Who the hell was Vic Gargano?
This question hung in the already stale air of our Little Village office at the tail end of 2017. We were deep into the compiling of Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights when a pallet showed up in the warehouse C.O.D. Dilapidated boxes of quarter-inch tapes, 45 deadstock, DJ copies, acetates, and paper were spread across the warehouse, smelling faintly of mildew after spending the previous 40 years in a garage in Southern California. An entire world abandoned like so much trash. The man himself dead so long that there was little hope of untangling his 20-year history as a record mogul and hustler.
As we began to transfer the reels and sift through the paper, the picture got fuzzier. Vic Gargano had multiple labels: Inferno, Indigo, Magenta, Lavender, Invicta, Condor, and Blue Fin, and an equal amount of silent partners. By nearly every account of the artists we spoke with, there was most certainly a criminal element in the background, but few were willing to go on record. “We were in the middle of a session and these guys showed up,” said an off-the-record source. “Vic went outside with them and came back ten minutes later with blood all over his face. He walked into the recording booth and said, ‘Back to work’ like nothing had happened at all.”
Gargano got his first taste of music business in March 1959, when he penned “Alone” b/w “Nightfall” for the Three Dimensions on Al Kavelin and Fess Parker’s short-lived Cascade imprint. Following the session, the 23-year-old Gargano partnered with Don Wayne to form Inferno Records that September. Less than a handful of records were issued on the red and black labeled imprint, including a follow up by the Three Dimensions and two brilliant 45s by the mysterious Carmen, who delivered the eerie “Isle of Love” in late 1959. A few months into the next decade, Indigo Records was born to handle Gargano’s pop fantasies, which came true that September when Kathy Young & the Innocents took “A Thousand Stars” to #3 on the pop charts, selling a million singles over the course of the next two years. Those proceeds allowed Gargano to eventually release over 50 records on the label and spawned two sister companies: Lavender and Magenta.
Indigo and Gargano blew through all of their Kathy Young money and were out of business by fall 1962. In anticipation, the ever crafty Gargano set up the Invicta imprint with Marvin Cockrum that summer, upcycling previously unissued Indigo masters by Skip Battin, Babs Cooper, and Kim Fowley through 1963. The balance of the decade was spent as an independent producer with diminishing returns. Cockrum and Gargano tried the label business again with Blue Fin in 1966, issuing wild, psychedelic offerings by the Deepest Blue, the Ascots, and Egyptian Candy. The Condor label released the incredibly obscure girl group The Mellow Dawns, group harmony soul by the Jhamels, and pop by Don Crawford and The Tomorrows. In 1974 he trotted Indigo out for one final run, briefly managing and producing Chameleon, a two husband and wife quartet billed as the “American Abba.” A letter from Capitol’s Stu Yahm from that year delivered the crushing blow: “We are up to our navels in girl singers around here." By the early 1980s he was largely retired, living on some kind of mysterious largesse. His recording empires was packed up and forgotten about until our call.
Gargano’s Garage gathers the best of his psychedelic pop recordings from the 1960s, including previously unissued sides by Life, the Goodthings, Dyland Roberts, Junction, and Buzz Clifford, as well as blistering nuggets from Deepest Blue, Egyptian Candy, the Ascots, Skip & Johnny, and the Colours. The thirsty results of a guy hell-bent on having a hit.
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with Eugene Viscione
Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights