Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Your fascinating columns inspired me to organize and better appreciate my collection of vinyl singles and albums.

While cataloging them, I noted all the different record companies we had in the 1950s and '60s. There are a million tiny labels, along with a few dozen big time ones.

What I am now wondering is whether or not any of the major labels from then are still in business, or have all of their catalogs been gobbled up by today's mega-conglomarates?

I am thinking of names like: Columbia, Capitol, Decca, United Artists, RCA Victor, Mercury, Liberty, Epic, MGM, ABC-Paramount, Warner Bros., Brunswick, Elektra, Motown, Dot, Argo, Reprise, and others that were once very popular.
—Sandra Sulkman, Tukwilla, Wash.

DEAR SANDRA: Considering the uncommon characteristics of your question, it comes as a surprise that Pat Sikes (Winter Haven, Florida) asks practically the same thing.

Pat lists a few labels that you missed, including names like Coral, Atlantic, Chess, Kapp, Arista, and London.

The success of these record companies is legendary, and it is likely that in any given week, from 1955 through 1969, nearly all of them would be well represented on the sales charts.

By the mid-'80s, the catalogs of most of the independent labels of the past had been taken over by one of the five majors: EMI, WEA, Universal (MCA/Polygram), Sony, and BMG.

As for the specific labels you two asked about, here is where they landed:

EMI: Capitol, United Artists, Liberty. Formed in 1931 as Electrical & Musical Industries, later becoming simply the EMI Group.

WEA: Warner Bros., Elektra, Atlantic, Reprise. WEA is an acronym for Warner Elektra Atlantic.

Universal (MCA/Polygram): Decca, Coral, Brunswick, Kapp, ABC-Paramount, Dot, Chess, Mercury, MGM, Argo, London, Motown. MCA is an initialism for Music Corporation of America.

BMG; RCA Victor, Arista. BMG is an initialism for Bertelsmann Music Group.

CBS/Sony: Columbia, Epic. CBS is an initialism for Columbia Broadcasting System.

DEAR JERRY: Can you furnish some recent information on a couple of singers who had hits that I have always dearly loved.

One is Donnie Brooks, who recorded “Mission Bell.” The other is Ron Holden, who had “Love You So” at about the same time “Mission Bell” was popular.

Are these gentlemen still living? If so, where? Are they still performing?
—Mickey R. Davis, Florence, Ala.

DEAR MICKEY: One is and one isn't.

As of a couple of years ago, California-based Donnie Brooks entertained regularly. He was one of the acts on a show I hosted, and a nicer gentleman I have never met.

Besides “Mission Bell,” Donnie also did quite well with “Doll House; Round Robin;” and “Memphis.”

Ron Holden, who certainly does qualify as a one-hit wonder artist, died January 22, 1997, at the age of 57.

Holden's only other significant release would be “Gee, But I'm Lonesome,” which made some regional charts.

Ironically, Ron Holden was sitting in jail when one of the guards heard him singing. Upon his release, that officer, Larry Nelson, invited Holden to record at a makeshift studio at his home. The somewhat primitive sound they came up with is part of the charm of “Love You So.”

Talk about taking chicken feathers and making chicken salad.

IZ ZAT SO? Much of EMI's success over the past forty years can be traced the company's 1940 hiring of A&R (artists and repertoire) man, George Martin.

It is George Martin who, in 1962, saw the wisdom in signing the Beatles.

EMI is also the only one of the majors whose business is strictly music.

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