Early Years

Festival was one the major record companies in Australia. It was established in 1952-3 by finance company Mainguard. Depending on sources, the company either bought an existing record plant, Microgroove Australia, or bought Precision Engineering Australia and two 10″ presses that were in being held unclaimed in a bond store on Sydney’s docks. Either way, Mainguard sent John Delhunty overseas with the aim of getting licence arrangements with independent companies. He reportly returned with the rights to some American and European labels including Remington, Savoy, Westminster, Regent, Atlantic, Vox and Metronome. Offices were established in the former Smiths Weekly magazine building in Sydney.

Although struggling at first, they found that they had success when they recorded covers of overseas hits. But what them really going was wisely snapping up Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock that had been rejected by EMI. In financial trouble Mainguard reportedly siphoned off all the profits from Festival. Unable to sign the acts they wanted, Festival’s founding staff members, such as Les Welch resigned. The company was sold to Real Estate magnate L.J. Hooker in 1957.

Hooker

The sale to Hooker was not the end of the company’s woes. It was poorly managed and lacked major international acts as draw cards. It was soon on sold to Rupert Murdoch’s New Limited in early 1960.

Rupert Murdock and News Limited

One of the early staff at Festival was Bruce Gyngell. Gyngell left Festival to help setup TCN Nine television in Sydney in 1956. As a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited (who wasn’t allowed to own television due to his newspaper interests), Festival was keen to promote their artists on the relatively new medium of TV. The links Gyngell had to both Festival and TCN 9 paved the way. In the early 1960s Festival did a number of tie-ins with other brands. In particular, television programs that came out of TCN Nine in Sydney, such as Brian Henderson’s Bandstand were a showcase for cross promotion of Festival artists. A few years later the Johnny O’Keefe shows on ATN Seven received the same treatment. By the late 1960s and early 1970s the it was the ATV0 (now TEN) shows from Melbourne such as Happening, Uptight, and Young Talent Time. Festival also did tie-ins with music magazines such as Everybody’s, although this landed them in trouble as there was little distinction between the magazine and the records.

Other Labels

While Festival’s compilations date back to the 1950s, it is the 1960s issues that can command very big prices as by that stage Festival was signing some of the biggest Australian acts. They were also pressing and distributing some of the bigger independent record labels such as: Action, ATA, Billings Gate, Clarion, Downunder, Du Monde Kommotion, Leedon, Mushroom, Rex, Spin, Sunshine, Violet’s Holiday. Most of these labels issued compilations of their artists.

To get some sense of the scale of Festival you only need to look at the number of presses in operation. There were 26 of them producing about 900 records each day. That’s around 6.5 million discs per year. This was when the population of Australia was around 12 million people. (ABS – 1966)

As with all early compilations, the early records are Mono, even if the main albums were Stereo. This is because the compilations generally have the radio edits, and these were what were released on the 7 inch singles that were exclusively Mono until the early 1970s. Towards the end of the 1960s some compilations were released in stereo. These have an ‘S’ in the serial number – although many of the tracks still seem to be mono.

More information on Festival is available at the Milesago site.

Calendar

Calendar was Festival’s budget label in much the same way that EMI had Axis. Most of the Calendar releases were either reissues of previous Festival albums or lesser known overseas artists. Most cover work hid the original label details (sometimes with a black Texta line!). Most Calendar records have a "removable" sticker that was generally not removed – doing so now will probably rip the cover… It is not thought that any artist recorded directly on Calendar. Some issues have a combination of label information. 12 X 12 for instance has the pink Infinity label (Infinity was Festivals "progressive" imprint), but is numbered in the R66 series and has a small Calendar Records logo on the cover.

It appears that Festival moved its compilations to Calendar around the time that Majestic started ramping up, and CBS became a greater threat with it’s compilations. Calendar faded away by the mid seventies with Festival again becoming the main moniker. Until a few years ago it didn’t really matter whether you had the original or the Calendar reissue. Given equal condition they were worth about the same. Today the originals are usually worth substantially more than the reissues.

More information on Calendar is available at the Milesago site.

Festival also put out a number of compilations for the labels it distributed such as Spin and Sunshine, as well as for some of their overseas sources. Usually the track listing and cover art are the same their overseas sources, but there are some notable exceptions such as the Island Records sampler Bumpers that has a unique to Australia track listing.

This is not currently a complete listing. It contains what is in my collection plus information from rear covers and only includes compilations that have Australian artists. Listing order is by MX number when known, the original xL (FL, EL, QL) prefix is used where possible and the R66 number is also listed when the record was reissued or issued on the Calendar imprint.

(Please note: Inside flip back and double record images will come as I get time to photograph them, and some the front covers will be redone. Enjoy.)

More images to come…