THERE ARE TWO BASIC TYPES of “Various Artist” LPs that the music biz has developed over the decades: “compilation” & “sampler” albums. The most common model is the “compilation” album, which usually features a selection of otherwise-unavailable songs performed by an array of artists. These LP’s are often intended to showcase a certain musical style/genre, or music from a distinct era or particular region.
A few classic examples would be 1962’s Seattle Beat (a set of new recordings of then-active area jazz combos as produced by Seafair Records); 1965’s Merry Christmas (a set of new holiday-themed garage-rock songs by the Sonics, Wailers, & Galaxies as produced for seasonal sales by Tacoma's Etiquette Records); 1975’s Collector’s Item: Songs From the Taverns of the Pacific Northwest (a set of new recordings by an array of popular regional bands); 1981’s Seattle Syndrome, Vol. 1 (a set of new recordings by local punk & New Wave bands); & 1986’s Deep Six (a set of new recordings cut in one particular studio, & featuring groups who were beginning to forge what would later come to be known as Seattle’s “grunge” rock revolution).

A significant variation on this "compilation" album concept involves an after-the-fact retrospective approach. Local examples include 1965’s Bolo Bash (a compilation of local hits produced over the past few years by one local label, Bolo Records); 1965’s The Hitmakers (a compilation of songs by local, well, hit-making bands produced over the past few years by another local label, Jerden Records). Additional examples – which would each highlight vintage recordings originally produced by multiple record companies – include a few that I have happily contributed to the creation of over the years, such as Rhino Records’ 1988 LP, The Northwest: Nuggets V.8 (featuring local rock groups from the psychedelic sixties), & EMP’s 2000 set Wild & Wooly: The Northwest Rock Collection (featuring a wide range of rockin’ local bands spanning the years of 1958–1995).

The second major type – a “sampler” LP – is typically produced by one particular record company with the intention of drawing immediate attention to their talent roster’s recent and/or current singles and/or albums. Of the two types, samplers are usually pressed in relatively smaller quantities with the understanding that they are about the commercial goals of the moment & will thus likely have a much shorter shelf-life. There is at least one notable example of a "Various Artist" set that straddled both models: the Sub Pop label's 1988 classic Sub Pop 200 (which took the now-maturing “grunge” sound worldwide with new recordings by various bands – some of whom did have other Sub Pop recordings then-currently available in the marketplace).

But, with all this in mind: I hereby nominate the one spotlighted above as the earliest & probably rarest “Various Artist” rock 'n' roll specimen of them all. This 1959 sampler album – Mr Blue – is comprised of recordings produced by one Seattle label (Dolton Records) & was made strictly for the British marketplace. Issued by England’s Top Rank International label, the LP bore both a serial number cleverly designed to encourage sales [BUY/028], & a title taken from the name of the second smash-hit single by Dolton’s winsome debut act, that Olympia, Washington-based teen trio, the Fleetwoods. But as a sampler it also offered up various current hits that Dolton was enjoying with other acts that they had signed that very year, including the Frantics, Little Bill and the Bluenotes – & even one by the label’s Vice President (& resident studio producer) Bonnie Guitar. Of special note is the fact that this would be the first-&-only LP to feature music by the Frantics and/or Little Bill and the Bluenotes until the retrospective “compilation” trend kicked off years later. But way back in ’59, Top Rank’s Mr Blue sampler evidently achieved its objective as all four of the artists represented on the disc went on to score radio hits of varying magnitude in Merry Olde England. The musical contents of this LP are:

The Fleetwoods
  • “Confidential”
  • “The Three Caballeros”
  • “Raindrops, Teardrops”
  • “You Mean Everything To Me”
  • “Serenade Of The Bells”
  • “Unchained Melody”

The Fleetwoods
  • “We Belong Together”
  • “Come Go With Me”
  • “Mr. Blue”

Little Bill & the Bluenotes
  • “I Love An Angel”

The Frantics
  • “Fogcutter”

Bonnie Guitar
  • “Candy Apple Red”