Brunswick Records was a popular record company between 1916- 1930. They signed a vast number of different and unique artists through the years. Brunswick Records was founded in 1916 and was based in Detroit and later settled in Chicago. Originally, Brunswick was in Detroit as a lesser-known label under Decca Records. However, they eventually settled in Record Row in Chicago. Brunswick- Balke- Colliander Company founded Brunswick Records and the owner is the Tarnopol family. Specifically, Nat Tarnopol was at the forefront of the record label. During this time period there were numerous record labels, but Brunswick was by far the most influential and innovative.
All about Nat Tarnopol:
Nat Tarnopol was the president of Brunswick Records. He was born on January 26, 1931, and died on December 25, 1987, of congestive heart failure. Although he was a well-respected record producer, he had very poor health throughout his entire career. Aside from this particular issue, Tarnopol was one of the most crucial assets to the world of R&B music through the 1960s and 70s. He established careers of popular artists such as The Chi- Lites, Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis, and Barbara Acklin. Jackie Wilson was one of Tarnopol’s first artists which really allowed him to establish his black clientele. Originally, Brunswick was in Detroit as a lesser-known label under Decca Records. However, they eventually settled in Record Row in Chicago. Jackie Wilson was signed to Decca and managed by Nat Tarnopol. Wilson’s first hit was “Lonely Teardrops” in 1958. Wilson became a chart-topping success with 7 Top Ten singles, which helped bring up Brunswick. Wilson was one of Tarnopol’s most popular artists. Reported by Wilson’s wife he was treated fairly by Tarnopol and Brunswick Records which was unheard of during this time period. Brunswick Records was thriving during this time and was culturally mixed.
Popular Artists on the Label:
Brunswick Records had a and extensive clientele with mostly black artists. For example, Jackie Wilson, The Chi- Lites, and Tyrone Davis.
This group started in 1959 when Marshall Thompson created a vocal group called the “Hi-Lights’s” in Chicago. In 1964 Marshall changed the name to the “Chi-Lites” This group became very popular specially for their hit “Oh Girl”, and they scored eleven Top Ten singles on the Billboard R&B charts. The group became so popular they were featured on television shows including, Sou Train, The Midnight Special and American Bandstand. The group had accomplished many things under Nat Tarnopol’s leadership and later were honored with a 2021 Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
Jackie Wilson had a rough upbringing before becoming a well-known artist. In 1957 Wilson embarked on a solo career. His manager was Al Green, and he was able to secure him a contract with Brunswick Records. Wilson put out a few hits such as “To be Loved”, and “Reet Petite” which really set up his entire career.
Tyrone Davis was born in Greenville, Mississippi on May 4 ,1938. He was eager to leave the Jim Crow South. He later moved to Chicago where he fell in love with the genre of blues. In the early stages of his career, he released a song called “Can I change my Mind?”, which kickstarted his career and allowed him to hit the Billboard charts. The song later sold about one million copies. After that he became very established and had a very successful career.
Impact on the World of Music:
As mentioned before Brunswick Record was based in Chicago. The label had a soulful and relatable tone that reflected the times and lives of other R&B artists. Tarnopol would go to local bars that featured black entertainment to listen for new and fresh talent. Tarnopol’s goal was to feature talented black artists. Brunswick records was a label that included black artists and treated them with respect which was rare during the particular time period. Overall Brunswick Records was a positive and innovative and had a great impact on the world of R&B as well as the black community.
This Chicago based record label had an influential presence on the world of music. They produced and established so many great artists and also gave black artists a platform to highlight their talents. Overall, this company had a successful impact.