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Single by Jimmy Reed

Vee-Jay Records was a record label founded in the 1950s, specializing in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll. It was owned and operated by African Americans.



Vee-Jay was founded in Gary, Indiana, in 1953 by Vivian Carter and James C. Bracken, a husband-and-wife team who used their initials for the label’s name.[1] 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.

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.

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 The Spaniels, The Dells, and El Dorados. The 1960s saw the label became a major soul label with Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Dee Clark, and Betty Everett putting records on both the R&B and pop charts. Vee-Jay were also the first to nationally issue a record by The Pips (by a master purchase from the tiny Huttom label of Atlanta), who became Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1962, when they moved to Fury Records.

Vee-Jay had significant success with rock and roll acts, notably The Four Seasons (their first non-black act) and The Beatles (Vee-Jay acquired the rights to some of the early Beatles recordings in a licensing deal with EMI in which the main attraction at the time was another EMI performer, Frank Ifield). In the mid 1960's Vee-Jay signed former successful child singer Jimmy Boyd of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus fame). Boyd was then twenty five years old. The company even ventured into folk music with Hoyt Axton and New Wine Singers. The label also picked up Little Richard (who re-recorded his Specialty Records hits), and, before he became successful, Billy Preston.

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.[2] 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, and Maceo Woods.[2] Vee-Jay even released comedy on LP, with records by Dick Gregory, and Them Poems, Mason Williams's early nightclub act, recorded with a studio audience in 1964.

Vee-Jay's biggest successes occurred in 1962-1964, with the ascendancy of the Four Seasons and the distribution of early Beatles material ("Please Please Me" and "From Me to You" via Vee-Jay[1] and "Love Me Do", "Twist and Shout", and "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" 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 the 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 Honeycombs), Champion (featuring Gloria Jones' original version of "Tainted Love", a smash hit for Soft Cell in 1981), and Oldies 45 for reissues along with Tollie and Abner Records which was an early subsidiary label formed in 1958.

Vee-Jay Records filed for bankruptcy in August 1966. The assets were subsequently purchased by label executives Betty Chiapetta and Randy Wood.

The post-bankruptcy Vee-Jay is not active in producing new recordings, but continues to license the back catalog. The current primary distributors are P-Vine/Blues Interactions in Japan, and Rhino Records in North America. U.S. based record label Collectables Records has been remastering and reissuing Vee-Jay albums on audio CD since 2000. The latest sublicensee is Shout! Factory which released a Best of Vee-Jay box set as well as individual "Best of the Vee-Jay Years" CDs from such artists as Jerry Butler, The Dells, Jimmy Reed and The Staple Singers.[1]

However, it revived under new management in 1985. However, its music style is only DJ Mixing & Rare Rap. It lasted until 1988.

See also


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Dave (2002). A Music Lover's Guide to Record Collecting, pp. 286-89. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879307137.
  2. ^ a b Pruter, Robert (1996). Doowop: The Chicago Scene, p. 105. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252065069.

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