Blue Note Deep Groove: All You Need To Know
Last week one of our readers asked about deep grooves and flat edges. Another reader reached out to the Blue Note expert Larry Cohn for the answers. Last week we posted the answer about the Blue Note flat edge LPs. Here is Larry’s response on the deep groove. Thanks to Larry for being so generous with the information and to Don-Lucky for reaching out.
“Put simply, there were special dies attached to the pressing machine, that held down the stampers for Side A and Side B during manufacturing. These dies traditionally cut the deep groove into the label during a pressing. In 1961 new dies were created that were more streamlined, holding down the stampers in place but putting the mere slight indentation into the label – what we see on modern pressings and call NO DG.
“These parts were interchangeable and compatible with the machines, so for the period
1961 to 1965 the one side-DG pressings occurred when an old, obsolete die was used on one side of the record and one of the new dies was used on the other side. Similarly, we find late pressings that are DG, such as Night of the Cookers, caused by using leftover old dies. By 1966 when pressings were shifted entirely to the three Liberty national plants there were only NO DG disks because Liberty did not use any of the old, obsolete dies.
“The important thing here is to realize that it is merely a function of a small, accessory part and has nothing to do with the stampers or the pressing machines themselves. I often run into self-appointed experts who have built up a whole mythology about the relationship of the DG to the grooves, sound, etc., but it is merely an identifier caused by the use of these specific dies, mere attachments in the process that literally leave their mark on the finished disk.
“I had Bob Porter, the DJ/producer who has always lived in New Jersey, do some research for me on the Plastylite subject about ten years ago, and he found a Russian-speaking contact who knew nothing about the history of the company he apparently inherited, but as far as I know they are long gone. Blue Notes recently (say a Bird & the Bee or Al Green vinyl LP) are pressed by Caroline Distribution, a local company and of course RTI handles the mastering and pressings on the West Coast for the various competing reissue companies licensing Blue Note.
“The very cheap, low-quality issues you see in the marketplace, identifiable by the 304 Park Ave. South address on labels and jacket slicks, are produced by a New Jersey company named Scorpio Music. In my Blue Note research I accumulate as many Plastylite pressings as possible, often grabbing the defective or Poor quality copies other people eschew, and am still busy working on my own book – which documents all the identifiers of individual stampers by locating and describing the P in the runoff (its shape, and orientation relative to the constant Catalog Matrix No. from the Master) for each disk – a unique signature left by each individual A & B stamper in existence. In the last two or three years I only rarely come across new (to me), unknown stampers, so I’m over the hump on that project.”