Apart from Starday and Rite, no other custom pressing company fascinates me as much as the famed Kay Bank Studios custom pressing division. Even the musically poor records issued by Kay Bank seem to have a certain charm. But, like most things regarding custom pressed records, the information I have about the facility is scant to say the least.
According to Wikipedia (which isn’t the safest source to take info from), the Kay Bank studios were originally located at 2541 Nicollett Ave, Minneapolis, MN and was run by Amos & Daniel Heilicher (Amos owned the Soma Label). Yet Minniwiki (the Minnesota Music Encyclopedia) it was owned by John Michaelson. To make it worse, my notes states that Kay Bank Custom Pressing Division was run by Vern Banks! An Article about Billy Peterson in the Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians states the Studio owner was Bruce Swedien!
But finally I tracked down what might be the truth. Originally the address housed the Garrick Theatre which engineering legend Bruce Swedien (who engineered sessions for Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand and the recently deceased Michael Jackson). It was Bruce who converted the old theatre into a studio in 1955. In 1957 it was purchased by Vernon C Bank and the studio was renamed after his wife, who’s name was Kay. One of Vernon’s partners was Amos Heilicher who owned Soma Records and was one of the largest record distributors in the US. For $495, you got three hours in the studio, a 1000 copies of the record and 50 promo packages delivered to radio stations in the midwest. (But Soma were known to have pressed less records that a 1000 according to customer demand). Kay Bank evolved into Universal Audio (UA Recording) in 1968, Micside in 1970 then Cookhouse Studios in 1971.
Originally, each Kay Bank pressing would have KB and the same number with a A & B designation on the label and in the run off (Capitol, who in 1960 also used the KB prefix, had consecutive numbers). Later in the mid 60’s they dropped the KB and used the last digit of the year (ie 7-6600 would be 1967.)
Kay Bank managed to custom press some serious rockabilly records, stomping rockers, echo laden instrumentals and later on through the 60’s, some very impressive garage music!
Many people have documented the Minnesota Music scene - notably Tom Tourville and the fantastic Lost & Found magazines. But I’ve yet to see a complete or even a partial Kay Bank custom pressings listing. So here’s the best one we could come up with. Any additions, corrections and the like can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A huge thanks to Derik O, who has added many additions to the listing and, probably more importantly, sent me almost all of the label images for this site. Both Pascal and I tip our hats in your general direction.
Also thanks to Terry Gordon, Neil Scott, Barney Koumis, Max Myndblown, Udo Frank, Bill Smoker.
Malcolm Chapman, Derik O and Pascal Perrault
5th July 2009. // 5th Feb 2013