Sunday, December 21, 2014

Liberty Records: A Hundred Pouds of Clay

Founded in 1955, Liberty Records began as an independent record label originally focusing originally on film, standards, and instrumental music. By 1957, Liberty added rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues to their repertoire, which was a positive cash flow move for the label. Over the years, Liberty had its ups and downs; and in 1963, Avnet, Inc. purchased Liberty Records. Liberty was added to the company’s stable of independent labels that included the following: Imperial, Blue Note, Dolton, Aladdin, and Minit.

Avnet’s entrance in the record business, however, was unsuccessful and it sold the collection of labels to Alvin Bennett, Liberty’s president from 1955 to 1963. In 1968, Transamerica Corporation, the owner of United Artists Records, purchased Liberty and allied labels and their respective catalogues. Many of the secondary labels were shuttered by 1980 with the artists transferred to Liberty. By 1971, Liberty itself was absorbed into United Artists.

In 1978, EMI purchased United Artists. Under the transfer agreement, EMI was allowed to use the UA name and logo for two years. After the 1980 expiration of the contract, EMI revived Liberty primarily as an oldies label for the United Artists’ catalogue. While some new pop and rock artists were signed to Liberty, EMI primarily used the Liberty brand for new country recordings. Liberty was active as a country label such from 1980-1984 and 1991-1995. Although a European version of Liberty has been ongoing, the American label ceased operation in 1995.

For our look at Liberty Records, we begin with a million seller by Gene McDaniels. While McDaniels would later be known as a songwriter, his early hits on Liberty were penned by others. While the first two singles were flops, the label teamed McDaniels up with veteran producer Tommy “Snuff” Garrett and a hit was born with the release of “A Hundred Pounds of Clay.”

Charting at #3 on the Hot 100 and #11 on the R&B chart in 1961, “A Hundred Pounds of Clay” was composed by Kay Rogers, Luther Dixon, and Bob Elgin.

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