Remember K-Tel’s ‘As Advertised on TV’ Compilation Albums?

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If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember seeing commercials for such products as the Record Selector and Fishin’ Magician on TV. These and many others were thanks to the ingenious marketer to the masses, Philip Kives of K-tel fame, who died April 27, 2016, at age 87 after decades of revolutionizing product advertising and marketing. Among the many sales-generating innovations by the Canadian entrepreneur was the development of the compilation album, which became a potent music marketing tactic and generated untold millions in new income in the recorded music industry in the pre-CD era.

K-Tel popularized TV “infomercials” for the Record Selector, Miracle Brush and other products and bringing the phrase “as advertised on TV” into the modern lexicon.

We can’t help but cringe every time the voiceover pronounces “rec-ord.”

In 1966 Kives compiled the album 25 Greatest Country Hits (which came with a bonus Bobby Darin 45 RPM single). The album was a sales success. His next release was a rock album followed by 25 Polka Greats, which sold 1.5 million copies in North America (at a time when million selling albums were a rarity).

1972’s 22 Explosive Hits included favorites from Derek & the Dominos, Olivia Newton-John, “and many more!”

“I didn’t look upon it as a long-term deal,” said Kives, born Feb. 12, 1929. “I looked upon it as a one-time product. Record companies in those days didn’t know what compilation albums were. They had vast catalogs of music they didn’t know what to do with.”

K-Tel’s biggest selling release was Hooked on Classics in 1981, which sold a reported 10 million copies. A single was a Top 10 novelty hit.

In addition to generating previously untapped income in the vinyl record era for record companies, music publishers, songwriters and artists, Kives’ multi-artist compilation concept helped provide a boon when the advent of the compact disc enabled record labels to re-sell music on a new format.

Watch a vintage ad for “5th Dimension Special” with 20 great hits on one great stereo LP. (Why is the announcer shouting?)

Although K-tel compilations were often sniffed at as low-brow, Kives was as influential to the growth of the recorded music business as the many great “record men” revered by the industry and music loving public.

Other K-Tel products were also available at retail, like the “I’m in the Mood” shirt, “perfect for today’s lifestyle.”

For many years, one of Kives’ main suppliers was Ronco and their popular “o-Matic” products like the “Veg-o-Matic.” K-Tel’s sales went from a reported $23 million in 1971 to $178 million in 1981. (The company says it had sold more than half-a-billion albums.)

K-Tel began to diversify into significantly different businesses and within three years filed for bankruptcy protection. The firm reorganized and eventually reached profitability once more.

It has its own catalog with some 6,000 tracks that it continues to license and sell via iTunes and other digital music outlets.

Best Classic Bands Staff

16 Comments so far

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  1. RecordSteve
    #1 RecordSteve 5 May, 2020, 15:35

    K-tel prices good, but what about quality? Pops, hisses…. I wonder how many plays
    you get till you groove into cardboard=ha, ha!

    Reply this comment
  2. John Rose
    #2 John Rose 6 May, 2020, 07:53

    I still have “25 Golden Greats” which featured 50’s and early 60’s rock and pop, and another one called “California Sun” which is pretty self-explanatory.

    Reply this comment
  3. Jim Southern
    #3 Jim Southern 6 May, 2020, 14:39

    It should be noted that Art Laboe and his “Original Sound” label introduced the first compilation LP “Oldies But Goodies” in 1959. It was first aimed at the Los Angeles market but went national and reached #12 on the Billboard LP chart.

    Reply this comment
  4. tony
    #4 tony 6 May, 2020, 17:36

    I still have my K-tel best hits record from early 1970 that included The Rapper, Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes, Ma Belle Ami, etc…

    Reply this comment
  5. bobbyb5
    #5 bobbyb5 8 May, 2020, 14:46

    I only had one k-tel album ever and I don’t remember what it was called, but I remember it had Venus by Shocking Blue and Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells and Indiana Wants Me by R. Dean Taylor. I don’t remember anything else that was on it but I was only about 10 years old and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.

    Reply this comment
  6. Ralph Spoilsport
    #6 Ralph Spoilsport 28 April, 2021, 10:36

    I always thought it was some kind of martian marketing scam like Ron Popel’s pocket fisherman. Kind of aimed at the Cowsills and Partridge Family crowd. Which was unfortunately was too big and is part of what got us to where we are today.

    Reply this comment
  7. 122intheshade
    #7 122intheshade 13 February, 2022, 13:05

    What you figured out about these LPs, is that you played them once to get a level and timings, and then you dubbed your favorite tracks to cassette.

    The songs tended to be rolled off pretty quickly at the end, so that a 3:00 song might be 2:30 on the K-Tel Comp, much the way American Top 40 would dump out of a song in the early days.

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  8. RecordSteve
    #8 RecordSteve 13 February, 2022, 14:53

    Bring back the “MOOD” t-shirts! (& stop shouting)….

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  9. music all day
    #9 music all day 28 April, 2022, 00:30

    “Record companies in those days didn’t know what compilation albums were. They had vast catalogs of music they didn’t know what to do with.” Total baloney!

    ABC/Dunhill Records released “Treasury Of Great Contemporary Hits” in 1969, featuring big hits from it’s catalogue:

    [4:30] **Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
    [2:32] California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & the Papas (1/66 – #4)
    [2:42] Midnight Confessions – The Grass Roots (8/68 – #5)
    [3:59] Try a Little Tenderness – Three Dog Night (2/69 – #29)
    [2:56] Dedicated to the One I Love – The Mamas & the Papas (2/67 – #2)
    [3:29] Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire (8/65 – #1)

    [3:03] Monday, Monday – The Mamas & the Papas (4/66 – #1)
    [2:35] Let’s Live For Today – The Grass Roots (5/67 – #8)
    [3:43] Dream a Little Dream of Me – Mama Cass, w./the Mamas & the Papas (7/68 – #12)
    [3:28] Born to Be Wild – Steppenwolf (7/68 – #2)
    [7:20] MacArthur Park – Richard Harris (5/68 – #2)

    TOTAL TIME: 40:17

    Clearly precedes any K-tel release, and making comment by Kives baseless.

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  10. Arthur Levy
    #10 Arthur Levy 28 April, 2023, 00:25

    Art Laboe’s Oldies But Goodies (started in 1959), and the K-Tel catalog (starting 1966) helped inspire the Cruisin DJ tribute series, starting 1970.

    Cruisin’ 56 June 1970 Robin Seymour Detroit WKMH

    Cruisin’ 57 June 1970 Joe Niagara Philadelphia WIBG

    Cruisin’ 58 June 1970 Jack Carney St. Louis WIL

    Cruisin’ 59 June 1970 Hunter Hancock Los Angeles KGFJ

    Cruisin’ 60 June 1970 Dick Biondi Buffalo WKBW

    Cruisin’ 61 June 1970 Arnie Ginsburg Boston WMEX

    Cruisin’ 62 June 1970 Russ Knight Dallas KLIF

    Cruisin’ 63 January 1972 B. Mitchel Reed New York City WMCA

    Cruisin’ 64 September 1973 Johnny Holliday Cleveland WHK

    Cruisin’ 65 September 1973 Robert W. Morgan Los Angeles KHJ

    Cruisin’ 66 September 1973 Pat O’Day Seattle KJR

    Cruisin’ 67 September 1973 Dr. Don Rose Atlanta WQXI

    Reply this comment
  11. Dale Latimer
    #11 Dale Latimer 30 April, 2023, 10:52

    Uhhh, wasn’t K-Tel known to edit songs (perhaps worse than “American Top 40”) in order to squeeze so many of them onto a long-player?

    Reply this comment
  12. thenetwork
    #12 thenetwork 1 May, 2023, 09:33

    Name a K-Tel album from the latter half of the 70s that did NOT have at least one track from KC & The Sunshine Band.

    Reply this comment

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