in El Paso, Texas. Lou attended Santa Barbara State College for

four years, then worked as a comedian in nightclubs and Tv. For a time in 1954, settling into the Lew Bedell

moniker, he fronted “The Lew Bedell Show” on WOR­ TV in New York. The following year, he was on the

West Coast working first for a publisher, Meadowlark Music, and then with cousin Herb Newman, forming

the first of his L.A.-based record labels, Era.


Within months, Louis and Herb had acquired the label-free Gogi Grant and secured the pinnacle of her hits

with “Suddenly There’s a Valley” and the chart-top­ping “Wayward Wind.”  Over the next 3 years, before

Herb’s departure, the team scored repeatedly with One­-Hit Wonders: RUSSELL ARMS’ “Cinco Robles,” Art

& Doty Todd’s “Chanson D’Amour,” TONY & JOE’s “Freeze.”


“Herb’s wife was mixing in our business,” said Bedell in an article he wrote for Goldmine with Jim Dawson.

“I wouldn’t let my wife … so, I sure as hell wasn’t gonna left Herb’s wife.  Also, I was getting into rock’n’roll.

Herb didn’t want to foul up the label with rock’n’roll … So, we split up.


”About one out of every nine of our releases made the Top 50, thanks to [our national promotions man]

George Jay. We were known as the Wonder Boys of Vine Street.


“Out of respect for Herb’s father, who had raised me, I let Herb keep Era Records, and I went off and

formed my own label, Dore Records, named for my son.”


Era continued on with chartings by Donnie Brooks, the Castells and further One-Hit acts: JEWEL AKENS,

rockabilly legend DORSEY BURNETTE, sensual songstress KETTY LESTER.


Within months of forming Dore, again Lou had a lulu of a hit with the TEDDY BEARS’ “To Know Him Is to

Love Him.”  But it was instrumentals–particularly those by Billy Joe & The Checkmates–that made Dore a

notable collectors’ item.


“I was Billy Joe, Billy Joe Hunter,”  said Bedell. “Now, for three years ERNIE [FREEMAN, composer/

keyboardist/producer] and I had this idea for a perco­lator song. One morning we had an earthquake and it

woke Ernie up to this idea on just how to get this cof­fee sound on record. We went into Conway Recorders on

Highland Avenue. The Baja Marimba Band was popular then, and Ernie figured he’d play the song on a

marimba with chamois clothes on the mallets. Red Callender played stand-up bass; Rene Hall played gui­tar.

The song wasn’t really a twist, but the Twist was really big at the time, so we appended the word in

parentheses to grab part of the market.  When it became a hit, Joe Sarenceno [half of Tony & Joe] asked to

go out on the road as B. J. Hunter.  What the heck, I still get checks for that song.”


For the next half-decade, “Billy Joe” and a roomful of sessioneers tried to reproduce the appealing

innocence of that debut disk, with the rhythmic pulsations of a perky java pot.  A string of singles, 14 in

number, were insistently issued: “Rocky’s Theme,” “One More Cup,” “The Chester Drag,”  “Claire de

Looney,” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”–all sold limply or poorly.


Bedell never lost a beat and continued to chart with Ronnie Height’s “Come Softly to Me,” DEANE

HAWLEY’s “Look for a Star,” the Superbs, the Whispers and Jan & Dean.  In the ’70s, tiring of the changing

rock world, Lou turned to recording successful comedy albums by Hudson & Landry.


Still active in ’95, Lou Bedell issued two CDs of Dore classics.