Did you ever join a mail-order record club like Beaver Cleaver?

You could build up a sizable record collection for just pennies, but as Beaver learned, there was always a catch!

Subscription delivery services seem to be more prevalent today than ever before. You can get everything from laundry detergent to groceries to curated clothes delivered on a regular basis for a monthly fee. That doesn’t even count the restaurant meals, household items and cars that can now be ordered online with one click.

But mail-order shopping is nothing new. Sears became an iconic brand through its extensive catalogue and many other companies began introducing delivery options for their products in the 1950s.

The music industry was no exception. In 1955, Columbia Records formed the Columbia Record Club, later renamed Columbia House. It gave music lovers the option to buy multiple records for a dollar or less and get them delivered monthly. There were often enticing sign-up offers like free records and discounted phonographs.

Capitol and RCA Records soon developed their own mail-order clubs. At first, artists were exclusive to each company, but over time, music was licensed between each brand. The record clubs thrived for as long as music on physical mediums was popular, from records, to eight-track tapes to cassettes and then even CDs.

Of course, there was more to it than just getting full albums for pennies. The fine print stated that customers agreed to buy a certain number of records for full price later on. There was also a stipulation that you had to fill out a card each month determining your order, or canceling an order altogether for the time being. If you forgot to send the card, you would get the “album of the month” and be charged for it. 

That’s the situation Beaver Cleaver gets himself into in the season six episode “Beaver Joins a Record Club.” His father believes the club will teach him financial responsibility, but the plan backfires when records keep arriving and racking up a bill far higher than Beaver can pay.

Today, anyone can stream whatever song they want or listen to extensive playlists centered around specific genres. Back in the day, we had to decide our musical tastes by checking boxes on a card and waiting for the records or tapes to arrive in the mail. The physical objects gave you as the listener a different connection to the music, however, and don’t even get us started on the superior sound quality!

Did you ever sign up for a record club? Maybe more than one or the same club multiple times to capitalize on those free offers? Let us know in a comment!

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PulsarStargrave 9 days ago
When I was little, I developed a fondness for what I called "Story Records" such as a version of PETER AND THE WOLF and SESAME STREET! My moms signed me up for a subscription of what we thought created similar fare! Nope. It turned out the records were made up of SONGS from animated films....songs that I felt slowed down the movies! Anyway, she cancelled the sub after a modest stack developed without my playing more than one or two records!

When I was 10 she bought me a cool record player which I kept for several years! This time she brought me with her to the record section of a local department store! I looked at the selection and saw a SPIDER-MAN album, which she purchased, as well as something for herself!

Now we were cooking!
JERRY6 12 days ago
no i read the contract , silly me
grogan81 13 days ago
Belonged to a couple of em back in the day. Record club in the 70s when I was in high school. Unfortunately I ran into the same problem as Beaver did lol! CD club in the 90s but was way smarter. I loved getting the monthly catalogs to see what offerings they had going .
dbalius 14 days ago
Records, eight-tracks, cassettes…I got them all at different times over the years from record clubs. They were a great way to build your collection, but you did have to be diligent about staying in touch!
NickG 14 days ago
I belonged to Columbia House for many years. Loved it; but as a fan of classic rock, all they seemed to have was greatest hits albums. It was fun, though.
MarianneCoon 1 month ago
I belonged to a music club way back but they were selling cassettes not records. I also belonged to a VCR club back in the day

tootsieg 2 months ago
I joined a record club but as the saying goes “If it seems to good to be true it usually is.”
JeffBaker 2 months ago
I never was in a record club but I'm in a book club where I have to order about three books a year. No prob! (I haven't seen this episode yet!)
eddiecantorfan 3 months ago
I heard a song on AM RADIO several years ago with these Lyrics:
We're on a rock and roll band.
We used to be on TV on
Channel Ten"
Does anyone know the name of
That song and who sang that
Song ??
I guess that nobody knows the
Answer To my Question above this comment or how I can find
the answer to my question.
LoveMETV22 eddiecantorfan 3 months ago
Did a quick search on the lyrics you posted with no match as a result. You might have the lyrics wrong by a word or so. If you remember what station you heard it on you could call them to help with your query.
Jaxter14 eddiecantorfan 1 month ago
I know Grand Funk Railroad has an old song called “We’re An American Band”. Check it out, it might be the one, it was a hit song for them.
Moverfan eddiecantorfan 1 month ago
YouTube Music lets you search by title, band or lyrics--try there.
Moverfan Jaxter14 1 month ago
Maybe, but I kind of doubt it. The closest I can get to what eddiecantorfan recalls is a line in the second verse--"Up all night with Freddie King/I got to tell you, poker's his thing". Or maybe the chorus:

We're an American band
We're an American band
We're coming to your town, we'll help you party it down
We're an American band

(Never said it was Shakespeare, folks.)
MClark 3 months ago
I joined my very first record club, the RCA Record Club in 1963 when I was 14 yrs. old. I saw the movie the Pink Panther and I really loved Henry Mancini's cool classic opening of the Pink Panther.
I bought with my babysitting money ($2.98) my very first LP 33 and 1/3 album soundtrack for the classic movie The Pink Panther. I began to love movie soundtracks throughout my teens; and into my adult life I would order LP sountracks from Columbia House. I still have most of those albums (most are over 55 yrs old now) and are collectors items. I still collect film soundtracks today but now they are on CDs or I can listen to them on Spotify.
Pacificsun 3 months ago
I didn't join anything, but my dad did who was incredibly thrifty with money. It must've been Time Life but he loved the Lawrence Welk show much, he wanted to hear more of that type of music (meaning songs featured, not their arrangement). He was very excited receiving his album of the month. And I got interested in music by his playing the music, and so was grateful for that opportunity.
TheSentinel 3 months ago
Who here hasn't been a Columbia House member at some point in their lives?
Jaxter14 TheSentinel 1 month ago
I definitely was!
SoCal72 TheSentinel 13 days ago
Joined when they were selling cassettes, and like Beaver, ran into the same issues. I should've been more diligent in sending those cards back.
Jeffrey 3 months ago
During the hey day of the record clubs I had memberships in three different clubs, never bought a lot, just enough to keep the memberships active. As the clubs began to decline, they merged and I found myself with three memberships in one club. First WORD was bought by RCA which in turn became BMG and then BMG bought Columbia House and I had three memberships. I still have a few certificates for free CDs that were never redeemed.
MikeMarshall 3 months ago
Everytime we moved I joined lol
1st time I was 12, last time I was 16. I never received my penny back the last time I tried. I know I got them for next to nothing but they were like Timelife music & made cheap. Love the memories & I know they loved my 8 cents wory of investments ♡
Michael MikeMarshall 3 months ago
I've bought some TimeLife sets used, at a dollar per CD they are worthwhile. But a lot of overlap, and nothing esoteric. I found nothing wrong with the CD club pressings.

If you want bad there were the K-Tel records. A great way to get the latest hits, but I gather they tampered with the recordings to fit more songs o toa record. And weren't some recordings redone for K-Tel? Cheaper than buying rights to the original recordings. Even in the past 20 years I've seen CD sets like that, all excited until I read the fine print "may be new recordings".

Or Pickwick. I once saw one of those, looked like the real thing, but one or two songs missing.
TheDavBow3 3 months ago
I did join the Columbia Record Club in the early 70s. I taped that penny on the application card and sent it in. The anticipation of my albums coming in was unbearable! After 6 weeks, my Mom gave me a letter basically saying my application was denied because they suspected I was not an adult. I cried but I was only 8 years old 😪
Michael TheDavBow3 3 months ago
Did you get your penny back?
TheDavBow3 Michael 3 months ago
😄 unfortunately not. I could've used that penny to try the RCA Record Club 😉
UTZAAKE 3 months ago
Mail-order music clubs remind me of their ridiculous two-page advertisements in LIFE magazine. Featured so many albums, almost all of them with covers of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." Never knew that great Jimmy Webb composition was covered by Bill Cosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Andre Castellanos...er...Kostelanetz, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, etc.
Michael UTZAAKE 3 months ago
But that was mainstream music. I'm not sure how much The Beaver could find of interest. But it was Andy Williamsthat had the tv show, not the Grateful Dead. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 were big, the latter having some covers songs.

At the beginning of the sixties, the parents ruled. Rock and Roll was for the kids, over in the corner. But as the decade progressed, youth increasingly had some control. So Ed Sullivan had The Doors on,but wanted some lyric change.
LoveMETV22 3 months ago
LOL, The series used the mail order theme in a few episodes:
"Captain Jack"- Beaver and Wally mail order an alligator
" Wally's Pug Nose" - Wally mail orders a contraption to change the appearance of his nose.
"Beaver's Accordion"- With a little encouragement from Eddie Haskell, Beaver sends in the mail order form for an accordion.
And the " Beaver Joins a Record Club" episode.
They got some good use of the theme.
Moverfan 3 months ago
I belonged to the Columbia Record Club for a while. Always thought it was interesting that they mentioned records in the name, the print ads showed 8-tracks (the end listing artist/album title) and my albums were on cassette. But man, did I stock up on Springsteen!
Michael Moverfan 3 months ago
The record club continued until it wasn't viable. For a while, 8track was hot, so I think the advertising oriented towards that. I certainly remember ads with 8track used to display titles, a lot easier with the title on the edge rather than full album covers.

Cassettes took over, until CDs took over. I think there must have been fine print if your medium wasn't in the ad.
Moverfan Michael 3 months ago
As I recall, they had boxes on the coupon asking what format you wanted...vinyl, cassette or 8-track. It may have been vinyl, cassette or CD, but I don't remember exactly. Got my first two CDs years later when our now-Fox affiliate ran a conntest in connection with the Beach Boys six-week summer show. I entered at Harmony House (the record store) and forgot about it until I got a letter over a year later saying I won the two CDs and a Sony Discman. They had some kind of problem somewhere, but they did eventually notify winners!
Jaxter14 Moverfan 1 month ago
Harmony House on Rt 22 east in Springfield NJ? If so, I loved that store and bought a lot of albums there.
Moverfan Jaxter14 1 month ago
No, Oakland Mall in Troy, Michigan. I got a bit silly in the place myself.
MrsPhilHarris 3 months ago
Never joined a record club but did join a movie club. Same idea where you got a few vhs tapes for pennies then had to buy so many within a year or something to fulfill the contract. I still have some of them at our cabin.
Catman 3 months ago
Record clubs, book clubs, stamps on approval -- all that and more. I never got into any trouble with them, and I still have books that I got from the club 50 years ago and more. Best thing I got from a book club was the two-volume, photographically reduced Oxford English Dictionary. The print is so small you need a magnifying glass (provided) to read it, but it's the full text of the multivolume OED and has been a valued -- and much used -- tool in my library. When I was young, I could read the thing without the magnifying glass, but now I need my specs and the glass. As useful as the internet can be in philological queries, my OED is like an old friend.
Michael Catman 3 months ago
I was very tempted by that offer, but I never took advantage of it.

About 1990, I was helping a friend of a friend move, and their IED set landed on a pile on the sidewalk. So I grabbed it. The magnifier was missing.

I keep it on a higher shelf. Getting it down one time, I dropped one volume on my keyboard, and destroyed the keyboard.

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