The Mythical Unicorn: Duke 45 Sleeves

Duke 45 Sleeve

While vinyl relics from Houston become tougher and tougher to locate as the years pass, proving the existence of other ephemera from a bygone era can feel more fiction than fact at times. It would only make sense that a record company the size of Don Robey’s Duke imprint would manufacture their own 45 single sleeves. After all, Robey paid enough attention to Duke’s sister company Peacock that he used beautiful five-color labels on his 45s. A dauntingly expensive endeavor at the time for a record enterprise, as the more colors used for printing, the more expensive the label being stuck onto to the actual vinyl became. This is the reason many record companies, particularly independents ones, tend to use one-color labels to this day.

Records, being made of polyvinyl chloride or styrene tend to weather the storm of time decently enough. As long as the listener doesn’t toss them around like frisbees and returns them to their sleeves after playing them, there’s not much threat of degradation. Paper on the other hand seems to deteriorate at a much faster pace and paper 45 sleeves tend to be no exception to the rule.

For all my years mining Houston for its musical past, I’ve located Duke sleeves in conditions that could only qualify them as refuse. I’ve found sleeves ripped into pieces, others that have seemingly been disintegrating since the moment they were manufactured and some that likely became a family of cockroaches Thanksgiving Dinner. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that my friend Gabe over at Breakaway Records in Austin randomly asked me if I wanted this sleeve.

The sleeve, a beautiful representation of the music it likely protected within at one point proclaims A New “High” in Ultra-Sound. While a crown sits on top of the punched label hole, announcing to any prospective buyers, that this record has Royal Fidelity and bears the sounds worthy of a king that you too can experience for only a mere pittance.

Maybe someday I’ll figure out the significance of the two unicorns.



Filed under Bayou City Soul, Duke Peacock Back Beat

2 responses to “The Mythical Unicorn: Duke 45 Sleeves

  1. Andrew

    I think the two unicorns may have been inspired by Scotland’s Coat of Arms, which also features two unicorns:

    They were trying for something “royal” to fit the theme of “Duke.”

    Peacock sleeves exist from the ’50s also, both the regular and gospel series.

  2. Ahh, Good looking out. The Scotland Coat of Arms makes complete sense when you look at it.

    I also have an orange and black Duke Records sleeve somewhere too. Don’t think I’ve ever stumbled upon a gospel series one and would love to see it.

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