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Space Age Music Maker

Al Sherman

  • Date and place of birth unknown

Al Sherman was the Los Angeles-based record distributor who bought the Somerset Records label, original home of the 101 Strings, from Dave Miller in 1963.

At the time, Sherman already owned the Record Sales Company, which worked as a rack jobber throughout much of Southern California. As a rack jobber, Sherman contracted for records from labels like Capitol and then contracted with furniture, drug, and other stores to sell those records from bins in their shops. He and Dave Miller, then, approached the record business from opposite ends of the spectrum. Miller's forte was in production--industrial production, admittedly, but production nonetheless: lining up groups, material, and studios, and selling the results to other labels or releasing it on his own.

Buying Somerset Records was just one part of a whole strategy Sherman had to expanded his share of the music market. With Somerset came large shares of Chesdel Music, Miller's publishing company. Sherman also contracted with Miller to produce material for release on Alshire, Sherman's new name for the label. He also started a manufacturing arm, Budget Sound, Inc., where his staff worked long hours to refine the art of reprocessing ashtrays and old buttons into vinyl.

There are some who think part of the attraction of Alshire Records is the fun of guessing whether it was a toaster or a model airplane that provided the material for the record they're listening to. Aural appearances to the contrary, Alshire records were not made from old sheets of sandpaper. Only the Bihari brothers at Crown Records tried that.

Sherman had grand visions for his enterprise, telling Billboard magazine in 1965 that he had plans to release 150 albums a year. If you consider that Sherman had no A&R men on his staff, owned no recording studios, and avoided dealing directly with performers, a figure like 150 records a year--over 100 hours of music--can only mean one thing: crap. To achieve 150 releases a year with no creative capacity whatsoever could only be achieved through low quality standards and attractive terms for passers-by with boxes of tape. Once in a while, something great, like Astro Sounds from Beyond the Year 2000 slipped through.

But not often.

Sherman sold Alshire, its catalog, and its various publishing companies (Chesdel, Cordova, Daval, Hasal) to Madacy Entertainment in 1995, and Madacy has since begun to release on CD some of the thousands of 101 Strings tracks made by Miller and Sherman.

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