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History of Vinyl, Part One

A History of Vinyl



1950   The improvements in sound quality of the new vinyl format encourage record companies to embrace the technology, this marks the beginning of the end for the 78rpm shellac disc

1950   RCA Victor issues records on Columbia 12 inch LP format

1950   Introduction of 16 rpm disks for spoken word recordings

1951   Columbia releases records on the RCA 7 inch 45 rpm format

1951   First Jukebox able to play 7 inch 45 rpm records

1952   Alan Freed starts the influential radio show Moondog's Rock and Roll Party

1954   Bill Haley releases "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Rock Around the Clock"

1954   Record companies deliver 7 inch 45 rpm record singles to radio stations instead of 78s

1956   Ska, an interpretation of American R&B develops in Jamaica. Ska is to become the foundations of rocksteady, reggae, dancehall and ragga.

1956   The Chrysler Imperial in-car turntable 16-2/3 rpm record player with 7-inch ultramicrogroove records developed by Peter Goldmark - the man who invented the 33-1/3 rpm long playing (LP) record format

1957   The Recording Industry Association of America chooses the Westrex standard for stereo records. Stereo vinyl is to became the dominant medium of recorded music

1958   RCA introduces its first stereo LPs

1958   Some home systems employ stereo components

For years the Record Industry was controlled by a few major conglomerates. By 1947 they were known as the Big Six and consisted of Columbia, Victor, Decca, Capitol, MGM, and Mercury. Their idea of a musical marketing had, since the 1920s and the advent of Jazz, mainly consisted of releasing sanitised versions of styles considered either too rough for mass consumption or too specialised to offer a significant financial return. In many cases this meant the dilution of black art forms. The war had changed all of this.

As in 1914, the migration of poor workers from the South to the West Coast and Mid-West resulted in an influx of a new musical form, rooted in the African dance rhythms imported with the first slaves. It became known as Rhythm and Blues. Local radio stations now had different demographics to serve and, gradually, the dramas and plays, which had been a large part of their output, became transmitted through the new medium of television. The replacement was the pre-recorded music that the new audience demanded.

The Story of Pop"
‘Fluff’ Freeman introduces Jerry Lee Lewis´ 1956 hit "Great Balls Of Fire",Bill Haley & his Comets sing "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock". Released in 1954, it was a hit in 1955, re-entered the charts 5 times up until 1957 and last appeared in 1974,Elvis Presley with a cover of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup´s 1947 "That's All Right","Big" Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll" which Bill Haley had his first hit with

Low cost recording in the guise of magnetic tape allowed small studios to spring up and start providing pre-recorded music suitable for this new audience such as Chess Records of Chicago - home of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. By the 1950s Rhythm and Blues had mutated into the musical soundtrack to a social revolution - Rock 'N' Roll. As early as 1947 Roy Brown had recorded what is regarded as the first Rock 'N' Roll tune: "Good Rockin' Tonight" on the DeLuxe label. Alan Freed started his Moondog's Rock 'N' Roll Party on a local station in 1952 and by 1954 Bill Haley had made it a world wide phenomenon with "Rock Around The Clock". Loud, raw and under-produced, this was a music that challenged preconceived ideas of morality and authority. Financially, independent teenagers could afford the new 7 inch format, which perfectly suited the two minute bursts of adolescent adrenaline.

Again, the majors were caught unawares by this new market. While RCA and Columbia had finally decided to the two speed standards of 45 and 33 1/3 rpm, they nedded to quickly exploit this brash new art form - and exploit it they did. The classic example of this had to be Elvis Presley's signing to RCA - just compare his 'cleaned-up' sound from 1958 onwards, to his earlier work for Sam Phillip's Sun label.

Meanwhile another important innovation was being born. The development of binaural or stereo sound by Bell laboratories engineer Alan Blumlein in 1931 could now be fully exploited by the use of tape which could store far more information. Quarter inch tapes containing stereo recordings became available while the record companies shied away from confusing the public further with another record format. However classical audiophiles created a demand for the increased fidelity and dynamic range of stereo recordings contained on the new microgroove vinyl. Blumlein's patent allowed the left and right channels to be recorded on opposite sides of the groove and the only factor holding back mass-production was the adoption of an industry standard for the type of stereo used. This came in 1957, when The Recording Industry of America adopted the Westrex standard. By 1958 stereo records were available to the public.