Atlantic Records (Atlantic Recording Corporation) is an American record label that operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Craig Kallman is currently Chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records.
Ahmet Ertegun and his older brother Nesuhi Ertegun, were sons of a Turkish ambassador, and were jazz fans as young boys living in Europe. When the family moved to Washington, DC they befriended a group of fellow jazz fans that included Herb Abramson and his wife Miriam Abramson. Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson founded Atlantic Records in 1947 at a start-up cost of US$10,000. They recruited Tom Dowd, who had previously worked on the Manhattan Project, to be their studio engineer, and Miriam was the office manager.
Upon its creation, Atlantic was principally a jazz and R & B label, releasing their first records at 78rpm, and launching a Herb Abramson children's project called The Adventures of Bronco Bill. The first 'hit' for the company was 'Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee' by Stick McGhee, who was the brother of blues great Brownie McGhee. The single first broke in New Orleans so Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson borrowed a car and drove down to Louisiana, signing up a number of artists along the way including Blind Willie McTell, Professor Longhair, and the Clovers. Ahmet wrote their first song, 'Don't You Know I Love You', which was the first of many songs penned by him whether credited to Ahmet Ertegun, Nugetre (Ertegun spelled backwards), or just Nuggy. Atlantic also bought Ray Charles' contract for US$3,000.
Herb and Miriam Abramson both left the label in the 1950s, and Ahmet was then joined by Jerry Wexler, and from 1955 Nesuhi Ertegun was appointed to head the company's jazz division and was responsible for major signings such as Charles Mingus and John Coltrane; later Joel Dorn filled this position. Herb Abramson later set up Atco Records. During the 1950s and 60s, the list of first class artists who recorded for Atlantic read like a 'Who's Who' of rhythm and blues, in America at the time. One signing that the label was unable to obtain was that of Elvis Presley. In 1955, the label started receiving royalty checks for Atlantic owned songs that were being performed by a new young singer on Sam Phillips' Sun Records label. When his manager Colonel Tom Parker started shopping for a better record deal, Atlantic initially offered US$25,000, but RCA was willing to pay the $45,000 that the Colonel was asking.
Although it began as an independent record company, it became a major player in the music business in the 1960s, with mainstream pop signings like Dusty Springfield. Several sub-labels have been created or acquired since the 1950s. Atco Records was started in 1955 by Herb Abramson. Spark Records (the record label of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller) was purchased in November 1955. Others including Lava Records, and 143 Records became part of the Atlantic group. Atlantic was acquired by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967. In 1968, Led Zeppelin, signed a lucrative deal with Atlantic Records, and other rock artist signings throughout the 1970s soon followed. From 1974 - 1983, Led Zeppelin's label Swan Song Records was distributed through Atlantic. Atlantic is currently part of the Warner Music Group, a former division of media conglomerate Time Warner that was sold to a group of investors in 2004 for US$2.6 billion, which also consolidated Elektra Records and Atlantic into one label.
In the early 1990s, Atlantic owned 50% of Interscope Records, and briefly distributed notable releases, through its subsidiary Eastwest Records. The label has also a number of labels deals with independents such as Must Destroy (which brought the Darkness into the label) and VP Records in Jamaica, home to reggae artists. Ahmet Ertegun died on 29 October 2006. In 2007, the label celebrated its 60th anniversary with the 2 May PBS broadcast of the American Masters documentary Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built. A charity tribute concert was held for Ertegun on 10 December 2007 at the O2 arena in London, with a reunited Led Zeppelin headlining a bill that also included Paolo Nutini, Mick Jones of Foreigner, and Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. The show was held to raise money for the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which pays for university scholarships in the United Kingdom, United States, and Turkey.
- Broven, John (2008) Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03290-5
- Chapple, Steve and Garofalo, Reebee (1977) Rock 'n' Roll is Here to Pay: the History and Politics of the Music Industry. Chicago: Nelson-Hall. ISBN 978-0-88229-395-0
- Gillett, Charlie (1975) Making Tracks: Atlantic Records and the Growth of a Multi-billion-dollar Industry. New York: W. H. Allen. ISBN 978-0-285-62831-1
- Goldberg, Danny (2008) Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business. New York: Gotham Books. ISBN 978-1-59240-370-7
- Ruppli, Michel (1979) Atlantic Records: a Discography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-21170-6
- Wade, Dorothy; and Picardie, Justine (1990) Music Man: Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records, and the Triumph of Rock 'n' Roll. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0-393-02635-1
- Atlantic Records official website
- Atlantic Records UK website
- Atlantic Records official MySpace
- Atlantic Records discography project
- Atlantic Records story
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