THE HISTORY OF VINYL
MEMORIES ABOUT CASPER SLINGER AND ARTONE (1956-1970)
By Harry Knipschild (historian) and his daughter Ariane Slinger
More than half a century has already passed since I, after having obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics in Utrecht, chose to follow a different path in life. In the autumn of 1965 I got a permanent job with a music company. It was Artone, located at Kruisstraat 8-10 in Haarlem. After working there for two months I subsequently switched to competitor Negram-Delta, located on the Zijlweg of the same city.
Artone was founded nine years earlier by the brothers Casper and Willem Slinger, together with John Vis. The two brothers were the owners. I did not get to talk to them at all in the eight weeks that I worked there. That right was only reserved to a few key employees. The distance to the upper management seemed to be very important. The Slinger brothers were referred to as ‘Mr W.’ and ‘Mr C.D.’ in hallway chat. What they were doing in another part in the building, where the Albert Heijn supermarket is now located, was completely unknown to me. It seemed that John Vis was the one who dealt with most of the business-related matters.
Casper Slinger around 1963
It took years after I had left to get to know more about Artone. John Vis [1929-2015] sometimes talked about his past in interviews with magazines. I was able to obtain more information when I asked former employees of Artone, such as Gijs Leijenaar and André Ceelen, to have their say for this website.
Especially Leijenaar held strong views about the upper management of the record company. One of the things I wrote on the website as a result of our conversation was that: “In the most articles about Artone, John Vis is usually portrayed as the great man that enabled the company to grow. The role of the Slinger brothers is usually marginalised. That was also my impression and that’s how I have always expressed it”.
Leijenaar completely disagreed with that opinion. “John Vis makes himself seem far too important in your previous article. The way in which he portrays himself is not how he actually was - on the contrary, a somewhat timid man, who did not like to present himself to the outside world. That he was the man that made Artone so important is completely untrue.
I could be mistaken, but in the article he seems to be the man he wanted to be, but never became. On the contrary when he was leading the company, after the Slinger brothers had gone, it was actually pretty much done with the salesman,” according to Leijenaar.
He especially thought very highly of ‘Mr C.D’ Slinger who had helped Gijs excellently when he had to leave the company. When Leijenaar learnt that his former director had died on 18 September 2016, he immediately described him admiringly with the words ‘hard, but fair’. “Mother Slinger should be very proud of C.D., the motor around which everything revolved. When you consider all the things that man set in motion and how many people he provided with a living...”
Death of Casper Slinger [18 September 2016]
The family of Casper Dingeman Slinger [his full name] also responded to his death. On 24 September they placed an obituary in the Dutch newspaper ‘De Telegraaf’ with the words: “At the end of the 50s Casper Slinger was the founder of the record company Artone CBS in Haarlem, together with his brother Willem. [He was] a great entrepreneur with a heart for his company and employees”.
On 11 October his daughter Ariane  contacted me from Geneva to talk about her father’s past. “There is much information that you do not have at your disposal yet and his life story is very interesting”, she told me by email. Shortly after that she sent me a lot of information and answers to the questions I asked her. I talked to her by telephone on 18 October. Her mother Adriana Maria Slinger-Van Mierlo  attended the conversation too.
In the last years of his life – he passed away at 92 – Casper Slinger was well informed on the developments in the music scene [and also on the articles about Artone that I had written on the internet]. He did not want to respond to it himself though. He left that to his family, ‘for after he was gone’. On behalf of the family, daughter Ariane shared some interesting facts with me.
Background of the Slinger family
The Slinger family originated from the provinces of South Holland and North Brabant [‘not from Belgium!”]. Her grandfather Dingeman Slinger was born in a small village in the south of Rotterdam. In 1929 Slinger senior founded the oil company Trio. “He imported cans of oil from Pennsylvania that he bought from a certain mister Drake of the Pennsylvania Oil Company, the first oil producer in America”, this became evident from notes that he recorded in a book.
Several publications state that Edwin Drake [1819-1880] extracted oil with a steam engine in Pennsylvania in 1859 [at Titusville]. Titusville became a boomtown, a similar situation as the gold rush several years earlier when large numbers of fortune-hunters migrated to California. In 1891 Pennsylvania produced 31 million barrels, 58 percent of the total American oil production that year.
Ariane Slinger: “My grandfather lived in a very nice house in Heemstede, he really was successful”.
The war years did not go by unnoticed, Gerlof Leistra recently wrote in Elsevier. “At the beginning of the war Casper Slinger was sent to a labour camp in Berlin. He jumped from the train, hid at a German woman’s house and escaped to Russia. He informed the English troops through the radio”.
Trade was in the family’s blood. “My father often went to Spain to exchange oil for oranges, bananas and tangerines, because there was not much to eat in the Netherlands after the war”.
The Suez crisis in the English press
According to his granddaughter, Dingeman Slinger became director of BP (British Petroleum) Benelux at a later stage. In that capacity he got his sons Willem and his brother Casper, who was ten years younger (born 20 November 1923, Schoten near Haarlem), to be part of the business. The two boys had had a good education. Following the advice of Slinger senior, Willem had studied law and Casper had finished the school for pharmacists in Utrecht after finishing secondary school.
Ariane Slinger: “Casper and Willem were successful in their business - they lived in Aerdenhout and Bloemendaal. At the end of 1956 the two brothers succeeded in making a huge profit because of the Suez crisis. They had kept a vast oil reserve in the Netherlands. Suddenly the price of this oil increased tremendously because of the transport problems to Europe. That lasted from the end of 1956 to the beginning of 1957. Suddenly they became very rich”.
Apparently the two [within Trio] also had activities outside of BP. A question about that topic could not be answered. Ariane Slinger: “My mother does not know all the details anymore. It is not completely clear. Perhaps my grandfather sold Trio, where the two brothers worked with their father, to BP at a later stage, when he became director”.
‘‘A dream come true’’
The Slinger brothers were ardent jazz lovers. This was no exception in the first half of the fifties. Just as the ‘teenagers’ later fell for rock and roll, the youth in the previous period was crazy about jazz music and jazz singers. Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennet were among Casper’s favourites.
The two bought American jazz records at the Beethovenstraat in Amsterdam. “In a small boutique, Glory, they befriended a certain John Vis, who worked there as a salesman. He had a profound knowledge of music, he was a real expert. As a consequence of the conversations with John Vis, Casper and Willem developed the idea to start their own record company and to employ him. Because of the enormous profit, achieved during the Suez crisis, my father and uncle could realise their dream!”
According to Ariane, it was her father’s idea to call the new company Artone. “He used the expression ‘C’est le ton [Artone] qui fait la musique’ his whole life and that became the company’s slogan.
While establishing Artone, temporarily based on the Parklaan (number 97) in Haarlem, the Slinger brothers discovered that most Dutch record companies showed relatively little interest in introducing jazz records to the market. This was their chance, they thought. “They decided, in particular my father, to travel to America. They visited all the American jazz labels and offered their services: to press their records in the Netherlands and to establish a distribution network for them. In the beginning they did not have their own factory. Pressing still had to take place in Germany”.
Gijs Leijenaar, one of the first employees, experienced it differently: “The first disks, usually 78 rpm records, were imported from America in huge heavy cases. They were unpacked and stored by Harold Hendriks (another employee), and myself. Well, if they were not broken, that is. Many were broken!
After a while [in 1957] the former hotel Funckler in the Kruisstraat in Haarlem was bought. The galvanic department was placed in the kitchen. The record room [storage room] with a shining parquet floor used to be a ballroom. After that the conversion to an office building began”.
Artone goes full steam
Artone succeeded in taking off. After a while there was a sort of division of tasks. Ariane described the division as follows:
“My father took care of the general management of the company. He hired the most important people (‘directors’) and frequently held meetings with them. He made the financial and strategic decisions. It was he who decided to buy hotel Funckler and to change it into an office building. His father [Dingeman Slinger] helped with contracts and licences - he knew many people at the municipality of Haarlem.
My father built a factory in the Waarderpolder and invested much money in expensive German instruments. [The galvanic department moved to the factory]. Later on my father decided to buy a printing company for making sleeves so that Artone could produce everything independently. Photographers were hired [for example, Kees de Jong] to make beautiful sleeves, pretty girls were put on them (‘hoezenpoezen’ – ‘sleeve kittens’), they did everything to make the records as attractive as possible”.
What was not sold on time, had to leave the warehouse. “After Christmas the records went on sale at the Dutch department store Vroom en Dreesmann. He also introduced the idea of painting all the delivery vans bright orange for delivering all their records in the country. In that way the company was really eye-catching!”
There was more about the approach of Casper Slinger. “My father was a discrete and hard worker. From six in the morning to 11 at night and often on Saturdays too, he worked for Artone.
He had a modern vision of management. Managers that were important for the company received a house, paid by the company, and a car. All the staff received a flu shot before the winter. Most records were sold around Christmas and no one could afford to become ill then.
My father had a small messy office. All employees could talk to him about their problems, big or small. He wanted to be close to his employees”.
Casper Slinger was not a flamboyant man. “My father did not like going out at all. He was more of a family man”.
Wim [Bill] Slinger, Dave Brubeck, Casper Slinger
Ariane also talked about the work of uncle Willem, who travelled frequently to the US for some time: “My uncle had a legal background. So his job had to do with that. Contracts were signed with Cameo Parkway, Motown, Reprise, Roulette, ABC Paramount and CBS. Big artists such as Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Frank Sinatra, The Supremes and many others came on the market in the Benelux through Artone.
My uncle negotiated and drafted the contracts. He was involved as a lawyer in take-overs and the (international) distribution network. He worked as Secretary General and operated as the ‘legal department’ of the company”.
About John Vis I wrote down: “He was hired as a director. Vis was an expert and a very social man who liked going out in the evening and having a drink. He had an artistic role at Artone: choosing artists. He went out with artists and producers. Vis was well-known in the record industry, he had good and commercial relationships everywhere. He was also responsible for the sleeves.
John Vis is also the one who introduced the idea that the texts of the records should be added to the records, so that everyone who bought a record could sing along.
At the initiative of John Vis my father hired Joop Portengen for the establishment of a music publishing company. Portengen acted as the director of the publishing company of Artone”. The publisher played a role in large Artone successes such as ‘De Bostella’ (Johnny & Rijk, 1967) and ‘Cha la la I need you’ (Shuffles, 1969).
Furthermore, a special role was reserved for Jaap ‘Pete’ Felleman (1921-2000). Felleman was a famous Dutchman due to his radio broadcasts around 1950, in which he presented the latest hits of American vocalists and jazz artists. He also obtained experience in the record profession as the head of the Capitol label (at Bovema in Heemstede).
In December 1961 Billboard stated: “The distribution of Reprise Records in Belgium will be handled by Pete Felleman Jr., for Socodisc, Brussels. The label had a strong start with Sinatra’s ‘Granada’ and his LP ‘Ring-a-ding ding’”.
Not much later Felleman became the label manager of Reprise with Artone. There are no further details on this. Jaap was also responsible for the national and international exploitation of labels like Chess, Palette, Hickory, Funckler and Motown. The record pressing department of Artone was responsible for a significant number of orders from European countries that were instigated by Felleman.
Ariane Slinger had a different view on this: “Pete Felleman was an important man in the company. He was responsible for the relations with the Medias, especially the radio - to make new records famous as soon as possible. He was very good at that. His warm voice was extremely popular with the Public”.
In the sixties Artone had a large number of American hits. To mention just a few: ‘If I had a hammer’ (Trini Lopez), ‘Red sails in the sunset’ (Fats Domino), ‘Shame and scandal in the family’ (Shawn Elliott), ‘Norman’ (Sue Thompson), ‘Bread and Butter’ (Newbeats), ‘Personality’ (Lloyd Price), ‘I can’t stop loving you’ (Ray Charles), ‘Lonely Boy’ (Paul Anka), ‘Blowing in the wind’ (Stevie Wonder), ‘It takes two’ (Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston), ‘Ya Ya’ (Joey Dee), ‘Loddy Lo’ (Chubby Cecker), ‘Where did our love go’ (Supremes), ‘No particular place to go’ (Chuck Berry) and ‘Reach out I’ll be there’ (Four Tops).
And there would be even more...
A recent addition in the sixties was CBS Records, part of the profitable Columbia Broadcasting System in New York. In his book about the record industry Clive Davis wrote the following in 1974: “Corporate CBS had been encouraging its divisions to expand and diversify because the board felt that television-growth, being government-licensed, might be limited”.
In other words: the profit that CBS television made had to be invested in other activities. As a result CBS took over several companies: Fender (guitars), Creative Playthings (toys), Rogers (drums) and Leslie (speakers). The record department, Columbia Records, was told to expand. There was enough money to realise this. It was decided to establish the approach in Europe independently from that moment onwards. Because the name of Columbia was owned by EMI, the company worked as CBS International.
Vis and Wapperom were present for Artone in Paris at the launch of CBS Records
On 16 March 1962 Billboard dedicated a section to the establishment of CBS International, that was led by Goddard Lieberson. All representatives of CBS International placed a full-page advertisement in the professional magazine, so Artone did too. The advertisement stated: “The licensee agreement reached with CBS Records marks an important milestone in the history of the Slinger Brothers organisation, a major force in the Benelux record industry. The Slinger Brothers have founded a completely separate organisation to distribute CBS Records throughout the Benelux countries, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
In addition to a large roster of local artists under contract, the overall strength of the Slinger sales and promotion forces, backed by excellent manufacturing facilities, gives the organisation a tremendous grip on the record market and the means of realising maximum sales effectiveness. Everything indicates that CBS Records will be established as a leader in Benelux in 1963”.
John Vis and Hemmy J.S. Wapperom attended the big launch instead of the Slinger brothers. Top artists such as Duke Ellington, Percy Faith and Ray Connif flew to Paris to brighten up the festivities.
CBS indeed obtained their own office space in the Netherlands: at the Jansstraat in Haarlem. Hemmy Wapperom, previously correspondent at Billboard [among others], became leader of this process.
Advertisement Artone in Billboard (16 March 1963)
CBS partly takes over Artone
The expansion of the American mother company did not end with the launch of CBS International. Companies that were allowed to distribute the CBS label were devoured. The Americans preferred to buy a national operating record company with an independent factory and a good distribution network.
In 1964 it was England’s turn. On 3 October an article was written in Billboard with the header: “It’s official: CBS-Oriole deal”. From 1 January 1965, CBS International had its own subsidiary in Great Britain. “Morris Levy, who will run the company in close association with CBS European operations vice-president Peter De Rougemont, said: ‘I am personally privileged to become a member of the CBS family. With the added impetus of having CBS behind us, Oriole will have no difficulty in expanding rapidly’, said editor André de Vekey in Billboard.
In 1966 Artone started to work partly under the wing of CBS. Ariane Slinger: “The cooperation with CBS Records went that well, that CBS bought a 50% stake in Artone in 1966. The record factory in the Netherlands became their biggest production point. That way CBS could get a foot in the door in Europe and the existing distribution network of Artone could be used”.
Casper Slinger, as Ariane knew, was very positive about the agreement that he and Willem had established at that time. It was really a win-win situation. Artone and CBS were subsequently connected due to the taking over of shares. “Artone had become part of a successful family, an international company. The future of the company was assured”. What Ariane told me, made me think of the words of Morris Levy, who switched as director from Oriole to CBS in London.
By selling Artone shares to CBS Casper Slinger had obtained money that he seemed to need. Gijs Leijenaar told me during the interview that Casper’s house was much simpler that the house of his brother Willem. Casper was getting a divorce from his first wife. He lived in a simple apartment with Adriana van Mierlo. Their daughter Ariane was born on 26 July 1963 in the French town of Menton.
Due to the agreement with CBS the financially difficult situation that had lasted for eight years for Casper, Adriana and daughters Ariane and (later) Alexandra ended. “My father moved then (from Menton and Zandvoort) to castle Klein-Bentveld with my mother and me, it really was a glorious period!” In the castle the family even had their own staff, which she could still remember well in 2016. The transition must have been big for the young girl and her mother. Her little sister Alexandra was born in that period.
Some of the CBS-hits in the sixties were: ‘Battle hymn of the republic’ (Andy Williams), ‘Silence is golden’ (Tremeloes), ‘The Boxer’ (Simon & Garfunkel), ‘Like a rolling stone’ (Bob Dylan), ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ (Byrds), ‘A boy named Sue’ (Johnny Cash), ‘San Francisco’ (Scott McKenzie), ‘Second hand rose’ (Barbra Streisand) and ‘Atlantis’ (Donovan).
A big hit in 1967
Artone completely owned by CBS
At CBS they were happy with the Artone’s approach in the Benelux . According to Ariane they were so satisfied, that the international Group was on the verge of appointing Casper Dingeman Slinger to a significant role. Casper had invested a large part of the money that he received for half of his shares in Artone again. “In 1969 CBS wanted to appoint him as their general manager for Europe”. However, that did not happen in the end. “My father experienced severe health problems. He needed to have major brain surgery”.
Nothing came of a new career at CBS International. CBS subsequently offered to take over the other half of his shares. “Because he was ill, my father eventually accepted the deal. He moved to the South of France immediately, because the climate was milder there for him (for his headaches after the operations)”.
According to his daughter Ariane, Casper Slinger regretted that decision for many years. He had never wanted to give up the company. However, he was under terrible strain due to this illness. “He was very ill for two, three years”, his daughter Ariane explained. Apparently, the saying was applicable here too: out of sight, out of mind. “My father blamed everyone severely for this. To forget his loss he turned his back on the record industry and his acquaintances. He did not want to talk about it with anyone, not with us either”.
Artone was no longer Artone. This was probably ultimately the intention of CBS, that increasingly began to work under its own name and with its own logo. Willem Slinger was persuaded to sell his shares to the American company too. Perhaps with the purpose to convince him, the elder brother of Casper received a much higher sum for his shares in the Dutch record company.
“In the early seventies”, Ariane Slinger stated, “Artone ceased to exist. John J. Vis took over the general management after my father left”.
Artone, with its complete factory, the national and international distribution network and position in the market, was the ideal acquisition for the American CBS in the early seventies. With the departure of the Slinger brothers, the name Artone disappeared from the annals of the Dutch music business.
A new life
Casper Slinger’s existence changed radically. “My father started a completely new life - more of a family life. Now he could finally enjoy his wife and children. He became a real family man. He moved often. Sometimes he lived in Aerdenhout (near Haarlem), then he lived in France again [for example, Monaco and Cannes] on the Mediterranean Sea.
Casper Slinger was a born entrepreneur. “My father also launched the company DS1, selling devices for insecticides and perfumes for in house. After a while he sold the company again. Furthermore, he traded in real-estate. He was also very active on the stock-exchange. He remained an entrepreneur in heart and soul”.
Finally, Casper Slinger settled on the coast in the South of France permanently. “He had many boats and bought a few houses with a view on the sea”. He did not maintain any contact with his old colleagues in the music business. Not even with John Vis, who later lived in the South of France too. “They never talked to each other”, according to Ariane.
“Jaap Felleman did visit my parents in the South of France with his family. That was around 1980, when my father was 57, so he had kept in contact. John Vis not at all”.
Adriana and Casper Dingeman Slinger at his ninetieth birthday.
His love for music remained unspoilt. “My father continually listened to music. He also had the best music devices in the house”. But his records did not have eternal life. “Of his magnificent and large vinyl record collection nothing is left, unfortunately. Due to all the times he moved houses the records warped and he had to say goodbye to them”.
Casper Slinger could not refrain from keeping abreast with the developments in the music business. “He kept following the hit parade. At the age of 92 he continuously played the music channels with videos at home. Besides music, my mother and the sea were the loves of his life. He never left her side”. The obituary in the newspaper stated that they had shared 62 years of their lives together, through thick and thin.
The Slinger family is proud that the record factory that was built by Casper in the early sixties still exists. There is a revival of music on vinyl. Even some old presses are still used in 2016, according to Ariane. The homepage of the independent successor of Artone, states: “With 33 presses, Record Industry is one of the largest vinyl pressing plants in the world. Our production capacity is 40.000 to 50.000 records per day”.
In conclusion, proof of Casper Slinger’s ‘eternal youth’. Not long ago Adriana and Casper Slinger, having passed 90 years of age, were walking along the Croisette in the Southern French bathing resort Cannes. A camera team of the French television (France 3) asked passers-by about their favourite artists. They stopped the married couple Slinger too. Casper wore, as usual during the last years of his life, a white suit.
What was his favourite artist?
It is unknown what the interviewer of the French television expected, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Adamo, Gilbert Bécaud maybe?
The answer of the man with the young heart was more than surprising. His favourite artist, he confessed, was Katy Perry, performer of songs like ‘I kissed a girl’, Hot ‘n’ Cold’, ‘California girls’ and ‘Dark Horse’.
With street interviews not all is broadcasted. Only what is important or interesting.
Ariane Slinger: “That way my father appeared, at the end of his life, on the French television!”
Family photograph 2013, daughter Ariane below middle
Family photograph 2015, daughter Alexandra second from the right in blue dress
28 October 2016 - 28 April, 2017
Hemmy J.S. Wapperom, about Pete Felleman end Reprise, Billboard, 4 December 1961
‘Columbia sets Benelux deal’, Billboard, 29 December 1962
Part of publication of CBS International, Billboard, 16 March 1963
André de Vekey, ‘It’s official: CBS-Oriole deal’, Billboard, 3 October 1964
Cees Mentink, ‘Artone-directeur John James Vis: De grootste boer kan tegenwoordig een plaat maken’, Kink, 8 april 1967
Clive Davis, Clive. Inside the record business, New York 1975
Michel Terstegen, ‘Het was eigenlijk waanzinning. Exclusief interview met John J. Vis over Artone in de jaren 50 en 60’, Warm Sounds, March 2001
Harry Knipschild, ‘Vriendinnen voor het leven dankzij Artone‘, on this website, 16 April 2010
Harry Knipschild, ‘Gijs Leijenaar en het persen van grammofoonplaten’, website Harry Knipschild, 1 November 2012.
Gerlof Leistra, ‘Casper Slinger 1923-2016, Ondernemer met passie voor jazz’, Elsevier, 22 October 2016