On the Record:
The History of the Compo Company - Part 5
There was still a small but steady amount of recording being done in Montreal, primarily of traditional country-
oriented material. The 26000 series, which had gone from Apex to Brunswick, now became a series on
Canadian Decca. It was, by this time, confined entirely to Compo's own recordings. As the decade of the 1940s
was entered, the record business was vastly improved and the future appeared to be positive.
Shortly into the 1940s, however, events changed abruptly. First, the progress of the war in the Pacific cut off
virtually all sources of shellac, the major ingredient in records of the time. Since the shellac was required for
other needs, much was salvaged from records turned in (no doubt, much to the detriment of today's collectors!)
But supplies were still minimal. As if this were not enough of a problem, in mid-1942, the musicians, feeling
justly that the proliferation of records and juke-boxes was reducing opportunities for jobs involving live music
and that the lump-sum payment for most recording work failed to make up for lost income, elected to go on
strike in the U.S. While the strike did not extend into Canada, virtually all of the records issued here were
American pressings, a supply cut off by the strike.
At first, since the material for record manufacture was all but unavailable anyway, there was little pressure on
the recording industry. However as shellac became more available and new songs were heard in films and
musicals and on the radio, the pressure began to increase. Since Compo depended on Decca for its U.S.
material, the problem was further exacerbated by the fact that Decca, as a fairly new company, did not have as
large a source of previous material to be re-released. In any case, in 1943, Compo decided to remedy the
situation by recording popular material in Canada. In order to avoid any confusion, the Canadian Apex label was
revived, and the 26000 Canadian series transferred back to Apex from Decca. The first releases were recorded
by Max Boag, who had previously cut a number of waltz records for use in skating rinks; they appeared under
the "nom de disque" of Harry Glenn. Judging from their availability today, they sold fairly well. However,
Decca, in the U.S., was also feeling the pressure, and became the first major U.S. firm to sign contracts with the
union in October 1943, and thus there was no reason to continue recording replacements.
From 1944 on, the renewed availability of shellac and the new technology of vinyl and other plastic records,
along with the return to prosperity of the recording industry, created a tremendous expansion of the record
industry. From 1934 until the launch of the Canadian-pressed Columbia line in 1940, there had been only two
firms in the record business in Canada, and only three in the U.S. excepting minor specialty firms. Suddenly
there were literally hundreds of record companies in the U.S.. The expansion in Canada was not quite so drastic,
but several new labels appeared in 1946 and 1947, drawing material primarily from the new American labels.
Like the major U.S. firms, Compo entered the custom pressing field (all companies had, in fact, done custom
pressing, but on a very limited basis) and actually pressed some of the independent labels. As well, Compo
pressed Canadian versions of several of the U.S. independents. Varsity (the post-war version) appeared credited
to the Compo Company, while most others were uncredited, leaving it as yet undetermined if they were sold,
merely distributed or only pressed by Compo. Some, such as the Tempo and Gavotte labels, both sold by
Gordon V. Thompson, a Toronto music publisher, are known to have been custom-pressed by Compo for other
firms. The flood of independent records increased as time went on, however, and in 1952 Compo elected to join
the competition and widen its range of U.S. sources.