FREE US Shipping! Get our newsletter HERE



Iconic Labels: Atlantic Records

Posted by James Duncan on

Atlantic Records holds a special place in the annals of music history, its journey spanning decades and genres, leaving an indelible mark on the industry. Established in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson, Atlantic Records emerged as a beacon of innovation, diversity, and artistic excellence in the realm of popular music. Over the years, it became synonymous with groundbreaking artists, iconic recordings, and cultural phenomena, shaping the landscape of modern music in profound ways.

The early years of Atlantic Records were characterized by a commitment to rhythm and blues (R&B), a genre that was burgeoning in the post-war era. Ertegun and Abramson, both fervent enthusiasts of African-American music, sought to capture the raw energy and authenticity of R&B by signing and promoting black artists, many of whom were overlooked or marginalized by mainstream labels. This dedication to racial integration and musical integrity set Atlantic apart and laid the foundation for its future success.

One of Atlantic's earliest breakthroughs came in 1949 with the signing of Ruth Brown, whose powerful vocals and dynamic stage presence made her a sensation in the R&B world. Brown's hits such as "So Long" and "Teardrops from My Eyes" propelled Atlantic into the spotlight and established its reputation as a label with a keen ear for talent. In the following years, Atlantic continued to cultivate relationships with pioneering artists like Ray Charles, The Drifters, and LaVern Baker, whose innovative blend of R&B, gospel, and jazz pushed the boundaries of popular music.

Aretha Franklin spent most of her career signed to Atlantic and was responsible for many early successes

The 1950s and 1960s marked a period of unprecedented growth and artistic achievement for Atlantic Records. Under the visionary leadership of Ertegun and Abramson, the label expanded its roster to include a diverse array of genres, from soul and jazz to rock and roll. A key step in its development was its distribution deal with Stax. Artists such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett became synonymous with the "Atlantic Sound," a soulful, emotionally resonant style that captivated audiences around the world.

In 1955 Atlantic created the subsidiary ATCO Records, which was formed as an outlet for artists not fitting the format of Atlantic, which was mostly released blues, jazz, rhythm and blues and soul. Bobby Darin and The Coasters were the first rock artist to be released on the label, which later became home for artists including Sonny and Cher, Buffalo Springfield, Vanilla Fudge, and Iron Butterfly.

Legendary producer Tom Dowd became an Atlantic staff producer in the 1960s and solidified his place in the label’s history by producing albums for artists such as Aretha Franklin who was signed to Atlantic in 1966, Ray Charles, and John Coltrane. Later, Dowd would produce legendary recordings for Atlantic signings Derek and the Dominos, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band, and many more.

In 1967, Atlantic Records underwent a significant change when it was acquired by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, a move that would have a profound impact on its future trajectory. With access to greater financial resources and distribution networks, Atlantic was able to reach new heights of commercial success while maintaining its commitment to artistic excellence. The label's roster continued to grow, encompassing legendary acts such as Led Zeppelin (on Atlantic from 1968-73, after which the group formed the Swan Song label, which was distributed by Atlantic), Cream, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Yes, whose groundbreaking albums helped define the sound of the era.

In 1967, Atlantic became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, now the Warner Music Group. In 1968 Atlantic formed Cotillion Records, probably best known for releasing live performances from the Woodstock festival.

The 1970s saw Atlantic Records embrace the burgeoning punk and disco movements, further expanding its influence on the music scene. Acts like The Ramones, Chic, and ABBA found a home at Atlantic, bringing fresh energy and innovation to the label's catalog. Meanwhile, established artists like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles continued to thrive, producing some of the most memorable recordings of their careers. Signings such Foreigner, AC/DC, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins brought huge sales at the tail end of the decade and into the 1980s.

AC/DC's Back In Black album on Atlantic has become the 4th best selling album of all time in the U.S. with over 25 million copies sold

By the 80s, Atlantic Records had firmly established itself as a powerhouse in the music industry, with a roster that spanned multiple genres and generations. The advent of MTV and the rise of digital technology brought new opportunities and challenges for the label, as artists grappled with the changing landscape of the music business. Nevertheless, Atlantic remained at the forefront of innovation, embracing new trends and technologies while staying true to its roots.

In the decades that followed, Atlantic Records continued to evolve and adapt, forging new partnerships and pushing the boundaries of popular music. From the rise of hip-hop and alternative rock to the resurgence of R&B and pop, the label remained a constant presence in an ever-changing industry. Today, Atlantic Records stands as one of the most storied labels in the history of recorded music.

Related Articles

This Week In Music History Apr 8-21
This Week In Music History Apr 8-21
The week in music history brought to you by MusicGoldmine.com. Just a couple of highlights from this week in music hi...
Read More
This Week In Music History Mar 25-Apr 7
This Week In Music History Mar 25-Apr 7
The week in music history brought to you by MusicGoldmine.com. Just a couple of highlights from this week in music hi...
Read More
2024 Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Announced
2024 Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Announced
Did your favorites get in? The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation has announced their 2024 Inductees. Performer ...
Read More

0 comments

Leave a comment

Please note, comments are moderated before they are published

You Might Like