K-tel Records

Long before playlists would become popular, compiling your own music wasn’t the easiest of tasks. Thankfully, a company called K-tel felt your pain and was happy to assist, by offering a plethora of music collections on TV, each with a catchy title and a selection of the most popular music of the day.

K-tel was founded in 1962 by a man named Philip Kives, and they were basically a marketing machine for a number of cookware items and other gadgets. Kives never had any intention of entering the music world, but he thought an album of country music hits might generate modest sales.

It did better than that, and by the 70s, K-Tel was releasing dozens of compilation albums.


K-tel records usually included 20 pop songs, presented in a sort of ambiguous, underlying theme that didn’t always hold true. For example, the album titled 20 Power Hits inexplicably contained a song by The Carpenters.

For the most part though, if you liked pop music, you would probably like the majority of songs on each record, titled with catchy names like Blockbuster, Hit Machine, Fantastic, Music Express, Mindbender and Sound Explosion.


As is often the case, one must put themselves into the era to understand why these records were so popular. The only other way to purchase these songs was either to buy the album they were originally on or buy the 45.

And with singles costing upwards of a buck, a five-dollar album that contained 20 hits from various superstars was a pretty good bargain, even if you didn’t necessarily like every offering.


K-tel is still in business to this day, although their glory days were unquestionably the 70s. Back then, it was common to catch at least one commercial each time you turned on the television.

As a result, millions of K-tel records made it into the public’s album collection, some of which are still fondly remembered to this day.


If you owned a K-tel record or three back in the day, I hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts and help us reminisce in our comments section below.

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7 Responses

  1. Pazi Steklo says:

    K-tel Records were always in my record collection dating back to 1972! The last one I purchased was in 1982. It was a great way to collect the songs of the day and those records have been a huge influence on my musical tastes today. Because of them and WABC radio (when they played top 40, anyone remember Dan Ingram?!) I became a musician myself. Good times. Good times indeed.

  2. Jonathan Schult says:

    Like Pavlov’s dogs (only dumber), I too had to have every K-tel album when I saw the commercial for it. Even today I still look for them at record shows. My first one was “20 Explosive Hits” from 1970, and the last vinyl I bought was “Hit After Hit” in 1986. Of course, there are CDs now on the market, mere shadows of what once was. But it was a heady rush while it lasted.

  3. Brad says:

    K-Tel was the best known of a number of companies that bombarded the TV airwaves in the 70’s to sell compilation records not available in stores. All you had to do was send your money to a PO Box somewhere and wait the customary 6-8 weeks for delivery; the announcer always gave the useless admonition, “So you don’t forget, mail before midnight tomorrow!”

    One day, I actually caught the very fine print at the end of a commercial and discovered that one of these companies was quite local: Suffolk Marketing in Smithtown. I was disappointed to find that the address was a nondescript building without so much as a sign outside.

  4. Andrew A. Fernandez Jr. says:

    rewound radio playes every song.

  5. Jonathan Schult says:

    K-tel Records were always available at point of sale, never mail away. They were available everywhere from 7-11, Korvettes, McCrory’s and Mays to Woolworth’s.

  6. Adam Z says:

    I worked in the Summer of ’81 or ’82, in K-TEL Records plant in Bohemia, NY (Long Island).

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