HISTORY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

A second tier Chicago based label that cast a fairly wide stylistic net ranging from solid blues and jazz acts to gospel and of course rock ‘n’ roll.

The label emerged in a way out of the ashes of Miracle and Premium Records when Lee Simpkins, who had been the A&R director at those labels, looked to get back into business and used the resources of the inexperienced Leonard Allen, a former amateur gospel singer who’d become a tailor, to start United Records in the fall of 1951.

With a strong local music scene covering a wide range of styles, they had plenty of acts to choose from. Their most prolific artist was jazz saxophonist Tab Smith, while former Miracle mainstay Eddie Chamblee rejoined Simpkins as both a solo act and as the cornerstone of the session band. The label’s first hit came from a sax instrumental by Jimmy Forrest in early 1952, while jazz sax king Gene Ammons remained with them for years.

Meanwhile their blues roster, though not having a top notch star like crosstown Chess Records, nevertheless featured some decent acts with pianists Roosevelt Sykes and Memphis Slim, giving them steady sales if not outright hits. Additionally they recorded Chicago’s first family of gospel, The Staple Singers, before anyone else, though the records sold only locally.

Their rock output began promisingly enough with guitarist Tiny Grimes but they inexplicably left two futuristic tracks cut at his first session in late 1951 on the shelf until 1954. They achieved some early success with the vocal group The Four Blazes whose “Mary Jo” was a national hit, though their style was was more of a hybrid sound than pure rock, but all of their records were exceptionally sung.

As befitting their status as a secondary label, they could never land the big Chicago based rock vocal groups that scored elsewhere, though former Flamingos vocalist Sollie McElroy recorded for them extensively with The Moroccos. The Five C’s were their other prominent group which never made a dent nationally.

The company got off to a fairly strong start commercially and artistically thanks to Simpkins’ experience but his death from leukemia in the spring of 1953 meant that Allen was left to run the label alone and was ill-prepared for the job, unable to build on his roster or to capably find potential hit material for his artists or to oversee the recording sessions which were left to similarly inexperienced subordinates.

Though United Records added the States subsidiary along the way which featured some decent acts in the same vein, the company was mostly just hanging on after 1955 and finally closed their doors in early 1958.
 
 
UNITED RECORDS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
 

TINY GRIMES: Rockin’ The Blues Away (6) (United 109; February, 1952)
JIMMY FORREST: Night Train (9) (United 110; February, 1952)
JIMMY FORREST: Big Dip (3) (United 119; April, 1952)