20th Century Fox Records, also known as 20th Fox Records and 20th Century Records, was a wholly owned subsidiary of film studio 20th Century Fox. The history of the label actually covers three distinct 20th Century Fox-related operations in the analog era, ranging chronologically from about 1938 to 1981.
|20th Century Fox Records|
|Parent company||20th Century Fox|
|Founder||20th Century Fox|
|Status||Defunct (Sold to PolyGram in 1982 and absorbed into Casablanca Records)|
|Distributor(s)||Independent distribution |
(except 1966–1971 ABC Records, 1979–1981 RCA Records)
|Country of origin||United States|
20th Century Fox Film Corporation was formed through the merger of Darryl F. Zanuck's Twentieth Century Pictures with the Fox Film Corporation on May 31, 1935. Before the merger, Fox Film Corporation tried out a couple of short-lived record labels in conjunction with its Movietone sound system. Although Movietone was a dedicated sound-on-film system, in 1929-30 Fox produced some soundtracks on disc to accompany features shown in theaters not yet equipped for optical sound. Between 1933 and 1937, a custom record label called Fox Movietone was produced starting at F-100 and running through F-136. It featured songs from Fox movies, first using material recorded and issued on Victor's Bluebird label and halfway through switched to material recorded and issued on ARC's dime store labels. These scarce records were sold only at Fox Theaters.
In 1938, 20th Century Fox began a new, semi-private line of records employing white labels with typed, or mimeographed, information. Matrix numbers are variable, but the earliest known records in this series correspond to the picture Sally, Irene and Mary (1938) and the latest ones to The Gang's All Here (1943). These discs were limited exclusively to studio properties recorded on 20th Century Fox soundstages and were used for promotional purposes and as giveaways to staff and visitors to the studio itself. After this small scale venture was discontinued, 20th Century Fox stayed out of record production for about 15 years, though its music division remained very active in licensing 20th Century Fox musicals and soundtrack music for use on record albums to other companies, such as that for the 1956 film The King and I, released on Capitol Records.
20th Fox Records was established in 1958 with Henry Onorati at its head; Onorati was hired away from Dot Records to run the new label. Onorati brought with him "Carol of the Drum," a Katherine K. Davis Christmas carol that had been recorded at Dot, but not released; it was retooled as "The Little Drummer Boy" and issued on 20th Fox as a single by the Harry Simeone Chorale. It became a Christmas standard in short order  and put the label on a sound footing. During Onorati's tenure, 20th Fox was at its most ambitious and the album program was oriented towards an adult audience, whereas the singles attempted, without much success, to crack the sales charts.
20th Fox albums often appeared in deluxe packaging, and sometimes the film soundtrack albums featured narration, or were bridged with dialog from the films, which hadn't been done on records before.
Other releases, such as those featuring Glenn Miller, George Gershwin, and Shirley Temple, were sourced from vault film elements. 20th Fox also featured new albums by veteran artists such as Eubie Blake, Claude Hopkins and Stuff Smith; Hugo Winterhalter made his debut as a leader on 20th Fox.
Upon assuming the top job at 20th Fox, Basil Bova's first order of business was to quell rumors that the label planned to merge with Cameo-Parkway Records. In May 1963, Bova renamed 20th Fox Records as 20th Century-Fox Records and the label design was changed to incorporate the movie studio logo. 20th Century Fox was unusual in that its singles and album programs were separate entities; whereas the singles exploited pop and novelty fare, the album program was considerably more adult and represented a continuation of the plan Onorati had originally devised for the label. Exceptions include albums based around successful singles, such as Sing We Now of Christmas which included "The Little Drummer Boy" by The Harry Simeone Chorale, Navy Blue by Diane Renay and two albums by Mary Wells who enjoyed five mid-chart hits in 1964-1965.
Bova anticipated that the soundtrack album for Cleopatra would be "the blockbuster of them all". Appearing before the film's release by about two months in June 1963, the soundtrack debuted at #2 on the Billboard album chart and sold steadily. But the film opened to losses so great that belt-tightening was felt throughout the studio structure, and in 1965 it reached the record label. The 20th Century Fox studio closed its newsreel division in 1965, cutting off the label's access to documentary audio for use in a series of current events albums, and tentative steps towards branching out into folk music and psychedelic rock were stopped altogether.
From 1966, ABC Records handled distribution of 20th Century Fox Records, and the label issued soundtrack LPs only, but also briefly instituted a budget subsidiary, Movietone Records, to handle back catalog.
20th Century Fox Records enjoyed one more hit album with the soundtrack to Valley of the Dolls, though it did not contain Dionne Warwick's version of the film's theme. They also released the soundtrack to Hello Dolly, starring Barbra Streisand, among other film-related projects.
In 1970, the 20th Century Fox studio shut down the record label, though ABC Records still continued to distribute stock on The Little Drummer Boy, a repackaging of Sing We Now of Christmas.
The first three acts signed to the 20th Century label were The DeFranco Family, Maureen McGovern, and Barry White; however, Brighter Side of Darkness gave the newly renamed label their first hit record in 1973 with Love Jones. The label also had major hits with Barry White's The Love Unlimited Orchestra, Love Unlimited, Carl Douglas (best known for the song "Kung Fu Fighting"), Edwin Starr, Stephanie Mills, Leon Haywood, Carl Carlton and the Star Wars soundtrack in 1977. The label also released the debut album from The Alan Parsons Project in 1976 in most of the world except Europe.
The company also re-released the Harry Simeone Chorale's recording of "Little Drummer Boy" and the album on which it was first featured, Sing We Now of Christmas, later reissued as The Little Drummer Boy (this was part of the first 1958-era label series). It became the best selling Christmas album of all time. The rights were later acquired by PolyGram, which released it on CD in 1988, on the Mercury Records label.
Among the movie soundtrack albums released by 20th Century Fox Records were those of Zorba the Greek, The Bible: In the Beginning, Doctor Dolittle, and Patton, all of them 20th Century Fox films. However, the label did not issue the soundtrack albums of any of the Rodgers and Hammerstein films released by the studio. Instead, the albums made from five of these films were released by Capitol Records (Oklahoma! and Carousel due to star Shirley Jones' recording contract and The King and I due to contractual obligations of Yul Brynner), and the remaining two albums by RCA Victor (South Pacific and The Sound of Music due to stars Mitzi Gaynor's and Julie Andrews' recording contracts with that label). Years later, the Capitol albums reappeared on CD in expanded versions issued by Angel Records. (The film versions of Oklahoma and South Pacific, although released in roadshow format by the Magna Corporation, were given general release by 20th Century Fox.)
In 1966, Fox had a deal with ABC Records for distribution and until 1970, this partnership enjoyed success. By 1970, with the parent 20th Century Fox in financial trouble (which eventually led to discontent that resulted in the ousting of Darryl Zanuck), the new output of the record company dropped to zero. Although albums that had been selling were distributed by ABC Records, no new product was forthcoming and 20th Century-Fox then shut down its record subsidiary.
It was re-activated in 1972 as 20th Century Records and designed a smart new blue label with a new logo. Russ Regan, a veteran "record man", became the new head of the label, a move that increased their credibility in the business considerably. Promotion seemed better, too, as the first two singles issued by the new incarnation both charted. Their biggest selling artist at the time, Barry White, scored two number one hits with "Love's Theme" with Love Unlimited Orchestra and his own "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe". 20th Century-Fox had budgeted a million dollars a year for three years to support the revived label, but it began paying its own way after only six months.
In 1976, Russ Regan left to form his own Parachute Records label which was distributed by Casablanca Records (Regan folded Parachute in mid-1979). Barry White then set up his own label, Unlimited Gold Records, under CBS, which had performed the pressing duties for 20th since 1972, after he chose not to renew his contract with Fox in 1978.
The company reverted to 20th Century-Fox Records, with a new label design featuring the movie firm logo and launched a new distribution deal for Carl Davis' Chi Sound Records in 1978 after leaving their deal with United Artists Records. In 1979, RCA Records took over distribution of the label.
The label was active until 1981, being sold to PolyGram in early 1982. Oil magnate Marvin Davis, who had acquired 20th Century Fox, was not interested in the record company, hence its sale. All of its catalog and contracts for then-current artists including Stephanie Mills, Dusty Springfield and Carl Carlton had folded into and became part of the Casablanca label, which PolyGram had purchased in 1977.
Fox Music licenses music heard on Fox feature films or TV shows to other record companies. For example, the rights to the soundtrack of the film Titanic are licensed to Sony Music. Also, Glee cast albums are licensed to Sony Music's Columbia Records in a 50/50 venture with 20th Century Fox. These albums were issued using the 20th Century Fox TV Records imprint, which was launched in 2009 and distributed by Columbia Records.
Ahmad Jamal '73 is an album by American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal featuring performances recorded in 1973 and released on the 20th Century label.Dream Away (Babyface and Lisa Stansfield song)
"Dream Away" is a song recorded by Babyface and Lisa Stansfield for the 1994 soundtrack to the animated film, The Pagemaster. It was written by Diane Warren and produced by David Foster.The song received positive reviews from music critics. "Dream Away" was released as a single in the United States on 7 November 1994 and reached number nine on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles and number eighty on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. "Dream Away" was also issued in selected European countries and Australia, and on 21 January 1995 it was released in Japan. The song was remixed by Dave Way, Paul Waller and Ollie Marland. The music video, directed by Randee St. Nicholas, featured Babyface, Stansfield and fragments from the film. In 2003, "Dream Away" was included on the remastered edition of Stansfield's album, So Natural.Genetic Walk
Genetic Walk is an album by American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal featuring performances recorded in 1975 and released on the 20th Century label.Hello, Dolly! (soundtrack)
Hello, Dolly! is the soundtrack album to the 1969 musical film of the same name, performed by Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford. Released on the vinyl album by 20th Century Fox Records, the soundtrack was subsequently released in compact disc by Philips. This album marks the second time Streisand recorded an album for a label different from Columbia, just 5 years after Funny Girl (Original Broadway Cast Recording).I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing
I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing is the self-produced ninth album by American R&B singer Barry White, released in 1979 on the 20th Century-Fox Records label.
I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing fulfilled White's 20th Century-Fox Records contract. White was increasingly dissatisfied with that label's management when Russ Regan left the label to form Millennium Records and felt that he was being ignored in terms of promotion at the time. He then left the company and signed a custom label contract with CBS Records to release future material under his own Unlimited Gold imprint. White's first album on his new label, The Message Is Love, was released seven months and six days after I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing. With attention and interest focused on his well-publicized CBS deal, I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing passed by largely unnoticed. It was the least successful album of his 20th Century career, only reaching #40 on the R&B chart, which six of his eight previous albums had topped. None of the single releases made any impact either.Intervals (Ahmad Jamal album)
Intervals is an album by American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal featuring performances recorded in 1980 and released on the 20th Century Fox label.Jamal Plays Jamal
Jamal Plays Jamal is an album by American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal featuring performances recorded in 1974 and released on the 20th Century label.Jamalca (album)
Jamalca is an album by American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal featuring performances recorded in 1974 and released on the 20th Century label.Joya Sherrill Sings Duke
Joya Sherrill Sings Duke is a 1965 album by Joya Sherrill recorded in tribute to the bandleader and composer Duke Ellington. Several members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra accompany Sherrill on the album.Love Songs to the Beatles
Love Songs to the Beatles is a tribute album dedicated to the Beatles, released in 1965 by Mary Wells on the 20th Century Fox label. The album was a personal tribute to the British rock group by Wells, who was one of the first Motown artists to tour overseas as the group's opening act after her single "My Guy" had gained hit status in the UK. Wells befriended all four members of the group and released it as a labor of love. This was her second and last album for 20th Century Fox.Mary Wells (album)
Mary Wells is the self-titled sixth studio album released by Mary Wells. The album was her first album with 20th Century Fox, a year after she left her old label, Motown, the label that she had produced its first hits with. While this album was boosted by the top 40 success of the Motown-esque "Use Your Head", the album received little notice and its following singles including the top 50 hit, "Ain't It the Truth?" and "Stop Taking Me for Granted", which peaked at a dismal number 88 pop, performed poorer for an artist who a year ago had scored her first No. 1 hit with "My Guy". This and her record of Beatles songs were the only albums she released with 20th Century Fox.
Riley Hampton was the uncredited arranger, with Norman Schwartz responsible for cover design.Star Wars (Main Title)
"Star Wars (Main Title)" is a 1977 instrumental hit single composed and conducted by John Williams. It is the main musical theme of Star Wars. It was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The track became a hit in the United States (#10) and Canada (#13) during the fall of that year. The composition draws influence from Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score for the 1942 film “Kings Row".The B side featured the original movie score of Cantina Band.
"Star Wars (Main Title)" was the lesser of two hits featuring music from Star Wars. Meco's disco version of "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" reached number one concurrently with the chart run of Williams' original movie score version.Stephanie (album)
Stephanie is the fifth studio album by American recording R&B artist Stephanie Mills. It was released in 1981 and produced by James Mtume and Reggie Lucas. The album features hit song "Two Hearts" a duet with Teddy Pendergrass. By default, this fulfilled her contract with 20th Century-Fox Records. Stephanie was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 1982 24th Grammy Awards.Steppin' Out with a Dream
Steppin' Out With a Dream is an album by American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal recorded in 1976 and released on the 20th Century label.Stone Gon'
Stone Gon' is the second studio album by American R&B singer Barry White, released in 1973 on the 20th Century label. The album was arranged by Barry White and Gene Page.The King Is Dead (Tony Cole song)
"The King Is Dead" is a song written and originally recorded by Australian singer and songwriter Tony Cole. Produced by David McKay, it was part of Tony Cole's debut album If The Music Stops (1972). That year the song was also released as a single, with "Ruby" on the flip side.The Man (Barry White album)
The Man is the self-produced eighth album by soul singer Barry White, released in 1978 on the revived 20th Century-Fox Records label, which saw its name reverted from 20th Century.Two Hearts (Stephanie Mills song)
"Two Hearts'" is a hit duet sung by American R&B singers Stephanie Mills and Teddy Pendergrass, from Mills' fifth studio album Stephanie (1981). The song was written and produced by James Mtume and Reggie Lucas. Released in January 1981, the single reached number 40 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1981. On the US Billboard R&B chart, "Two Hearts" reached number three.Use Your Head
"Use Your Head" is a soulful pop song written by Barrett Strong, Wade Flemons and The Dells' Chuck Barksdale and released as a single by former Motown singer Mary Wells on the 20th Century Fox label.