ABC Records was an American record label founded in New York City in 1955. It originated as the main popular music label operated by the Am-Par Record Corporation. Am-Par also created the Impulse! jazz label in 1960. It acquired many labels before ABC was sold to MCA Records in 1979. ABC produced music in a variety of genres: pop, rock, jazz, country, rhythm and blues, soundtrack, gospel, and polka. In addition to producing records, ABC licensed masters from independent record producers, and purchased regionally released records for national distribution.
|Parent company||American Broadcasting Company|
|Distributor(s)||Self-distributed (US), EMI (international), Anchor Records (UK), Sparton Records (Canada), Polydor Records (Canada), GRT (Canada)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location||New York City|
American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres (AB-PT) is an antecedent of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). It evolved from federal antitrust actions taken against the movie studios and broadcasting companies in the 1940s and early 1950s.
In 1943 the Federal Communications Commission took action against anti-competitive practices, one of which forced the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) to sell the Blue Network, the sister network of NBC Red Network. Blue was purchased by the businessman Edward J. Noble, and he changed its name to the American Broadcasting Company in 1946. In 1953 ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, the divested former exhibition/cinema division of Paramount Pictures. The newly merged corporation was chaired by former Paramount Theaters executive Leonard Goldenson and was originally headquartered at 1501 Broadway in New York City, above the Paramount Theater in Times Square.
American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres formed a records division in 1955 with Samuel H. Clark as its first president. The division was incorporated on June 14, 1955 as Am-Par Record Corporation. By August 1955, the unit was organized with AMPCO (ASCAP) and PAMCO (BMI) as subsidiary publishing units.
Eydie Gorme was the company's first signed artist. The company recorded its first single record, "Sincerely Yours" and "Come Home", both by Gorne. Alec Templeton's "Smart Alec" was the company's first LP recorded, also in September 1955.
One of Gorne's singles was its first release in January 1956. "Chain Gang" by Bobby Scott in February 1956 was the company's first national hit. George Hamilton IV's "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" single was Am-Par's first million-selling single in October 1956.
In 1957, the company had two million-selling single in June with "Diana" by Paul Anka and in October with "At the Hop" by Danny & the Juniors. Am-Par Records in May 1958 debut the Apt subsidiary label with its first million-selling single, "Little Star" by the Elegants, released the same month.
Chancellor Records had Am-Par Record handled its distribution starting in 1957 and started a trend. Chancellor had its first million-selling single in October 1958 with Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee".
Am-Par Record purchased Grand Award Records including the newly formed Command Records label, in 1959. The company started a second label for jazz, Impulse! Records, in November 1960. Impulse released its first four records were released in January 1961.
The company had artists that earned three Grammy Awards in 1960. While in January 1961, the company purchased Westminster Records, a classic label. Thus Am-Par Record had a label for each music genre.
Am-Par Record Corporation was renamed to ABC-Paramount Records, Inc. on December 7, 1961. The company opened a Los Angeles office in January 1962. Ray Charles formed Tangerine Records in March 1962 and arranged for ABC-Paramount to distribute Tangerine's records. The company formed Jet Record Distributors based in Long Island City, N.Y. as its local distributor. Also in 1962, the company had acquired Music Guild label and library for Westminster Records.
In 1965, Clark was promoted to vice-president in charge of AB-PT's non-broadcast operations. National sales manager Larry Newton was named ABC-Paramount president. On January 4, 1965, vice-president in charge of sales Larry Newton was promoted to president of ABC-Paramount Records. The previous president, Sam Clark was promoted to director of theater operations for American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres. Newton's first action as president was to restart Apt Records as a teen-oriented West Coast base label under Irwin Garr.
The label was renamed ABC Records in June 1966. In 1967, Dunhill Records was purchased from Lou Adler. In 1970, ABC and Dunhill moved its headquarters to Los Angeles. Newton was promoted to vice-president in charge of ABC Pictures. Dunhill co-owner Jay Lasker was named president and referred to the combined operations as ABC/Dunhill. At that time ABC had another five labels: Westminster, Command, Probe, Impulse, and Bluesway.
At the August 29, 1970 Directors Guild meeting, ABC/Dunhill launched a number of marketing initiatives. The company planned to have writers create a broader music for the catalog market. Imprints Probe and Apt were relaunched, Probe as an label which held the international rights to ABC's albums and Apt as a label which released budget cassettes and 8-track tapes. Jazz dropped from Impulse's cover for a new slogan: "University Series of Fine Recording" and two new series were launched: Audio Treasury and Westminster Gold for classic and more youth fair respectively.
By May 1972, ABC formed the ABC Leisure Group, which included ABC Records, Anchor Records, and ABC Records and Tape Sales, plus a new retail record-store division. Lasker left ABC to join Ariola America Records in 1975. He was succeeded by Jerry Rubinstein, who served as company head until 1977. In November 1972, ABC bought country music company Cartwheel Records.
In 1974, ABC switched British distribution from EMI to the EMI-distributed Anchor Records, allowing ABC recordings to be issued on the ABC label in the UK, and Anchor records to be distributed by ABC on the Anchor label in the US.
As a cost-cutting measure, ABC Records discarded many master tapes in the 1970s to save storage space. When these recordings were reissued on compact disc in the 1980s, CD versions were often taken from master copies which had less than optimal sound quality. The company's last president, Steve Diener, was named president in 1977 after serving as head of ABC Records' international division. Because of financial problems, ABC Records was sold on January 31, 1979 to MCA Records, which discontinued the ABC label on March 5, 1979. Albums in the ABC catalog still selling well were reissued on MCA.
ABC Records sub-labeled Apt to release singles. In the early 1960s, it bought Westminster, a classical music label. For jazz it created Impulse!. Led by Creed Taylor and Bob Thiele, Impulse! developed a reputation for innovative releases, including albums by John Coltrane from 1961 until his death in 1967. ABC created Bluesway for blues music. Tangerine was formed by Ray Charles to produce his albums and those he produced.
In 1974 ABC bought the Famous Music record labels from Gulf and Western, the parent company of Paramount. This acquisition gave ABC Dot, Blue Thumb, and a distribution deal with Sire, which released the first album from the Ramones.
In 1979, ABC was acquired by MCA for $30 million. It operated briefly as a separate division. MCA was absorbed by the Universal Music Group, which currently distributes recordings for ABC's sister company, Disney Music Group, worldwide except for Russia.
This is not the same ABC Records that operates in Australia, which is run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, although the Ampar label was distributed in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, first by W&G Records (1955–60) and then by Festival. Nor is it the sub-label of Voiceprint.
The catalogues of ABC Records and its sub-labels are now controlled by Universal Music Group. UMG also distributes Disney Music Group, which is owned by ABC's current parent, The Walt Disney Company, with the following exceptions:
The following labels manage different genres:
These labels also produce releases from labels absorbed into ABC. For example, MCA Nashville's catalogue includes country releases on Dot Records. Deutsche Grammophon's catalogue includes the Westminster Records catalogue, as well as soundtracks released by Dot and Paramount Records.
A Portrait of Ray is a studio album by Ray Charles released in March 1968.Aja (album)
Aja (, pronounced Asia) is the sixth studio album by the jazz rock band Steely Dan. Originally released in 1977 on ABC Records, the album peaked at number three on the US charts and number five in the UK. It was the band's first platinum album and ultimately became their best-selling studio release, eventually selling over 5 million copies. It spawned a number of hit singles, including "Peg", "Deacon Blues", and "Josie". In July 1978, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording. The credits for Aja list nearly 40 musicians, as band leaders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker pushed Steely Dan further into experimenting with different combinations of session players.
In 2003, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and ranked number 145 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. The album is often cited as one of the best test recordings for audiophiles, due to its high production standards.Al Kooper
Al Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt, February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears (although he did not stay with the group long enough to share its popularity), providing studio support for Bob Dylan when he went electric in 1965, and bringing together guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills to record the Super Session album. In the 1970's he was a successful manager and producer, notably recording Lynyrd Skynyrd's first three albums. He's also had a successful solo career, written music for film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition. He continues to perform live.Crying Time
"Crying Time" is a song from 1964 written and originally recorded by the American country music artist Buck Owens. It gained greater success in the version recorded by Ray Charles, which won two Grammy Awards in 1967. Numerous other cover versions have been performed and recorded over the intervening years.Diana (Paul Anka song)
"Diana" is a song written and made famous by Paul Anka in 1957, recorded in May 1957 at Don Costa studio in New York City. Anka stated in his autobiography that the song was inspired by a girl named Diana Ayoub, whom he had met at his church and community events, and had developed a crush on. Session musicians on the record included Bucky Pizzarelli on Guitar, Irving Wexler on piano, Jerry Bruno on bass, and Panama Francis on drums. The song was recorded in May 1957 at RCA studios. Backup singers included Artie Ripp.Paul Anka's original 1957 recording reached number 1 on the Billboard "Best Sellers In Stores" chart (although it climbed no higher than number 2 on Billboard′s composite "Top 100" chart) and has reportedly sold over nine million copies. "Diana" also hit number one on the R&B Best Sellers chart. It also reached number 1 on the UK's New Musical Express chart, staying there for nine weeks, and sold 1.25 million copies in the UK.After signing with RCA Records, Anka re-recorded "Diana", along with many other hits in 1963, for the album Paul Anka's 21 Golden Hits.Dunhill Records
Dunhill Records was started in 1964 by Lou Adler, Al Bennett, Pierre Cossette and Bobby Roberts as Dunhill Productions to release the music of Johnny Rivers on Imperial Records. It became a record label the following year and was distributed by ABC Records.
The first Dunhill single was "My Prayer/Pretty Please" (catalog #D-4001) by Shelley Fabares, who was married to Adler at the time. In the summer of 1967 Adler sold his shares to ABC Records, creating ABC-Dunhill Records, after which he started yet another label Ode Records (which was first distributed by CBS and later by A&M Records). Until 1975, ABC continued to release records on the Dunhill label, after which all remaining artists were absorbed into the ABC Records roster before MCA Records bought the label outright in 1979.
Buluu Dunhill Records was an offshoot of the ABC/Dunhill days using catalog series #B-73001 (45 RPM singles) and #B-60001 (LP).
Today, the Dunhill catalogue is managed by Geffen Records.
A later independent reissue label called Dunhill Compact Classics was formed in 1986 to reissue recordings on the new CD format. British American Tobacco, a UK tobacco company, sued the company because of the use of the "Dunhill" name, forcing the company to rename itself DCC Compact Classics.Florence Ballard
Florence Glenda Chapman (née Ballard; June 30, 1943 – February 22, 1976) was an American singer. Ballard was the founding member of the popular Motown vocal female group the Supremes. Ballard sang on 16 top 40 singles with the group, including ten number-one hits. After being removed from the Supremes in 1967, Ballard tried an unsuccessful solo career with ABC Records before she was dropped from the label at the end of the decade. Ballard struggled with alcoholism, depression, and poverty for three years. She was making an attempt for a musical comeback when she died of a heart attack in February 1976 at the age of 32. Ballard's death was considered by one critic as "one of rock's greatest tragedies". Ballard was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes in 1988.Four Tops
The Four Tops are a vocal quartet from Detroit, Michigan, USA, who helped to define the city's Motown sound of the 1960s. The group's repertoire has included soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, doo-wop, jazz, and show tunes.
Founded as the Four Aims, lead singer Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton remained together for over four decades, performing from 1953 until 1997 without a change in personnel.
The Four Tops were among a number of groups, including the Miracles, the Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Temptations, and the Supremes, who established the Motown Sound heard around the world during the 1960s. They were notable for having Stubbs, a baritone, as their lead singer, whereas most male and mixed vocal groups of the time were fronted by a tenor.
The group was the main male vocal group for the highly successful songwriting and production team of Holland–Dozier–Holland, who crafted a stream of hit singles for Motown. These included two Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits for the Tops: "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" in 1965 and "Reach Out I'll Be There" in 1966. After Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in 1967, the Four Tops were assigned to a number of producers, primarily Frank Wilson, but generally with less success.
When Motown left Detroit in 1972 to move to Los Angeles, California, the Tops stayed in Detroit but signed a new recording deal with ABC Records' Dunhill imprint. Recording mainly in Los Angeles, they continued to have chart singles into the late 1970s, including the million-seller "Ain't No Woman", their second release on Dunhill, produced by Steve Barri and the composers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.
In the 1980s, the Four Tops recorded for Casablanca Records, Arista Records and Motown, returning to that label on two occasions for brief stays. Apart from their album Indestructible (owned by Sony Music Entertainment), Universal Music Group controls the rights to their entire post-1963 catalog (through various mergers and acquisitions) and also their 1956 single, "Could It Be You".
A change of lineup was forced on the group when Lawrence Payton died on June 20, 1997. The group initially continued as a three-piece under the name the Tops, before Theo Peoples (formerly of the Temptations) was recruited as the new fourth member. Peoples eventually took over the role of lead singer when Stubbs suffered a stroke in 2000, with Ronnie McNeir then joining the group. On July 1, 2005, Benson died of lung cancer. Payton's son Roquel Payton replaced him. Levi Stubbs died on October 17, 2008.
Fakir, McNeir, Roquel Payton, and Harold "Spike" Bonhart, who replaced Peoples in 2011, are still performing together as the Four Tops. Fakir is the only surviving founding member of the group. As of January 1st, 2019 Harold Spike Deleon Bonhart was replaced by Alexander Morris. Morris a pastor in the city of Detroit was born into a musical family, his mother Betty L. Morris-January was lead singer of the 50’s gospel group The January Sisters. His father, the Late Reverend Joseph A. Morris was also a prominent pastor in the city of Detroit, but in his early years was a jazz musician, playing for Gene Calloway, older sister of Cab Calloway. Morris also known for his songwriting and production, has worked with many artist throughout the music industry, and as of January 1st 2019 has taken the lead vocal position once held by Levi Stubbs.Georgia on My Mind
"Georgia on My Mind" is a 1930 song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell and first recorded that year. It has often been associated with Ray Charles, a native of the U.S. state of Georgia, who recorded it for his 1960 album The Genius Hits the Road. In 1979, the State of Georgia designated it the official state song.Hit the Road Jack
"Hit the Road Jack" is a song written by the rhythm and blues artist Percy Mayfield and first recorded in 1960 as an a cappella demo sent to Art Rupe. It became famous after it was recorded by the singer-songwriter-pianist Ray Charles with The Raelettes vocalist Margie Hendrix.
Charles's recording hit number one for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, beginning on Monday, October 9, 1961. "Hit the Road Jack" won a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. The song was number one on the R&B Sides chart for five weeks, thereby becoming Charles's sixth number-one on that chart. The song is ranked number 387 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".Jim Croce
James Joseph Croce (; January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an American folk and rock singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and singles. His songs "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle" reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.Katy Lied
Katy Lied is the fourth studio album by American rock band Steely Dan, released in 1975 by ABC Records. It went gold and peaked at No. 13 on the US charts. The single "Black Friday" charted at No. 37.The album was the first after the break-up of the original five-piece Steely Dan; most of the original members had left during a rift over touring and recording schedules. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who had been increasingly using session musicians in the studio on prior albums, continued on with numerous prominent Los Angeles areas studio musicians. This album marks the first appearance of singer Michael McDonald on a Steely Dan album. Jeff Porcaro, then only 20 years old, played drums on all the songs except "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)", which features session drummer Hal Blaine. It also marked the first appearance of Larry Carlton, who played guitar on "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More".
Band leaders Becker and Fagen were unhappy with the album's sound quality because of an equipment malfunction with the then-new dbx noise reduction system. The group has claimed that the damage was mostly repaired after consulting with the engineers at dbx, but Fagen and Becker still refused to listen to the completed album.
The album was reissued by MCA Records after ABC Records was acquired by MCA in 1979.Numbers (Rufus album)
Numbers is the seventh studio album by funk band Rufus, released on the ABC Records label in 1978. It was the band's first album without Chaka Khan on lead vocals. Instead, band members Tony Maiden and David "Hawk" Wolinski shared lead vocal duties, with additional female leads by Helen Lowe and Maxayne. The album reached #15 on Billboard's R&B Albums chart, #81 on Pop and included the single release "Keep It Together (Declaration of Love)" (US R&B #16).
Khan returned to the band for the recording of the following album Masterjam, produced by Quincy Jones.
Numbers would be Rufus' final album on ABC Records. The label would be purchased and subsequently dissolved by MCA Records, and the band transferred to its roster.
Numbers also marked the debut of drummer John "J.R." Robinson to the lineup. He would remain Rufus's drummer for the rest of their run.Rocky Mountain Way (song)
"Rocky Mountain Way" is a 1973 song by rock guitarist Joe Walsh and his band Barnstorm, with writing credits given to Walsh, Rocke Grace, Kenny Passarelli, and Joe Vitale. The song was originally released on the album The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get.The Crusaders
The Crusaders was an American jazz fusion group that was popular in the 1970s. The group was known as the Jazz Crusaders before shortening its name in 1971.The Thrill Is Gone
"The Thrill Is Gone" is a slow minor-key blues song written by West Coast blues musician Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951. Hawkins' recording of the song reached number six in the Billboard R&B chart in 1951. In 1970, "The Thrill Is Gone" became a major hit for B.B. King. Subsequently, many blues and other artists have recorded their interpretations of the song.Tulsa Time
"Tulsa Time" is a song written by Danny Flowers and recorded by American country music artist Don Williams. It was released in October 1978 as the first single from the album Expressions. It was Williams' eighth number one on the country chart, spending a single week at number one and eleven weeks in the top 40. It was also recorded by Eric Clapton for his 1978 album Backless and a live version by Clapton from his album Just One Night became a #30 Billboard hit in 1980.Unchain My Heart (song)
"Unchain My Heart" is a song written by Bobby Sharp and recorded first in 1961 by Ray Charles and in 1963 by Trini Lopez and later by many others. Sharp, a drug addict at the time, sold the song to Teddy Powell for $50. Powell demanded half the songwriting credit. Sharp later successfully fought for the rights to his song. In 1987, he was also able to renew the copyright for his publishing company, B. Sharp Music.The song was a hit for Charles when released as a single in late 1961. Accompanied by his backup singers the Raelettes, Charles sang about wanting to be free from a woman "who won't let (him) go". His band included longtime saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman. The song reached number nine on the pop singles chart and number one on the R&B singles chart and was the working title of Charles' 2004 biopic Ray.Universal Music Group Nashville
Universal Music Group Nashville is Universal Music Group's country music subsidiary. Some of the labels in this group include MCA Nashville Records, Mercury Nashville Records, Lost Highway Records, Capitol Records Nashville and EMI Records Nashville. UMG Nashville not only handles these imprints, but also manages the country music catalogues of record labels Universal Music and predecessor companies acquired over the years including ABC Records, Decca Records, Dot Records, DreamWorks Records, Kapp Records, MGM Records and Polydor Records.