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"Vee-Jay" redirects here. For other uses, see Veejay.
Single by Jimmy Reed

Vee-Jay Records is an American record label founded in the 1950s, specializing in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll.


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.

Notable artists[edit]

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 Spaniels, the Dells, and El Dorados. The 1960s saw the label become 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 Huntom label of Atlanta), who became Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1962 when they moved to Fury Records.

Vee-Jay had significant success with pop/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-1960s, Vee-Jay signed the 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 recorded (1965) the soul classic, "I Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me)", an R & B success, with Jimi Hendrix, Don Covay, Bernard Purdie, Ronny Miller, and Billy Preston (before he became successful on his own).

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


Original US 45 with the Beatles name misspelled

Vee-Jay's biggest successes occurred from 1962 to 1964, with the ascendancy of the Four Seasons and the distribution of early Beatles material ("From Me to You" b/w "Thank You Girl," "Please Please Me" b/w "From Me to You," and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" b/w "Thank You Girl" via Vee-Jay[1] and "Love Me Do" b/w "P.S. I Love You" and "Twist and Shout" b/w "There's a Place" 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), and Oldies 45 for reissues along with Tollie and Abner Records, which was an early subsidiary label formed in 1958. Vee-Jay also did distribution for Ted Jarrett's Champion Records, Rick Hall's Fame Records, and for a time, the Memphis label Goldwax Records and Johnny Vincent's Ace Records.

Vee-Jay moved back to Chicago in 1965 after a year in Los Angeles. Liens were placed on Vee-Jay assets still in Los Angeles after legal action by Pye Records due to non-payment of royalties.[3]

As Vee-Jay International[edit]

Vee-Jay Records filed for bankruptcy in August 1966.[4] The assets were subsequently purchased by label executives Betty Chiappetta and Randy Wood, who changed its name to Vee-Jay International. From 1967 to 1972, Vee-Jay was limited to selling some of the inventory on hand when the company went under, and leasing or licensing the Vee Jay masters to Buddah Records, who came out with "The First Generation" series, and Springboard International, who issued dozens of albums featuring Vee Jay material on their subsidiary label, Upfront.

In 1978, Vee Jay issued a Silver Anniversary catalog to commemorate the 25th birthday of the label. The catalog is an impressive slick-paper booklet with a silver cover. Inside are pictures of many of the artists, some history of the label, and photos of close to 200 different album covers with complete song titles listed.[5]

As a disco label[edit]

It revived under new management in 1982 as a disco and R&B label, but it closed down again in 1986.

Vee-Jay today[edit]

Under the management of Michele Tayler, the company was reactivated in 1998 as The Vee-Jay Limited Partnership. Its main office is located in Redding, Connecticut.

Collectables Records has been remastering and reissuing Vee-Jay albums on audio CD since 2000. A compilation which contains a Best of Vee-Jay box set as well as individual "Best of the Vee-Jay Years" CDs is released by Shout! Factory.[6]

In July 2014 its catalogue was acquired by Concord Music Group.[7] The sale was facilitated by Minneapolis film producer, Scott McLain.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Dave (2002). A Music Lover's Guide to Record Collecting, pp. 286-89. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-713-7.
  2. ^ a b Pruter, Robert (1996). Doowop: The Chicago Scene, p. 105. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06506-9.
  3. ^ "Billboard - Google Books". Books.google.com. 1965-10-23. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  4. ^ "Billboard - Google Books". Books.google.com. 1966-08-13. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  5. ^ "The Vee-Jay International Story". Bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Concord Music buys Vee-Jay catalogue". Completemusicupdate.com. 2014-07-09. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  8. ^ Trakin, Ron. "Concord Music Group Acquires Famed Soul Label Vee Jay Records". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vee-Jay_Records — Please support Wikipedia.
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222 news items


Wed, 18 Mar 2015 22:03:45 -0700

They changed their name to The Spaniels that spring and, upon graduation, became one of the first two artists to sign with Vee-Jay Records — the first large, independent African-American owned record label. The group recorded their initial release ...


Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:37:13 -0700

This 1959 recording by the Swan Silvertones on Vee-Jay Records transformed the template of 20th-century gospel quartets with its close vocal harmonies and Claude Jeter's soaring falsetto. The Swan Silvertones' version of "Mary Don't You Weep" turned ...

Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood Reporter
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 00:23:48 -0700

This 1959 recording by The Swan Silvertones on Vee-Jay Records transformed the template of 20th century gospel quartets with its close vocal harmonies and Claude Jeter's soaring falsetto. This version turned this traditional favorite into an anthem of ...

Hollywood Reporter

New York Times
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:37:30 -0700

Concord Music Group, an independent music empire that caters to adult listeners, has acquired the catalog of Vee-Jay Records, a storied blues and soul label of the 1950s and '60s that put out records by the Staple Singers, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker ...

The Province

The Province
Tue, 24 Mar 2015 20:00:00 -0700

In 1918, controversial American sportscaster and author Howard Cosell. (April 23, 1995). In 1921, actress Nancy Kelly. (Jan. 2, 1995). In 1921, Vivian Carter, co-founder Vee-Jay Records. (June 12, 1989). In 1922, modeling agency founder Eileen Ford ...

Crain's Chicago Business

Crain's Chicago Business
Thu, 05 Mar 2015 02:05:58 -0800

3 "The Signal: A Doo Wop Rhapsody" brings together the Spaniels, Willie Rogers of the Soul Stirrers and Stormy Weather to tell the story of doo wop, with an emphasis on the role of Gary, Ind.'s Vee-Jay Records, a label whose place in musical history is ...


Wed, 04 Mar 2015 23:05:40 -0800

The group's recording career began on Gary's legendary Vee Jay Records with the song "Baby It's You" in May 1953, but the group is best known for "Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight," which hit # 5 on Billboard's R&B chart and has been featured in many ...

Orillia Packet & Times

Orillia Packet & Times
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:03:45 -0700

Vee-Jay Records was one of hundreds of spunky, independent labels that sprang up in the United States in the immediate post-war period, but, unlike most, through a combination of savvy marketing, great music choices and blind luck, it became a top ...

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