arctic
arctic
@arctic
 

Excerpts from Cooler Than Ice: Arctic Records and the Rise of Philly Soul:

Jimmy Bishop was program director of WDAS-AM, Philadelphia’s leading R&B radio station. His goal was not just to break records with airplay, but also to make them himself. He got that opportunity when Weldon Arthur McDougal III, a third of the producing team of McDougal, Johnny Stiles and Luther Randolph, suggested Bishop join their DynoDynamics Productions team.

The production company established headquarters at 5944 Chestnut, leasing masters to Atlantic (the Tiffanys), Wand (Nella Dodds), Parkway (Eddie Holman), and Chess/Argo (Herb Ward), but the great majority of their creative endeavors came out on Arctic. The Harthon contingent would split with Bishop and Arctic during the mid-‘60s, but Jimmy survived the upheaval nicely.

Bishop launched Arctic in September of ‘64, its icy name reflecting the deejay’s admiration for Atlantic Records (he chose a different ocean). The dark-blue-print-on-a-baby-blue-background label design incorporated a couple of cute penguins into its logo. Arctic did its recording during the label’s first few years at guitarist Frank Virtue’s studio at 1618 N. Broad Street (he’d scored his own pop smash in 1959 with the instrumental “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” on the Hunt label) until the action began to move over to Jamie/Guyden’s 919 Studios on the second floor of Universal Record Distributing Corp. at 919 N. Broad about halfway through Arctic’s existence.

“Jamie/Guyden had a little studio around the corner on top of their old distributor on Girard Avenue,” says session guitarist Bobby Eli. “But then they moved to the new distributor office, and they put the studio 919 up there.” As was the norm at Motown, Arctic’s talent roster usually sang to pre-recorded tracks rather than live with the studio band. No time was wasted in the recording process. “The order generally was backing tracks, then lead vocal, background vocals, and then if there was any horns and strings, that would be the next order,” says Eli. “Strings generally in the daytime; horns afterwards, like later afternoon.”

In all, Arctic would release 60 singles, a sizable number of them achieving national R&B hitdom and several of Mason’s earning pop crossover status. “What made Jimmy so special, he was tight with all the disc jockeys throughout the country, and they helped each other by playing each others’ records,” says former Arctic artist Kenny Hamber. “Jimmy Bishop was trying to become a Berry Gordy. And because Philly and Detroit were so tight-knit, when the Temptations came into the Uptown Theater, Jimmy Bishop was always considered the sixth Temptation.” It didn’t hurt that Bishop could provide local airplay by playing Arctic’s latest efforts on WDAS.