Just in time for Epiphone's 140th anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, and the release of a new BBC collection of Beatles radio broadcasts, Beatles album expert Bruce Spizer has released a digital version of his classic book, The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay
, a fascinating look at The Beatles' first releases on the Chicago based rhythm and blues label.
In the late 50s and early 60s, Vee-Jay was one of the great success stories in music. Located on Chicago's "Record Row" on South Michigan Ave, (also home to Chess Records, Brunswick, and many others), Vee-Jay was one of the pioneering African-American owned and run record labels long before Motown. The city's music scene was hopping in the 50s and Vee-Jay was known for landmark singles by the Staple Singers, Jimmy Reed, our own John Lee Hooker,
and Jerry Butler among many others. Curtis Mayfield was a frequent arranger and producer and the cream of Chicago's musicians were in the studio on a daily basis. Vee-Jay took a chance on the lads from Liverpool after Capitol Records turned down The Beatles' first singles ("Please Please Me," "She Loves You," and "From Me To You") even though the Fabs were effectively already on
the label since EMI owned both Capitol and Parlophone (UK).
But funding problems, mismanagement and the crushing weight of demand for Beatles 45s in 1964 effectively sank their credit and Vee-Jay struggled after Beatlemania. (Read our feature about the mayhem surrounding their arrival in NYC here
.) The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay
ebook includes hyperlinks and references to other great sources. It's not only a definitive account of the Beatles early days in the record business but a chronicle of record-making in the early 60s, something all you vinyl lovers will definitely want to check out.
For a limited time, you can download a chapter for free
. Here's a great documentary on Chicago's Record Row hosted by Etta James.