John Dolphin (music producer)

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John Dolphin
John Dolphin.jpg
Background information
Birth nameJohn Grayton Dolphin
Also known asLovin John, The Toast of the Coast
Born(1902-04-09)April 9, 1902
Beatrice, Alabama, US
DiedFebruary 1, 1958(1958-02-01) (aged 55)
Los Angeles, California, US
Occupation(s)Record store owner, music producer, concert promoter, DJ
Years active1946–1958
LabelsRecorded In Hollywood, Cash Records, Money Records, Lucky Records, Ball Records, Dolphin's Of Hollywood
Associated actsJesse Belvin, Sam Cooke, Pee Wee Crayton, Charles Brown, Lowell Fulsom, Charles Mingus, Buddy Collette, Rudy Ray Moore, Joe Houston, Scatman Cruthers, Hollywood Flames, Turbans, Turks, Maggie Hathaway, Ernie Freeman, Red Callender, WMA Soul Stirrers, Roberta Martin Singers, Percy Mayfield, Huggy Boy.

John Grayton Dolphin (April 9, 1902–February 1, 1958), also known as Lovin John, was an African-American businessman, independent record label owner, concert promoter and music producer, who established Dolphin's of Hollywood, an influential record store that remained open 24 hours a day.[1]

Early life[edit]

Dolphin was born in the Southern town of Beatrice, Alabama in 1902 to Lewis (Stallworth) Dolphin and Elyce Dolphin. He left Beatrice at a very young age and moved to Boley, Oklahoma, where he was raised. He later moved to Detroit, Michigan and finally settled in Los Angeles, California.


John Dolphin and Billie Holiday at Dolphin's Of Hollywood
John Dolphin and Billie Holiday

Dolphin's of Hollywood[edit]

Dolphin's of Hollywood Record Shop
Dolphin's of Hollywood

His record store Dolphin's Of Hollywood was opened in 1948 on Central Avenue in Los Angeles. Central Ave was a hub for jazz music in Los Angeles and attracted figures such as Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Joe Turner, Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker.[2] Dolphin's of Hollywood was a prime factor in the emergence of rhythm & blues music on the West Coast by its sales of records and as being the location of landmark R &B radio broadcasts by Hunter Hancock and Dick "Huggie Boy" Hugg.[3] Hits like "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)", by the doo-wap group The Penguins, were first released during a live broadcast inside Dolphins of Hollywood.[4] To get an audience reaction, John Dolphin asked Huggy Boy to play both sides of the record over the air.[5]

Work as record producer[edit]

In 1950 Dolphin started his first label, Recorded In Hollywood (RIH). His first chart success came in 1951, "Once There Lived A Fool", by Duke Ellington's vocalist Jimmy Grissom. The song, penned by Jessie Mae Robinson, became the subject of almost a dozen covers, by Tony Bennett, Charles Brown, Tommy Edwards, Savannah Churchill, John Greer, Jimmy Witherspoon and others.[6] He worked on other National hit songs such as "Buzz-Buzz-Buzz", by the Hollywood Flames,[7] "The Jerk" by The Larks, and "Make me Yours" by Betty Swann. His contributions to music spans from Jazz to Rock'n'Roll. He worked with artists such as Sam Cooke, Jesse Belvin, Charles Mingus, Pee Wee Crayton, Major Lance, Scatman Crothers, Harry Caesar, Tony Allen, Gene Forrest, Percy Mayfield, Damita Jo, Marvin Phillips, Jesse Belvin, Illinois Jacquet and Linda Hayes.[8] Dolphin produced several famous records under the Recorded In Hollywood label, and eventually created other labels like Lucky Records, Cash Records, and finally, Money Records. Dolphin sold Money and its holdings to Don Pierce's Hollywood Records in 1956.[9]

Crossover music[edit]

Dolphin brought fame to many underserved, talented, black artists who had been hidden behind the facade of crossover music. This Crossover Music concept was essentially taking music originally recorded by African Americans and having white artists re-record it, as during this time, most black music was considered taboo and hard to sell to the masses.[10] He went on white radio station KRKD and played a black music format, marketing black music to whites.


In 1954, Dolphin organized a protest by 150 Black business owners and employees in reaction to an ongoing campaign of intimidation directed at interracial trade.[11] Dolphin’s of Hollywood was outselling other White-owned stores in the city and continued to attract White customers who spent their money not only at the store, but also in the neighborhood.[12]


John Dolphin and his wife Ruth Dolphin at Dolphin's of Hollywood Record Shop
John and Ruth Dolphin

John Dolphin was murdered behind the desk of his office in Hollywood on February 1, 1958 by frustrated singer and shipping clerk Percy Ivy. His murder was witnessed by then teenage musicians Bruce Johnston, Sandy Nelson, and Dave Shostac, who were attempting to interest Dolphin in their music.[13] His wife, Ruth Dolphin, took over Dolphin's of Hollywood after his death.[14]


In 2015, a musical, Recorded in Hollywood - The Musical, co-written by Dolphin's grandson Jamelle Dolphin, debuted at the Lillian Theatre in Los Angeles.[15]

On July 28, 2016 city of Los Angeles Councilman Curren D. Price Jr. officially announced and presented the newly renamed intersection of Central Avenue & Vernon Ave to "Dolphin's Of Hollywood Square" in honor and recognition of John Dolphin's groundbreaking contributions to the music industry and the city of Los Angeles.[16]


Recorded In Hollywood: The John Dolphin Story


  1. ^ John Dolphin
  2. ^ Daaood, Kamau. "Jazz : L.A.'s Lost Street of Dreams : The great musicians who once strode Central Avenue played from the heart." Los Angeles Times (August 29, 1999)
  3. ^ History of Dolphins of Hollywood
  4. ^ Ace Records Earth Angel
  5. ^ The Recording of Earth Angel
  6. ^ Rockabilly John Dolphin
  7. ^ The Hollywood Flames
  8. ^ Rockabilly John Dolphin
  9. ^ Findagrave John Grattan "Big John" Dolphin
  10. ^ Dolphins of Hollywood Official Site Archived 2014-09-09 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Ethnic Studies PDF Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Baruck, Jamelle (Feb 4, 2012). Recorded In Hollywood: The John Dolphin Story. p. 104.
  13. ^ The death of John Dolphin
  14. ^ Dolphins of Hollywood Official Site Archived 2014-09-09 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Tanja M. Laden, "The Remarkable Life and Tragic Death of Pioneering South L.A. Music Producer John Dolphin", LA Weekly, April 7, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2016
  16. ^ "Gia On The Move". Gia On The Move. Retrieved 2016-07-31.

External links[edit]