The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label

The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label
Authored By John Nicholson

The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label was one of the major bootleg operations in the 1970s. Working out of Southern California (though records were often pressed in Holland), it was set up by Ken Douglas who had been one half of the Trade Mark of Quality label with Dub Taylor.

When they split up their partnership, at first Ken released recordings on his own ‘Smoking Pig’ version of Trade Mark Of Quality, before establishing Kornyfone in 1973. From 1974 to 1976 he released over 100 titles, many of them with fantastic artwork by William Stout, who also did work for TMOQ and really gave both labels what was in effect a brand identity. Some were on coloured vinyl others on black (I always found the black copies played best) Stout claims that The Rolling Stones' Welcome to New York released in 1973 to be his favourite piece of work, which was also the label's first printed deluxe cover.

These main label releases were supplemented by represses of Ken’s ‘Smokin' Pig’ titles, along with thirty-two titles on an off-shoot called The Kornyphone Records for the Working Man. There were also a dozen double-albums on Singer's Original Double Discs and sixteen releases on Highway High Fi Collector's Edition Records, which regularly appeared with The Amazing Kornyphone Records or Smokin' Pig labels, as if things were not confusing enough. 

This was a veritable empire and from 1974 - 1977 they flooded into record shops and mail order operations. Despite or perhaps in part because of their illegality, they were hungrily devoured by fans of bands from the Stones, to Dylan, to Floyd, Bowie and Yes. Literally every big band was on the Kornyphone catalog list of live recordings, often many times over. 

When you see these albums now, they look very much part of the counterculture with the hand drawn artwork and hip attitude. Very much not part of the increasingly corporate rock n roll industry which by the mid-70s was making huge land grabs of what had been, in essence, a non-mainstream underground movement since the mid-60s. 

This makes labels like Kornyphone important cultural, business and musical artifacts. While many of the albums were repressed time and again in the 80s, they are nonetheless very much of an era, of a very short space of time in the early to mid-70s when rock music was growing its audience exponentially and supply could not meet demand, thus leaving a hole in the market for the like of Kornyphone to exploit. They also did us the pleasure of capturing some fantastic live music from brilliant artists that would have been lost in the ether otherwise. So from that point of view, they act as historians of the musical era and as such are probably more important now than ever. 



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