Top nav bar
nav to ome page Link to Artist listings Link to Record Companies listing Link to music selection Link to the chart listings Link to News articals from the 1950 - 1960 Major recording companies list Independent recording companies A -G Independent recording compaies H - O Independent recording compaies P - Z
The Majors > ABC Brunswick Capitol Columbia Coral Decca Epic Groove Mercury MGM OKeh RCA Victor

The Majors

During the 1950's the recording companies where divided into Majors and Independents. The Majors where defended as having their own distribution network across the entire USA, where as the Independents only distributed within there own state.

To view an Independent Recording Company, please select one of the Independent links above.

ABC Records

Recording Artists:

RocknRoll: Danny & the Juniors, Lloyd Price.

Profile: In 1955, American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters, Inc. formed a subsidiary company called The Am-Par Record Corporation, which began to release pop, jazz, rhythm and blues, children's and spoken word records under the label name ABC-Paramount. Based in Hollywood, with Buck Ram the A & R director, ABC-Paramount became one of the major players in the North American music industry in the 1950s and 1960s, signing many early rock & roll artists, and launching/purchasing many sub-labels including Impulse!, Bluesway, Audition, Command Performance, Dunhill, Duke/Peacock, Probe (US) and others. In 1966, Paramount was dropped from the name, and the label became known as ABC Records. The 70s saw ABC having success with rock bands such as Poco and Steely Dan, and the label also released some of the top soul recordings of the time from artists like Isaac Hayes, The Four Tops and The Dells. In 1979, ABC Records was purchased by MCA Records Inc., and it ceased to exist as a record label soon after the purchase, although some popular ABC titles were reissued by MCA.

Sub labels: ABC Records Europe, ABC Records UK, ABC Westminster Gold, Back Beat (2), Bluesway, Command, Dunhill, HBS, Peacock Records, Probe

Parent Label: MCA Records



Brunswick (Sub label of Decca)

Recording Artists:

R & B: Jackie Willson.

RocknRoll: The Crickets

Capitol Records

Recording Artists:

RocknRoll: Gene Vincent, Esquerita, Johnny Otis.

Groups: The Five Keys.

Ballard Singers: Nat "King" Cole, Julia Lee, Nellie Lutcher.

Country & Western: Hank Tennessee Erine Ford, Ella Mae Morse, Merrill Moore, Ferlin Huskey.

Profile: The Capitol Records company was founded in Los Angeles by the songwriter Johnny Mercer together with Buddy Desylva and Glenn E Wallichs in 1942. By 1946 Capitol had sold 42 million records and was established as one of the Big Six studios. Producers and directors during the 1950's where Les Baxter, Billy May & Nelson Riddle. In 1955, the English record company EMI acquired Capitol Records for $8.5 million. In 1979, Capitol was made part of the EMI Music Worldwide division. In 2001, EMI merged Capitol Records label with the Priority Records label.  Labelcode: LC 0148 

Sub labels: Angel Records, Blue Note, Bug, Bust It Records, Capitol Gold Cuts, Capitol Jazz, Capitol Records Nashville, CEMA Special Markets, EMI America, EMI USA, EMI-Capitol Special Markets, EMI-Manhattan Records, Manhattan Records, Metro Blue, Number One Records, Orpheus Records,Pacific Jazz Records, Priority Records,Roulette Jazz, SBK Records, The Right Stuff, World Domination Recordings, World Pacific

Parent Label: EMI Records

Contact Info: Capitol Records, 1750 North Vine Street, Hollywood, California 90028 

Email: Contact 

Phone: (323) 462-6252



Recording Artists: RocknRoll: Sid King, Ronnie Self. Ballard Singers: Johnny Mathis. Country & Western: Gene Autry, Marty Robbins.

Profile: Columbia Records is the oldest brand name in recorded sound. Founded in 1888, it first sold phonograph cylinders and later disc records. In 1931 the Gramophone Company and Columbia Gramophone Company merged into the Electric & Musical Industries Ltd. EMI was forced to sell its American Columbia operations to ARC, which was acquired by CBS in 1938.

Until 1987 EMI owned the British and European rights to the COLUMBIA trademark and CBS owned the US rights. In this year Sony bought the entire CBS world wide operation and also acquired the Columbia trademark from EMI, except for Japan, where the trademark is owned by a completely different company. A &R director and producer during the 1950's, Mitch Miller.

Sub labels:

American Recording Company (ARC), C2Records, Chaos Recordings, Columbia Masterworks, Columbia Music Video, Columbia Phonograph Co., Columbia Quadraphonic, Columbia Special Products, Date, Harmony (4), Ill Will Records, Loud Records, Odyssey, Outburst Records, Ruffhouse Records, Slam Jamz,  Sucka Free Records, Tappan Zee Records

Parent Label:

Sony Music Entertainment Inc.USA: 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3211. UK: 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY , UNITED KINGDOM



Coral (Sub label of Decca)

Recording Artists:

R & B: Jackie Wilson.

RocknRoll: Buddy Holly, The Johnny Burnette Trio, The McGuire Sisters

Profile: Coral was the trademark of Coral Records Inc., Founded in 1949, a subsidiary of Decca Records Inc. Producers Bob Thiele. With Decca's acquisition by MCA the recording company became a subsidiary of MCA Inc. 

UK copies were distributed by Decca Record Company Ltd. and german copies were distributed by "Teldec 'Telefunken-Decca' Schallplatten GmbH" or "Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft".


Recording Artists:

R & B: Louis Jordan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

RocknRoll: Bill Haley & His Comets, Roy Hall.

Ballard Singers: The Mills Brothers, Ella Fizgerald, The ink Spots, Al Hibbler, Aruther Prysock.

Country & Western: Red Foley, Ernest Tubb.

Profile: US label originally set up by Sir Edward Lewis, the owner of Decca as a US branch. It was managed by Jack Kapp who was able to take over the label in 1943 when the US government insisted that UK companies sell US subsidiaries. Thereafter it had no relationship with UK Decca, or any other company of that name outside the US.Porducer during the 1950's Gorden Jenkins. In 1962 it merged with MCA, becoming Universal in the 1990s. In 1999 Universal bought PolyGram which had earlier bought UK Decca, and the ownership of both labels' catalogues was again combined, however the name is now only used for classical records, with the brand of the UK label, and this label is effectively defunct.

Epic (Sub label of Columbia)

Recording Artists:

Ballard Singers: Roy Hamilton

Profile: Epic Records was a record label launched in 1953 by CBS. Its bright-yellow and black logo became a familiar trademark for many jazz and classical music releases. This has included such notables as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Juilliard String Quartet, Antal Dorati conducting the Hague Philharmonic and George Szell conducting the Cleveland Philharmonic.

Ten years later, Epic earned its first gold records and developed into a formidable hit-making force in rock, R&B, and country. Among its many acts, it could include Bobby Vinton, the Dave Clark Five, Sly and the Family Stone and Donovan. During the 1970s, its success extended to include the Hollies, Edgar Winter and Tammy Wynette. The likes of Meat Loaf and the Jacksons paved the way for Epic's multiplatinum 1980s and 1990s successes including Michael Jackson, Sade, Cyndi Lauper and others. In 1988, Sony purchased the music division of CBS Inc., and renamed it Sony Music Entertainment. CBS Inc., once the distributor for Epic (and Columbia as well) is now Sony BMG Music Entertainment. 

Sub labels:

550 Music, Daylight, Epic Associated, Epic Dance, Epic Music Video, Epic Soundtrax, Epic Street, Epidrome, MJJ Music, Nemperor Records, Nightown Records,Okeh, Sweet City Records, Wind-Up, Work

Parent Label: Sony BMG Music Entertainment


Groove (Sub label of RCA Victor)

Recording Artists:

Vocal Groups: Du Dropperd, Varetta Dillard, Chris Powell.

Duo's: Mickey & Sylvia.

Boogie Woogie: Piano Red

Profile: Founded by Billboard Reporter Bob Rolontz in 1953 as mainly a Rhythm 'N' Blues label, later adding Soulsides as well.


Recording Artists:

R & B: Buddy Johnson, Jay McShann, Illinois Jacquet, Sil Austin, Red Prysock, Eddie Vinson, Steve Gibson & The Red Caps.

RocknRoll: Freddy Bell & The Bell Boys, Big Bopper, Eddie Bond, Johnny Carroll, Conway Twitty.

Ballard Singers: Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, The Platters, Brook Benton

Profile: Mercury Records is a record label currently headquartered in the UK, and is a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, which was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1945 by Irving Green, Berle Adams and Arthur Talmadge. A & R producers during the 1950's Art Taimade and Clyde Otis. In 1961 the Dutch company Philips Records, having lost its distribution deal with Columbia Records outside North America, signed an exchange agreement with Mercury, and Philips subsequently bought Mercury and its subsidiary labels to expand its US base. In 1962 Philips merged its record operations with Deutsche Grammophon to become PolyGram in 1972.

Under PolyGram, Mercury absorbed Casablanca Records. In 1999, PolyGram was bought by Seagram, which then absorbed the company into the MCA family of labels, the merger of which created the Universal Music Group. Under the reorganization, Mercury Records was folded into the newly formed Island Def Jam Music Group. Mercury's pop roster was predominantly taken over by Island Records, while its urban found a new home at Def Jam Records. Mercury's former country unit became Mercury Nashville Records and is still active as an imprint of Universal Music Group Nashville. Mercury also continues to operate as a fully functional label in the UK. In 2008, Mercury Records was relaunched as a division of the Island Def Jam Music Group, which appointed record executive David Massey as the President and CEO of the new venture. 

Sub labels: Atletico Records, Blue Gorilla, Chemistry Records (2), Fader Records, Fontana, Jambco Records, Limelight, Manifesto, Mercury Beats, Mercury Black Vinyl, Smash Records (4), Sonovox Records, Talkin' Loud, Talkin' Loud Classics, Teutonic Beats, Wing Records.

Parent Label: Island Def Jam Music Group



Recording Artists:

RocknRoll: Connie Francis.

Ballard Singers: Billy Eckstone, Ivory Joe Hunter, Tommy Edwards.

Country & Western: Hank Williams


Recording Artists:

R & B: The Treniers, Chuck Willis, Larry Darrnell, Paul Gayton, Titus turner, Big Maybelle, Annie Laurie, Chris Powell.

RocknRoll: Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Profile: Epic Records took over management of Okeh in 1965. Sony BMG Music Entertainment today owns the Okeh catalogue with Epic continuing to manage the Okeh material.

Parent Label: Epic

RCA Victor

Recording Artists:

R & B: Bo Diddley,

RocknRoll: Elvis Presley, Eddie Fisher, Floyd Cramer, Kay Star, Neil Sedaka, Sam Cooke, Jelly Roll Morton.

Country & Western: Eddy Arnold Snow, Don Gibson. Country Blues: Arthur Cruddup.

Profile: 1950's A& R Director: Steve Sholes. Producer: Hugo Winterhalter

Sub labels:

Bluebird (3), New York International Records, Planète Carrée, RCA Victor Gold Seal, RCA Victor Red Seal, RCA Victor Silver Seal, Victor (2),  Windham Hill Records

footer recoding companies

References: The Sound of the City ( The Rise of Rock and Roll ) by Charlie Gillett, A Brief history of Rock n Roll by Nick Johnstone, web links copyright david crowfoot 2009, 2010.