Hit of the Week Records
By Allan Sutton

Purple Line

Q: Does anyone know about "Hit of the Week" recordings? What is the story behind them?
- C. Turner, (via the 78-l@mylist.com ListServer)

Hit of the Week was the brainchild of Dr. Hall Trueman Beans, a physics professor at Columbia University, who invented a flexible plastic ("Durium") in 1929. The Durium Products Corp. was formed in late 1929 to market single-sided records utilizing Beans' plastic, and the first Hit of the Week discs were announced in February 1930. Studios were in the McGraw-Hill Building on 42nd St., New York. The records, which were sold by news-stands, originally contained a single selection, and a new 15-cent record was released every Thursday. Some were also given away free with subscriptions to magazines like Liberty. Titles were selected by a board that included Eddie Cantor, Florenz Ziegfeld, and Vincent Lopez, and sales were reportedly brisk at first.

By early 1931, Durium was in trouble over unpaid royalties, and the company was reorganized in June 1931 as a subsidiary of the Irwin-Wassey Advertising Agency. The format was revamped in August, 1931, using two slections per side; a price increase (to 20 cents) soon followed, and sales fell. The final release (#F-4-5, "My Silent Love" / "Hummin' to Myself") came on June 23, 1932.

Durium also produced an array of novelty, private, and promotional issues as well as the Durium Junior 4" disc and the Durium DeLuxe disc. Subsidiaries operated in England, France, and Italy; the latter was still operating as late as 1950, although the American parent was long-gone.

The records are getting fairly scarce in good, playable condition. The earlier single-selection issues are the most common, while many of the later double-tracks are hard to find. As with any record, value is greatly affected by condition. Since the content is generally less than compelling, the records really must be in fine shape to command any sort of premium. At my auction, they generally bring US $3-6 for common dance orchestra sides, US $4-8 for personalities (Vallee, Cantor, etc), and US $6-15 for some of the hotter dance bands, like certain of the Fred Rich sides ("Little Girl" and "It's the Girl") and one Duke Ellington side that was released pseudonymously as the "Harlem Hot Chocolates." Incidentally, the records origianally came in heavy, nicely decorated envelopes and those ARE rare.

Allan Sutton
Aurora, Colorado USA

Author: Directory of American Disc Record
Brands & Manufacturers, 1891-1943
Greenwwod Press, 1994

Purple Line

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