Atco Records

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ATCO Records
Parent companyWarner Music Group
FoundedJuly 1955; 68 years ago (1955-07)
FounderHerb Abramson
Country of originUnited States
Location1633 Broadway, New York, New York, US

ATCO Records is an American record label founded in 1955. It is owned by Warner Music Group and operates as an imprint of Atlantic Records.[1][2] After several decades of dormancy and infrequent activity under alternating Warner Music labels, the company was relaunched by Atlantic Records in early 2020.


1950s–1960s: Beginnings[edit]

ATCO Records was devised as an outlet for productions by one of Atlantic Records' founders, Herb Abramson, who had returned to the company from military service.[3] The label was also intended as a home for acts that did not fit the format of the main Atlantic brand, which was releasing blues, jazz, rhythm and blues and soul. The planned name for the label was Atlas. But it was changed to ATCO when it was discovered there was already an Atlas Records.[4] The ATCO name is an abbreviation of ATlantic COrporation. ATCO also provided distribution for other labels, including RSO, Volt, Island, Modern, Ruthless, Hansa, and Rolling Stones. For most of its history, ATCO was known for pop and rock music, but during its early years, it produced some jazz albums. These included Harry Arnold, Betty Carter, King Curtis, Herb Geller, Roland Hanna, and Helen Merrill.[5]

ATCO's rock era began with Bobby Darin and The Coasters.[3] In the early 1960s, Atlantic began to license material from international sources, leading to instrumental hit singles from Jorgen Ingmann, Acker Bilk and Bent Fabric. Starting in the mid-1960s, ATCO moved into rock-and-roll with Sonny and Cher, Buffalo Springfield, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly and Cream (the latter under license from British label Polydor).[3]

In 1964, ATCO released a single in the US by the Beatles, "Ain't She Sweet" (flip side "Nobody's Child", with lead singer Tony Sheridan), which had been recorded in Hamburg in 1961. With lead vocals by John Lennon, "Ain't She Sweet" reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August 1964. ATCO also released an album entitled Ain't She Sweet which featured the other two tracks by Sheridan and The Beatles from the Hamburg session and filled out by eight other songs covered by The Swallows.

In 1966, ATCO released "Substitute" by the Who. The song was issued through an arrangement with UK Polydor Records because of the dispute The Who was having with their producer, Shel Talmy, and their contract with US Decca Records and UK Brunswick Records. This would be the only Who recording to appear on ATCO, although Pete Townshend and John Entwistle would eventually sign to ATCO as solo artists,[3] and Roger Daltrey later signed a US solo deal with Atlantic. This release differs from the UK release with a different structure/edit (the break comes in after the first verse vs. second), a substitute lyric ("I try walking forward but my feet walk back" in place of "I look all white but my dad was black").

1970s–1980s: Downsizing[edit]

During the 1970s, Atlantic Records began to broaden the range of its own roster, causing ATCO to become deemphasized as many of its acts would eventually have their material released under the main Atlantic brand. In the middle 1970s, ATCO became increasingly used for hard rock acts and some British and European bands. During this time, the label issued early albums from AC/DC. Starting in 1978, however, AC/DC releases were issued on Atlantic until their contract with the label ended in the 1990s. In 1980, ATCO's visibility rose with strong chart performances from Pete Townshend's Empty Glass album and the song "Cars" by Gary Numan. As the 1980s wore on, ATCO continued to have streamlined success with artists such as Sweet Sensation, JJ Fad and Michel'le (the latter who were signed to the label in conjunction with Ruthless Records), while steadily becoming less active overall.

1990s: Merger with EastWest Records America and dormancy[edit]

The last number one hit on ATCO was "If Wishes Came True" by Sweet Sensation in 1990. The following year, Atlantic Records Senior VP Sylvia Rhone orchestrated the merger of ATCO with Atlantic's fledgling EastWest Records America label and briefly operated the combination as Atco/EastWest Records. By 1994, however, the ATCO name was dropped and the label reverted to the EastWest Records America branding. During this time, EastWest moved its operations to Atlantic's sister label Elektra Records. As a result of Elektra's takeover of EastWest, ATCO's back catalog and retained artists were now under its control. In the decade to come, the ATCO name and logo would be occasionally used on reissues of past material, but the imprint itself was now dormant.[3]

2000s: Revival under Rhino Entertainment[edit]

In 2005, after more than a decade in hibernation, ATCO (in a joint venture with Rhino Records) released the soundtrack of the Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea, which starred Kevin Spacey and featured his renditions of Darin's songs. This led to Warner Music Group reactivating the label in 2006 in conjunction with Rhino. Scarlett Johansson, Keith Sweat and Art Garfunkel were among the first artists signed to the label. Garfunkel issued Some Enchanted Evening on January 30, 2007. Johansson issued Anywhere I Lay My Head on May 20, 2008. Queensrÿche released its American Soldier album on ATCO on March 31, 2009. The New York Dolls released its album Cause I Sez So on ATCO on May 5, 2009. Shortly thereafter, ATCO would become dormant again.

2020s: Return to Atlantic Records and second relaunch[edit]

In 2020, ATCO returned to the aegis of Atlantic Records, where it was relaunched. On February 14, Billboard announced that Atlantic Records President of A&R Pete Ganbarg was appointed president of the newly relaunched ATCO Records.[6] Ganbarg's first ATCO signing is Philadelphia-based alternative act Zero 9:36.


The following is a list of artists who have recorded for ATCO Records.


  1. ^ John Broven (2 March 2009). Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers. University of Illinois Press. p. 68. ISBN 9780252032905. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  2. ^ Galen Gart (1990). First Pressings:The History Of Rhythm and Blues, volume 5, 1955. Big Nickel. pp. 90, 91 & al. ISBN 0-936433-05-1.
  3. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 121/2. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ "Billboard". 13 August 1955.
  5. ^ Gardner, Mark (2002). Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, vol. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 88. ISBN 1561592846.
  6. ^ "Atlantic Relaunches Iconic ATCO Records Under Pete Ganbarg: Exclusive". Billboard.
  7. ^ "GLORYDAZE Music - Articles: Julien, Robbin - 1985 Here We Go [ep]". Archived from the original on 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2011-10-28.

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