ABC Records

ABC Records
Parent company
Founded 1955 (1955)
Defunct 1979 (1979)
Status Defunct
Distributor(s) Self-distributed (US), EMI (international), Anchor Records (UK), Sparton Records (Canada), Polydor Records (Canada), GRT (Canada)
Genre Various
Country of origin US
Location New York City

ABC Records was an American record label founded in New York City in 1955. It originated as the main popular music label operated by the Am-Par Record Corporation. Am-Par also created the Impulse! jazz label in 1961. It acquired many labels before ABC was sold to MCA Records in 1979. ABC produced music in a variety of genres: pop, rock, jazz, country, rhythm and blues, soundtrack, gospel, and polka.


American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters (AB-PT) is an antecedent of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). It evolved from federal antitrust actions taken against the movie studios and broadcasting companies in the 1940s and early 1950s.

In 1943 the Federal Communications Commission took action against anti-competitive practices, one of which forced the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) to sell the Blue Network, the sister network of NBC Red Network. Blue was purchased by the businessman Edward J. Noble, and he changed its name to the American Broadcasting Company in 1946. In 1953 ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, the divested former exhibition/cinema division of Paramount Pictures. The newly merged corporation was chaired by former Paramount Theaters executive Leonard Goldenson and was originally headquartered at 1501 Broadway in New York City, above the Paramount Theater in Times Square.[1]


ABC-Paramount Records

ABC Paramount 78rpm record and original sleeve

American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres formed a records division in 1955 with Samuel H. Clark as its first president.[2] The division was incorporated on June 14, 1955 as Am-Par Record Corporation.[3]

In addition to producing records, ABC licensed masters from independent record producers, and purchased regionally released records for national distribution. Am-Par Record Corporation was changed to ABC-Paramount Records, Inc. on December 7, 1961.[3]

In 1965, Clark was promoted to vice-president in charge of AB-PT's non-broadcast operations. National sales manager Larry Newton was named ABC-Paramount president.[2]In April 1966, Dunhill Records was purchased under Newton.

ABC Records

The label was renamed ABC Records in June 1966.[4] In 1970, ABC and Dunhill moved its headquarters to Los Angeles. Newton was promoted to vice-president in charge of ABC Pictures. Dunhill co-owner Jay Lasker was named president and referred to the combined operations as ABC/Dunhill. At that time ABC had another five labels: Westminster, Command, Probe, Impulse, and Bluesway.[5]

By May 1972, ABC formed the ABC Leisure Group, which included ABC Records, Anchor Records, and ABC Records and Tape Sales, plus a new retail record-store division.[6] Lasker left ABC to join Ariola America Records in 1975.[7] He was succeeded by Jerry Rubinstein, who served as company head until 1977.[8] In November 1972, ABC bought country music company Cartwheel Records.[9]

In 1974, ABC switched British distribution from EMI to the EMI-distributed Anchor Records, allowing ABC recordings to be issued on the ABC label in the UK, and Anchor records to be distributed by ABC on the Anchor label in the US.[10]

As a cost-cutting measure in the mid-1970s, ABC Records discarded their multitrack master tapes to save storage space (though some songs have been stereo remixed for LP/CD). When the affected recordings were reissued on compact discs in the 1980s, the CDs had to be mastered using the finished album masters, which often had inferior sound.[11] The company's last president, Steve Diener, was named president in 1977 after serving as head of ABC Records' international division.[12] Because of financial problems, ABC Records was sold on January 31, 1979 to MCA Records,[13] which discontinued the ABC label on March 5, 1979.[14] The bestselling albums in the ABC catalog were reissued on MCA.[15]


ABC Records sub-labeled Apt Records to release singles. In the early 1960s, it bought Westminster Records, a classical music label. For jazz it created Impulse! Records. Led by Creed Taylor and Bob Thiele, Impulse! developed a reputation for innovative releases, including albums by John Coltrane from 1961 until his death in 1967. ABC created Bluesway Records for blues music. Tangerine was formed by Ray Charles to produce his albums and artists he produced.

ABC Records bought Dunhill in the summer of 1967, forming ABC Dunhill Records. It also bought Don Robey's record labels, including Duke Records, Peacock, Back Beat, and Song Bird on May 23, 1973.

In 1974 ABC bought Famous Music from Gulf and Western, the parent company of Paramount. This acquisition gave ABC Dot Records, Blue Thumb), and a distribution deal with Sire, which released the first album the punk band the Ramones.

ABC purchased all labels from Enoch Light in October, 1959. It acquired Audition Records, Command Performance Records, Colortone Records, and Waldorf Music Hall Records.

In 1979, ABC was acquired by MCA Records for $30 million.[1] It operated briefly as a seprate division. MCA was bought by the Universal Music Group, which currently distributes recordings for ABC's sister company, Disney Music Group, worldwide except for Russia and Japan.

This is not the same ABC Records that operates in Australia, which is run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, although the Ampar label was distributed in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, first by W&G Records (1955–60) and then by Festival.[16][17] Nor is it the sub-label of Voiceprint Records.

ABC-Paramount/ABC Records label variations

Artists associated with ABC Records and its labels

Labels associated with ABC Records

Management of ABC Records catalogue today

The catalogues of ABC Records and its sub-labels are now controlled by Universal Music Group. UMG also distributes Disney Music Group, which is owned by ABC's current parent, The Walt Disney Company), with the following exceptions:

The following labels manage different genres:

These labels also produce releases from labels absorbed into ABC. For example, MCA Nashville's catalogue includes country releases on Dot Records. Deutsche Grammophon's catalogue includes the Westminster Records catalogue, as well as soundtracks released by Dot and Paramount Records.

See also


  1. 1 2 Kahn, Ashley (2006). The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. London: Granta. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1-86207-646-4.
  2. 1 2 "ABC: Brief History". Billboard. September 12, 1970. pp. abc2–abc3. Retrieved 2011-09-10 via
  3. 1 2 "Entity Information: ABC Records, INC.". Corporation & Business Entity Database. New York State Division of Corporations. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  4. "Billboard". 1966-06-18. p. 3. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  5. "New Home, Face, Philosophy - ABC/Dunhill on 15th Anniversary". Billboard. September 12, 1970. pp. abc4–abc8. Retrieved 2011-09-10 via
  6. "ABC Records 73 Sales, Earnings Up from 1972". Billboard (Vol. 86, No. 19). Nielsen Business Media, Inc. May 11, 1974. pp. 8, 80. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  7. "Jay Lasker, Recording Executive, 65, Dies - New York Times". 1989-06-13. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  8. "Billboard". 1977-12-10. p. 4. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  9. "ABC Nove Epitomizes Expansions". Billboard. p. 70. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  10. Billboard - Google Books. 1974-09-21. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  11. "ABC-Paramount Records Story". Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  12. Billboard - Google Books. 1977-06-18. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  13. "Billboard". 1979-02-10. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  14. Billboard's hottest hot 100 hits - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  15. "ABC-Paramount Records Story". Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  16. "Industry - Record Labels - W&G Records". Milesago. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  17. "45 Discography for Ampar/ABC Paramount Records - OZ". Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  18. Billboard - Google Books. 1968-04-20. Retrieved 2011-09-10.

External links

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