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The Capitol Records Company was founded by songwriter Johnny Mercer in 1942, wit

h the financial help of fellow songwriter and movie producer Buddy DeSylva and t
he business acumen of Glenn Wallichs (1910 1971), owner of Music City, at the time
the biggest record store in Los Angeles, California. Wallichs Music City record
store opened in 1940 and was located in Hollywood on the corner of Sunset and V
ine. It was the premier music store in Southern California for decades but close
d in 1978.
Johnny Mercer first suggested the idea of starting a record company while he was
golfing with Harold Arlen and Bobby Sherwood. He told them, "I ve got this idea o
f starting a record company. I get so tired of listening to the way everyone tre
ats music. I keep feeling they re selling out. And I don t like the way artists are
treated either. Bing Crosby isn t the only one who can make records. I don t know, I
think it would be fun." By 1941, Mercer was not only an experienced songwriter,
but a singer with a number of records to his name. Mercer next suggested starti
ng a record company to his friend Glenn Wallichs while Mercer was visiting Walli
chs' record store. Wallichs responded, "Fine, you run the record company and fin
d the artists,' and Mercer added, "and you run the business."
On February 2, 1942, they met with Buddy DeSylva at a Hollywood restaurant to as
k if Paramount Pictures would invest in the new record company. On the Paramount
deal DeSylva said no, but that he himself would, and he gave them a check for $
15,000. On March 27 the three men got a statement notarized that they have appli
ed to incorporate Liberty Records (later the name of a label which Capitol event
ually acquired). In May they amended the application to change the name to Capit
ol Records. (citations for Feb. 2 to July 25, 1942, see individual day dates at
On April 6, 1942, Johnny Mercer supervised Capitol's first recording session, re
cording Martha Tilton singing 'Moon Dreams". On May 5, Bobby Sherwood and his or
chestra recorded two tracks. On May 21, Freddie Slack and his orchestra recorded
three tracks, one with just the orchestra, one with Ella Mae Morse "Cow Cow Boogi
e', and one with Mercer "Air Minded Executive".
On June 4, Capitol Records opened its first office in a second-floor room south
of Sunset Boulevard. On the same day, Wallichs presented the first free record t
o a Los Angeles disc jockey named Peter Potter. Potter was so pleased Wallichs d
ecided to give free records to other DJs, becoming the first in the business to
do so.
On June 5, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra recorded four sides for Capitol. On J
une 12, the orchestra recorded five more songs, including one side with Billie H
oliday. On June 11, Tex Ritter recorded "(I Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle
" and "Goodbye My Little Cherokee" at his first Capitol recording session. They
would become record #110.
On July 1, Capitol Records released its first nine records:
* 101 "I Found a New Baby"/"The General Jumped at Dawn" Paul Whiteman and His Or
* 102 "Cow Cow Boogie" with Ella Mae Morse and Freddy Slack and His Orchestra/
"Here You Are" Freddy Slack and His Orchestra
* 103 "Strip Polka"/"Air Minded Executive" both with vocals by Johnny Mercer
* 104 "Johnny Doughboy Found A Rose In Ireland"/ "Phil, The Fluters Ball" - bo
th with vocals by Dennis Day
* 105 "The Angels Cried" vocal Martha Tilton and The Mellowaires/I'll Remember
April" - vocal Martha Tilton with Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
* 106 "He Wears A Pair Of Silver Wings" - vocal Connie Haines/"I m Always Chasin
g Rainbows" - Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
* 107 "Elk's Parade"/"I Don't Know Why" - Bobby Sherwood and his Orchestra
* 108 "Serenade In Blue" - Martha Tilton with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra/
"(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo" - The Mellowaires with Paul Whiteman and his Orc
* 109 "Windmill Under The Stars"/"Conchita Lopez" - Johnnie Johnston
By July 25, "Cow Cow Boogie" had gone to #1 on the hit parade. (see dates at #[3
The earliest recording artists included co owner Johnny Mercer, Margaret Whiting,
Jo Stafford, Paul Whiteman, Martha Tilton, Ella Mae Morse, the Pied Pipers, and
Paul Weston and His Orchestra. Capitol's first gold single was Morse's "Cow Cow
Boogie" in 1942. Capitol's first record album was Capitol Presents Songs By John
ny Mercer, a three 78-rpm record set with recordings by Mercer, Stafford, and th
e Pied Pipers, all with Paul Weston's Orchestra.
The label's other 1940s artists included Les Baxter, Les Paul, Peggy Lee, Stan K
enton, Les Brown, western swing artists Tex Williams, Merle Travis and Wesley Tu
ttle, Benny Goodman and Nat King Cole.
Capitol was the first major West Coast label, competing with RCA-Victor, Columbi
a and Decca, all based in New York. In addition to its Los Angeles recording stu
dio Capitol had a second studio in New York City, and on occasion sent mobile re
cording equipment to New Orleans, Louisiana and other cities (Nordskog, Sunset a
nd Aamor preceded Capitol on the West Coast).
By 1946, Capitol had sold 42 million records and was established as one of the B
ig Six record labels. It was also that year that writer producer Alan W. Livingsto
n created Bozo the Clown for their new children's record library. Some notable m
usic appreciation albums for children by Capitol during that era included Sparky
's Magic Piano and Rusty in Orchestraville.
Capitol also developed a noted jazz line, including the Capitol Jazz Men, and is
sued the Miles Davis led sessions called "Birth of the Cool".
Capitol released a few classical albums in the 1940s, some featuring a heavily e
mbossed, leather-like cover. These appeared initially in the 78-rpm format, then
on some of Capitol's early LPs (33-1/3 rpm) which first appeared in 1949. Among
the recordings was a unique performance of the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-
Lobos' Choros No. 10 with a Los Angeles choral group and the Janssen Symphony Or
chestra (1940 1952) conducted by Werner Janssen, Symphony No. 3 by Russian compose
r Reinhold Moritzovich Glière, and César Franck's Symphony in D minor with Willem Me
ngelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
In 1949, the Canadian branch was established and Capitol purchased the KHJ Studi
os on Melrose Avenue next to the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood. By the mid
-1950s, Capitol had become a huge company, concentrating on popular music.
[edit] 1950s
The 1950s roster now include