A record label from Birmingham, owned by Jim Simpson.  The first Big Bear single, the Steam Shovel's, 'Rudi The Red-Nosed Reindeer', came out in 1968 through Trojan, and had a Trojan catalogue number, TR-635 (1).  The 'Steam Shovel' was actually a pseudonym for the Locomotive, who Simpson managed; the band was contracted to Parlophone but the single was turned down by that label, so Simpson formed his own company in order to release it.  After licensing material to Polydor for a short-lived 'Big Bear Blues' series of LPs Big Bear returned as a label in its own right in 1974 with a cooler-looking bear as its logo (2, 3).  An independent company, it was spent two years with Transatlantic before signing a licensing agreement with EMI towards the end of 1976.  Billboard (18th December 1976) reported that the deal was to be a three-year one, but it seems to have lasted for just a year.   'Music Master' has half a dozen Big Bear singles listed as being available through Lugtons from July 1978; it may be that they were available individually from Big Bear itself earlier in the year.  By the end of 1979 Pinnacle had taken over distribution.   During the Transatlantic period singles were numbered in an OURS-0 numerical series.  Some singles were pressed in Holland (2), Transatlantic having trouble sourcing a U.K. manufacturer who could do the job.  Some other issues had injection-moulded labels (4) which were pressed by Phonodisc.  The move to EMI brought a change of both catalogue numbers, to the BB-0s, and label colours (5, 8).  The blue bear on a white background (6) seems to have been a one-off; it dates from the Lugtons era, as does the second Cousin Joe single, which has the references to EMI around the perimeter of the label blued out (7) - thanks to Robert Bowes for the white scan.  Big Bear was renowned for its blues LPs, by the likes of Dr. Ross, Lightnin' Slim, Homesick James, etc) but it also recorded local talent such as Soul/Funk band Muscles and New Wavers the Quads.  In the '80s the company turned its attention to Jazz and Swing music, and it is still in operation today.   It boasted a small subsidiary, Grandstand Records (q.v.).  The discography below only covers the 1970s. 


Copyright 2006 Robert Lyons.