The by-product of a stockman for the New York City housing authority, Radio Music Productions was more hobby than empire. Founded by Stephen Benjak in 1943, the long-living but short-on-output imprint operated out of Benjak’s four room, railroad-style flat in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, sharing space with his wife and three children. “The 78s and 45s were stacked up behind the dresser,” recalled Benjak’s son Stephen Jr. of his father’s bootstrap operation. “To say we were poor was an understatement. Somehow my father always found enough money to get a record out every year or so.”
Documentation is scarce on RMP’s quarter century in business. Benjak began publishing music in the big band era under the name Ben Jack, moving into 78s sometime after the war with the Johnny Guarnieri Trio. By the late ’50s he followed the market to the 45, issuing a string of impressive vocal pop and early rock n’ roll 45s.
Red Garrison made three singles for RMP between 1960-1965. “The oldie is played exciting instrumental style here by Garrison and his combo,” Billboard said of Garrison’s first A-side “Taboo.” It has a beat and the horn and guitar give it a good sound.” By 1960, “Taboo” was two decades old and had been covered extensively. The Cuban-born Margarita Lecuona penned the song in 1941, inspired by F.W. Murnau’s 1931 film Tabu, concerning the plight of star-crossed lovers in the South Pacific. Garrison’s follow-up—“Chant of the Jungle” b/w “Big Rumble”—would mine similar territory, the former resurrecting Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed’s 1929 hit from Joan Crawford’s first talkie Untamed. A regrouped Red & the Flames delivered two more instrumentals for RMP in 1964, disappearing into the Brooklyn hustle shortly after.
Benjak continued his low level operation well into the late ’60s, collaborating with juke box operator Joe Pellegrino on singles by the Impossibles and Renaissance of Rhythm, curiously tacking “Big Rumble” onto the back of R.O.R.’s boogaloo workout “There Is No Time.” When exactly Radio Music Productions went silent is unknown. “My father never wavered in his belief that a hit was right around the corner. He was writing songs right up until the end of his life,” Stephen Jr. said. “He died at 92.”
- Red Garrison & His Zodiacs Big Rumble
- Red Garrison & His Zodiacs Moonshine
- Red Garrison & His Zodiacs Chant Of The Jungle
- Red Garrison & His Zodiacs Taboo