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Columbia Records


Columbia Records

Columbia Records

Courtesy Columbia Records

The Beginnings for Columbia Records:

Columbia Records derives its name origin from the District of Columbia. It was originally the Columbia Phonograph Company and distributed Edison phonographs and recorded cylinders throughout the Washington, D.C. area. In 1894 the company ended its ties with Edison and began selling its own manufactured recordings. Columbia began selling disc records in 1901. The company became a leader in jazz and blues after purchasing the Okeh record company in 1926. In 1938 Columbia Records was purchased by the Columbia Broadcasting System or CBS beginning a long collaboration between the broadcasting and recording companies.

Development of the LP:

Columbia Records became a leader in pop music in the 1940s with the popularity of Frank Sinatra. In the 1940s Columbia Records also began experimenting with longer playing, higher fidelity discs to replace 78 rpm records. The first pop LP officially released was a reissue of Frank Sinatra's The Voice Of Frank Sinatra in 1946. The single 10 inch disc replaced four 78 rpm records. In 1948 Columbia Records introduced the standard 33 1/3 rpm LP that would become a music industry standard for nearly 50 years.

Mitch Miller and a Non-Rock Label:

Singer and composer Mitch Miller was lured away from Mercury Records in 1950. He became head of Artists and Repertoire (A&R) and soon became responsible for signing key recording artists to the label. Legends such as Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and Johnny Mathis soon became Columbia Records stars. The label earned a reputation as the most commercially successful of non-rock labels. Columbia Records did not make a significant impact in rock music until the late 1960s.

The 1960s at Columbia Records:

Mitch Miller personally disliked rock music, and he made no secret of his taste. Columbia Records did move into the growing folk music market. Bob Dylan was signed to the label and released his first album in 1962. Simon and Garfunkel was added to the artist lineup soon after. Barbra Streisand became a pop mainstay for the company when she was signed in 1963. Mitch Miller left Columbia Records for MCA in 1965, and it was not long before rock became a key part of the Columbia Records story. Clive Davis was appointed president in 1967. He signaled a strong venture into rock music when he signed Janis Joplin after attending the Monterey International Pop Festival.

The Clive Davis Era:

Under Clive Davis Columbia Records positioned itself as a label at the vanguard of pop and rock music. Electric Light Orchestra, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Pink Floyd are just a few of the artists that soon became stars for Columbia Records. Bob Dylan continued to prosper, and Barbra Streisand led pop artists in the early 1970s. Clive Davis exited the company under a legal cloud in the mid 1970s and was replaced by Walter Yetnikoff. He led Columbia, now named CBS Records, to the $1 billion sales mark for the first time.

Columbia Records Artists:

Move To Sony:

In 1988 the CBS Records Group which included Columbia Records was purchased by Sony. The CBS Records Group was officially renamed Columbia Records in 1991. Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton, and Will Smith are among the artists that provided hits for the label during this period.

Adele, Glee, and Columbia Records Today:

In recent years Columbia Records has seen a resurgence as a force in mainstream pop music. The current chairman is Rob Stringer and co-presidents are producer Rick Rubin and Steve Barnett. Columbia Records has sold over 10 million albums and 33 million songs recorded by the cast of the TV show Glee. In addition the label has seen its investment in Adele result in sales of over three million copies of her album 21 in 2011.
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