Astor records can be traced back to 1923 when the Clark & Hagblom company began making radios in Grant Street South Melbourne for the Louis Cohen Wireless Company. They took over that company later that year, and in 1926 merged with two other companies to form The Radio Corporation. Radio Corporation expanded rapidly and made a wide range of radios and other products that competed with the Sydney based AWA, Kriesler, and Phillips. As with its competitors it went on to produce record players, televisions, (some were combined with the record player in the top of the TV cabinet), and white goods including refrigerators and washing machines. By the late 1960s the company had been taken over by Electronic Industries, that was then subsumed into corporate giant Phillips. The Whitlam govenment heavily reduced import tarifs in the early 1970s and many local companies simply couldn’t compete with the low cost equipment that the Japanese produced. Although large companies such as Phillips were able to compete during the introduction of colour television along side local production by companies such as Panasonic (which continued until the early 2000s), the writing was on the wall for the local consumer electronics industry and Astor lived on only as a brand name.
Astor records was established in 1958. It’s headquarters was located in central Melbourne with the pressing plant in the heavy industry area of Clayton. There were offices and distribution centres across Australia. Initially there were tie-ins with television, with the first locally recorded and released single and album by a “shipwrecked” Filapino circus performer named Pilita Corrales. Betty McQuade followed with other successful singles. Local production slowed and by 1965 little was being recorded under the Astor brand. This changed in late 1965 with a hugely popular signing of the Masters Apprentices. A good number of other popular acts followed.
In 1966 Ron Tudor moved across from W & G before establishing his own label Fable in 1968.
Things become patchy during 1970s for Australian recordings probably due to competition from then parent company Phillips Polygram division. Nonetheless, Astor continued on into the 1980s. Ironically it was one of the last releases Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face (recorded at Mike Brady’s studio on the New Moon imprint) that was the Astor’s greatest success selling over 450,000 copies in Australia.
While Astor’s local recording was somewhat patchy, during the labels life they were a major distributor of overseas material. This included British Pye, and United States labels Vanguard, Elektra, Kama Sutra/Budda, MGM/Verve, MCA, Mercury, etc. They lost these as the company’s were taken over by larger corporations.
Despite all their local recording and the distribution deals with the many overseas labels, Astor doesn’t seem to have released many pop compilations. There is, of course, the famous Go!! releases, and there seems to be a few Pye compilations, but in the main they are unnamed covers, and light easy listening releases by mostly obscure artists. However, local Astor singles turn up on K-tel, WEA, and Festival releases.