HISTORY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

The first, and one of the most important, subsidiary labels of Modern Records which for seven years was the home to a number of the biggest and best artists in the company’s stable.

Five years after founding Modern Records and having a great deal of success with rock ‘n’ roll as well as blues acts, the Bihari Brothers, Jules, Saul and Joe, spun that off into RPM Records, a sign of their growing business. It was common for companies to do this when they got almost too successful with their first label because distributors tended to not want to push too many releases by one label at the same time for fear it would look as though they were in that company’s pocket.

As radio became a bigger outlet for these kinds of records that further compelled companies to diversify their output on multiple imprints so disc jockeys would be free to spin sides from more of the parent company’s roster. As such RPM Records came about in 1950 with the same people overseeing the product as they were on Modern, the Biharis handling the business while Maxwell Davis primarily took care of the sessions while also working for other Los Angeles based companies like Aladdin.

RPM’s biggest act wasn’t a rocker, but a blues singer/guitarist just getting his start out of Memphis. B.B. King would not only be their most prolific act in terms of releases, but also their most successful, scoring sixteen hits including all four of his R&B Chart toppers in the early to mid-1950’s for the label before being switched to another Modern subsidiary later in the decade. Other blues singers formed the bulk of their lineup including Jimmy Nelson who scored a Number One hit with “T-99 Blues” in 1951, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Roy Hawkins and some of Howlin’ Wolf’s first sides came out on RPM as well before he landed with Chess.

As for their rock acts RPM scored hits with Rosco Gordon, a fellow Memphis artist who began with King in the loose-Knit outfit The Beale Streeters, while Ike Turner oversaw many of their sessions – both blues and rock – recorded in that city rather than in their home base of Los Angeles. By the mid-1950’s most of the company’s sessions were being held in L.A. where they cut big hits by Johnny “Guitar” Watson and The Teen Queens along with local stars like Richard Berry, Mickey Champion and The Nic-Nacs, Don Julian and The Meadowlarks, Gene Forrest (before he was part of the duo Gene & Eunice), Zola Taylor (before she was with The Platters), The Crowns, Joe Houston, The Jacks, Little Clydie King and the first sides of Paul Anka.

The Biharis closed down both Modern and RPM and switched their artists on both labels to Crown or Kent Records, two other subsidiaries, in 1957.
 
 
RPM RECORDS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

BUMPS MYERS: Bumps And Lumps (5) (RPM 306; August, 1950)