Bihari brothers

Bihari brothers

The Bihari Brothers, Lester, Jules, Saul and Joe, were American music entrepreneurs and the founders of Modern Records in Los Angeles and its subsidiaries such as Meteor Records based in Memphis.


The brothers were of Hungarian Jewish descent [ [ Schoenbrun Family Tree ] ] . Their father Edward Bihari (1882-1930) was born in Budapest, migrated to the USA, and married Slovakia-born Esther "Esti" Taub (1886-1950) in Philadelphia in 1911. There were also four sisters in the family.

The brothers were ::Lester Louis Bihari (b May 12, 1912, Pottstown, Pennsylvania - d September 9, 1983):Julius Jeramiah Bihari (b September 9, 1913 [Most sources state that Julius was the eldest brother, but from the genealogical evidence cited here, this appears to be an error] , Pottstown, PA - d November 17, 1984, Los Angeles) :Saul Samuel Bihari (b March 9, 1918, St. Louis, Missouri - d February 22, 1975) :Joseph Bihari (b May 30, 1925, Memphis, Tennessee)


After living for a period in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Bihari family moved to Los Angeles in 1941. Jules got a job servicing and operating jukeboxes in the Watts district, and found difficulty in locating and stocking the blues records his customers wanted to hear.

With his younger brothers Saul and Joe, he decided to set up a new label, Modern Records, in 1945. The brothers built Modern into a major blues and R&B label, their first success coming with "Swingin' the Boogie" by Hadda Brooks. They bought a pressing plant, and divided tasks among them equally, with Jules responsible for talent spotting and recording, Saul for manufacturing, and Lester for distribution. Joe worked with Ike Turner as a talent scout in the Memphis area, discovering Johnny "Guitar" Watson among others.

In the early 1950s the Biharis launched several subsidiaries: RPM Records, Flair Records and Meteor Records, which was set up in Memphis in 1952 and was headed by Lester Bihari. Successful artists on the Biharis' labels included B. B. King, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Lightnin' Hopkins, Lowell Fulson, Rufus Thomas and Charlie Feathers.

The companies always remained small and personally run. B. B. King has said that he always felt the brothers were accessible: "The company was never bigger than the artist. I could always talk to them."cite book
first= Arnold
last= Shaw
year= 1978
title= Honkers and Shouters
publisher=Macmillan Publishing Company
location= New York
pages= p. 223
id= ISBN 0-02-061740-2

Later they launched more subsidiaries: Crown Records and United/Superior Records. In the sixties they launched a subsidiary Yuletide Records, which specialised in Christmas records.

In the mid 1960s Modern records went bankrupt and stopped operating, but the catalogue went with the management into what would become Kent Records. After the deaths of Saul, Lester and Jules Bihari, the labels' back catalogue was licensed to Ace Records (UK) in the mid 1980s, and then later purchased by them during the 90's.

Pseudonyms and royalties

Though they were not songwriters, the Biharis often purchased or claimed co-authorship of songs that appeared on their own labels, thus securing songwriting royalties for themselves, in addition to their other income streams.

Sometimes these songs were older tunes renamed (B. B. King's "Rock Me Baby"), anonymous jams ("B. B.'s Boogie") or songs by employees (bandleader Vince Weaver). The Biharis used a number of pseudonyms for songwriting credits: Jules was credited as "Jules Taub"; Joe as "Joe Josea"; and Sam as "Sam Ling". One song by John Lee Hooker, "Down Child" is solely credited to "Taub", with Hooker receiving no credit for the song whatsoever. Another, "Turn Over a New Leaf" is credited to Hooker and "Ling". Taub was the Biharis' mother's maiden name.

B. B. King has said: "The company I was with knew a lot of things they didn’t tell me, that I didn’t learn about until later,"..."Some of the songs I wrote, they added a name when I copyrighted it,"..."Like ‘King and Ling’ or ‘King and Josea.’ There was no such thing as Ling, or Josea. No such thing. That way, the company could claim half of your song. [cite web
title=Talking to the Boss: His Majesty Mr. King
publisher=Blues Access


External links

* [ Biography of Jules Bihari]

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