Imperial Records

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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
Founder Lew Chudd
Distributor(s) Capitol Music Group
Genre (historic) various
(current) Urban
Country of origin United States
Official website

Imperial Records is a United States based label started in 1947 by Lewis Robert Chudd (1911–1998) and reactivated in 2006 by EMI which owned the label and back catalogue at that time. The current label owner is Universal Music Group.

The independent and Liberty Records years[edit]

Upon its formation in Los Angeles in 1947, Imperial focused on the release of rhythm & blues/R&B, country, and Mexican music including recordings by such R&B artists as Fats Domino, Frankie Ford, and Ricky Nelson as well as those by yodeling country singer Slim Whitman. In the United Kingdom, Imperial was distributed by London Records.

Imperial expanded its operations by purchasing Aladdin Records in 1960 and Minit Records in 1963 (having distributed Minit since 1960). Throughout the 1950s, Imperial was one of the primary labels issuing a vast quantity of R&B from New Orleans, though their involvement with producer, writer Dave Bartholomew, and later in the 1960s with their distribution and 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 from such artists as holdover Irma Thomas as well as Johnny Rivers, Jackie DeShannon, Classics IV and Cher.

During the British Invasion years, Liberty (whose recordings were distributed by EMI in the UK) licensed artists including the Hollies, Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas and the Swinging Blue Jeans from EMI for release on the Imperial label. Recordings by Liberty UK act the Bonzo Dog Band and Kim Fowley were issued in the USA on the Imperial label.

By 1970 the label became part of Liberty's merger with United Artists Records, but was phased out shortly thereafter 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 currently in Japan or that was a division of EMI's Dutch arm.

Label variations[edit]

  • Early to mid-50s—Maroon label, IMPERIAL at top
  • Late 50s-1963—Black label with stars under IMPERIAL at top
  • 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"

CORRECTION: 45 rpm releases up to 1954 were blue label with "Imperial" in script letters. Red or maroon labels would be later pressings. 78 rpm pressings were red label. 1954 - 1955 were red label with "Imperial" in script letters. 78 rpm pressings were red label. 1955 - 1957 were maroon label with "Imperial" in block letters. 78 rpm pressings were maroon label. 1957 forward were black label


Throughout the 1990s, EMI released various CD compilations of Imperial artists. For nostalgia, the compact discs featured the various Imperial labels.

In June 2006, EMI re-activated the Imperial Records imprint and announced that it will be the full-service Urban Music division of Caroline Distribution, part of Virgin Records, spearheaded by urban music veteran Neil Levine.

The first signing to the imprint is Raptivism Records. Fat Joe has signed with Virgin Records and Imperial Records.

The revived Imperial is a full service label group that offers promotions, marketing and digital services for the independent urban music market. Imperial also provides additional 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.

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. 

External links[edit]