The I.B.M. Blog & Articles

The International Brotherhood of Magicians

11 Apr

Walter Blaney's Zaney Marketing Campaign: Vinyl 45 RPM Records

Category: Article   Posted by: I.B.M. Website Editor

By Bobby Warren

How do you market your show? The Internet? Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook? Do you send out DVDs? How about videocassettes? Posters? Direct-mail brochures? Direct marketing media kits? What would you do if there were no Internet, no DVDs or VHS tapes?

Well, that's what Walter “Zaney” Blaney, and his contemporaries, faced back in the early 1960s. Like those today who gravitate toward tapping into the technology of the times to reach the masses, Blaney embraced the technology accessible to him and his potential clients and sent out audio recordings on 45-rpm vinyl records.

It's been almost 50 years since Blaney recorded one of his shows and had the records pressed, but his groundbreaking recording was nearly lost to history.


Though the “Goodwill Ambassador of Texas,” as Johnny Carson once introduced him, had many of the records manufactured for his marketing campaign, he eventually lost track of the extras never mailed.

However, a copy of the record was discovered, and Blaney was contacted to see if he would be interested in it. He was. Again embracing technology, Blaney had the audio converted from vinyl to digital, in the form of an MP3 recording. He forwarded it to his friends to give them a glimpse into history, and he graciously gave the International Brotherhood of Magicians permission to post it on our Magic Portal so anyone who wants to can listen to the recording.

What stands out when listening to the recording of Blaney's 1963 show for the American Municipal Association in Houston, Texas, is the quality. With the transfer of the audio from analog to digital, audiophiles will pick up some minor hissing. However, the audience reaction was tremendous, and the recording does an excellent job of capturing it.

The late Bob Seiderman revolutionized sports broadcasting at CBS and Fox Sports by placing microphones in the retaining walls at the Daytona International Speedway during the Daytona 500, miking referees during National Football League games and putting mikes in the bases and walls at Major League Baseball games. For it, he earned a spot, posthumously, in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. In so doing, Seiderman made the sporting events come alive and placed viewers in the middle of the action by capturing and enhancing the sounds.

Those techniques that made Seiderman a legend were essentially the same that Blaney employed when he recorded the show 47 years ago at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel for 1,500 members of the AMA. “I spent a lot of money to get the top recording engineer in Houston,” Blaney said, and everything worked that night. It was a great show with a great audience.

While it was important for the sound engineer to capture what Blaney had to say, it was equally important to capture the audience reaction, he said. 

Capturing the audience's response to Blaney's comedy and show was critical to the project. His intention was to demonstrate to his prospective clients that people at a Zaney Blaney show have a great time. By highlighting and emphasizing the laughter and applause, Blaney would be virtually dropping those potential clients in the midst of his act.

Once he had a crisp recording pressed on the records, Blaney began to mail them to potential clients and agents. 

“I explained in my covering letter, 'You won't know from this sound recording exactly what I am doing in my act. But you will hear the audience response in this excerpt from my 45 minute show.  If you would like to have YOUR audience laugh as much as this one did, I hope you will consider booking me for your next banquet entertainment program,'” Blaney explained in his e-mails to friends about the history of the recording. “I believe I was the only act that thought of using such a promotional tool. As crazy an idea as it may seem today, it got me a lot of shows through the years before videos and DVDs came along.”

As you listen to the audio, Blaney is in the midst of his pickpocket routine. He also steals a tie and concludes with a shirt pull.

Editor's note: My conversation with Walter Blaney was a memorable experience. He shared with me his early efforts at videotaping his show, how he made it onto Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and advice for young magicians. Watch the I.B.M. Magic Portal in the coming weeks for additional stories about our conversation.

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