Duke Records

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Duke Records
Country of originUnited States

Duke Records was an American record label, started in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1952 by David James Mattis (WDIA program director and DJ) and Bill Fitzgerald, owners of Tri-State Recording Company.[1] Their first release was Roscoe Gordon singing "Hey Fat Girl", issued on Duke R-1, later amended to R-101.


After forming a partnership with Mattis in the summer of 1952, Don Robey (founder of Houston's Peacock Records) took control of Duke. Both labels then headquartered at his Bronze Peacock club at 2809 Erastus Street in Houston, focusing on R&B and gospel music. Robey started a subsidiary, Back Beat Records, in 1957 and this later specialised in soul music, along with Sure Shot Records, whilst Peacock specialised in gospel recordings.

Duke's leading artist was Bobby "Blue" Bland who stayed with the label for many years until its demise, mostly recording successfully with arranger/bandleader Joe Scott. Johnny Ace was a major R&B artist in the early years of the label before his death at a young age, with a string of R&B top 10 hits including three that went to number one. Junior Parker was another important presence on Duke, recording a long string of singles for the label between 1953 and 1966, scoring seven top-twenty Billboard hits during his tenure.

Robey sold his labels to ABC Dunhill Records on 23 May 1973. The Duke labels were soon closed down with the imprints retained by ABC in their catalog,[2] with only Bobby Bland being retained by the new parent label.

Label variations[edit]

Independent distribution[edit]

  • 1953-1958 Gospel series: White and purple label
  • 1952-1961 Standard series: Gold and dark purple label
  • 1961-1972: Orange and yellow label for commercial copies, purple and white label for promotional copies

ABC distribution[edit]

  • 1972-1973: Dark green label


Notable artists who recorded on Duke, Peacock and Back Beat included:

Current ownership[edit]

Universal Music Group now controls the Robey labels, via their acquisition (as MCA Records) of ABC Records in 1979.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rosco Gordon". Rockabilly.nl. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-24. Retrieved 2016-03-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Bill Dahl. "James "Thunderbird" Davis | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
  4. ^ Skelly, Richard. "Frankie Lee". AllMusic. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  5. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Lester Williams". AllMusic. Retrieved November 17, 2011.


External links[edit]