During the 1940s and early '50s, you could scarcely open a pulp magazine without tripping over an ad for Nordyke Publishing Company. They were the dominant force in the song-poem industry.
Founded in 1943 by 32-year-old Mortimer Singer, the Hollywood-based Nordyke (originally named Nordyke Music Publications) was a well-oiled song factory. Singer capitalized on the glut of amateur lyricists whose patriotic sentiments burst forth during World War II, using that stream to rev his assembly line to full speed almost as soon as Nordyke opened for business. Sample titles from the wartime era include the oxymoronic "The Fighting 4-F's," the oddly jingoistic "The Man In The Moon's An American," a Rosie-the-Riveter type of thing entitled "Mom's Building Bombers Now," the hair-themed "Baldheaded Guys Are Fearless Guys" and its opposite number, "I'm All Tangled Up In Your Hair."
Although Nordyke maintained a small recording division named Century Records, their output was primarily in the realm of printed music. Singer hired top song-a-minute guys like David Hall, Lew Tobin, the Richard Brothers, Ronnie Buck, Bob Carleton and J. Chas. McNeil to come up with the tunes. These shirtsleeve songsmiths worked on a freelance basis, literally mailing their music in from their respective spots on the national map. Interestingly, many of these fellows ran song-poem companies of their own; thus, Singer was powerful enough even to employ his own competitors, casting doubts on the efficacy of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
In the sheet music branch of the song-poem industry it was even easier to get away with song recycling than it was in the recorded end, and Nordyke relied heavily on that scheme. Many of their tunes were vaguely reminiscent of familiar melodies, yet were at the same time instantly forgettable. At best they were simplistic and dull. More striking was their cover art, which achieved some sort of benchmark for brazen cheesiness. The illustrations for 1946's "Dear Old Mother Of Mine," seen at left, look as though they were scratched out in minutes. Later Nordyke turned to clip art, but judging from the thematic stretches they made in the 1964 examples seen below, they must have maintained a very limited supply of clip-art books.
Nordyke's output peaked in 1948 when they registered over 2500 songs for copyright, an average of ten songs for every business day of the year. Sample titles from this period include the immortal "Oh Mama Don't Let That D.D.T. Man Get Me," and that abiding plaint of the inveterate song-poet, "You Just Furnish The Dough." But recordings were fast overtaking the sheet music side of the industry, and those who failed to make the switch were about to be trampled by those who did so in earnest.
Singer cast his lot with what he knew best, and stayed behind with printed music. Even more than his laxity, it was legal troubles that ultimately did his company in. Almost right from the start Nordyke suffered from a hail of prosecutions, litigations and recriminations. After winning a federal mail fraud case in 1951, Singer quietly sold Nordyke to Julian Wright. Singer re-emerged later in the decade with Film-Tone, among other song-poem enterprises. His son, Stephen F. Singer, founded Star-Crest, known to afficianados as Star-Crust due to its dated sound. The two Singers and Wright all experienced ongoing legal problems throughout the late '50s and early '60s, and none would ever again be a major player in the song-poem marketplace. Mort Singer took his final case as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, where in 1965 he lost to Archibald Cox, himself a few years away from frying much bigger fish as the first Special Prosecutor for the Watergate scandal.
Film-Tone || Star-Crest