Decca Records

Decca Records is a British record label established in 1929.

Within years of its founding by former stockbroker Edward Lewis, Decca Records Ltd was the second largest record label in the world, calling itself "The Supreme Record Company". The term "Decca" was never determined to signify a specific meaning or name, but some theories cite the opening musical notes of a Beethoven symphony: "D-E-C-C-A". A cameo of Beethoven graced the British Decca label for many years.

Decca bought out the bankrupt UK branch of Brunswick Records in 1932, which added such stars as Bing Crosby and Al Jolson to its roster. Decca also bought out the Melotone and Edison Bell record companies. By 1939, Decca was the only record company in UK aside from EMI.

In 1934 a US branch of Decca was launched, which quickly became a major player in the depressed American record market thanks to its roster of popular artists, particularly Bing Crosby, and the shrewd management of former US Brunswick General Manager Jack Kapp.

Artists signed to Decca in the 1930s and 1940s included Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, the Andrews Sisters, Ted Lewis, The Mills Brothers, Billy Cotton, Guy Lombardo, Chick Webb, Bob Crosby, Jimmy Dorsey, Connee Boswell and Jack Hylton.

In 1942, Decca released "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby, which became the best-selling single of all time.

The American RCA broke from EMI to join with Decca in 1958, which allowed Decca to sell Elvis Presley's hits in the UK on the RCA label.

In the late 1950s, Patsy Cline was signed to the US Decca label from Everest Records and had three albums and numerous singles while she was alive and several more albums and singles produced after her death in 1962.

In 1962 British Decca executives turned down a chance to record a young group from Liverpool called the Beatles in favor of local beat combo Brian Poole and the Tremeloes; in retrospect this was an historic mistake.

Other artists released on British Decca or through one of its licensed or subsidiary labels include Pat Boone, Little Richard, Engelbert Humperdinck, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Duane Eddy, the Drifters, Eddie Cochran, Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, the Crystals, the Ronettes, Ike and Tina Turner, The Bachelors, Anthony Newley, The Rolling Stones, The Zombies, Billy Fury, Bobby Vee, Brenda Lee, Tom Jones, Glass Harp, and Genesis.

British Decca lost a key source for American records when Atlantic Records switched British distribution to Polydor Records in 1966 in order for Atlantic to gain access to British recording artists which they didn't have under Decca distribution.

The 1970s were disastrous for Decca. The Rolling Stones left the label in 1970, and other artists followed. Decca's deals with numerous other record labels began to fall apart; RCA abandoned Decca to set up its own UK office in 1971. The Moody Blues were the only international rock act that remained on the label. Although Decca had set up the first of the British "progressive" labels, Deram, in 1966, by the time the punk era set in 1977, Decca had become known primarily as a classical label which had only sporadic pop success with such acts as John Miles and productions by longtime Decca associate Jonathan King. Decca sadly became a label of last resort, dependent on re-release of its back catalogue. Contemporary signings such as the pre-stardom Adam Ant and Slaughter & The Dogs were firmly second division and second rate when compared to likes of PolyGram, CBS, EMI, and newcomer Virgin's rosters of hitmakers.

PolyGram acquired the remains of Decca within days of Lewis's death in January 1980.

The American branch of Decca functioned separately for many years as it was sold off during World War II; it bought Universal Pictures in 1952, and eventually merged with MCA in 1962, becoming a subsidiary company under MCA. Because it held the rights to the name Decca in the US, British Decca sold its records in the United States under the label London Records. Conversely, US Decca recordings were marketed in Britain on the Brunswick and Coral labels through 1967 when it began using the MCA Records label. The Decca label is currently in use by Universal Music Group worldwide; this is possible because Universal Studios (which officially dropped the MCA name after the Seagram buyout in 1997) acquired PolyGram, British Decca's parent company in 1998, thus consolidating Decca trademark ownership.

Today, Decca is a leading label for both classical music and Broadway scores; its most recent hit was Wicked (2003), which reached #140 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart.

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