Imperial Records

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the Imperial Records label currently owned by Universal Music Group. For the record label established c. 1900, see Imperial Records (1900). For the record label established in 1920, see Imperial Records (1920). For the Japanese record label, see Teichiku Records.
Imperial Records
Imperial records 2006.jpg
Parent company
Founded 1947 (1947)
Founder Lew Chudd
Distributor(s) Capitol Music Group
Genre Various (historic), urban (current)
Country of origin U.S.

Imperial Records is an American record company and label started in 1947 by Lew Chudd (1911–1998) and reactivated in 2006 by EMI, which owned the label and back catalogue at the time. The current owner is Universal Music Group.

Early years to 1979[edit]

When Imperial was founded in 1947, concentrated on rhythm and blues (R&B) and country music: Fats Domino, Frankie Ford, Ricky Nelson, and Slim Whitman. In the UK Imperial was distributed by London Records.

Imperial bought Aladdin Records in 1960 and Minit Records in 1963 (having distributed Minit since 1960). During the 1950s, Imperial was one of the primary labels issuing a vast quantity of R&B from New Orleans, through their involvement with producer and writer Dave Bartholomew, and later in the 1960s with their distribution of the independent Minit Records (and purchase, a few years later).

Later in 1963, after Imperial lost Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson to rival labels, Chudd sold the label to Liberty Records.[1] Under Liberty's management, the label enjoyed success with Irma Thomas, Johnny Rivers, Jackie DeShannon, Classics IV, and Cher.

During the British Invasion, Liberty (whose recordings were distributed by EMI in the UK) licensed The Hollies, Billy J. Kramer, The Dakotas, and The Swinging Blue Jeans from EMIl. Recordings by The Bonzo Dog Band and Kim Fowley were issued in the U.S. on the Imperial label.

By 1970 the label had become part of Liberty's merger with United Artists Records but was phased out shortly after with its artists being transferred to United Artists. EMI acquired the Imperial Records catalogue with its acquisition of UA Records in 1979.

This is not the same Imperial Records that exists currently in Japan or that was a division of EMI's Dutch arm.

1990s to present[edit]

Throughout the 1990s, EMI released CD compilations of Imperial artists that featured the original Imperial labels.

In June 2006, EMI re-activated the Imperial Records imprint and announced that it would be the urban music division of Caroline Distribution, part of Virgin Records, spearheaded by urban music veteran Neil Levine. The first signing to the imprint was Raptivism Records. Fat Joe signed with Virgin Records and Imperial Records. Imperial provides resources for developing urban artists within EMI's major labels, including Capitol Records and Virgin Records, which were merged on January 2007 into the Capitol Music Group. Universal Music Group acquired the Capitol Music Group as part of its acquisition of EMI's recorded music operations in 2012.

Label variations[edit]

  • Early 1950s to 1954: Blue label with IMPERIAL in script letters at top (78 RPM counterparts were red labels)
  • 1954–1955: Red label with IMPERIAL in script letters at top
  • 1955–1957: Maroon label with IMPERIAL in block letters at top
  • 1957–1963: Black label with colored rays, IMPERIAL in block letters at top (Stereo album counterparts were black labels with silver print)
  • 1964–1966: Black, white and magenta label. I-R logo in black box on left side, IMPERIAL shown under logo. Disclaimer at bottom of label shows "A SUBSIDIARY OF LIBERTY RECORDS"
  • 1966–1969: Black and lime green label, I-R logo in red box on left side, IMPERIAL shown under logo, "A PRODUCT OF LIBERTY RECORDS" shown under IMPERIAL. Disclaimer changed to "A DIVISION OF LIBERTY RECORDS"
  • 1970: Black and lime green label, I-R logo in red box on left side, IMPERIAL shown (in slightly larger letters than the previous label) under logo. Disclaimer reads "LIBERTY/UA, INC"

Imperial Records artists (1947-1970)[edit]

Current artists[edit]


  1. ^ Billboard - Google Books. 1963-08-24. Retrieved 2014-05-29. 
  2. ^ Jason Ankeny. "Lester Williams". Allmusic. Retrieved November 17, 2011.