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Liberty Records
Parent company EMI
Founded 1955
Founder Simon Waronker
Distributing label EMI (In the UK)
Genre various
Country of origin UK
Official Website

Liberty Records was a United States-based record label. It was started by chairman Simon Waronker in 1955 with Al Bennett as president and Theodore Keep as chief engineer. It was reactivated in 2001 in the United Kingdom and had two previous revivals.





Liberty's early releases focused on film and orchestral music. Its first single was Lionel Newman's "The Girl Upstairs."[1][2] Its first big hit, in 1955, was by Julie London singing her version of torch song Cry Me a River, which climbed to US#9. It helped Liberty sell her first album, Julie Is Her Name. She was to record 32 albums in her career.

In 1956, Liberty signed the little-known Henry Mancini. They released two singles and several albums for him, but he left in 1959 when he got hot. Billy Rose and Lee David song Tonight You Belong to Me scored a US#4 and UK#28 as performed by teen sisters Patience and Prudence (McIntyre), selling over a million copies. [3][4](It was first recorded in 1927, revived by Frankie Laine in 1952.)

Their biggest early rock and roll artist was Eddie Cochran,[5]who had just starred in his second film, Untamed Youth. His first hit for the label was John D. Loudermilk's "Sittin' in the Balcony" in 1957, then came Summertime Blues and C'mon Everybody.

The label was also home to R&B veterans Billy Ward and His Dominoes after Jackie Wilson quit, replacing him with ex-Lark Eugene Mumford.[6] They hit with hoary Hoagy Carmichael 1927 song Stardust – already recorded by everybody – which rode the pop charts for 24 weeks and got as high as US#13. The track also reached #13 in the UK Singles Chart in October 1957.[3] It was to be their only million seller.[4]

By 1958, Liberty was close to bankruptcy when Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. convinced them that they might as well press singles of The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) with the leftover vinyl pucks and labels in their warehouse. (The 'Munks were named after Liberty execs.) In just a few months leading up to Christmas of 1958, the record shot to the top of the charts. It became the only Christmas record to reach #1 on the pop chart, selling 4.5 million copies[7]. Liberty was back in business.

In 1957, Liberty acquired Dick Bock's jazz label, Pacific Jazz Records.[8]

1960s and 70s

Liberty's most successful signing of the early '60s would be Fargo-born teen idol Bobby Vee. They picked up his single recorded for Soma with his combo The Shadows, "Suzie Baby", and stuck with him as a solo act. Ears perked up over his reading of The Clovers' 1955 doo-wop ballad [9] Devil or Angel in mid-1960. In the summer of 1961 he got a hole-in-one with the Gerry Goffin/Carole King tune Take Good Care of My Baby ... a US#1, UK#3.[1][10] He regularly cranked out Hot-100 hits through 1970.

In 1963, the Liberty Records label was sold to Avnet (an electronics corporation) for $12 million. Avnet also bought Blue Note Records, Imperial Records, Dolton Records, Aladdin Records and Minit Records. After two years of losses, Avnet sold the labels back to Al Bennett for $8 million. In 1966, a reissue label, Sunset Records, was started to deal with previously issued records from the new labels. Liberty recordings were first distributed in England by Decca Records on London Records, then by EMI, which released the recordings on the Liberty label. Liberty established a branch office in London, which signed acts such as the Bonzo Dog Band, Idle Race and The Anysley Dunbar Retaliation. Liberty also signed The Searchers for a short time in 1968 and in 1967 they issued the first single by Family. Ron Kass, onetime president of Liberty Records, later became the head of the Beatles' record label, Apple Records, and Ron Bledsoe, assistant to Al Bennett, was picked by Clive Davis to run the Nashville arm of Columbia Records.

In 1968, Liberty was bought for $38 million by Transamerica Corporation (an insurance company) and combined with their other label United Artists Records. The company shut down Dolton and transferred Dolton's artists to Liberty; later they shut down Imperial and Minit and transferred their artists to Liberty. Finally, in 1971, all releases were shifted to United Artists Records and Liberty Records was no more.

In 1978, Artie Mogull and Jerry Rubinstein acquired United Artists and Liberty Records (with money they borrowed from Capitol Records, which ironically was originally going to be named Liberty Records before changing names prior to incorporation). In February 1979, Capitol's parent company EMI foreclosed on them and has owned the rights of the Liberty labels since then.

1980s and 1990s

Liberty Records logo from 1991-1995

In 1980, EMI dropped the United Artists name and revived the Liberty name. Initially, EMI used Liberty to reissue the United Artists, Liberty and Imperial catalogues. From 1980 until 1984, Capitol used Liberty as a country music label, featuring such artists as Kenny Rogers. In 1992, EMI renamed its Capitol Nashville label to Liberty Records, before switching back to the Capitol Nashville name three years later.

In 1994, Liberty Records president Jimmy Bowen also founded a sister label to Liberty called Patriot Records, whose roster included Bryan Austin, Lisa Brokop, John Berry, Deana Carter, John Bunzow and Noah Gordon. Berry had previously been on Liberty, while the other acts were newly signed. After the label closed in 1995, Berry, Brokop and Carter transferred to Capitol Nashville.[11]

Liberty Records in the 2000s in the United Kingdom

After releasing many late-1990s Europop records like the Hermes House Band, EMI reformatted the label in 2001 to focus on 'heritage acts'. The label, now operating in a similar sphere to that of rival Sanctuary, signed a number of acts, such as The Alarm MMVI and Prefab Sprout.

Liberty Records artists

See also


  1. ^ a b Allmusic Guide
  2. ^ Both Sides Now Publications, The Liberty Records Story
  3. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 420. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  4. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 84. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  5. ^ Bobby Cochran, Susan VanHecke, Three steps to heaven: the Eddie Cochran story. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2003, p. 60ff. ISBN 0634032526
  6. ^ AllMusic, Billy Ward & the Dominoes
  7. ^ Animation Archive, Animation: The History of the Chipmunks
  8. ^ Martin Denny Combo, Simon Waronker, founder of Liberty Records dies.
  9. ^ Allmusic,The Clovers
  10. ^ Allmusic, Bobby Vee
  11. ^ Kingsbury, Paul (2004). The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Sourcebooks, Inc.. p. 407. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 

External links


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