Last Updated: January 19, 2020
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Potted Corporate History (adapted from CVinyl.com)
Atlantic Records was founded by Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun, sons of the first Turkish ambassador to the US. The company was incorporated in October 1947 and was known primarily for its R&B/Soul and Jazz recordings. In October 1967, Atlantic was sold to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, which two years later was then taken over by the Kinney National Company. In 1970 the music group was re-branded as Warner Communications, and, shortly after, the operations of all of its record labels were reorganized under a new holding company, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA), now known as Warner Music Group.
Tom Dowd, Atlantic master recording engineer
The recording engineer Tom Dowd played a crucial role in Atlantic’s success. Dowd joined Atlantic as a full-time employee in 1954, when the label’s New York office still sometimes doubled as its recording studio. He became the architect of the Atlantic sound, bringing an unparalleled clarity and concision to the recording of r&b and jazz.
“Tom pushed those pots [volume controls] like a painter sorting colors,” wrote Jerry Wexler in his 1993 autobiography Rhythm and The Blues, co-authored with David Ritz. “He turned microphone placement into an art…When it came to sound, he displayed an exquisite sensitivity.”
In an October 1999 interview for MIX magazine, Dowd noted that “in February of ‘58, the first [Atlantic] session on 8-track was Lavern Baker. Within the next 90 days, I went through Bobby Darin, the Coasters, Charlie Mingus, Ray Charles…I would be sitting in the studio doing the Coasters at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with Mike [Stoller] and Jerry [Leiber]. Ahmet would call me up and say, ‘Ten o’clock tonight, we’re going to do Mingus.’You want culture shock? Go from the Coasters to Charlie Mingus in ten hours!”
During his Atlantic years, Tom Dowd engineered landmark Atlantic sessions by John Coltrane (“Giant Steps” and “My Favorite Things”), Modern Jazz Quartet, Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus
Atlantic was one of the first independent labels to make recordings in stereo. Dowd used a portable stereo recorder which ran simultaneously with the studio’s existing mono recorder. In 1953 Atlantic issued the first LPs recorded in the so-called binaural recording system, using two microphones spaced at approximately the distance between the human ears, with the left and right channels cut as two separate, parallel grooves. This required a special tone-arm fitted with dual needles for playback, and it was not until 1958 that the single stylus microgroove system (in which the two stereo channels were cut into either side of a single groove) became the industry standard. (Source: Wiki)
Atlantic Catalogue Numbers and Series
10-inch albums were released between 1951 and 1953, – the 100 Series, mainly instrumental jazz LPs . The album catalog numbers were often denoted by the prefix “LP” on the album cover and “ALS” or “ALR” on the record label. Variations found in colour of ALR and ALP series, below, with what looks like a 1300 Series white label promo:
Nesuhi Ertegun took overall responsibility for the LP series, and commenced releasing 12 inch LP records in 1955 , in the 1200 Series, initially only mono, which focused almost exclusively on jazz releases. Stereo releases began in 1958 and by 1960 all releases were available in both mono and stereo – stereo indicated by the prefix SD on the catalog number. The series continued until late 1977 when it concluded with catalogue numbers SD 17## and most of the popular jazz artists moved to the SD 18100 Series. A limited number of titles were released on the 8800 Series. (Abridged from Wiki Atlantic Discography)
Atlantic Jazz Labels Cheat Sheet – mono and stereo.
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