Tag Archives: Gabriel Dell

Monstrous Sounds: Famous Monsters Speak

The Sounds of Famous Monsters

Famous Monsters Speak 1963 Record

Brought to you – On record                                                                      for the first time with the help of the                                                  world’s first movie-monster magazine,                                      FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND

So reads the back cover of this spoken word album released by Wonderland Records and Famous Monsters of Filmland in 1963.  After learning that advertisers wouldn’t touch his magazine due to it’s “weird and inappropriate” subject matter, Jim Warren doubled down on his mail order business, Captain Company, to fund his growing publishing business.  Always on the lookout for new products to peddle to us unwitting kids, Warren partnered with Wonderland Records, a children’s record label and subsidiary of Riverside Records, to record and release Famous Monsters Speak in 1963.

The cover art is uncredited but all of the famous monsters on the cover look more than a little bit like James Bama‘s iconic Aurora model kit box covers.  Even the poses are similar.  Intentional?  Hmmm…. True to the Warren overhype tradition, we also get a cover appearance by the Wolf Man, Mummy and Creature though they are nowhere to be found on the record itself.

The LP features 2 spoken-word stories, written by Cherney Berg, a staple of spooky records of the 60s and 70s,  including Scary Spooky Stories, Thrillers and Chillers and later the King Kong (Original Motion PictureClassic).  His adaptations provided the soundtrack for many a Monster Kid childhood.  This album featured only a single voice actor, former Bowery Boy Gabriel Dell.  

Famous Monsters Speak 1963 Front Cover Closeup

The album’s little-seen back cover featured stills from the original Universal Studios Frankenstein and Dracula movies with humorous and satirical captions, as if lifted straight from the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine:

Famous Monsters Speak Back Cover:

Famous Monsters Speak 1963 Record Back Cover

Tracklist

A Frankenstein’s Monster Talks
B Dracula’s Return

Listen to the full album here:

Collector Notes:

While this record is relatively easy to find, it can be fairly complex to determine which release is which due to the number of pressings through the years.  Here is a detailed list of what to look for when buying a copy:

First Release

Shortly after Warren signed a deal to produce this record with Wonderland, the label’s founder, Bill Grauer, died.  So in late 1963, Wonderland was acquired by A.A. Records. For that reason, The initial press of the vinyl makes no mention of Wonderland:

Famous Monsters Speak AA Pressing

Famous Monsters Speak Side 2 Vinyl AA Pressing

Also in 1963, London Records released the album in Canada and reads “Made in Canada” on  vinyl.  The Catalog # on this release is GAR-3

Re-Releases:

Wonderland Records credited on front cover, without mention of Golden Records.

Famous Monsters Speak Golden Records Vinyl

Label credits to Wonderland Records and Golden Records on the front and back cover, but only A.A. Records on the labels and a mention in the lower right corner of the back cover.

1970 Canadian Re-release:

An A.A. Records Recording
Produced in Canada by Arc Sound Limited, Catalog # 836

1973 Re-release

Wonderland re-released the album in 1973. While the Catalog # remained the same: AR-3, there are some unique identifiers specifically the back cover sleeve which replaced the classic monsters movie stills and goofy quotes with a catalog of other kids record titles offered by Wonderland at the time:

Famous Monsters Speak Back Cover Sleeve Wonderland Records Version

In addition,  this release includes the following etched wording on the vinyl:

  • Matrix / Runout (A-side runout etching): AR-3-A-RC1
  • Matrix / Runout (B-side runout etching): AR-3-B-RC-1

Collectibility

In general, a high-grade copy of this record runs around $50, with less pristine copies anywhere between $15-$40.

In addition to the condition of the album sleeve and the vinyl itself, there are some ‘rare’ aspects of the first release that truly set the record apart from the rest of the pack and increase its value.

Printed Cellophane with Price:

Famous Monsters Speak Record Cover

The first press album sleeve originally had a nice cellophane overwrap with printing on it.  First releases were priced at $.98 sold  and soon increased to $1.98.  You very rarely see the “printed” cellophane on them and it can really enhance the value of the copy when you do find one.

The picture above is of  my personal collection copy of this record; notice the original cellophane with the $1.98 price printed on it.

Famous Monsters Magazine Offer:

Famous Monsters Speak Magazine Promo

Look again at the picture of the record from my collection and you’ll see Dracula’s legs are covered by a promotional offer for a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland.   This is another real differentiator from most copies of this record you’ll find.  This paper order form its typically found taped onto the album cover, as mine is, and greatly enhances collectibility.

Monster Kid Memories

Of course, no article on Warren’s merchandising business is complete without the Captain Company ads that ran in the pages of Warren’s magazines:

Famous Monsters Speak Print Ad

The record label also promoted the record and ran the full-page ad below in comic books and other kid-oriented magazine titles to promote the records availability in record stores.  Note from the ad copy below, the record was first released on April Fools Day, 1963:

Famous Monsters Speak Full Page Ad Captain Company

I never owned this record as a child, but I clearly recall these ads working their spell on me.  These ads were fairly unique in the pantheon of Captain Company; they marketed a quality product with minimal hyperbole.  It seems that the more gimmicky the product, the greater the need to overstate its qualities.

Where to Find Famous Monsters Speak:

Here’s a link to current eBay listings

Multiple copies in a range of prices and both white and orange sleeves are available on Amazon.

Discogs.com is a great social marketplace for record collectors and Ive had numerous successful purchases from this site.  I found multiple copies of this LP listed currently; click here to visit Discogs.

Listening Options

Of course if you simply want to listen to this fun LP again, there are numerous options, including the YouTube video I embedded above in this article.

Purchase a MP3 copy of  the entire album for $1.98  or on CD for $13.98  on Amazon

Its also available for purchase on iTunes and its even on Spotify

What are you memories of this LP?  Did you have it? Do you still?  Let us hear from you!