The companies always remained small and personally run. B. B. King has said that he always felt the brothers were accessible: "The company was never bigger than the artist.
I could always talk to them''. Later they launched more subsidiaries, Crown Records featuring artists like Johnny Cole, Vic Damone, Trini Lopez with Johnny Torres, Jerry Cole, Dave Clark Five, and United/Superior Records.
In the sixties they launched a subsidiary Yuletide Records, which specialized
in Christmas records (mostly with Johnny Cole and the Robert Evans Chorus). In the mid 1960s Modern records went bankrupt and stopped operating, but the catalogue went with the management into what would become Kent Records.
After the deaths of Saul, Lester and Jules Bihari, the labels' back catalogue was licensed to Ace Records (United Kingdom) in the mid 1980s, and then later purchased by them during the 1990s.
Though they were not songwriters, the Biharis often purchased or claimed co-authorship of songs that appeared on their own
labels, thus securing songwriting royalties for themselves, in addition to their other sources of income. Sometimes these songs were older standards renamed. B. B. King's rendition of "Rock Me Baby" was such a tune; anonymous jams, as
with "B. B.'s Boogie" or songs by employees, such as bandleader Vince Weaver. The Biharis used a number of pseudonyms for songwriting credits: Jules was credited as Jules Taub; Joe as Joe Josea; and Sam as Sam Ling. One song
by John Lee Hooker, "Down Child" is solely credited to "Taub", with Hooker receiving no credit for the song whatsoever. Another, "Turn Over A New Leaf" is credited to Hooker and "Ling". Taub was the Biharis' mother's maiden name.
Commonly known among music circles but not publicly acknowledged is that Jules and the Bihari brothers would effectively steal music
from up and coming black artists by taking advantage of the artists financial situation. The Bihari's would have their name added to writing credits when they had nothing to do with the creation of the music in any way.
B. B. King has said: "The company I was with knew a lot of things they didn’t tell me, that I didn’t learn about until later...
Some of the songs I wrote, they added a name when I copyrighted it,"..."Like 'King and Ling' or 'King and Josea.' There was no such thing as Ling, or Josea. No such thing. That way, the company could claim half of your song.
METEOR - THE BURN OUT - The people who knew Lester Bihari in Memphis all agree on several things. He
was a nice guy, he was a real personality, he was often drinking and broke, and he was always somewhat strange. He tried really hard to be a record producer, but he was no Joe Bihari or Sam Phillips. Lester was in the right place at the
right time but he was unable to develop the careers of his artists.
What Lester did do was to capture the white working man's music
of Memphis and its rural hinterland exactly as it was being played through 1954 to 1957 before television and the Interstate highways homogenised America. This music is real. It is unfettered and fresh. It is the reason why Meteor has subsequently
become one of the most collectable of the independent record labels, commanding extraordinarily high prices whenever copies come up for sale.
Lester had financial problems. His distribution beyond the local area was mainly linked to his brothers' Modern network, which focused on rhythm and blues and blues. Lester didn't have the network of stores, jukeboxes,
and radio play to successfully self country and rockabilly music outside the mid-South. Apart from ''Daydreamin''', none of the mid-1950s Meteor saw much chart action. Many received good trade paper reviews, and it seems that the Junior
Thompson and Charlie Feathers singles went into decent second pressings and did quite well over a period of time. While many of the white Meteors sizzled musically, they fizzled out commercial.
Sales of black music on Meteor had been good right at the start, and in Lester's last two years in Memphis he resumed issuing blues and rhythm and blues - perhaps because Sam Phillips
had almost stopped recording black music and more of the talent was looking in his direction. Local recordings included those by Rufus Thomas, Little Milton, Fention Robinson, and the Del Rios, a group that included the young William
Bell. It is likely that Rufus Thomas, in his local disc jockey mode, acted as a conduit for talent at that time.
demise was reported in Cash Box in May 1957. Just one more, fluke, record would appear, by Minnesota rock and roller Steve Carl, who bought in his own excellent demo recordings after being rejected by Sun. From non-functioning equipment to snakes in the control
room, Steve was unimpressed by what he found at Meteor, although an enthusiastic Lester promised big things, including an LP release. With his demos being of a quality far above anything that Carl could envisage recording at Meteor, he agreed to leave the
tape of six songs. His guitarist returned in mid-1958; Lester Bihari was still there and filled a request to re-press the band's record. Just how long Bihari remained in Memphis after that is not exactly known, but Jim O'Neil reports that he became a sales
representative for his brothers' Crown budget LP label around the time that Meteor folded, first in Memphis and then in Texas. Frank Scott found him back on the West Coast in the stockroom when he visited the Kent/Modern offices in 1969. Lester Bihari, who
was born on May 12, 1914 in Philadelphia, died on September 5, 1983 in Los Angeles.
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©