Capitol Records: The History and Impact

Early Stages

  • In 1942, lyricist, John Herndon Mercer (known as Johnny Mercer), partnered with Buddy DeSylva (songwriter, filmmaker, and record executive) and Glenn E. Wallichs (businessman and store owner of, Wallichs Music City record store) to establish the first West Coast label. ​

Quick Fact:

When Mercer decided to partner with these men, he was inspired to start his own label due to the success of Savoy Records (Newark, NJ), Decca Records (NYC), RCA (NY), and Columbia Records (NYC). ​

  • “there wasn’t a label of note on the West Coast. One day, Johnny Mercer and the owner of Glenn Wallichs’ Music City store were discussing their displeasure with the current state of the recording industry. Johnny felt that recording artists were seldom presented at their best, and Glenn voiced his frustration with the out-dated distribution methods,” (The John Mercer Foundation, 2022). ​
Owners of Capitol Records

Capitol Records is located in Hollywood, CA; close to where Wallichs was still able to run Wallichs Music City and contribute to the label’s successes. ​

The Beginning of the Legacy

Capitol Records Impact on Diversity within the Music Industry

Genres of Music:

  • Pop
  • Rock
  • Jazz
  • Country
  • Classical
  • Soul
They pursued great modern music no matter where it came from. Race and gender did not stop this label from prospering. There was room for creative freedom and artistic integrity. This was a label for artists willing to make a change in the musical scene in whichever form they represented. ​

Nat King Cole

In, 1942 Nat King Cole and his trio recorded:​

  • “Straight Up and Fly Right”​
  • “Sweet Lorraine”​
  • “Embraceable You”​

During his time with Capitol Records, he recorded about 700 songs and 150 singles that charted on Billboard’s Pop, R&B, and Country charts. ​He went on to record with the label for 25 years. ​

The King Cole Trio

Nat King Cole: Profiles in Jazz - The Syncopated Times
Nat King Cole | Christmas Specials Wiki | Fandom


Ella and Louis (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong)

Ella and Louis, the second album of the duo’s trilogy was recorded at Capitol Records in October of 1956. With help of the Oscar Peterson Quartet, they created an 11-track album that brought a major buzz to the label. The duo was known for being the “perfect partnership” during the jazz era.  ​

Album cover for the second volume of the trilogy (October 1956)

Nancy Wilson

  • Nancy Wilson was an American jazz singer. After connecting with John Levy through “Cannonball” Adderly (jazz saxaphonist), she landed a record deal at Capitol Records. She then went on to record and release:​
  • “Guess Who I Saw”​
  • “Sometimes I’m Happy”​

In 1963, she went on to release her first album, Tell Me The Truth. In 1963. The following year she released her sophomore album, How Glad I Am, and won her first Grammy under the label. ​

Capitol Records Today and Yesterday

Works Cited​,Pop%2C%20R%26B%20and%20Country%20charts.​

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