King Records

Introduction to King Records

In 1943, King Records was founded by Syd Nathan in Cincinnati, Ohio. The label originally specialized in country music, the most popular sing being, “I’m Using My Bible for a Road Map” by Reno and Smiley. 

The label had several division, like Federal Records, which is the label that launched James Brown’s career. Federal Records made a crossover from R&B to white pop music in 1951. King Records mixed the country and R&B sides of the label by having the artist cover songs. Country singers, like Moon Mullican, the Delores Brothers, Hawshaw Hawkins and Zeb Turner, covered R&B songs “Grandpa Stole My Baby”, “Rocket to the Moon”, “Bloodshot Eyes”, and “I Got Loaded”. While R&B singer, Bubber Johnson, covered “Keep a Light in the Window for Me”.

King Records headquarters were at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2008, a historical marker was placed at this address by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Early Stages of James Brown

James Brown signed to King Records in January of 1965. He signed with his group “The Famous Flames”. The Famous Flames were founded by Bobby Byrd and they were a R&B group. James Brown built his reputation for his dynamic live performances from their hit ballads, “Please, Please, Please”, and “Try Me”. 

The Solo James Brown

James Brown was often referred to by his honorific nicknames like “the Hardesr Working Man in Show Business”, “Godfather of Soul”, “Mr. Dynamite”, and “Soul Brother No.1”. His career lasted more than 50 years. During those 50 years, he influences the development of several musical genres. On the flip side, King Records had a long standing lawsuit against James Brown because he continuously violated his contract with the company. 

The “Africanized” James Brown

In the late 1960’s, James Brown transitioned from blues and gospel styles of music to a more “africanized” style. The africanized style of music emphasized stripped-down interlocking rhythms that influenced the development of funk music. In the early 1970’s, he had officially established the sound of funk music with records like “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine, “Say It Loud- I’m Black and I’m Proud”, and “The Payback”. James Brown continues to perform and record until his death on 2006. 

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