(b Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 1935). American trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and record company executive. He studied trumpet as a child and left college to play in the army for a two-year period. After three years of producing records on his own, he launched A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. A&M’s first issue was also Alpert’s first recording as a trumpeter and bandleader, The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962). The title track included sounds from the bullring in Tijuana, Mexico, so Alpert dubbed his band the Tijuana Brass. His music exploited a distinctive combination of Mexican mariachi-style brass with jazz rhythms, which was dubbed Ameriachi. A string of hits including “Mexican Shuffle” (A&M, 1964) and “Tijuana Taxi” (A&M, 1965) followed. In 1966 Alpert had five recordings simultaneously listed on the Billboard Top 20. His cover of “This guy’s in love with you” reached no.1 in ...
Terence J. O’Grady
revised by Bryan Proksch
Bill C. Malone
revised by Barry Mazor
[Chester Burton ]
(b nr Luttrell, TN, June 20, 1924, d Nashville, TN, June 30, 2001). American country-music guitarist and recording company executive. Although the first instrument he played professionally was the fiddle, he became internationally famous as a guitarist. Developed while he was in high school, his guitar style was influenced by Merle Travis, Les Paul, Django Reinhardt, and George Barnes and was characterized by the use of the thumb to establish a rhythm on the lower strings and multiple fingers to play melodic or improvisational passages on the higher strings, sometimes with complex voicings. In the early 1940s Atkins toured with Archie Campbell and Bill Carlisle playing both fiddle and guitar, and appeared with them on WNOX radio in Knoxville. He then toured with the second generation Carter Family as a sideman and in 1946 joined Red Foley. After beginning his association with the “Grand Ole Opry” he settled in Nashville in ...
Benjamin J. Harbert
Publishing company. It was founded in 1953 by Grand Ole Opry manager Jim Denny and performer Webb Pierce. It was one of the original Nashville music publishing companies, competing with Acuff-Rose and Tree. Along with the Grand Ole Opry, these companies contributed to the initial consolidation of the country music industry. Its building was located on 7th Avenue across the street from the studio of Owen Bradley, a legendary local producer. With Bradley and an association with Decca Records, Cedarwood quickly surpassed Acuff-Rose as the premiere Nashville publishing house. Songs published under the Cedarwood name formed the repertoire of the Nashville country music industry; significant recorded works included “The Long Black Veil” by Lefty Frizzell, “So Wrong” by Patsy Cline, “Detroit City” by Bobby Bare, “Daddy Sang Bass” by Johnny Cash, and “The Comeback” by Faron Young. Other notable songwriters whose work was published by Cedarwood include Marijohn Wilkin, Buddy Holly, Danny Dill, Cindy Walker, Ronnie Self, and John D. Loudermilk. In the mid-1960s, Cedarwood began to develop its religious music catalog. Co-founder Denny died in ...
[John Henderson ]
(b Whitehaven, TN, April 8, 1931). American singer-songwriter, producer, publisher, and entrepreneur. He began playing bluegrass while in the military and after his discharge in 1952, played at radio stations in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Boston. While enrolled in Memphis State University (from 1954), he worked nights and weekends at the Eagle’s Nest club. After working briefly for Fernwood Records, he was hired by Sun Records, where he recorded Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, among others. He wrote hits for several of Sun’s artists, including Johnny Cash’s singles “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “Guess things happen that way” (both Sun, 1958).
Clement left Sun in 1960 to became a staff producer for RCA in Nashville. In 1963 he moved to Texas, started a publishing company, and produced Dickey Lee’s hit “Patches” (Smash, 1963). After returning to Nashville in 1965, he discovered and produced Charlie Pride and wrote songs for a variety of country artists, including Pride (“Just between you and me,” RCA Victor, ...
Record company. Formed in 1958 by Columbia Pictures, Colpix originally aimed to market soundtracks and spin-off recordings of Columbia’s movies and Screen Gems’ (another Columbia subsidiary) television shows. Colpix’s catalog featured scores by such illustrious film composers as Bernard Herrmann and a young John Williams, although the company’s biggest movie-derived success came in 1962 with Maurice Jarre’s Oscar-winning score for Lawrence of Arabia. On the television side, the company’s focus was split between animated characters (the Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound), comedians (George Burns, Woody Allen), and comely young actors-turned-singers (Paul Petersen, Shelley Fabares, both from The Donna Reed Show). Other notable acts included the celebrated singer Nina Simone (at Colpix from 1959 to 1964) and the Marcels (“Blue Moon”). In late 1962 Colpix began to shift more attention toward the pop market, acquiring Aldon Music and, with it, the recording label Dimension and its crop of successful Brill Building pop songwriters. Yet this new direction did not yield much commercial interest, and Colpix folded in ...
Record label. Active from 1967 to 1976, Dakar specialized in dance music and ballads performed by African American artists. Based in Chicago, Dakar was independently owned and operated by songwriter and producer Carl Davis, who was at the same time vice president of Brunswick Records, which recently had become independent. Between 1967 and 1970, while Brunswick was still part of Decca Records, Davis worked as a producer, and Dakar releases were distributed by Atlantic Records. In late 1971, Dakar became a subsidiary of Brunswick, which began to distribute Dakar’s recordings. The company is known for its releases of Chicago-based soul music. Balladeer Tyrone Davis, whose “Can I change my mind” rose to peak popularity in early 1969, was Dakar’s most notable artist; R&B artist Hamilton Bohannon was another mainstay for the label in the mid-1970s. Dakar and Brunswick were embroiled in a public payola trial in 1975 and 1976 that led to the company’s creative demise....
Record label. Death Row Records was formed in 1991 by former football star Marion “Suge” Knight and rapper/producer Dre (Andre Romelle Young) in Los Angeles, California. The label’s first release was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in 1992, a groundbreaking album that paired explicit and often violent lyrics with commercial beats that were based on older soul, funk, and R&B songs. The musical style of The Chronic became known as “G-Funk” (Gangsta-funk), a style that dominated many of Death Row’s early albums as well as most West Coast gangsta rap throughout the 1990s.
Death Row achieved immense success within a few years, partly due to aggressive marketing to mainstream audiences, and partly due to a successful distribution deal with Interscope. Death Row Records became a target of the controversy within the gangsta rap industry due to the constant legal problems of Suge Knight and many of the artists signed to the label (for example Snoop Dogg, and later Tupac Shakur). As a consequence of public debates surrounding gangsta rap’s promotion of violence and drugs, Interscope’s parent company, Time-Warner, eventually dropped Interscope as a distributor in an effort to distance themselves from Death Row....
[James Rae ]
(b Buffalo Valley, TN, Feb 28, 1911; d Nashville, TN, Aug 27, 1963). American country music agent, publisher, and Grand Ole Opry manager. One of the most influential and powerful figures in the country music business, Jim Denny followed the path of the classic American success story. He left his home in Buffalo Valley, Tennessee, at age 16 with purportedly no more than 40 cents in his pocket. He moved to Nashville and joined the mailroom staff at WSM radio (home of the Grand Ole Opry). He completed his college degree by mail and worked his way up the corporate ladder, becoming the manager of concessions at the Opry during World War II. In 1951 Denny was promoted to manager of the Opry, an appointment that granted him to programming privileges and thus put him in the position to make or break performers’ careers. Additionally, he headed the ...
Joe C. Clark
Record company founded by Houston-based African American entrepreneur Don Robey in 1949. It focused primarily on rhythm-and-blues and gospel music. Robey’s initial label, Peacock Records, was created to record bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. The label also recorded Big Mama Thornton’s rendition of “Hound Dog,” which was later covered and made famous by Elvis Presley. Gospel artists including the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Dixie Hummingbirds, and the Bells of Joy joined the label and provided much of its success during the early 1950s.
In 1952 Peacock acquired the Memphis-based rhythm-and-blues label Duke from WDIA DJ David James Mattis. Its roster included Rosco Gordon, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Johnny Ace. Robey later formed additional subsidiary labels: Sure Shot; Song Bird, which featured gospel music; Back Beat, formed in 1957 to meet the growing teen market; and Peacock’s Progressive Jazz label.
In 1973 Robey retired and sold the Duke/Peacock label, affiliated labels, and publishing companies to ABC-Dunhill Records. Its catalog consisted of nearly 2700 songs and approximately ...
Record company. It was established by CBS in 1953 as a subsidiary of Columbia Records. Although from the start its issues included jazz and pop, Epic for many years was known primarily for its recordings of George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra (including those made with a young Leon Fleisher as piano soloist). In the latter part of the 1950s, as rock and roll began to overtake the industry, the company struggled to find itself artistically and commercially, accumulating an odd assortment of American, Australian, and European performers representing a wide array of classical, jazz, and popular styles.
The label’s fortunes began to change in 1964 with its participation in the British Invasion. Epic distributed the American releases of the Dave Clark Five and the Yardbirds and later those of the Hollies and Donovan. The true turning point for the company was the signing in 1967 of Sly and the Family Stone, whose critical and financial success helped redefine the label as a youth-oriented powerhouse. The company expanded through the 1970s, achieving unimaginable heights in the 1980s with Michael Jackson’s mature solo work (...
Joe C. Clark
Record company. Excello was founded in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1952 by Ernie Young, owner of a chain of jukeboxes and record stores. The label was a subsidiary of Young’s Nashboro Records, established a year earlier, which focused on gospel music. Excello initially featured some R&B and hillbilly music but was primarily a blues label. Notable artists included Arthur Gunter, Ted Garrett, Earl Gaines, Roscoe Shelton, the Crescendos, the Gladiolas, and the Marigolds.
In 1956 Jay Miller of Crowley, Louisiana, began producing a number of important swamp blues releases for Excello, including recordings by Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, and Slim Harpo. Young founded Nasco Records, another subsidiary that centered on pop music, in 1957. Young sold Excello and Nashboro in 1966 to Crescent Amusement Company; Miller’s association with Excello ended soon thereafter. The label issued releases through the mid-1970s featuring a number of southern soul artists, including Maceo and the King’s Men, Z.Z. Hill, Freddie North, and Kip Anderson. In ...
[James Staton ]
(b Lundale, WV, July 26, 1922). American record label executive. Over the course of more than 50 years, Jim Foglesong has played an influential role in the administration of country music. He initially aimed to be a vocalist, performing on a local radio station as a teenager and receiving a degree as a vocal major from the Eastman School of Music in 1950. He subsequently moved to New York City, where he was hired by Columbia Records shortly thereafter. He was appointed the head of their Epic subsidiary in 1953 and held that position for the next ten years. He moved to RCA Victor in 1964 as the executive director of their pop acts. In 1970 Fogelsong moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and joined the Dot Record label as head of their Artist and Repertoire Department. In 1973 he became president of Dot Records. In 1979 he became president of MCA Records Nashville and was named the president of Capitol Records Nashville in ...
Darlene Graves and Michael Graves
[William J. ]
(b Alexandria, IN, March 28, 1936). American gospel songwriter, performer, producer, and publisher. He grew up on a small farm in Indiana and graduated from Anderson College with a major in English and a minor in music. He went on to receive a master’s degree in guidance and counseling and met his future wife and song-producing partner, Gloria Sickal, while both were teaching high school. Gaither started singing gospel music as a child and in 1956 formed the Bill Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and his sister Mary Ann. He started his own publishing company in 1959. He continued to perform and compose while a teacher at Alexandria High School and in 1961 formed the Gaither Music Company to publish his works. After their marriage in 1962, Gaither and his wife wrote their first major song, “He touched me,” which was a significant hit by 1963. He re-formed the Bill Gaither Trio with Gloria and Danny, and in ...
Charles K. Wolfe
revised by Diane Pecknold
(b Lizard Lick, nr Knightdale, NC, Aug 22, 1914; d Falls Church, VA, Dec 4, 1989). American country music radio announcer, station owner, television producer, and concert promoter. He studied agriculture at North Carolina State University (BS 1935) and then joined the US Department of Agriculture. From 1935 to 1945 he produced the department’s network radio program, The National Farm and Home Hour. After World War II he launched a number of country music enterprises around Washington, DC, using the moniker Town and Country Time as a unifying brand. His activities included a concert series in Constitution Hall, a morning radio program on WARL (Arlington, VA) called Let’s be gay, and an afternoon program called Town and Country Time, which was later syndicated on radio and television. Gay owned radio stations throughout the upper southeast, and his were among the first to experiment with full-time country music broadcasting. He was also a pioneer in television. In the mid-1950s he produced a three-hour NBC network television show, ...
(b United States). American new Age pianist and producer. He played jazz trumpet and guitar during the 1960s in New York, and has credited John Coltrane as an early influence. He became interested in sonic healing and Eastern religions, both of which became fundamental to the transformation of his musical style. After undergoing a spiritual awakening in 1969 in the Santa Cruz mountains, Halpern developed what he called “anti-frantic alternative” music, releasing his first album, Spectrum Suite, in 1975. It became one of the foundational, and most influential, albums of New Age music. To create what was labeled music for “meditation and inner peace,” Halpern performed slowly unfolding, almost arrhythmic melodies on keyboards and synthesizers. Often using choral backdrops for his minimalist, meandering, and warm sonic environments, he weaves together spiritual growth and musical freedom with the goal of bringing self-actualization and wellness to the listener. He has released over 70 recordings featuring instrumental music as well as guided meditation. These include recordings targeted for specific purposes, such as ...
Record company. It was originally established in the United States in 1979 by music entrepreneur Miles Copland as an outgrowth of his Faulty Products/Illegal Records company in the United Kingdom. After having negotiated a contract for the rock band the Police with A&M Records, Copland and A&M reached a distribution and production deal for the International Record Syndicate (a/k/a I.R.S.), for which he named 21-year-old Jay Boberg to oversee American operations. I.R.S. not only reissued Illegal releases originally distributed in the United Kingdom, but also became the umbrella group for a host of labels, including Industrial Records, Spy Records, Deptford Fun City Records, No Speak, the independent label Rough Trade, and others, as well as issuing records under the I.R.S. banner. Notable artists included the Buzzcocks, the Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Renaissance, Wall of Voodoo, the Go-Go’s, and R.E.M.
In 1985 I.R.S. switched its distribution to MCA Records for new releases, remaining there until ...
Record label. The company was established by Lew Chudd in 1946 in Los Angeles, where it originally issued records aimed at the local Mexican American market. With the New Orleans bandleader and arranger Dave Bartholomew as the company’s A&R man, Chudd extended Imperial’s reach into the emergent rhythm and blues market. Their first major signing was the New Orleans pianist and singer Fats Domino. Between 1949 and 1962, Domino had a string of hit records with Imperial beginning with “The Fat Man” (1949) which was a hit on Billboard’s R&B chart. Domino also began to achieve increasing crossover success for the small, independent label. His biggest hit, “Blueberry Hill” (1956), reached no.1 on the R&B chart and no.2 on the Hot 100. Imperial was the first label to promote the New Orleans R&B scene and, with the success of Domino, several others signings followed: Roy Brown, Smiley Lewis, Tommy Ridgely, and The Spiders. In ...
Record company and label. The company was founded in New York in 1976 by Irv (Irving) Kratka. A subsidiary of the MMO (Music Minus One) Music Group, Inc., it owned three labels, two of which were devoted to jazz. These were Classic Jazz (which should not be confused with the Swedish label Classic Jazz Masters) and Inner City. Although the company was concerned largely with reissuing material first made available by other companies in the USA, Japan (East Wind), and Europe (principally Enja), it also put out new recordings in early swing and bop styles on Classic Jazz and material ranging in style from bop to free jazz and jazz-rock. The company later became enmeshed in a legal dispute which ended its activities. Inner City should not be confused with a pop music label of the same name which was established in the late 1980s. (M. Segell: “Once More, Jazz is Big Business,” ...
Justin A. Williams
Record label. Interscope was founded in 1990 in Los Angeles by producer Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field. Warner Music Group initially purchased 50% of the label and distributed material through Atlantic Records; albums by Gerardo, Primus, and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were among the first releases. Its first large scale success came from promoting “gangsta rap” in the early 1990s, largely through a partnership with Death Row Records, founded by former football player Marion “Suge” Knight and rapper/producer Dr. Dre (Andre Young). Dr. Dre’s debut album, The Chronic (1992), would be a huge success for the label, as would the Dr. Dre-produced Snoop Doggy Dogg debut Doggystyle (1993). In 1996, Universal Music Group purchased Interscope and in 1999, the label merged with Geffen and A&M records.
Interscope has worked with a number of rap subsidiary labels, including Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment (founded in 1996...