restricted access Detroit’s Historical Archer Records from the Inside-Outside
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426 R ecords have been pressed in Detroit and the southeastern Michigan area by numerous outfits for quite some time. Sav-Way Industries churned out untold quantities of Vogue picture discs from 1946 through 1947, all of which are still collected and sought out today. Vargo started out pressing 78s in Detroit in 1950 and later ended up as American Record Pressing in Owosso, handling the earliest Motown pressings as well as work for Vee Jay, Cameo-Parkway, and countless other small local outfits. While that plant burned down in 1972, its memory still lives on in the fanciful “ARP” script pressed into the dead wax (old vinyl records that have been melted down to be reused) of records manufactured there. Falcon (Detroit, then Royal Oak), Sound Inc. (New Haven), and Trinity (Ecorse) were all smaller local pressing concerns with small, brief footprints that were still vital and important to local music. The end-all and be-all of vinyl manufacturing in Detroit is inarguably Archer Record Pressing. Started by Norm Archer in late 1965 and pressing their first 45, “That’s Alright” by Ed Crook, in 1966, the plant still runs smoothly today, a family business run by Norm’s son Joe through the mid- ’90s and currently helmed by third-generation record presser Mike Archer. The inauspicious building on East Davidson, just off of Van Dyke, blends in well with its machine-shop neighbors, and only the primitive mural depiction of an Arthurian archer on an exterior wall gives any clue as to what happens inside. Day in and day out, Archer continues to supply quality LPs and singles not only for the niche local market but for folks all across the country as well as overseas. While huge, multiplatinum-selling releases have never come through Archer’s door,the number of important, seminal, and influential records that have come off those presses is incalculable. In line with the dominant musical form when the plant opened, Archer pressed many of the most prized titles in the northern-soul genre. Small, local, obscure hobby record labels like Demoristic, Mandingo,Magic City,and Mutt may be unknown to the general public, but releases on these labels are widely considered the gold standard among the fanatic all-night dance crowds. Each of these labels was hoping for just a little slice of Motown’s market share, and while they failed to capitalize in their initial offerings, titles from Dusty Wilson, the Versatones, and the Four Tracks on these labels consistently sell for hundreds of dollars and have been known as “rent payers” among local used record shops. One of the most compelling things about a plant like Archer is that these titles, which pretty much walked in off the street,would share space with work being done by the “big” independent labels in town. While Archer handled jobs for both Fortune and Detroit’s Historical Archer Records from the Inside-Outside Ben Blackwell 427 ben blackwell Hideout Records, pure Detroit titles like the Faygo promotion “Remember When You Were a Kid?”; Curtis Gadson’s ode to the 1984 world-champion Detroit Tigers, “Bless You Boys”; and promotional/ instructional singles pressed on behalf of all the auto companies proved to be some of the bigger press runs that Archer has seen over the years. Mike Archer speaks wistfully about having to work overnight to press copies of Gadson’s hot single in the height of demand for “Bless You Boys.” He was still only a teenager, but the demands of a family-run business forced such situations. Having worked at the plant in the summer of 2007, if only for three days, I can assure you that they have much more stringent oversight of employees currently and rarely, if ever, have to pull all-nighters. Without a doubt, the best thing done by any member of the MC5 after the breakup of that band was Fred Smith’s Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, and their untouchable “City Slang”single was pressed at Archer, via Freddy Brooks’s Orchide imprint, back in 1978. While it would be the only song the band would ever release while they were active, it still carries the immediacy and bluster of a finely tuned muscle car growling down the avenue. Recently, a troll through old customer invoices at Archer helped solve a question that had arisen about the “first” Detroit techno record. While hunting down such designations is usually a fool’s errand, the question has always centered...

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