Imperial Records

Imperial Records is an American record company and label started in 1947 by Lew Chudd and reactivated in 2006 by EMI, which owned the label and back catalogue at the time. Imperial is owned by Universal Music Group.

Imperial Records
Imperial records 2006
Parent company
FounderLew Chudd
Distributor(s)Capitol Music Group
GenreVarious (historic), urban (current)
Country of originU.S.
LocationHollywood, California

Early years to 1979

When Imperial was founded in 1947, it concentrated on rhythm and blues (R&B) and country music: Fats Domino, Frankie Ford, Ricky Nelson, and Slim Whitman. In the UK Imperial was distributed by London Records.

During the 1950s and '60s, Imperial released jazz albums by Sonny Criss, Charlie Mariano, Papa Celestin, Erskine Hawkins, and Harold Land.[1]

Imperial bought Aladdin in 1960 and Minit Records in 1963, having distributed Minit since 1960. During the 1950s, Imperial was one of the primary labels issuing a vast quantity of R&B from New Orleans through their involvement with producer and writer Dave Bartholomew and in the 1960s with their distribution (and purchase, a few years later) of Minit.

In 1963, after Imperial lost Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson to rival record companies, Chudd sold the label to Liberty Records.[2]

Under Liberty's management, the label enjoyed success with Irma Thomas, Johnny Rivers, Jackie DeShannon, Classics IV, and Cher. During the British Invasion, Liberty (whose recordings were distributed by EMI in the UK) licensed The Hollies, Billy J. Kramer, the Dakotas, and the Swinging Blue Jeans from EMI. Recordings by the Bonzo Dog Band and Kim Fowley were issued in the U.S. by Imperial.

By 1970 the label had become part of Liberty's merger with United Artists Records but was phased out shortly after, with its roster transferred to United Artists. EMI acquired the Imperial Records catalogue with its acquisition of UA Records in 1979.

This is not the same Imperial Records in Japan or that was a division of EMI.

1990s to present

Throughout the 1990s, EMI released CD compilations of Imperial artists that featured the original Imperial labels.

In June 2006, EMI re-activated the Imperial Records imprint and announced that it would be the urban music division of Caroline Distribution, part of Virgin Records, spearheaded by the urban music veteran Neil Levine. The first signing to the imprint was Raptivism Records. Fat Joe signed with Virgin Records and Imperial Records. Imperial provides resources for developing urban artists with EMI's major labels, including Capitol Records and Virgin Records, which were merged into the Capitol Music Group in January 2007. Universal Music Group acquired the Capitol Music Group as part of its acquisition of EMI's recorded music operations in 2012.

Label variations

  • Early 1950s to 1954: Blue label with "IMPERIAL" in script letters at the top; 78-RPM counterparts have red labels)
  • 1954–1955: Red label with "IMPERIAL" in script (also silver block) letters at the top
  • 1955–1957: Maroon label with "IMPERIAL" in silver block letters at the top
  • 1957–1963: Black label with colored rays and "IMPERIAL" in white block letters at the top; stereo album counterparts have black labels with silver lettering
  • 1964–1966: Black, white and magenta label with I-R logo in a black box on the left side, "IMPERIAL" under the logo, and "A SUBSIDIARY OF LIBERTY RECORDS" at the bottom
  • 1966–1969: Black and lime green label with I-R logo in a red box on the left side, "IMPERIAL" under the logo, "A PRODUCT OF LIBERTY RECORDS" under "IMPERIAL" and "A DIVISION OF LIBERTY RECORDS"
  • 1970: Black and lime green label with I-R logo in a red box on the left side, "IMPERIAL" (in slightly larger letters than the previous label) under the logo, and "LIBERTY/UA, INC"

Imperial Records artists (1947–1970)

Current artists


  1. ^ Gardner, Mark (2002). Kernfeld, Barry, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 2 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries. p. 172. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  2. ^ Zhito, Lee (24 August 1963). Liberty Records Buying Imperial Label, Pub Firm. Nielsen Business Media (Billlboard). pp. 1–. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  3. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Lester Williams". Allmusic. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
All I Really Want to Do (album)

All I Really Want to Do is the debut solo studio album by American singer-actress Cher and was released on October 16, 1965, by Imperial Records. The album was produced for Cher by her then husband and singing partner, Sonny Bono, with contributions from arranger Harold Battiste. The album is by-and-large a collection of cover versions but does contain three songs written by Bono.

Upon its release, the album was well received by critics and garnered positive reviews.

Baby I Need Your Loving

"Baby I Need Your Loving" is a 1964 hit single recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song was the group's first Motown single and their first pop Top 20 hit, making it to number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1964. It was also their first million-selling hit single. Rolling Stone ranked The Four Tops' original version of the song at #390 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Backstage (album)

Backstage is the fifth album by American singer-actress Cher, released in July 1968 by Imperial Records. This album was her first commercial failure, failed to chart. The album is by-and-large a covers album.

Blue Monday (Fats Domino song)

"Blue Monday" is a song originally written by Dave Bartholomew, first recorded by Smiley Lewis and issued as a single, in January 1954, on Imperial Records (catalog # 5268). The single, with a slow-rocking beat, features an instrumental electric guitar solo by Lewis.

It was later popularized in a recording by Fats Domino in 1956, also on Imperial (catalog # 5417), on which the songwriting credit was shared between him and Bartholomew. Most later versions have credited Bartholomew and Domino as co-writers. The baritone saxophone solo is by Herbert Hardesty.Domino's version was featured in the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It. It became one of the earliest rhythm and blues songs to make the Billboard magazine pop music charts, peaking at number five and reaching the number one spot on the R&B Best Sellers chart. It reached number 23 on the UK Singles Chart It was included on the 1957 album This Is Fats and the 1959 album Fats Domino sings 12,000,000 Records.

The song title was used for a 2006 biography of Domino by Rick Coleman.

Cher's Golden Greats

Cher's Golden Greats is the first compilation album by American singer-actress Cher, released on 1968 by Imperial Records and Liberty Records. The album peaked at #195 on the official Billboard 200 and was released as part of the contract with the Imperial Records and Liberty Records.

Chér (1966 album)

Chér is the eponymous third studio album by American singer-actress Cher, released on October 1966 by Imperial. Cher collaborates again with Sonny Bono, with Harold Battiste and with Stan Ross. The album is by-and-large a covers album and contains only one song written by Bono. This album was a moderate commercial success, charted #59 on the Billboard Chart.

Clydie King

Clydie Mae King (August 21, 1943 – January 7, 2019) was an American singer, best known for her session work as a backing vocalist. King also recorded solo under her name. In the 1970s, she recorded as Brown Sugar, and her single "Loneliness (Will Bring Us Together Again)" reached No. 44 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1973.

Dave Bartholomew

David Louis Bartholomew (born December 24, 1918) is an American musician, bandleader, composer, arranger and record producer, prominent in the music of New Orleans throughout the second half of the 20th century. Originally a trumpeter, he has been active in many musical genres, including rhythm and blues, big band, swing music, rock and roll, New Orleans jazz and Dixieland. In his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was cited as a key figure in the transition from jump blues and swing to R&B and as "one of the Crescent City’s greatest musicians and a true pioneer in the rock and roll revolution."Many musicians have recorded Bartholomew's songs, but his partnership with Fats Domino produced some of his greatest successes. In the mid-1950s they wrote more than forty hits for Imperial Records, including two songs that reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart, "Goin' Home" and "Ain't That a Shame". Bartholomew's other hit songs as a composer include "I Hear You Knocking", "Blue Monday", "I'm Walkin'", "My Ding-A-Ling", and "One Night". He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Fats Domino

Antoine "Fats" Domino Jr. (February 26, 1928 – October 24, 2017) was an American pianist and singer-songwriter. One of the pioneers of rock and roll music, Domino sold more than 65 million records. Between 1955 and 1960, he had eleven Top 10 hits. His humility and shyness may be one reason his contribution to the genre has been overlooked.During his career, Domino had 35 records in the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and five of his pre-1955 records sold more than a million copies, being certified gold. His musical style was based on traditional rhythm and blues, accompanied by saxophones, bass, piano, electric guitar, and drums.His 1949 release "The Fat Man" is widely regarded as the first million-selling Rock 'n Roll record.

Hippy Hippy Shake

"Hippy Hippy Shake" is a song written and recorded by Chan Romero in 1959. That same year, it reached #3 in Australia. Romero was just 17 when he wrote the song.

Irma Thomas

Irma Thomas (born February 18, 1941, Ponchatoula, Louisiana, United States) is an American singer from New Orleans. She is known as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans".Thomas is a contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, but never experienced their level of commercial success. In 2007, she won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for After the Rain, her first Grammy in a career spanning over 50 years.

Just a Little Too Much

"Just a Little Too Much" is a song written by Johnny Burnette and performed by Ricky Nelson. The song reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 in the UK in 1959. The song was featured on his 1959 album, Songs by Rick.The song is ranked #78 on Billboard magazine's Top 100 songs of 1959.

Sonny Criss

William "Sonny" Criss (23 October 1927 – 19 November 1977) was an American jazz musician.An alto saxophonist of prominence during the bebop era of jazz, he was one of many players influenced by Charlie Parker.

T-Bone Walker

Aaron Thibeaux "T-Bone" Walker (May 28, 1910 – March 16, 1975) was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who was a pioneer and innovator of the jump blues and electric blues sound. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 67 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

Teichiku Records

Teichiku Records is a Japanese record label, run by the Teichiku Entertainment company, that specialises in enka, kayōkyoku, and similar music. Teichiku is an abbreviation for Teikoku Chikuonki (帝国蓄音機, imperial records), the former name of the company. Teichiku Entertainment also runs the record labels Imperial Records, Takumi Note, and Union Records (ユニオンレコード, yunion rekōdo). It is a division of JVC Kenwood Holdings, Victor Entertainment's parent.

The O'Jays

The O'Jays are an American R&B group from Canton, Ohio, formed in 1958 and originally consisting of Eddie Levert (born June 16, 1942), Walter Williams (born August 25, 1943), William Powell (January 20, 1942 – May 26, 1977), Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. The O'Jays made their first chart appearance with "Lonely Drifter" in 1963, but reached their greatest level of success once Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters, signed them to their Philadelphia International label in 1972. With Gamble & Huff, the O'Jays (now a trio after the departure of Isles and Massey) emerged at the forefront of Philadelphia soul with "Back Stabbers" (1972), and topped the Billboard Hot 100 the following year with "Love Train". Numerous other hits followed through the 1970s and into the 1980s and 1990s, and The O'Jays were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

What the World Needs Now Is Love

"What the World Needs Now Is Love" is a 1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach. First recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon, it was released on April 15, 1965, on the Imperial label after a release on sister label Liberty records the previous month was canceled. It peaked at number seven on the US Hot 100 in July of that year. In Canada, the song reached number one.

Wild Bill Davis

Wild Bill Davis (November 24, 1918 – August 17, 1995) was the stage name of American jazz pianist, organist, and arranger William Strethen Davis.

With Love, Chér

With Love, Chér is the fourth studio album by American singer-actress Cher, released on November 1967 by Imperial Records. The album was a moderate commercial success and reached #47 on the Billboard Chart.

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