Humans are almost more obsessed with making money off sex, than sex itself. As with film, the evolution of audio recording brought along the development of capturing sex acts.
Dirty recordings have been around since the invention of wax cylinders, and, in the 1920s, gave us 78rpm wax with blues tracks that filled a listener's head with sexual images carried by allusion and innuendo. Acts like Bo Carter, who sang "Banana in Your Fruit Basket," and Blind Lemon Jefferson, penning the original version of "Black Snake Moan," had a steady string of hits that hinted at doing the deed via double entendre. One of the best-selling records of the 1920s was by Tampa Red and Georgia Tom, titled "It's Tight Like That."
Music has been using sex to sell records from The Brox Sisters' "Red Hot Mama" (1924), Todd Rhodes' "Rocket 69" (1951), and The Doors' "Back Door Man" (1967), to Donna Summer orgasming on 1975's "Love to Love You Baby," and current tracks like "Talk Dirty" from Jason Derulo.
Singing of sex is as old as music itself, I'm sure, but once recorded audio came about, sometimes the music faded further and further into the background, which brings me to "sex records."
In 1948, Columbia Records came out with the Long Play (also known as the LP); a vinyl slab that spun at 33⅓rpm, and could fit up to 25 minutes of audio per side. This gave rise to the "party record," which you could put on at a shindig and walk off to mingle, without switching discs every few minutes. Around the same time came the release of "stag records," which were the same as "party records," but mostly held comedic stand-up routines to be played at bachelor parties, or the local Moose Lodge gatherings, where—at the time—women, and the easily offended, were not allowed.
Though comedy on wax has been around since Cal Stewart first spoke into Thomas Edison's cylinder recorder in 1897 ("Uncle Josh's Huskin' Bee"), much of the material was seen as indecent due to the nature of the language, situations, and the public image that comedy was seen as vaudevillian, and lower class, but rarely did sex ever crop up. Since those recordings sold, but were only a few minutes long, producers of the time were hasty to cash in on the length of the long player, and quickly delivered to the public what their ids seemed to want. Many of these recordings came out on Fax Records, and were affiliated with a men's magazine called Adam. Some of those issued by Fax include Bert Henry's Shocking Humor, For Adults Only by Terri "Cup Cakes" O'Mason, and Buzzy Greene with Stories Mother Never Told Me. Later, they would be followed by the likes of major comedians like Redd Foxx, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor, being released on Columbia, Warner Bros., and Atlantic Records.
The same year the LP was unleashed, the FBI had already made arrests concerning "pornographic albums." The owner of Kansas City Music and Sales Company was indicted for selling indecent records under the counter to preferred shoppers, and later a San Francisco store owner, Alexander Alpers, but the convictions were overturned the following year by the Supreme Court. This didn't stop the righteous from thinking they were right, and arrests continued. In 1950, Philadelphia police arrested the owner of Palda Records, Albert Miller, for shipping these comedy records through the U.S. postal system. This continued throughout the '50s, as even NYC raided several record distros, in Manhattan and Queens, as late as 1958 for selling what they considered obscene records. According to Jacob Smith's book, Spoken Word: Postwar American Phonograph Cultures, some of these platters were selling as high as $50. It seems an insane amount for the time, but prices usually only go as high as those willing to pay them.
In the 1960s, a few folks at Fax got the bright idea to switch from releasing records with dirty jokes, and just go straight for the dirty. One of the first discs to do this was Erotica: The Rhythms of Love (1962), which contained someone playing bongos as a woman moans and a bed squeaks rhythmically. This is the record that led to Fax owner Joe Davis' obscenity trial in 1966, but the ruling was later dismissed by the Supreme Court.
On the heels of the Erotica LP came the anonymously released album The Sweetest Music from 1966, where a swinging bachelor, Phil, tells the story of his seduction of Sheila on his 25th birthday. This record gave rise to more sexually explicit material, especially after the Supreme Court determined the distinction between public airing of pornography, over private expenditure, in 1969.
In the '70s, a record company calling itself Audio Stag Records began to produce vinyl discs which were mimicking sexual congress, such as Fornicating Female Freaks, Sensuous Women and Men Together, Hired Stud Will Travel, The Dirtiest Sluts in Plainsville, and the bizarre Balling in the Family.
The torch was soon picked up by a crew named Adult Series with the release of the double-sided Sonny 'n Sis/Mary Loves Lori, as well as The Story of Barbara. These records told the tales of young girls' varying sexual experiences, in all their dirtiest details.
Not wanting to be outdone, Audio Stag changed their name to Funky Finger Records, and dropped a few more 12"s, as well as adding 8-track releases, such as Wife Swapping Swinger's Orgy Porgy Party, Introducing a Bad Mutha..., Sexy Love Story, and Midnight Cowpoke. Many of these titles were later re-released under the company name of Executive Records.
My man Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore), under the name "The Prince," even got in on the act, releasing a few of these for an African-American audience, including The Sensuous Black Man (with cover art by Church of Satan member, Coop), and, later, The Sensuous Black Woman Meets The Sensuous Black Man, with his female counterpart, comedienne Lady Reed (under the pseudonym "The Madam," who also released her own The Sensuous Black Woman LP). Sadly—or not, depending on how you see things—these weren't very sexual, and, for the most part, were practical instruction manuals for the release of the hidden lover within us all.
With the advent of video, and home players, most people were able to get hold of actual pornography, and the death knell of the dirty spoken word record was soon sounded. By 1980, these records pretty much disappeared, and are now collector's items, selling at up to several hundred per plate. Happy hunting, you horn dogs!