Who captured the first music industry gold record? Well, it depends on which type of gold record you're talking about.
The earliest gold records were given out by recording companies who wanted to recognize and celebrate the achievements of artists whose music they had released. It's commonly thought that the first of these was awarded by RCA Victor's imprint Bluebird Records to Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in February 1942 to celebrate the sale of over 1 million copies of their single "Chattanooga Choo Choo":
That said, there were probably many other such awards created around this period and certainly many more when Elvis Presley got started and record buying by the public was taking off.
While these gold platters did not represent sales milestones or other achievements that could necessarily be independently verified, they certainly were indicators of the success of those recordings.
More and more record labels issued similar gold record awards into the 50s and 60s and the practice continues today.
Sometimes record labels or artist managers would put out gold records proclaiming achievements that weren't really true in the interests of promotion and, of course, also simple recognition of the hard work no doubt put in by artists and those who worked on the projects.
Not to pick on The Mindbenders, who were a fine group with many hits and much success but, for example, this award for their hit "A Groovy Kind Of Love" proclaims the tune's status in June 1966 as the "Number One Record In The Nation" (meaning the U.S.A.).
In actual fact, according to data on Billboard chart positions in Wikipedia, the track only peaked at #2 in both the U.S. and U.K. It was held from #1 by Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman":
Incidents such as this, and more specifically awards that were created to inflate actual record sales numbers along with a collective desire by the record industry to properly recognize sales achievements by music artists led the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to launch independently verified sales awards in the early 60s.
The RIAA was formed as a trade organization for record labels and they dubbed their awards Gold® records, even eventually registering as service or trademarks the terms "Gold®" and later “Platinum®“ and “Multi-Platinum™“.
Initially, Gold record awards were bestowed for singles or 45s that had sold 1 million copies and albums/LPs which had sold one million dollars worth.
As time went on those sales certification levels would change and adaptations were made to recognize new sales formats such as cassettes, CDs and, in recent times, downloads and streams.
But back to our first gold record question, this time to answer: What was the first Gold RIAA Award?
The first RIAA Gold award was issued on March 14, 1958 for the 45 rpm single “Catch A Falling Star” by artist Perry Como. On July 8, 1958, the first Gold LP was awarded for the cast soundtrack of Oklahoma! sung by Gordon MacRae:
The Platinum single award was first introduced in 1976 and the first ever Platinum single award ever issued was earned by Johnnie Taylor for his track “Disco Lady”, which was certified Platinum on April 22, 1976:
In 1976 a Platinum 45 single certification represented two million singles sold. In later years (around 1989) the Platinum single certification level was adjusted to one million sold. This was done when singles started to sell less units as the album format gained traction with consumers. The RIAA website today shows all Platinum singles as having sold one million units, without differentiating whether they were certified in the "two million sold" or the "one million sold" era.
The first Platinum LP award went to the Eagles on February 24, 1976 for Their Greatest Hits 1971-75. As of the update of this article in early 2023, that album also still holds the distinction of being the biggest selling album of all time in the U.S. at 38 million units sold.
So there you have it, a mini-history of the first gold record awards. Interested in knowing more about RIAA awards and what makes them great to add to your collection? Subscribe to our free bi-weekly newsletter and get our 55-page MusicGoldmine RIAA and Record Award Guide free plus a 15% discount code here.