How a high school dance in 1959 inspired 2 Tucson teens to start a record label

Ed Masley
Arizona Republic

Ray Lindstrom and Burt Schneider were aspiring DJs in their senior year at Tucson's Catalina High School when Jack Wallace and the Hi-Tones set up their gear for a dance in the cafeteria after a basketball game.

The year was 1959 and rock 'n' roll was still making the most of its misspent youth. 

"They got up and sang at this dance and the girls just went nuts," Lindstrom said.

"They were screaming and yelling and everything. It was like Elvis. Our own little Elvis."

So Lindstrom turned to Schneider and said, "Hey, you know what? We ought to start a record label and record them."

Schneider said, "Yeah, that's a good idea. Let's do that."

Lindstrom laughed at the memory.

"We're 17 years old," he said. "Do we know anything about the record business? We know nothing about the record business. But not knowing anything never stopped me in my whole life, actually."

The launch of Zoom Records

Pete Ronstadt and the Nightbeats

It wasn't long before the teens had launched Zoom Records with a Wallace and the Hi-Tones 45.

And they followed through with records by two other Tucson acts — Pete Ronstadt and the Nightbeats (led by Linda Ronstadt's older brother) and King Rock and the Knights — before they'd graduated high school.

Lindstrom was flipping through Billboard, trying to figure out how he and Schneider would go about actually starting a label when he came across a little ad that read "Custom record pressing: Sidney J. Wakefield, Phoenix, Arizona."

So he called and asked to speak to Mr. Wakefield.

"I said, 'Hi, I'm Ray Lindstrom. I'm a high school kid from Tucson. Could you tell me how to make a record?' He spent like a minute or two on the phone with me explaining how to do it."

Lindstrom said there were no studios in Tucson at the time, so Wakefield suggested they drive to Phoenix to record the Hi-Tones with Jack Miller at Floyd Ramsey's Audio Recorders. 

"Mr. Wakefield said, 'It's where Duane Eddy does all his stuff,'" Lindstrom said. 

And that was good enough for Lindstrom. This was just a year after Eddy emerged from Audio Recorders with the wildly influential instrumental, "Rebel-'Rouser," a Top 6 entry on the Billboard Hot 100.

"The next Saturday, we had the Hi-Tones in the studio in Phoenix," Lindstrom said. "We're all just kids. We're 17. Jack Miller is in his early 20s. But we went there and we got the record made."

Getting Zoom Records on KTKT in Tucson

Two weeks later, they were on the radio in Tucson.

"The No. 1 one station in town was KTKT," Lindstrom said. "They played one of the sides every hour as a KTKT exclusive. Then we took the records to the record stores. The kids went into the record stores. They asked for it, and that was it. The whole concept. Then a month later, we found other groups."

They ended up releasing four singles — two by Ronstadt and the Nightbeats — in the next six months. 

"Then we all graduated high school," Lindstrom said. "And everyone just kind of went their separate ways. We never thought much more about it except we made these records, they've been sold and it's all history."

Or so he thought.

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What happened after the young execs graduated high school

In 1965, a legendary Pittsburgh DJ "Mad" Mike Metrovich adopted "Send-Di (Boss Part 2)," the flip-side of a 45 by King Rock and the Knights, as his personal theme song.

Suddenly, people in Pittsburgh were buying the record and the swaggering trash-rock instrumental even turned up on a compilation titled "Pittsburgh's Greatest Hits" on Itsy Records.

The next time Lindstrom saw one of his old recordings on a compilation, he was traveling in Europe in the '80s.

"I discovered they were pirating our records," he said with a laugh.

"All these things we did on Zoom were on these compilation albums of old 1950s rock 'n' roll. I didn't care. People said, 'Oh they stole them.' Are you kidding? I'm just happy to have 'em out there. I don't care about getting a couple pennies for records or anything."

Then the internet exploded. 

"And wow, our records are all over the place now," Lindstrom said. "They're on Spotify. They're on Amazon and iTunes. They're on YouTube. Everywhere. We have a whole new life with people interested in our records."

Zoom Records in the 21st century

"Tucson Rock 1959" compilation on Zoom Records.

In 2013, Dan Kruse, a student at the University of Arizona, did a documentary on the label. 

With all that new attention for their long-forgotten high-school project, Lindstrom and Schneider decided to revive Zoom Records, marking its 60th anniversary with a previously unreleased recording of the Nightbeats doing "Sea of Love" on a limited-edition 45 and the nine-song CD compilation "Tucson Rock 1959."

"I'm idiotic enough to make a 45 RPM record," Lindstrom said.

"And the funny thing is, that thing took six months to make. When I was 17, in 1959, we had those things done in two weeks and they were out," he continued. "It's not that easy to do stuff anymore. And it's outrageously expensive. Holy cow."

Still, Lindstrom said, he thought it was important to preserve that piece of Tucson music history — and his own high-school memories.

"I thought, 'I'm gonna put 'em all on a CD, send them out, give them away, I don't care," he said.

John Dixon, an Arizona music historian, is thrilled to see Lindstrom reclaiming his piece of local music history.

"He's Zooming 60 years after the fact," Dixon said. "It's an amazing thing."

Reach the reporter at ed.masley@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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