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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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30566 videos foundNext > 


Record Row Pt.1 Documentary of major Chicago Soul labels.

This particular video features the early beginnings of both Chess Records and Vee Jay Records. Record Row was where the Chicago music industry developed into a world class institutions of...

The Beatles and Chicago's VeeJay Records

1995 news clip features the story of how The Beatles first signed with Swan and Chicago's VeeJay label.

Jimmy Reed - Vee Jay Records - 1953 - 1958

Harmonica Blues.

Ray Smith - Robbin' The Cradle (VEE JAY Records, VJ 579 - Jan. 1, 1964)

Ray Smith was a rockabilly and country singer who recorded for the legendary Sun Records label, and is best remembered for his 1958 hit "Rockin' Little Angel." Smith was born on October 31,...

Beatles Vee Jay Records Document Archive

Mega-rare collection of paper ephemera pertaining to The Beatles and Vee Jay Records. Includes THE OLDEST KNOWN SURVIVING PIECE OF AMERICAN BEATLES MEMORABILIA. The entire ...

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The MJT+3 performing Ray Bryant's "Sleepy" featuring Willie Thomas, trumpet, Frank Strozier, alto sax, Harold Mabern, piano, Bob Cranshaw, bass and Walter Perkins, Drums.

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Great Early Staple Singers 78 RPM on Vee Jay Records great gospel tune Let Me Ride.



On My Way To Heaven - The Staple Singers Vee-Jay Records 78RPM

Hey YouTubers! Just an amazing record. Cris Vangel does have this posted but I couldn't resist posting again...Its just Awesome!! I love Mavis Staple. Enjoy! Play a Record Today!

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226 news items

Glide Magazine

Glide Magazine
Thu, 23 Apr 2015 11:56:15 -0700

Richard continued with Specialty until 1964, when he was brought to the attention of Chicagoans Vivian Carter and Jim Bracken — whose first initials formed the name of Vee-Jay Records. Having freshly lost both the Beatles and the Four Seasons, and ...

The Music Universe.

The Music Universe.
Fri, 24 Apr 2015 09:28:04 -0700

Richard continued with Specialty until 1964, when he was brought to the attention of Chicagoans Vivian Carter and Jim Bracken — whose first initials formed the name of Vee-Jay Records. Having freshly lost both The Beatles and The Four Seasons, and ...

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune
Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:59:04 -0700

It also is recognized as the hometown of "King of Pop" Michael Jackson and his wildly popular musical family. Gary is, likewise, the birthplace of seminal Vee Jay Records, a black-owned company that is often considered the forerunner of Motown Records.

Hollywood Reporter

New York Times
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:37:31 -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 ...

Durham Herald Sun

Durham Herald Sun
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 14:22:30 -0700

The documentary follows them through their signing with Vee Jay Records, and Stax records in the early 1970s, which led to the now famous radio hits. “Pops” died in 2000, and Mavis Staples recharged her earlier solo career with producers like Prince ...

WGN Radio

WGN Radio
Thu, 02 Apr 2015 05:22:30 -0700

They'll be performing in “The Signal” a new doo-wop special which pays tribute to great acts like The Spaniels (Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnight), The Soul Stirrers (A Change Is Gonna Come along with Sam Cooke) and Gary, Indiana's Vee-Jay Records.
Broadway World
Fri, 03 Apr 2015 21:43:01 -0700

The blended nostalgia of radio, steel mills, gangs, and family, the show spotlights Gary's Vee-Jay Records, the female Black-owned label that landmarked the Blues, pioneered R&B, triggered the Four Seasons, and introduced The Beatles to America. Vee ...

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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