A longtime subsidiary of major label Decca Records, it was established in 1949 as the market began to diversify beyond the ability of Decca to handle all of their contracted artists. Coral was run independently of the major and as such took on a wide array of styles – from the jazz of Bob Crosby, Woody Herman and Jimmy Dorsey to country act Owen Bradley and pop vocalists Georgia Gibbs and Don Cornell. Their biggest early splash was made in 1950 when The Ames Brothers landed a #1 hit with their version of “Rag Mop”.

Their black artists appeared on the separate 65000 line and included the early rock saxophones of James Von Streeter and Al Sears and later a few sides by Eddie Chamblee and Hal Singer along with some vocal acts like Jesse Allen, but like most corporate run companies they only paid cursory attention to this field.

By 1954 Bob Thiel took over as Coral’s A&R director and developed their two biggest pop acts The McGuire Sisters and Teresa Brewer but they also ventured into rock ‘n’ roll again with the signing of Buddy Holly who’d become their most indelible artist regardless of genre. Holly’s Crickets were already signed to another Decca subsidiary Brunswick at the time and as a result records under Holly’s name – but with the Crickets in tow – came out on Coral while those credited to the The Crickets as a whole continued to be released on Brunswick.

In spite of Holly giving the label instant credit in the rock field Coral’s output remained as far-flung stylistically as possible with everyone from Lawrence Welk to Liberace sharing space with Holly and minor pop-rock act Charlie Gracie.

With Holly’s death in 1959 Coral’s flirtation with rock inexplicably ended though the label kept releasing Holly songs from the vault until the mid-1960’s, a time when their best sellers were Dixieland clarinetist Pete Fountain and pop singer Bobbi Martin. Their most notable signing during this stretch was Patti Austin, a jazzy singer who’d be best known in the future as a backing vocalist for a wide array of rock acts as well as a #1 hit in a duet with James Ingram in the 1980’s, but by this time Coral was barely treading water commercially and in 1973 they were turned into a budget line in a corporate reshuffling.

Like so many other major labels and their subsidiaries Coral’s failure to make significant inroads into rock ‘n’ roll, even as its commercial potency was indisputable, came down to the attitudes of those they hired who had no affinity for, nor understanding of, the audience or the artists, viewing both as irrelevant if not somewhat contemptible. As a result Coral’s 24 year run was largely the story of missed opportunities when it came to rock ‘n’ roll even though it was their one legitimate rock act who is about the only thing that keeps their legacy alive into the 21st Century.
CORAL RECORDS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

JAMES VON STREETER & HIS WIG POPPERS: Landslide (8) (Coral 65015; September, 1949)
THE BEAVERS: I Gotta Do It (4) (Coral 65018; October, 1949)
AL SEARS: Shake Hands (3) (Coral 65023; February, 1950)
THE BEAVERS: Big Mouth Mama (2) (Coral 65026; March, 1950)
THE BEAVERS: I’d Rather Be Wrong Than Blue (1) (Coral 65026; March, 1950)
AL SEARS: 125th Street, New York (3) (Coral 65029; April, 1950)
THE DRIFTERS: Wine-Head Woman (4) (Coral 65037; September, 1950)
THE DRIFTERS: I’m The Caring Kind (3) (Coral 65037; September, 1950)
THE DRIFTERS: And I Shook (4) (Coral 65040; November, 1950)