SOLAR Records

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SOLAR Records
Parent company Unidisc Music
Founded 1977
Founder Dick Griffey
Status Defunct
Distributor(s) RCA Records (1977-1981)
Elektra Records (1982-1987)
Capitol Records (1987-1989)
Epic Records (1989-1992)
Genre Soul, Funk, Disco, Post-disco, R&B
Country of origin United States
Location Los Angeles, California

S.O.L.A.R. Records (acronym for Sound of Los Angeles Records) was an American record label founded in 1977 by Dick Griffey, reconstituted out of Soul Train Records only two years after it was founded with Soul Train television show host and creator Don Cornelius.


In 1975, Soul Train Records was founded by Dick Griffey and Soul Train creator Don Cornelius. Griffey formed a collective called Shalamar, using a host of session singers to record "Uptown Festival," which was a disco-length medley of early Motown hits. After scoring a hit with the recording, he looked to Cornelius to help him put together an actual group to maintain the impact. In 1977, Soul Train dancers Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel and singer Gerald Brown (who was eventually replaced by Howard Hewett) were recruited to form the new Shalamar, which would become the fledgling label's centerpiece. Cornelius decided to shut down the label, wanting to focus his energies on the show, which was a monster hit and required his full attention to keep it so. With legalities now taken care of, Griffey reorganized Soul Train Records into the newly founded SOLAR label in late 1977. Griffey and Cornelius remained good friends, and as a result SOLAR maintained close ties to the Soul Train show.

Shalamar became one of the label's best selling and most influential acts; scoring nearly 20 hit singles and classics such as: "Right in the Socket", "The Second Time Around", "Make That Move", "A Night to Remember (Get Ready Tonight)" and "This Is For The Lover In You". SOLAR's signature act above all was The Whispers, whose distinct harmonies and carefully detailed musical and vocal arrangements defined and emphasized the "SOLAR sound". The Whispers, who began in 1964, were famous for being Soul Train/SOLAR artists, as all of their biggest hits came from the label, including "And The Beat Goes On", "It's A Love Thing", "Chocolate Girl", "Lady", and "Rock Steady" among others. Not only did Mr. Griffey have the eye to spot creative talent, he was also masterful at hiring executive talent. Starting with him were his General Manager Clyde Wasson; assistant and National Promotion rep Cheryle Appling and his A & R, Publishing and Production Director Dina Ruth Andrews. Later somewhere around 1981 Edna Collison joined the team as the National Pop Promotion Rep.


The SOLAR success story was by no means confined to these two acts, as the label was also known for several others who enjoyed success, including: Dynasty, Lakeside, Midnight Star, Klymaxx, Calloway, Carrie Lucas, Collage and the The Deele — which introduced singer/songwriter/producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and future music executive Antonio "L.A." Reid. Griffey had always believed in giving new talents the opportunity to create and develop their craft, and he was introduced to songwriters/producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis by his A & R rep Dina Ruth Andrews who was the team's first manager, Reggie and Vincent Calloway, and Leon F. Sylvers III. The "SOLAR sound" was a collective effort, with artists working on each other's sessions and artists encouraged to be creative. Sylvers who became SOLAR's house producer in 1978. His signature basslines and productions helped mould the hit sound of SOLAR, which is funky, progressive dance music infused with soul and disco.


By 1987, the label began to see its commercial fortunes decline. Contributing to the decline were A&R problems with Shalamar, primarily, maintaining the group's identity and momentum as former members Hewett and Watley had departed and were having successful solo careers on other labels (MCA for Watley and Elektra for Hewett). The shifting musical directions of R&B, dance and popular music in general in the late 1980s and early 1990s also contributed to their decline.


From 1977 to 1981, SOLAR was distributed by RCA Records, which had also distributed the Soul Train Records label during its two year run. Griffey formed a second label, Constellation Records (no relation to the Chicago-based indie label founded by Ewart Abner) in 1981, which focused on more contemporary and top forty-geared acts to Griffey's more traditionally "urban" establishment. Upon its formation, Constellation was distributed through Elektra/Asylum Records, making it only natural for the main SOLAR label to jump ship to Elektra for distribution when it left RCA.

In the meantime, the Constellation label moved to MCA Records for distribution in 1984. Shortly thereafter, Griffey decided to abandon contemporary music to focus all of his attention on running SOLAR, and retaining its sonic theme. Subsequently, MCA bought the Constellation imprint and absorbed its artists, including Klymaxx, which had been its biggest act.

SOLAR's relationship with Elektra lasted until 1987. After the Elektra distribution deal expired, SOLAR briefly took up distribution with Capitol Records until 1989, at which time it signed a new distribution deal with Epic Records, which oversaw what would ultimately become its twilight years. In the early 90's, the label released its last recordings- 1991's Now by Richie Havens and the soundtrack to the 1992 film Deep Cover.

Following its decline, SOLAR closed its doors in 1995. The label's back catalog, which includes the pre-1984 Constellation back catalog, were eventually purchased by EMI, with many of its releases and compilations being re-issued through The Right Stuff Records. In 2009, Unidisc Music purchased SOLAR's back catalog for Canada, USA and South African territories.


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