HISTORY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

One of the original three major record companies which had dominated the music field for years and the one with the most complex – often confusing – history, and ultimately only a minor player in rock ‘n’ roll.

Decca was a British label founded in 1929 by Edward Lewis after he’d taken over Barnett Samuel & Sons who made the Decca gramophone. Despite the ravaging economic climate of the Great Depression Decca quickly positioned itself as a leader in the field thanks to Lewis’s extensive business acumen from his days as a stockbroker. When they acquired the bankrupt Brunswick label in the early 30’s it greatly expanded their artist base, giving them Bing Crosby who’d go on to be the biggest selling artist in their history. In 1934 they established an American Decca label in New York using Brunswick’s facilities and personnel. The American label however would be sold off upon Great Britain’s entry into World War Two when Lewis needed money to help the U.K.’s war effort (the money was then used to fund research leading to radio navigational systems which helped win the war as well as positioned UK Decca as the record label with the highest fidelity when that technology was adapted for recording and playback).

The two Decca labels now shared a name but nothing else (The UK Decca releases in America would therefore be issued on London Records, which will get its own page) and so this now becomes the story of US Decca which saw its market share grow in the 1930’s and 40’s with an unrivaled roster of talent covering all styles and backgrounds including Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Dorsey, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, The Andrews Sisters, Woody Herman, The Mills Brothers, Guy Lombardo, The Ink Spots and the most vital rock-forefather Louis Jordan.

Their success with such a diverse roster and their experience with all types of music made them the most likely of the major labels to capitalize on rock ‘n’ roll when it came along in 1947 and though they were the first to delve into it with such artists as Albennie Jones and Cousin Joe who both had prior records in other styles, Decca was too shortsighted to seek out new artists in this field despite having pianist Sammy Price to lead their sessions in this area and consequently they left the field open to upstart independent labels to succeed with, cutting into their dominance of the overall market as rock’s popularity took off.

When they finally jumped on board with rock in 1954, ironically for a label with such a rich history of black music, it was with Bill Haley & The Comets the first notable white artists in rock. Despite dragging their heels up to this point, their affiliation with Haley helped rock cross over in unprecedented fashion, as their commercial clout proved vital in exposing the music to a broader audience, and he promptly rewarded them with a string of Top Ten hits including the first ever #1 Pop hit with a rock record, the immortal “Rock Around The Clock”.

For that reason alone Decca would be more than a footnote in rock’s story, yet aside from Haley’s contributions Decca still remained unconvinced of rock’s overall potency and never seriously pursued other artists on their primary label (they did a little better with subsidiaries Brunswick and Coral), or only skirted the genre with Brenda Lee who had some rock-flavored hits mixed in with her prodigious country output of the late 50’s and early 60’s. When they finally did look to get more involved with rock it was with more acceptable white acts such as Rick Nelson, allowing them to maintain their image as a more proper pop outfit. Only their association with The Who in America gave them any rock credibility beyond Haley and on the whole Decca, for all their potential when rock began as a result of their longstanding commitment to innovative black styles of the 30’s and 40’s, wound up being the most disappointing label when it came to rock ‘n’ roll and is yet another example of how the majors let the most revolutionary style of music pass them by because they largely felt it was beneath them.

 
 
DECCA RECORDS REVIEWED TO DATE ON SPONTANEOUS LUNACY:
 
 
COUSIN JOE: Boxcar Shorty (And Peter Blue) (8) (Decca 48045; September, 1947)
ALBENNIE JONES: The Rain Is Falling (9) (Decca 48048; September, 1947)
ALBENNIE JONES: Papa Tree Top Blues (8) (Decca 48048; September, 1947)
COUSIN JOE: Sadie Brown (6) (Decca 48061; December, 1947)
COUSIN JOE: Evolution Blues (5) (Decca 48061; December, 1947)
ALBENNIE JONES: Give It Up Daddy Blues (6) (Decca 48069; January, 1948)
ALBENNIE JONES: I Have A Way Of Lovin’ (4) (Decca 48069; January, 1948)
COUSIN JOE: Boxcar Shorty’s Confession (5) (Decca 48091; December, 1948)
COUSIN JOE: Beggin’ Woman (4) (Decca 48091; December, 1948)
ALBENNIE JONES: Love Is Such A Mystery (6) (Decca 48095; January, 1949)
ALBENNIE JONES: Hey Little Boy (6) (Decca 48095; January, 1949)
ALBENNIE JONES: Hole In The Wall ★ 10 ★ (Decca 48100; March, 1949)
ALBENNIE JONES: Song Man (3) (Decca 48100; March, 1949)
DOLES DICKENS: Rock And Roll (5) (Decca 48110; July, 1949)