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|Distributor(s)||Capitol Music Group|
|Genre||Various (historic), urban (later)|
|Country of origin||U.S.|
Imperial Records is an American record company and label started in 1947 by Lew Chudd. The label was reactivated in 2006 by EMI, which owned the label and back catalogue at the time. Imperial is owned by Universal Music Group.
Early years to 1979
When Imperial was founded in 1947, it 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 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 in the 1960s with their distribution (and purchase, a few years later) of Minit.
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 EMI. Recordings by the Bonzo Dog Band and Kim Fowley were issued in the U.S. by Imperial.
By 1970, the label had become part of Liberty's merger with United Artists Records but was phased out shortly after, with its roster transferred to United Artists. EMI acquired the Imperial Records catalogue with its acquisition of UA Records in 1979.
1990s to present
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 the urban music veteran Neil Levine. The first signing to the imprint was Raptivism Records. Fat Joe signed with Virgin Records and Imperial Records. Imperial provided resources for developing urban artists with EMI's major labels, including Capitol Records and Virgin Records, which were merged into the Capitol Music Group in January 2007. Universal Music Group acquired the Capitol Music Group as part of its acquisition of the majority of EMI's recorded music operations in 2012. After a few releases, Imperial became dormant again.
- Early 1950s to 1954: Blue label with "IMPERIAL" in script letters at the top; 78-RPM counterparts have red labels)
- 1954–1955: Red label with "IMPERIAL" in script (also silver block) letters at the top
- 1955–1957: Maroon label with "IMPERIAL" in silver block letters at the top
- 1957–1963: Black label with colored rays and "IMPERIAL" in white block letters at the top; stereo album counterparts have black labels with silver lettering
- 1964–1966: Black, white and magenta label with I-R logo in a black box on the left side, "IMPERIAL" under the logo, and "A SUBSIDIARY OF LIBERTY RECORDS" at the bottom
- 1966–1969: Black and lime green label with I-R logo in a red box on the left side, "IMPERIAL" under the logo, "A PRODUCT OF LIBERTY RECORDS" under "IMPERIAL" and "A DIVISION OF LIBERTY RECORDS"
- 1970: Black and lime green label with I-R logo in a red box on the left side, "IMPERIAL" (in slightly larger letters than the previous label) under the logo, and "LIBERTY/UA, INC"
Imperial Records artists (1947–1970)
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