Hometown History: King Records of Cincinnati
When you think of Cincinnati history, you may not think of one of the most important record companies in Rock-N-Roll history... but maybe you should.
These stars of Country, R&B, Blues, and Rock-N-Roll (and more) all have something in common...
Little Willie John
Big Jay McNeely
The Ink Spots
Billy Ward & His Dominoes
The Delmore Brothers
Ivory Joe Hunter
The Stanley Brothers
Maddox Brothers & Rose
John Lee Hooker
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
Mickey & Sylvia
... they all released records under Cincinnati's King Records label and/or its subsidiary labels. And this is only a small sampling of the impressive roster.
Founded by Syd Nathan in 1943, King initially specialized in Country music with the slogan, "If it's a King it's a Hillbilly."
Nathan set King up in a very holistic approach to the music business, especially by 1950's standards for independent labels. They had the ability to do the whole record-making process in-house. They recorded, mastered, printed, pressed, and shipped all in one place.
The legendary songwriting and production team of Leiber & Stoller (Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, The Coasters, The Drifters, etc.) recount in their autobiography that when driving through Cincinnati in the 1950s, Lester Sill praised King for their "all-in-house" approach which helped inspire Leiber & Stoller to eventually launch Spark Records.
Lieber & Stoller became part-owners of King for a short time in the 1970s after Syd Nathan's death.
Over a dozen Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees recorded at King Records in its 30-year history.
In 2008, King Records was officially designated as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame landmark. Then-president of the Rock Hall, Tony Stewart, is quoted as saying, "There's not a more important piece of real estate in musical history than the building over there on Brewster.
The building still stands at 1540 Brewster Avenue here in Cincinnati, complete with its Rock & Roll Hall of Fame marker.