Blue Note Inner Sleeves

Arrival of the printed inner sleeve, January 1961

(Page last updated: December 30, 2017)

Between 1956 and 1960, Blue Note 12″ LP records were packed with a plain paper inner sleeve. This took various forms over time, and pictured below is an example of the last type of plain paper sleeve, from my collection,  accompanying BN 4019, released December 1959. An identical plain sleeve was found accompanied BN 4029 released May 1960. My remaining pre-4050 titles had all been rehoused in later Blue Note, modern generic  or unrelated inner sleeves.

Newly pressed records were placed in the sleeve at the Plastylite plant, before being shipped to Blue Note.

Blue-Note-white-plain-inner-sleeve-BN 4019-Dec-1959

Between 1961 and 1966,  a printed inner sleeve was used,  promoting 36 other Blue Note titles each side. Starting in September 1964, these printed sleeves carried the headline “25/26/27 YEARS BLUE NOTE The First Name In Jazz”.

NOTE: Liberty acquired a large quantity of inner sleeves with the last sleeve design,”27 YEARS BLUE NOTE”   and as a result this is commonly found paired with early Liberty pressings of Blue Note titles,  many of which also bear previously printed “original” Blue Note labels, NY address  or even earlier.  27 YEARS inner and no “ear”, something look out for.

Confirming  date of LP manufacture

Blue Note inner sleeves can be helpful fixing the provenance of Blue Note records as original pressings, despite obvious limitations which are, I think, incorrectly dismissed. Often over-looked due to sometimes being missing and the possibility of mixed up inner sleeves, having examined the evidence in my own collection, I conclude that they are a useful diagnostic tool, in the same class as vinyl weight. Not perfect, but helpful circumstantial evidence.

Nine unique designs

Fred Cohen’s Guide to Blue note First Pressings points to nine different inner sleeves, each identified by a unique cover thumbnail, of a record which does not appear on any other inner sleeve, in any of the total 72 covers displayed front and back. Each variation is linked to a run of Blue Note releases, which themselves can be linked to approximate release dates, aidentifying the approximate time that sleeve was in use.


(Updated September 12, 2014)

The main value of these sleeves is for identifying probable date of manufacture of a particular copy of a record during the four years of the NY label 1962-6. In this period, hundreds of titles were released and hundreds more re-pressed. The label remains exactly the same, but you now have eight discrete changes in inner sleeve during those four years. You may think you have the 1962 “original” pressing. Then why has it got a 1966 inner? Yeah yeah,sure, “people mixed them up”, sure, but how do you know?

Record sellers “tricks”

When I went through my Blue Notes, the first thing I noticed was the number of Blue Notes below catalogue number 4050, when sleeves were plain, that a seller had added a “real” later Blue Note inner sleeve to make it look “more authentically Blue Note”. Now there is no excuse. The knowledge is here now, and freely available.

Each inner sleeve in the Cheat sheet can be viewed individually in the guide below.

Chronology of Blue Note inner sleeves

Prior to 1962, Blue Note inner sleeves were a simple plain white, now yellowed with age. I have only a few originals in the 1500 series, and none with an original inner sleeve.

Between 1962-6, inner sleeves were used to promote the Blue Note catalogue, 72 thumbnail covers in total, headed simply “Blue Note”  bearing the legend “27/26/25 Years of Blue Note” for the years 1964, 65 and 66 respectively.

bninnersleevesetx1600-ljcWithin this broad structure – no mention of year, and the years 25-26-27, there are nine variations which Fred Cohen has identified in his Guide to Blue Note First Pressings. Most interesting, Fred asserts different inner sleeves were linked to the release of specific catalogue numbers. How this worked in practice is intruiging. We know stocks of labels and covers were used for many years after printing, until stock ran out and more needed to be printed. Hence labels and covers are “lagging indicators” of provenance

The inner sleeve is a generic consumable item, designed to promote the latest releases. It isn’t tied to any particular title, so it could be used for any pressing, and is therefore potentially a leading indicator. The business rationale is to use the most recently printed inner sleeve to promote the most recent releases, as the record sails out the factory gate. It is, I think, a more accurate date-stamp of manufacture than labels or covers (used with caution, as may be different due to unknown circumstances.)

An original pressing should have a matching inner sleeve. If not, that record may have been pressed much later than the labels or jacket indicate.

When I started to check, I found a disproportionately large number of later inner sleeves with what appear to be earlier pressings. If the mismatches were a result of Blue Note afficionados “mixing up” sleeves during play, there should have been an equal number of later pressings accompanied by earlier inner sleeves, but that was not the case. Around half in my collection have a Blue Note corporate inner sleeve, but very few had the “correct” first release inner sleeve. In the majority of cases it was a later inner sleeve than the labels suggested.

We know thanks to a reader who worked as a press operator  at Plastylite at that time that Blue Note pressing runs were in small batches, and paired with the inner current at the time. There is some evidence to suggest the first pressing runs for a typical a Blue Note title was about 2,500.  Further copies were pressed according to sales, which would explain the mismatch of inner sleeves.

Using Fred as a guide, I identified all the nine inner sleeve variations except one, which I could not find, for which I created a placeholder. The titles have approximate dates of release originating from Schwann catalogues. They are a bit all over the place as it took anything from just a month to several years from recording date to release, so consider everything as approximate. All inner sleeves are pictured as seen from the front with the opening to the fore and the Blue Note Address at the bottom (the reverse taller side has no address)

Sleeve 1: BLP 4050 – 4078 (releases mainly in 1961)



Unique Identifier

BLP 4046 Duke Jordan Flight to Jordan

Column 1 Row 2

Sleeve 2: BLP 4079 -4088 (releases in 1962)



Unique identifier:

BLP 4058 Hank Mobley Roll Call

Column 4, row 5

Sleeve 3: BLP 4089 – 4114 ( late 1962 early 1963)



Unique identifier:

BLP 4084 Baby Face Willette Stop and Listen

in column 4 Row 5

(Sleeve picture courtesy of DottorJazz)

Sleeve 4: BLP 4117 – 4131 (mostly 1963 releases)



Unique Identifier:

BLP 4107 Don Wilkerson Preach Brother Preach

Column 1, Row 5

Sleeve 5: BLP 4134 – 4158 (late 1963 – through 1964)



Unique identifier

BLP 4136 Solomon Ilori African High Life

Column 1, Row 5

Sleeve 6: 25 Years – BLP 4159 – 4177 (late 1964 – mid 1965)



Unique Identifier:

BLP 4144 Johnny Coles Little Johnny C

Column 1, Row 5

Sleeve 7: 26 Years – BLP 4178 – 4201 (releases mainly 1965)

Inner-Sleeve-26-years-Andrew Hill Judgement 4178-4201


Unique indentifier:

BLP 4159 Andrew Hill Judgement

Column 1, Row 4

Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation BLP 4202 – 4226 (mid – late 1965)



Unique Identifier:

BLP 4187 Larry Young Into Somethin’

Column 6, row 4

Sleeve 9: 27 Years 2nd variation – BLP 4227 and higher ( early 1966 )

Inner-Sleeve-27 years -Dexter-Gettin-around-4227-and-up

Unique Identifier:

BLP 4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around
Column 6, row 4

This is the last and final Blue Note inner sleeve.

Liberty Records

Liberty inherited a large stock of the final 1966 Blue Note “27 Years of” inner sleeve. These are often found with the Blue Note  titles in preparation at the time of the sale, subsequently released by Liberty, who later went on to produce their own corporate inner sleeve:

This inner sleeve had just the one design, and was not updated seasonally with new releases like Blue Note. This final inner sleeve design appeared probably around 1969, and includes all of the new titles issued by Liberty as well as reissues,  and looks like the full  catalogue of around 400 titles :


United Artists tenure from 1970 produced the stylish Blue Note Wallpaper sleeve with inbuilt polythene lining, introduced in 1973. Collector advice: polythene lined sleeves have a notorious record for causing vinyl to “sweat” causing irreparable damage, and should be  archived inside the jacket, and the record placed in modern inner sleeve, preferably nagaoka-style archival inert mylar sleeve with an acid-free paper outer.

The wallpaper inner sleeve was used up to the 1980 take over by EMI, who replaced it with the “Blue Note Story” inner sleeve. The EMI sleeve gives an illuminating history of Blue Note written by Michael Cuscuna.


Sadly, EMI Capitol Manhatten  pressings in the mid-80’s which accompany this inner sleeve – label: “The Finest In Jazz Since 1939” –  are often  Direct Metal Mastering (DMM) and are generally  best avoided, though as always there are exceptions.


18 thoughts on “Blue Note Inner Sleeves

  1. Pingback: A crate-digging doozy, and some label archeology  – Music & Hi-fi Appreciations

    • Original inner sleeves prior to 4050? Now there’s a challenge, Jens!

      I have a couple of dozen “original pressings” in that range, but on closer examination I found only two that had a credible “original” plain white inner sleeve. The rest had a more recent replacement inner, whatever the seller or previous owner had to hand. None of my 1500 series have a credible original inner, so no photo so far, but I have uploaded above a picture of what I believe is the last plain sleeve, your “c”, in use at least 1959-60.

      Taking a photo of a white sleeve requires manual focus and exposure, not something straightforward, but if anyone has earlier versions of Blue Note plain sleeve and can take a picture succesfully, email me and I’ll further update this post.

  2. For me the question of white sleeves in the BLP1500s and early BLP4000s
    series should be discussed in more detail, perhaps pictures would help.
    Last night I tried to organize my collection according to the list of Fred Cohen
    and it worked properly with exception of c):

    a) BLP 1501 – 1560 thin white with bottom fold – ok
    b) BLP 1561 – 1586 thin buff with small side fold – ok
    c) BLP 1586 – 4049 “blank thick translucent paper” – this I could not find

    First of all, as mentioned above there is no rice or onion paper at BN.
    What I found most for BLP 1586 – 4049 are inners similar to b) but
    with a wider fold on both sides.

  3. Hi – thank you for amazingly informational posts. I recently picked up a copy of Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder – Mono pressing BLP 4157. this one is throwing me for a loop. It was released July 1964, and is 1 catalog number away from the last title falling under Sleeve 5: (BLP 4134 – 4158 (late 1963 – through 1964)). the copy i purchased came with sleeve 6: 25 years of blue note (BLP 4159 – 4177 (late 1964 – mid 1965)). the second pressing i can find on discogs is from 1966 which would have come with a “27 years of blue note” inner sleeve. i read an anecdote that blue note sold out of the original run of 4,000 copies of the sidewinder in just a few days. i’m wondering if, since this particular release is so close to the end of its original inner sleeve’s run, that subsequent re-pressings would be issued with later 25, 26, 27 years inner sleeves? or if there is any overlap between the 2 innersleeves? any light you can shed on this? thanks!!

    • I would not be surprised if Sidewinder had many many additional pressing runs, It sold in quantities quite unlike other titles, entered the Billboard charts – in the Top 25 of the pop LP charts, and the Top Ten on the R&B listing.

      According to Wiki, Blue Note issued only 4,000 copies upon release, and ran out of stock in three or four days. By January 1965, the album had reached No. 25 on the Billboard charts” So it was selling over a long period of time, and quite likely received further pressing runs, possibly over a number of years.

      It should appear with either Sleeve 5 or Sleeve 6, and some possibly Sleeve 7 for copies pressed towards the end of its big sales run in later 1965. Since records were not pressed in catalogue number order, and re-pressings were squeezed in between new pressings, the attribution of a particular catalogue number to a particular sleeve is only approximate. Release dates from Schwann Catalogues can also be a bit adrift!

      An inner bag 5 or 6 has the greatest likelihood of being among the first four thousand pressed. As much as I know, the Oracle is on his Christmas break.

  4. Does anyone know if Blue Note used glassine inner sleeves for early 1500 series? At what point were they using glassine or just plain paper inner sleeves? Please help, I have seen early Lexington Ave pressings with the old rice paper style inners, not sure if that is how it was issued. Thanks people!

    • Onion skin, or rice paper, if you prefer, inners were never used by Blue Note. There are several textures of plain white paper used for early Blue Note inners. I will not bother you with the détails as they are difficult to describe. It is more a question of “feel” and appearance of the material and also the way they are folded. I have spécimens where the paper is so thin that the blue of the label is visible, barely though

  5. To be or not to be the exact match between inners and catalogue numbers?
    today I found a BN inner, without cover or record: mmmh, I said, let’s see to match it with one of my BN that can be without it.
    mission impossible, unless some experts can turn the light on.
    I’ve checked ALL my BN, I’ve read and re-read this post, I’ve read and re-read Cohen’s book and I’m more confused than ever.
    one example: my inner is # 3: 4089-4114, the one pictured above.
    Fred says this inner has been matched with 4062, 4079, 4084 and 9001 too, but NOT
    with these exceptions: 4091, 4093, 4098, 4104, 4106, 4111 that match with inner # 4 (4117-4131).
    4091 is pictured on inner #3.
    first question: and 4115 to 4116?
    second question: there is no way to know which inner is related to a given catalogue number.
    how to match the different inners with correct cat numbers?

  6. Something else to add

    When I went back to look again, I noticed that one of the pictures matched the Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation BLP 4202 – 4226 (mid – late 1965), but the series numbers don’t match for BLP-4169, which was released in 1966, no? I’m so confused.

    The copy I’m looking to buy is on mono, by the way.

    Thanks for all your help.


    • There is a grey area with the last year or so of Blue Note, where the information on release dates gleaned from Schwann Catalogues runs out. It is good for early titles, not so good for later titles. What little we know is plagiarised from Cohen here:

      4169 (Lee Morgan Search for New Land) was recorded February 15, 1964. Exactly when it was released is not known (to me) and no release date is given by Cohen. A lot of titles were released out of chronological sequence around this time, and catalogue number is only a rough guide. It is probably not as neat and tidy as the Cohen sequence suggests.

      Inner sleeve dating may not be entirely accurate but it is the best indication we have. There is always a risk of anomalies. Confusion is a normal state of mind with some of these Blue Note things.

  7. I am looking at a getting a copy of BLP-4169 but it comes with an inner sleeve that says “27 Years of Jazz” and I can’t find the match on here anywhere. The label and addresses all seem to match on the label and album cover, but this inner sleeve is bothering me now. Shouldn’t it have a “25 Years of Jazz” inner sleeve? Please help if you can!! Somebody! Anybody! 🙂

  8. to your knowledge, did BN deliberately used old liberty records, inc – sleeve covers stock for later dark blue records/wallpaper BN or is it a previous customer/seller swap for the best/worst/whatever?

    • I have only the vaguest idea what motivated United Artists. I don’t think they cannibalised old stock inventory in the same way that Liberty and Blue Note did. At a certain point in the early ’70s, it became simpler to commission new than reuse old. Simply guesswork on my part.

  9. Pingback: American History Now » At the Margins of Music: The Early LPs of Prestige Records

  10. Hi – I have a Blue Note Jamaican pressed single & a JA reggae single with a recycled Blue Note inner sleeve as the label. Happy to send scans for your fine site. Best Jeremy

    • A Jamaican-pressed Blue Note? sleeve as label? Eh? A scan or photo would be most welcome, see if I can fit it into any of the stories here. For photos/scans my optimum working size is 1600×1200 pixel at 72 dpi, but a can work with anything, no problem just email to

      andrewsouthlondon (onewordwithnospaces) ( at ) hotmail dot co dot uk

      btw, what does it sound like?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s