Saturday, December 13, 2008

One Of Wisconsin's Coolest Labels-Cuca Records! Elemental Instrumentals!

Cuca Records was founded in 1959 in Sauk City,Wisconsin.The city was and still is a small farming community, caught in a time warp, a rocking time warp,musically. The small modest studio began in a basement(see above) ,and was one of the most significant small independent studios around the Wisconsin area. A lot of unknown bands and people recorded there, and it was a place to get your feet wet,and make a 7" single, and have it pressed up, and sell it at your live shows,impress your friends, and parents. It gradually became one of the best studios, through simple word of mouth, and virtually every Wisconsin band from the late 50's-to early 60's recorded there. You couldn't beat the recording rates! For $37.50 you could record your two or three songs,with no clock bearing down on you, get 300 copies of your single,and make some cool music. Cuca Records boss Jim Kirchstein was one clever decent guy, buying a lot of second hand recording equipment, and setting up shop. But the music on this label wasn't always rock and roll,some of it was polkas,old timey folk music, Swiss yodeling, and whatever else anyone wanted to record. This release "Elemental Instrumentals captures the instrumental rock found all over the Wisconsin area at the time.
What it was possibly lacking in technical skill in recording made up for it two-fold in the sheer excitement and creativity. This release is pretty amazing for the unknown bands of this era,
one song that just stands out strongly are The Montereys doing a song called "Rocker". Released in 1959, it pre-dates the surf era and the song "Wipe Out!" by a good two-three years. Where did they find music like this? Tucked away in those small towns, where kids,their brothers and sisters took their high school band classes, and just liked to mess around playing live shows to make a few extra bucks.
I don't think anyone had "stardom" in mind, I think they were just messing around, and that's where some of the best music comes from.
Another stand out track is "The Lonely Huns" by the band Attila & The Huns from 1965, also predating and sounding wildly close to a version of The Midnight Cowboy theme, which by my estimate came out in 1969 or so. Unusual music to say the least, and is definitely caught in a time warp. We're talking Twilight Zone.
Curious stuff! Creative and unlike most of the rock around the Midwest, considering Wisconsin a landlocked state, instrumental and "surf " styled music thrived. Sara Records was also another label name under the umbrella of Cuca Records, along with the Night Owl label-also part of Jim Kirchstein's publishing company.
There's so much more to say about Cuca Records,and the famous Fendermen single,and I think I'm going to spread that out over several releases, because you simply can't pin down this label to any one style of music or sound. It's also hard to condense this music into one post here.
Cuca Records; It was just: come on in and record your best tunes. Which for most musicians meant, do your own thing. Some of the music is dated sounding, but perhaps that's why the music still stands up after all these years, it's not really following every trend, or style, and has a sound all of it's own. Listen and see. It well worth tracking down this release,and get the liner notes, and also read online for there are several articles on the net all about Cuca Records.
It's well worth investigating, and learning how a small label nearly in the middle of nowhere can make some very cool music. Link in comments section. Be sure to stay tuned for The Fendermen, more garage music from Wisconsin, and other rarities!


stephanie rocks said...

Check it out here: it's coool!

Anonymous said...

You haven't posted many yet, but the level of quality is great and that is more important than the quantity.


DefChef said...

Cool blog! I'm eager to give the Cuca songs a spin this morning while I'm riding the train to work. And while they're downloading, I wanna share an opposite opinion RE "quantity vs quality"...."quality" is always subjective, quantity is not. That's why you can't go wrong throwing all kinds of stuff up there - that way there's something for everyone, and people can discover things they maybe didn't even know they'd be interested in. everything! Let the web sort it out!

Anonymous said...

Wow I have always dug the Cuca label since buying the three white label LP's. The Cuca Record story Vol. 1-3 (WL8847, WL 8848 , WL 8849) Great to here more Rockers & tittyshakers from this great label. Thanks alot the Drunken Hobo

Brandonio! said...

I forgot to thank you for this little gem Stephanie.I maybe late,but better late than never.

stephanie rocks said...

Thanks Brandonio!
I've got more Cuca things to post,I'm just slow ass.

Mark said...


I've stumbled upon some 45's from this label in thrift stores over the years, and have been really curious about it. Seemed like there must've been an interesting story because some are really unique instrumentals and some are just straight up polka, all beautifully recorded. Anyway, thanks alot for this!

stephanie rocks said...

Even the polkas sound good. Well, that's Cuca Records for ya, they recored the most polkas on vinyl I've even seen, and yes they sound good!
Not really my favorite music,but it's funny to listen to,you can't help it,there's something silly about it...very old timey.