- Brunswick Records
infobox record label
image_bg = black
parent = Brunswick Records
founded = 1916
Koch Entertainment(In the US)
genre = Historic: Various
country = US
url = http://brunswickrecords.com/
Brunswick Records is a
United Statesbased record label. The label is currently distributed by Koch Entertainment.
Records under the "Brunswick" label were first produced by the
Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company(a company based in Dubuque, Iowawhich had been manufacturing products ranging from pianos to sporting equipment since 1845). The company first began producing phonographs in 1916, then began marketing their own line of records as an after-thought. These first Brunswick Records used the vertical cut system like Edison RecordsDiscs, and were not sold in large numbers. They were recorded in the US but sold only in Canada.
In January of 1920, a new line of Brunswick Records were introduced in the US and Canada that employed the lateral cut system that was then becoming the default cut for 78 disc records. The parent company marketed them extensively, and within a few years Brunswick became one of the USA's Big Three record companies, along with Victor and
Columbia Records. The Brunswick line of home phonographs were also commercially successful.
In late 1924, Brunswick acquired the
Audio fidelity of early 1920s acoustically recorded Brunswicks is above average for the era. They were pressed into good quality
shellac, although not as durable as that used by Victor. In the spring of 1925 Brunswick introduced its own version of electrical recording (licenced from General Electric) using photoelectriccells, which Brunswick eventually called the "Light-Ray Process" . These early electric Brunswicks have a rather harsh distinctive equalization which does not compare well to early electric Columbias and Victors, and the company's logbooks from 1925-27 show many recordings that were unissued for technical reasons having to do with the GE system's electronic and sonic inconsistencies.
Once Brunswick's engineers had tentative control of their new equipment, the company expanded its popular music recording activities dramatically, exploiting its impressive roster of stars to the utmost: the dance bands of
Isham Jones, Ben Bernie, and Abe Lyman, banjoist Harry Reserand his various ensembles (especially the Six Jumping Jacks), and most famously the legendary Al Jolson(whose record labels modestly proclaimed him "The World's Greatest Entertainer With Orchestra"). Brunswick also embarked on an ambitious domestic classical recording program, recording the New York String Quartet, the Cleveland Orchestraunder Nikolai Sokoloff(who had been recording acoustically for Brunswick since 1924), and in a tremendous steal from Victor, the New York Philharmonicwith conductors Willem Mengelbergand Arturo Toscanini. The popular records, which used small performing groups, were tricky enough to make with the photoelectric cell process; symphony orchestra recording, however, exacerbated the problems of the "Light-Ray" system to new levels. Very few of the orchestra records were approved for issue and those that did appear on the market often combined excellent performances with embarrassingly execrable sound. Therefore Brunswick found it expedient and ultimately cheaper to contract with European companies (whose electrical recording systems were more reliable than Brunswick's) to fill their electrical classical catalogue. Among the recordings Brunswick imported and issued under their own label were historic performances conducted by Hans Pfitznerand Richard Strauss-- the latter conducting critically-acclaimed performances of his symphonic poems "Don Juan" and "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks", recorded in Berlinin 1929-30 by Parlophone. Some of these recordings have been reissued on CD.
Brunswick itself switched to a more conventional microphone recording process in 1927, with better results all round. Prior to this, however, they had introduced the Brunswick Panatrope, the first home phonograph that reproduced records electrically. This met with critical acclaim, and composer
Ottorino Respighiselected the Brunswick Panatrope to play a recording of bird songsin his composition "The Pines of Rome". Jack Kappbecame record company executive of Brunswick in 1930.
In April 1930, Brunswick-Balke-Collender sold Brunswick Records to
Warner Brothers, who hoped to make their own soundtrack recordings for their sound-on-disc Vitaphonesystem. A number of interesting recordings were made by actors during this period, featuring songs from musical films. Actors signed up to make recordings included Noah Beery, Charles King, and J. Harold Murray. During this period they also signed Bing Crosby, who was to become their biggest recording star. When Vitaphone was abandoned in favor of sound-on-filmsystems -- and record industry sales plummeted due to the Great Depression--Warners leased Brunswick to the American Record Corporation(ARC) in December 1931.
Between early 1932 through 1939, Brunswick was ARC's flagship label, selling for 75 cents, while all of the other ARC labels were selling for 35 cents. Best selling artists during that time were
Bing Crosby, The Boswell Sisters, The Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Abe Lyman, Leo Reisman, Ben Bernie, and Anson Weeks(many of whom moved over to Decca in late 1934).
In 1932, the British branch of Brunswick was acquired by
In 1939, the American Record Corp. was bought by the Columbia Broadcasting System for $750,000, which discontinued the label in 1940. This, along with the lower than agreed-upon production numbers, violated the Warners lease agreement, resulting in the Brunswick trademark being transferred to American Decca (Which WB had a financial interest in), along with all masters recorded up to December 1931. Rights to recordings from late December 1931 on were retained by CBS/Columbia.
In 1944, Decca revived the Brunswick label, mostly for reissues of recordings from earlier decades, particularly Bing Crosby's early hits of 1931 and jazz items from the 1920s.
World War II, American Decca releases were issued in the United Kingdomon the Brunswick label until 1968 when the MCA Recordslabel was introduced in the UK. During the war, British Decca sold its American branch.
In the 1950s, American Decca made Brunswick its leading
Rock and Rolllabel, featuring artists such as Buddy Holly. Holly was transferred to co-owned Coral Records. In the latter part of the 1950s and into the 1960s, it was primarily used for African-Americanacts with Jackie Wilsonits only major recording star. Jackie Wilson's manager Nat Tarnopol, who was also an executive with the label, acquired 50% interest in Brunswick from Decca in 1964. Tarnopol acquired the rest of Brunswick from Decca in 1970 to settle disputes with Decca management. Legal problems caused Brunswick to become dormant by 1981 in which Tarnopol licensed Brunswick recordings from 1957 onward. The Tarnopol family only claims ownership of Brunswick recordings since Tarnopol joined Brunswick in 1957. Decca parent company Universal Musiccontrols the Decca era pre-Tarnopol Brunswick recordings. The Decca-era Brunswick jazz catalogue is managed by Verve Records. The official Brunswick Records web site has a detailed history of the Tarnopol-era Brunswick Records.
Today, Brunswick is run by president and CEO Paul Tarnopol, Nat's son. The Brunswick catalog is currently distributed by
Koch Entertainment. Many of the recordings, supervised by producer Carl Davis in Chicago, which established Brunswick as a major force in R&B/ soul musicin the 60s and 70s have been re-mastered and re-issued in recent years. Davis formed sister label Dakar Recordsin 1967. Dakar was first distributed by Atlantic Records, then by Brunswick in 1972 after Brunswick became an independent label. Brunswick and Dakar artists include the Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, Barbara Acklin, Young-Holt Unlimited, as well as Jackie Wilson.
List of record labels
* [http://www.brunswickrecords.com Official site]
** [http://www.brunswickrecords.com/history.htm history]
* [http://78rpmrecord.com/78brndec.htm Brunswick Records: From Brunswick to Warner Bros., Decca, et. al.]
* [http://www.capsnews.org/barrbru.htm History of Brunswick and Vocalion]
* [http://www.bsnpubs.com/nyc2/brunswick.html Both Sides Now page on Brunswick's history and LP catalogue]
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