Copy by Marshall Gooch

The Story of Eris Records, an American Classic

Eris Records was formed by Don Ament and his songwriting partner and (then) fiancée Ruth Jones in 1963. The two had been signed as house songwriters for a small New York City music-publishing firm (48th & Broadway Music), and had enjoyed minor regional success with “The Stars, They’re Bright Tonight” (by doo wop group The Scaups) and “Rock It, Buddy,” an “answer record” by The Teals (and covered in 1966 by Sass-A-Fras), among others. The pair, who later married, started the Eris label amidst turmoil at 48th & Broadway, where they felt they weren’t being treated or compensated fairly. Eris enjoyed success throughout the late ‘60s and into the ‘70s, but by the mid ‘70s the label’s successes had dried up.

Beginnings
Don Ament, whose family had emigrated from Bulgaria when he was a newborn, had grown up in a house filled with music; Ruth Jones, too, was surrounded by music while growing up in Buffalo, New York. They met in a Buffalo home-appliances store (where records used to be sold prior to the ‘60s), found out they both had a passion for songwriting, and began writing songs together. Eventually they were discovered after shopping their songs around New York City’s Brill Building, where many of the period’s music-publishing houses were located. 48th & Broadway was a struggling firm but had a few minor chart hits. Once they hired Ament and Jones, the hits started coming. After a few years of writing hit songs and producing demos, Ament and Jones asked for more say in who recorded their songs and even sought to produce. Executives at the publishing firm were against this, wanting to avoid rocking the (successful) boat. After months of turmoil, Ament and Jones decided to strike out on their own. They formed Eris Music, and with it Eris Records. They named their venture after Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, strife, and discord. (More recently, in 2005, a newly discovered dwarf planet was named Eris. It isn’t clear whether the astronomers were familiar with the record label/publishing firm or not.)

Eris Artists
Eris’ first signing was a singer/songwriter called Paul Stanchion (real name Paul Delorenzo), who came out of the gate with the folk tune, “I Can’t Understand (Ballad of an Old, Old Man),” followed by an album of folk/pop originals and covers of traditional folk tunes. Next signing to the Eris label was girl group The Chanelles, whose “He’s All Mine” (penned by Ament and Jones) made the Top 40 and gave Eris its first taste of chart success. A handful of hits followed, but Eris’ success cooled once Beatlemania and psychedelic/garage rock picked up steam. Ament and Jones, who had married in mid 1965, continued signing young hopefuls, achieving success again with a cover of their early hit “Rock It, Buddy” by all-girl rock group Sass-A-Fras. The song, as recorded by an all-girl group, garnered mixed reviews but it did reach the Top 20 in the U.S. California-based trio Isosceles came onboard in late 1967 with a pre-prog-rock sound and the album Trigonometry. Spawning a minor FM hit with “The Inner Plane,” the album kept the label (and publishing arm, since Eris also owned the publishing) afloat, as it was followed by 1968’s Two Sides to Every Story. Eris signed Isosceles’ Riverside-area friends The Mean Scene, who failed to have anything released. (The recordings they made in early 1968 later surfaced as a 1997 Eris “reissue” called Better Late…, which also failed to garner anything but a few tepid reviews on the Internet.)

Moving On
In 1976, Ament and Jones sold the Eris label and its recordings to a Canadian rack jobber with ties to many large record chains both at home and in the U.S. While no new artists or CDs were released by the label, many of their earlier releases were repackaged (sometimes quite shoddily) and sold in stores such as Target, and even in coffee shops such as Tim Horton’s (of Canada) and The Coffee Bean. Today, Eris is fondly remembered for a few great releases and a plethora of obscure and/or cult classic sides. Ament effectively retired upon selling the label, while Jones continued penning songs with other writers but without any notable success. Ament passed away in 2003.

 

 

Marshall Gooch | 760-625-7691 | jamesmgooch@yahoo.com | Copyright © 2016 Marshall Gooch