ABC Records

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ABC Records
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded 1955 (1955)
Defunct 1979 (1979)
Status Defunct
Distributor(s) Self-distributed (US), EMI (international), Anchor Records (UK), Sparton Records (Canada), Polydor Records (Canada), GRT (Canada)
Genre Various
Country of origin United States
Location New York City

ABC Records was an American record label founded in New York City in 1955. It originated as the main popular music label operated by the Am-Par Record Corporation. Am-Par also created the Impulse! jazz label in 1961. It acquired many labels before ABC was sold to MCA Records in 1979. ABC produced music in a variety of genres: pop, rock, jazz, country, rhythm and blues, soundtrack, gospel, and polka.


American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres (AB-PT) is an antecedent of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). It evolved from federal antitrust actions taken against the movie studios and broadcasting companies in the 1940s and early 1950s.[1][2]

In 1943 the Federal Communications Commission took action against anti-competitive practices, one of which forced the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) to sell the Blue Network, the sister network of NBC Red Network. Blue was purchased by the businessman Edward J. Noble, and he changed its name to the American Broadcasting Company in 1946. In 1953 ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, the divested former exhibition/cinema division of Paramount Pictures. The newly merged corporation was chaired by former Paramount Theaters executive Leonard Goldenson and was originally headquartered at 1501 Broadway in New York City, above the Paramount Theater in Times Square.[3]


ABC-Paramount Records[edit]

ABC Paramount 78rpm record and original sleeve

American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres formed a records division in 1955 with Samuel H. Clark as its first president.[4] The division was incorporated on June 14, 1955 as Am-Par Record Corporation.[5]

In addition to producing records, ABC licensed masters from independent record producers, and purchased regionally released records for national distribution. Am-Par Record Corporation was changed to ABC-Paramount Records, Inc. on December 7, 1961.[5]

In 1965, Clark was promoted to vice-president in charge of AB-PT's non-broadcast operations. National sales manager Larry Newton was named ABC-Paramount president.[4]In April 1966, Dunhill Records was purchased under Newton.

ABC Records[edit]

The label was renamed ABC Records in June 1966.[6] In 1970, ABC and Dunhill moved its headquarters to Los Angeles. Newton was promoted to vice-president in charge of ABC Pictures. Dunhill co-owner Jay Lasker was named president and referred to the combined operations as ABC/Dunhill. At that time ABC had another five labels: Westminster, Command, Probe, Impulse, and Bluesway.[7]

By May 1972, ABC formed the ABC Leisure Group, which included ABC Records, Anchor Records, and ABC Records and Tape Sales, plus a new retail record-store division.[8] Lasker left ABC to join Ariola America Records in 1975.[9] He was succeeded by Jerry Rubinstein, who served as company head until 1977.[10] In November 1972, ABC bought country music company Cartwheel Records.[11]

In 1974, ABC switched British distribution from EMI to the EMI-distributed Anchor Records, allowing ABC recordings to be issued on the ABC label in the UK, and Anchor records to be distributed by ABC on the Anchor label in the US.[12]

As a cost-cutting measure, ABC Records discarded many master tapes in the 1970s to save storage space. When these recordings were reissued on compact disc in the 1980s, CD versions were often taken from master copies which had less than optimal sound quality.[13] The company's last president, Steve Diener, was named president in 1977 after serving as head of ABC Records' international division.[14] Because of financial problems, ABC Records was sold on January 31, 1979 to MCA Records,[15] which discontinued the ABC label on March 5, 1979.[16] The bestselling albums in the ABC catalog were reissued on MCA.[17]


ABC Records sub-labeled Apt Records to release singles. In the early 1960s, it bought Westminster Records, a classical music label. For jazz it created Impulse! Records. Led by Creed Taylor and Bob Thiele, Impulse! developed a reputation for innovative releases, including albums by John Coltrane from 1961 until his death in 1967. ABC created Bluesway Records for blues music. Tangerine was formed by Ray Charles to produce his albums and artists he produced.

ABC Records bought Dunhill in the summer of 1967, forming ABC Dunhill Records. It also bought Don Robey's record labels, including Duke Records, Peacock, Back Beat, and Song Bird on May 23, 1973.

In 1974 ABC bought the Famous Music record labels from Gulf and Western, the parent company of Paramount. This acquisition gave ABC Dot Records, Blue Thumb, and a distribution deal with Sire, which released the first album from the Ramones.

ABC purchased all labels from Enoch Light in October 1959. It acquired Audition Records, Command Performance Records, Colortone Records, and Waldorf Music Hall Records.

In 1979, ABC was acquired by MCA Records for $30 million.[3] It operated briefly as a separate division. MCA was bought by the Universal Music Group, which currently distributes recordings for ABC's sister company, Disney Music Group, worldwide except for Russia and Japan.

This is not the same ABC Records that operates in Australia, which is run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, although the Ampar label was distributed in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, first by W&G Records (1955–60) and then by Festival.[18][19] Nor is it the sub-label of Voiceprint Records.

ABC-Paramount/ABC Records label variations[edit]

  • 1955–1961: Black label, "ABC-PARAMOUNT" around top perimeter of label (in yellow, red, and blue - repeating in that sequence - letters for singles and all white letters for albums) and logo consisting of color spectrum Möbius strip and white jagged line (representing a sound wave). Bottom perimeter of label reads: "A PRODUCT OF AM-PAR RECORD CORP."
  • 1961–1966: Same label as above, but disclaimer at bottom of label now reads: "A PRODUCT OF ABC-PARAMOUNT RECORDS, INC."
  • 1966–1967: Label name now shortened to ABC Records. Black label with large white circle at top with "abc" in black letters and the "Möbius strip and sound wave" logo under the letters. This variant was used only for singles.
  • 1967–1974: Black label with small white "abc" circle logo in color spectrum box at top (In conjunction with this label, a brief interim label was used from 1973 to 1974 consisting of three children's blocks spelling out ABC and one block with the "abc" logo in a white triangle at the top).
  • 1974–1978: Yellow, orange, red and purple "sunburst" label with "abc Records" (black "abc" circle logo) between two black lines at top (Note: The other ABC labels would also adopt this label, such as Dunhill, Dot, Blue Thumb with its logo next to the "abc" logo, and Backbeat and Impulse with a green background rather than a yellow background, but the circles were the same.)
  • 1978–1979: Same multi-colored label as above, but with 1/8 note featuring "abc" inside the bottom of the note. Late pressings show "Mfg. & Dist. by MCA Distributing Corp..." at the bottom perimeter, just before the ABC label was discontinued and its artists transferred to MCA.

Artists associated with ABC Records and its labels[edit]

  • The Atlantics

Labels associated with ABC Records[edit]

Management of ABC Records catalogue today[edit]

The catalogues of ABC Records and its sub-labels are now controlled by Universal Music Group. UMG also distributes Disney Music Group, which is owned by ABC's current parent, The Walt Disney Company, with the following exceptions:

The following labels manage different genres:

  • Pop, rock, R&B: Geffen
  • Jazz: Impulse!, Impulse!/Verve
  • Country: Universal Music Group Nashville
  • Classical: Deutsche Grammophon
  • Musical theater: Decca Broadway

These labels also produce releases from labels absorbed into ABC. For example, MCA Nashville's catalogue includes country releases on Dot Records. Deutsche Grammophon's catalogue includes the Westminster Records catalogue, as well as soundtracks released by Dot and Paramount Records.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The American Film Industry in the Early 1950s - Dictionary definition of The American Film Industry in the Early 1950s | FREE online dictionary". Retrieved 2017-09-07. 
  2. ^ Squire, Jason E. (2016-08-05). The Movie Business Book. CRC Press. ISBN 9781317221593. 
  3. ^ a b Kahn, Ashley (2006). The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. London: Granta. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1-86207-646-4. 
  4. ^ a b "ABC: Brief History". Billboard. September 12, 1970. pp. abc2–abc3. Retrieved 2011-09-10 – via 
  5. ^ a b "Entity Information: ABC Records, INC". Corporation & Business Entity Database. New York State Division of Corporations. Retrieved April 6, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Billboard". 1966-06-18. p. 3. Retrieved 2016-01-19. 
  7. ^ "New Home, Face, Philosophy - ABC/Dunhill on 15th Anniversary". Billboard. September 12, 1970. pp. abc4–abc8. Retrieved 2011-09-10 – via 
  8. ^ "ABC Records 73 Sales, Earnings Up from 1972". Billboard (Vol. 86, No. 19). Nielsen Business Media, Inc. May 11, 1974. pp. 8, 80. Retrieved April 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Jay Lasker, Recording Executive, 65, Dies - New York Times". 1989-06-13. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  10. ^ "Billboard". 1977-12-10. p. 4. Retrieved 2016-01-19. 
  11. ^ "ABC Nove Epitomizes Expansions". Billboard. p. 70. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  12. ^ Billboard - Google Books. 1974-09-21. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  13. ^ "ABC-Paramount Records Story". Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  14. ^ Billboard - Google Books. 1977-06-18. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  15. ^ "Billboard". 1979-02-10. Retrieved 2016-01-19. 
  16. ^ Billboard's hottest hot 100 hits - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  17. ^ "ABC-Paramount Records Story". Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  18. ^ "Industry - Record Labels - W&G Records". Milesago. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  19. ^ "45 Discography for Ampar/ABC Paramount Records - OZ". Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  20. ^ Billboard - Google Books. 1968-04-20. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 

External links[edit]