“After making the label an important artistic nest for major jazz artists like Nina Simone, Carmen McRae, Chris Connor and Mel Tormé,” notes Discogs in a summary overview of Bethlehem Records, its founder Gustav Wildi, in 1958, “gave the major label King Records half ownership as payment for distribution, and in 1962 Wildi sold King Records the second half of Bethlehem Records.”
With “Monster Mash” topping Billboard’s singles chart in late October 1962, Mann Drake‘s “Vampire’s Ball” — released on Bethlehem and rated as a “new single” in Billboard‘s November 17, 1962 edition — appears to be King’s attempt to cash in on the smash hit by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt Kickers:
“Vampire’s Ball” Mann Drake 1962
“VAMPIRE’S BALL” MANN DRAKE 1962
Billboard designated the single three stars (“moderate sales potential”) in their November 17, 1962 edition, while that same week, Cash Box had no compunction about stating the obvious in their “graded” singles review:
Mann Drake (Bethlehem 3049)
(B) “Vampire’s Ball” (2:34)
[Lois-Beck BMI — Zanino, Canton]
Side undoubtedly was inspired by the “Monster Mash” hit and, like the original, features [Bela] Lugosi & Boris Karloff imitations against a “mash” sound from the combo-chorus.
(B) “Horror Movie” (2:32)
[Lois-Beck BMI — Zanino, Golding]
Voice here is that of a hip-talking fella. Back-up sound resembles that of the top portion.
The King recording session notes compiled by Michel Ruppli indicate the 45 to have been released October, 1962, both sides having been recorded elsewhere and “leased” to King.
“Vampire’s Ball” would be remembered in decades hence as having been deemed worthy of inclusion in the following various artists compilations:
- RockBeat’s 3-CD box set, Halloween Nuggets: Monster Sixties a Go Go (from 2014)
- Halloween compilation Bomp in the Night released on Wanda (from 2006)
- German compilation Those Rock ‘n’ Roll Answer Songs Vol. 2 (from 1997)
- Simpletone’s Ghoul’s Night Out Volume 1
- The Al Stan Masters: The Best of Reading [PA]’s Oldies (from 1999)
Both 45Cat and Discogs indicate this sole 45 to be Mann Drake’s entire recorded output — is this stage name (i.e., “Mandrake“), therefore, simply sleight-of-hand? Al Zanino, who co-wrote both sides of this 45, seems to be the key that unlocks the mystery behind the artist’s identity, so says Discogs:
A songwriter, band promoter and manager, Al Zanino co-owned his own record label in Reading, PA, Al-Stan. He released a popular horror record in the 1950s, “The Vampire Speaks” and also released “The Vampire’s Lair.” Additionally, he sang on his own under the stage name “Tony Albert”.
Vintage copies of the original “Vampire’s Ball”/”Horror Movie” 45 have fetched decent money at auction in the past ten years.
Five years earlier, Zanino had recorded a horror 45 for the local market in Reading, PA — one that would be reissued on the single’s 50th anniversary in a limited edition of 500:
“The original was recorded back in 1957 by Al Zanino and Cliff Juranis of Reading, PA. Only a few copies of the original pressing survive. This pressing features a new picture sleeve designed by John Fundyga along with artist Rick Ulrich. The back features a copy of a rejection letter written by Roland/Zacherle on his original 1957 letterhead. Al Zanino sent a copy of the 45 to Roland when he hosted his Chiller Theater show back in 1957 in Philly. His letter was recreated from the original copy on the back of the sleeve. The letter has some funny comments written by Roland himself! The record label was painstakingly made to look like the original [on Al-Stan, presumably].”