101 Strings Orchestra was a brand for a highly successful easy listening symphonic music organization, with a discography exceeding a hundred albums and a creative lifetime of roughly thirty years. Their LPs were individualized by the slogan "The Sound of Magnificence", a puffy cloud logo and sepia-toned photo of the orchestra. The 101 Strings orchestra was composed of 124 string instruments (all male except for the harpist) and was conducted by Wilhelm Stephan. The orchestra's famous official photograph was taken in the Musikhalle Hamburg.
Record label mogul David L. Miller (born on 4 July 1925, son of Albert L. Miller and Olive-Jane (Bardsley) Miller in Philadelphia, died 24 May 1985 in London) came to prominence by releasing the first Bill Haley & His Comets’ records in 1952–1953 on his own Essex label (followed by Trans-World, then Somerset Records). In this capacity, Miller played a role in the creation of rock and roll.
Following the rise of mood music practitioners Mantovani and Jackie Gleason Presents, Miller subcontracted the Orchester des Nordwestdeutschen Rundfunks Hamburg (the Northwest German Radio Orchestra of Hamburg) conducted by Wilhelm Stephan to play in-house arrangements of popular standards. The first 101 Strings album was released in late 1957; an astounding 24 titles were released in 1958 (many of which featured recycled material from earlier albums attributed to the New World Orchestra, Rio Carnival Orchestra, and other light music orchestras). These records were pressed by Miller’s own plants and released through his own distribution channels (such as grocery stores).
His core staff arrangers were Monty Kelly, Joseph Kuhn and Robert Lowden. All three proved adept at penning original compositions that were stylistically consistent both with contemporary hit songs and each other. Miller placed these on 101 Strings albums to provide additional publishing revenues.
Kelly’s earliest successes were Latin and Spanish travelogues (such as the Soul of Spain series) although, following the British Invasion, he became 101 Strings’ ‘Now Sound’ specialist. Kuhn concentrated on radio-friendly numbers in the ‘Pops’ orchestral manner ("Blues Pizzicato," etc.) which provided Somerset its initial catalog of originals. Lowden penned lounge ballads (such as "Blue Twilight"). Their body of early 1960s work would be recycled via rerelease throughout the next twenty years
The Alshire catalog was sold to Madacy, Inc. in the 1990s and, under the direction of Greg Sims, a ‘New 101 Strings Orchestra’ began releasing a series of CDs (including a two-volume Beatles set). 101 Strings compilations were reissued on CD during the ‘lounge revival’ of the 1990s. Few 101 Strings LPs have been re-released in their original form.
If one goes to the Madacy site to view their 101 Strings collection, exactly the same description that was used on the Bel Canto's ST- 76 two track stereo release about the 101 Strings sound is reprinted. That annoying 50 Hz hum heard on many of those tape recordings was due to the Ampex 350's filtering which was not well suited for European 50 Hz power. The "My Fair Lady" and "King and I" releases have what appears to be the sound of dirty mixing pots used on the fly during those sessions. There were a number of tape releases that sounded like tape copies of pristine Stereo Fidelity vinyl which actually, were not all that pristine. Stereo recordings were made with a triangular cutting stylus. This resulted at times in pinch distortion which early conical styli did not handle well. Inner grooves especially, due to the increased density of the recorded information due to the slower relative movement of the track under the stylus, were more susceptible to distortion with conical styli in use at the time this record was released. The later development of elliptical styli allowed more precise tracking of the track and greatly reduced inner-track distortion.
eBay has an almost complete Madacy catalog in one form or another from these early tapes made from 1957 in Germany by D.L. Miller.
In the 10 years and 2 months of their existence, 101 Strings sold over 50,000,000 records worldwide.
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