Vee-Jay Records is an American record label founded in the 1950s,
Chicago and specializing in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues
and rock and roll.
The label was founded in 1953 by
Vivian Carter and James C. Bracken, a
husband-and-wife team who used their initials for the label’s
name. Vivian's brother, Calvin Carter, was the label's A&R man.
Ewart Abner, formerly of Chance Records, joined the label in 1955,
first as manager, then as vice president, and ultimately as president.
One of the earliest African American-owned record companies,
Vee-Jay quickly became a major R&B label, with the first song
recorded making it to the top ten on the national R&B charts.
1 Notable artists
3 As Vee-Jay International
6 See also
8 External links
Major acts on the label in the 1950s included blues singers Jimmy
Reed, Memphis Slim, and John Lee Hooker, and rhythm and blues vocal
groups the Spaniels, the Dells, and the El Dorados. The 1960s saw the
label become a major soul label with Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Dee
Betty Everett having hit singles on both the pop and
R&B charts. Vee-Jay was also the first label to nationally issue a
record by the Pips (through a master purchase from the tiny Huntom
label of Atlanta), who became
Gladys Knight and the Pips
Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1962 when
they moved to Fury Records.
Vee-Jay had significant success with pop/rock and roll acts, such as
the Four Seasons (their first non-black act) and the Beatles. Vee-Jay
acquired the rights to some of the early recordings by the Beatles
through a licensing deal with EMI, as the American affiliate Capitol
Records was initially uninterested in the group. The main
attraction at the time, however, was another
EMI performer, Frank
Calvin Carter later said, "There was a number one record over
in England at the time — It was 'I Remember You' by Frank Ifield. We
took the record, and as a throw in, they had a group and asked us if
we would take them, too. The group turned out to be the Beatles and we
got a five-year contract on the Beatles as a pickup on the Frank
In the mid-1960s, Vee-Jay signed the former successful child singer
Jimmy Boyd, known for the hit "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"; Boyd
was then twenty-five years old. The company ventured into folk music
Hoyt Axton and New Wine Singers, and also picked up Little
Richard who re-recorded his Specialty hits and recorded (1965) "I
Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me)", an R&B success,
with Jimi Hendrix, Don Covay, Bernard Purdie, Ronny Miller, and Billy
Preston (before he became successful on his own).
Vee-Jay's jazz line accounted for a small portion of the company's
releases, but recorded such artists as Wynton Kelly, Lee Morgan, Eddie
Harris, and Wayne Shorter. The A&R for the jazz releases was
Sid McCoy. The company also had a major gospel line, recording such
acts as the Staple Singers, the Argo Singers, Swan Silvertones, the
Dorothy Love Coates
Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes, and Maceo
Woods. Vee-Jay even released comedy on LP, with records by Dick
Gregory, and Them Poems, Mason Williams' early nightclub act, recorded
with a studio audience in 1964.
Vee-Jay's biggest successes occurred from 1962 to 1964, with the
ascendancy of the Four Seasons and the distribution of early Beatles
material ("From Me to You" b/w "Thank You Girl," "Please Please Me"
b/w "From Me to You," and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" b/w "Thank
You Girl" via Vee-Jay; and "Love Me Do" b/w "P.S. I Love You" and
"Twist and Shout" b/w "There's a Place" via its subsidiary Tollie
Records), because EMI's autonomous United States company Capitol
initially refused to release Beatles records. Vee-Jay's
releases were at first unsuccessful, but quickly became huge hits once
British Invasion took off in early 1964, selling 2.6 million
Beatles singles in a single month. Cash flow problems caused by Ewart
Abner's tapping the company treasury to cover personal gambling debts
led to the company's active demise; Vee-Jay had been forced to
temporarily cease operations in the second half of 1963, leading to
royalty disputes with the Four Seasons and EMI. The Four Seasons then
left Vee-Jay for Philips Records, and EMI's
Capitol Records picked up
the U.S. rights for both the Beatles and Frank Ifield.
Other Vee-Jay subsidiary labels included
Interphon (which yielded the
Top 5 hit "Have I the Right?" by another British group, the
Oldies 45 for reissues along with Tollie and Abner
Records, which was an early subsidiary label formed in 1958. Vee-Jay
also did distribution for Ted Jarrett's Champion Records, Rick Hall's
Fame Records, and for a time, the Memphis label Goldwax Records and
Johnny Vincent's Ace Records.
Vee-Jay moved back to
Chicago in 1965 after a year in Los Angeles.
Liens were placed on Vee-Jay assets still in
Los Angeles after legal
Pye Records due to non-payment of royalties.
As Vee-Jay International
Vee-Jay Records filed for bankruptcy in August 1966. The assets
were subsequently purchased by label executives Betty Chiappetta and
Randy Wood (not the
Dot Records founder), who changed its name to
Vee-Jay International. From 1967 to 1972, Vee-Jay was limited to
selling some of the inventory on hand when the company went under, and
leasing or licensing the Vee Jay masters to Buddah Records, who came
out with "The First Generation" series, and Springboard International,
who issued dozens of albums featuring Vee Jay material on their
subsidiary label, Upfront. In the 1970s, Vee Jay International itself
re-released a number of titles on LPs and 8-track tapes.
In 1978, Vee Jay issued a Silver Anniversary catalog to commemorate
the 25th birthday of the label.
The label was revived under new management in 1982 as a dance and
R&B label, but closed down in 1986.
In the mid-late 1980s, a one-hour independent documentary film was
made called "Cradle of Rock and Roll" aired on PBS soon after the
film's completion. It covered the history of Vee-Jay and Chess Records
in Chicago, which helped to begin a revival of some interest in
Vee-Jay's history and catalog. In 1986
Motown licensed 26 of Vee Jay's
soul, blues and R&B hits for a CD compilation, "Hits from the
Legendary Vee Jay Records."
In 1993, the Vee Jay Limited Partnership released a 3-CD boxed set,
"The Vee Jay Story (Celebrating 40 Years of Classic Hits)," again
drawn from the label's R&B, soul, and blues catalog. The package
includes a red-vinyl facsimile 45 of the Spaniels' "Goodnite
Under the management of Michele Tayler, the company was reactivated in
1998 as The Vee-Jay Limited Partnership. Its main office is located in
Collectables Records has been remastering and reissuing Vee-Jay albums
on audio CD since 2000. A compilation which contains a Best of Vee-Jay
box set as well as individual "Best of the Vee-Jay Years" CDs is
released by Shout! Factory.
In July 2014 its catalogue was acquired by Concord Music Group.
The sale was facilitated by Minneapolis film producer, Scott
Vee-Jay Records story is featured on the documentary series
Profiles of African-American Success.
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Abner Records was a subsidiary of Vee-Jay Records. It was originally
named Falcon Records, but the name was changed in 1958 since there
already existed a Falcon Records. The label was named after Ewart
Abner who was general manager at Vee-Jay, 1955–1961. Falcon Records
Scotland (2011-present) is a sub-label of Jilted Generation Inc.
Falcon Records launched October 2011 in partnership with "Music Media
Management" owned by Diania Elliott Tomlin Perkins & Eric Bryce,
"In Hoodz We Trust (IHWT)" owned by Jay Supa & "Make Noise Fife"
owned by Alex Herbert.
List of record labels
Vee-Jay Records albums
Vee-Jay Records artists
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^ "Concord Music buys Vee-Jay catalogue". Completemusicupdate.com.
2014-07-09. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
^ Trakin, Ron. "
Concord Music Group
Concord Music Group Acquires Famed Soul Label Vee Jay
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Discography for Vee-Jay Records
The Vee-Jay Story - Both Sides Now website
Vee-Jay Records on the Internet Archive'