|Parent company||Concord Music Group|
|Founder||Max Weiss, Sol Weiss|
|Distributor(s)||Concord Records (In the US), Universal Music Group|
|Country of origin||US|
Fantasy Records is a United States-based record label that was founded by Max and Sol Weiss in 1949 in San Francisco, California. They had previously operated a record-pressing plant called Circle Record Company (unrelated to the Circle Records label) before forming the Fantasy label. The early years of the company were dedicated to issuing recordings by Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, Vince Guaraldi, and other jazz artists. The label was the first to record in-person performances by Lenny Bruce.
In 1949, Jack Sheedy, the owner of a San Francisco–based record label called Coronet, was talked into making the first recording of an octet and a trio featuring Dave Brubeck. (This Coronet Records should not be confused with either the Australia–base Coronet Records or the late 1950s New York–based budget label Coronet Records.) Sheedy's Coronet Records had previously recorded area Dixieland bands. But Sheedy was unable to pay his bills and in 1949 turned his masters over to his record stamping company, the Circle Record Company, owned by Max and Sol Weiss. The Weiss brothers soon changed the name of their business to Fantasy Records and met an increasing demand for Brubeck recording by recording and issuing new records. Soon the company was shipping 40,000 to 50,000 copies of Brubeck recordings a quarter, making enormous profits for the company.
When Brubeck signed with Fantasy Records, he thought he had a half interest in the company and he worked as a sort of A & R man for it, encouraging the Weiss brothers to sign other contemporary jazz performers, including Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and Red Norvo. When he discovered that all he owned was a half interest in his own recording, he was more than willing to sign with another label, Columbia Records.
Fantasy's first subsidiary label, formed in 1951, was Galaxy Records. The labels were named in honor of fantasy and science fiction magazines. In the mid-1950s, Saul Zaentz joined the company and eventually instigated the company's major expansion. In 1965, another subsidiary label was formed which was short lived, Scorpio Records, in an attempt to capitalize on the British invasion sound. In 1967, Zaentz led a consortium that bought out the Weiss brothers. The following year, Fantasy's most successful act emerged when the local group Creedence Clearwater Revival, which he managed, released its first hit record, "Susie Q," in 1968. The group had been signed in 1964 as the Blue Velvets, but the label renamed it the Golliwogs so they would fit in with the then-new incoming crop of British Invasion bands, and after a series of failed releases under that name on the Fantasy and Scorpio labels, the group changed its name to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the most popular band that the label recorded.
Zaentz, advised by the journalist Ralph J. Gleason and benefiting from profits from the sales of Creedence Clearwater Revival records, pursued a policy of acquisition concentrating on independent jazz labels. Zaentz had picked up Debut Records as a wedding present from bassist Charles Mingus to which were added Good Time Records, Prestige Records (in 1971), Riverside Records and Milestone Records (both 1972), Stax Records (1977), Contemporary Records (1984), Specialty Records (1991), Pablo Records (1987), Takoma Records and Kicking Mule Records (both 1995). During the 1980s, the label also had a hip-hop subsidiary named Reality Records, which released the first two albums by Doug E. Fresh, among others.
Fantasy also built its landmark headquarters building at the corner of Tenth and Parker in Berkeley, California, in 1971, which was nicknamed the House that Creedence Built. Expanded in 1980 to house Zaentz's film operations, the Zaentz Media Center was sold in 2007 to Wareham Development.
In 2004, Fantasy was sold to a consortium led by Norman Lear and merged with Concord Records to create a new company called Concord Music Group. While some operations are still located in Berkeley, the record label is now headquartered at the Concord Music Group location in Beverly Hills, California. Fantasy Studios, now owned by Wareham Development, is still operating in the Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley and continues its legacy in recording and mixing. Through the reshuffling, many top acts and engineers alike work out of the original building, which has now incorporated a multitude of mixed-media projects. Fantasy Studios is a Bay Area landmark, as well as an award-winning studio whose repertoire includes Creedence Clearwater Revival, Green Day and Carlos Santana to NPR's "Hearing Voices" series. Top sound engineers Adam Muñoz, Jesse Nichols and Alberto Hernandez work at Fantasy Studios.
Shortly after Fantasy was purchased by Concord, John Fogerty, the lead singer and songwriter of Creedence Clearwater Revival, re-signed with the label after leaving it in the mid-1970s after a falling out with former owner Zaentz.
- Ted Gioia, "Dave Brubeck and Modern Jazz in San Francisco," West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California 1945–1960, Berekley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1998 (reprint of 1962 edition), pp. 63-64.
- Ted Gioia, "The San Francisco Scene in the 1950s", West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California 1945–1960, Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1998 (reprint of 1962 edition), pp. 94-95.
- Wareham Properties website