State of Sound
Record Labels

Capitol Records

The Beatles were Big in Jacksonville, Ill.

On July 12, 1965, Capitol Records opened a factory in Jacksonville to meet the demand of pressing Beatles albums. The Capitol recording group the Lettermen appeared before 15,000 people at a street dance to commemorate the grand opening. The factory became known as “The House the Beatles Built.” By the end of 1966, the factory was pressing 50,000 albums a day.

At the same time Capitol was manufacturing hits in Central Illinois, the “Record Row” section of Chicago was concluding a historic run. Between 1960 and 1965 Vee Jay Records had offices and a studio at 1449 S. Michigan Ave. Vee Jay was once the largest Black-owned label in the United States. The Vee Jay catalog includes more than four hundred Jazz, Gospel, and Soul songs by John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Eddie Harris, and the Staple Singers.

The Beatles also came into play at Vee Jay.

Vee Jay Records

The Beatles’ first American release was in February, 1963 on Vee Jay. Their ‘45 “Please Please Me/Ask Me Why” sold just over 5,000 copies and flopped. It did not help that packaging originally labeled the group as “The Beattles.” Vee Jay went bankrupt in 1966.

The Vee Jay building was sold to Brunswick Records, headed by the late Carl Davis. Davis produced the 1962 Gene Chandler smash “Duke of Earl” for Vee Jay. Brunswick recorded the Chi-Lites, Jackie Wilson, and R&B singer Tyrone Davis. Brunswick left the building in 1976 for the north Side of Chicago and the label went under in 1981.

Brunswick Records
Chess Records
One-derful! Records

During Brunswick and Vee Jay’s heyday, Chess Records was still firing away at 2120 S. Michigan Ave. from the sparks of cultural avatars like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, and so many more . It wasn’t uncommon for session musicians to network along South Michigan Avenue.

The Black-owned One-derful! Records thrived at 1827 S. Michigan. Founder George Leaner opened up shop on “Record Row” in 1963 and before dissolving in 1968, One-derful! had recorded the Chicago soul legend Otis Clay, Betty Everett, and Alvin “Twine Time” Cash. The Jackson 5’s first recording was “Big Boy,” released in 1967 on Steeltown Records, a Gary, Ind. based label co-owned by one time One-derful! vocalist Gordon Keith.

It was a most wonderful time for record labels spinning across the state of Illinois.

Other Illinois Labels

Alligator Records
Blood Shot Records
Blind Pig Records
Delmark Records
Wax Trax! Records
Minty Fresh Records
Touch and Go Records

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