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June 2008

What’s New · King Records Anniversary Concert and Exhibit · Timeline

Hank Ballard and Syd Nathan Hank Ballard and Syd Nathan
Syd Nathan, age 35, opens a record store in downtown Cincinnati, at 1351 Central Avenue, a block from Music Hall
Business prospers. Nathan notices a great demand for “hillbilly” music caused in part by a large population of transplants from the South and Appalachia seeking work in Cincinnati factories
August 1944
Nathan moves his record company to the Evanston neighborhood, near Xavier University. The 1540 Brewster Avenue location was the site of a former ice factory. Records are manufactured and packaged, but recording is done in studios in other cities
Hank Penny and the Delmore Brothers sign to King
Hank Penny records “Steel Guitar Stomp,” featuring guitarist Merle Travis. It becomes a hit one year later
August 1945
Nathan creates the R&B label, Queen
February 1946
Gospel quartet Brown’s Ferry Four begin recording for King Records
Nathan signs Bullmoose Jackson to his new R&B label, Queen
August 1946
King has its first national hit with Cowboy Copas’ “Filipino Baby.”
Moon Mullican, mixing country music with blues, has his first hit, "New Jole Blon.” The song sells a million copies within three years and makes King a contender in the growing country boogie market
Recording studio is built at Brewster location
Nathan merges Queen and King under the King label. Nathan also acquires the established DeLuxe label and operates it as a King subsidiary. Signs Roy Brown
September 6, 1947
R&B pianist Ivory Joe Hunter, "the Baron of Boogie," has his first recording session for King
December 1947
R&B star Wynonie Harris signs with King. He records “Good Rockin’ Tonight” in Cincinnati, three days before Petrillo Recording Ban begins
January 1, 1948
Petrillo Recording Ban goes into effect nationwide. No recording is done until December 1948. The 11-month ban was ordered by James Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians (AFL), over royalty payments
Nathan promotes arranger and songwriter Henry Glover to A&R man. He becomes one of the first African-American executives in the music industry
March 1948
Hawkshaw Hawkins has his first hit single with "Pan American," which climbs into the country Top Ten
March 1948
Nathan makes a pressing agreement with Hal Neely, sales manager of Allied Record Manufacturing Company. This relationship helps King remain an independent, efficient and self reliant company
May 6, 1949
“Blues Stay Away from Me,” co-written by the Delmore Brothers and Henry Glover, is recorded in Cincinnati. Regarded by some as the first rock ‘n’ roll record, it becomes a top five hit in 1949, and has a chart run of 23 weeks
May 16, 1949
Ten days later, Wayne Raney records “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me” at the Cincinnati studio. It becomes a number one hit on the country charts and crosses over to the pop Top 25
December 1950
Nathan starts the R&B subsidiary label Federal. He appoints Ralph Bass head of the label
April 1951
“Sixty Minute Man” by the Dominoes is released on Federal. It eexplodes on the charts, selling well over one and a half million copies. It stays in the top ten R&B for months, and crosses over to the mainstream pop charts.
July 25, 1951
“Train Kept A-Rollin’” is recorded by the Tiny Bradshaw band. It is later covered by the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith
January 1952
Reno and Smiley record the bluegrass standard “I’m Using My Bible for a Road Map.”
April 7, 1952
Earl Bostic records “Moonglow” at the Cincinnati studio featuring a young saxophonist named John Coltrane
August 1952
Little Willie Littlefield records “K.C. Lovin’.” Seven years later Wilbert Harrison covers the song as “Kansas City,” which becomes a smash number one hit
March 1953
Bonnie Lou records country hit “Seven Lonely Days.” She records her other hit “Tennessee Wig Walk” two months later
February 1, 1954
Johnny Guitar Watson records “Space Guitar,” which pioneers guitar feedback and reverb
April 10, 1954
“Work with Me Annie,” by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, is released on the Federal label. It begins a half-year run on the R&B charts, which it tops for seven weeks
September 1954
Cincinnati teens The Charms release “Hearts of Stone,” which goes to number one on R&B charts and number fifteen on the pop charts
September 1955
Rock ’n’ rollers Boyd Bennett and the Rockets hit number five on the pop charts with “Seventeen.”
March 3, 1956
“Please, Please, Please,” James Brown’s first single for the Federal label, is released, launching his legendary career
April 1, 1956
Little Willie John records the first version of the classic “Fever” in the Cincinnati studios
August 18, 1956
Charlie Feathers, backed by his group the Musical Warriors, records the classic rockabilly tracks “One Hand Loose,” “Bottle to the Baby” and “Can't Hardly Stand it.”
August 1956
The monster hit “Honky Tonk,” an instrumental by Bill Doggett, enters the Billboard Top 100 chart, staying in the national pop listings for 29 weeks and peaking at number two.
January 1958
Hal Neely becomes Vice President and General Manager. He has a right to first refusal option in his contract
Bluegrass artists the Stanley Brothers sign with King Records
Henry Glover leaves King after 13 years for Roulette Records
“The Twist” by Hank Ballard and Midnighters is released. It becomes a national phenomenon a year later when it is covered by Chubby Checker
Syd Nathan acquires the New York-based jazz label Bethlehem and moves its offices to Cincinnati
August 26, 1960
Chicago blues guitarist Freddie King records the hit “Hideaway” in his first session for Federal. He remains with the label until 1966
June 30, 1963
James Brown’s Live at the Apollo, Vol. 1 is released. Reaching number two on the album charts, it is the most successful album issued by King Records.
June 1964
With the music industry changing due to Motown, Neely and Nathan disagee on the direction of the company. With Nathan’s blessing, Neely becomes a Vice President at Starday in Nashville, Tennessee
August 7, 1965
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” enters the Top Forty. It tops the R&B chart for eight weeks and reaches number 8 on the pop chart. The song makes James Brown an international star
May 1967
James Brown records “Cold Sweat” in Cincinnati. With a radical departure from conventional songwriting, it is considered to be the first true funk song
March 5, 1968
Syd Nathan dies from heart disease in Miami Beach, Florida. The Nathan family sells the company to former King executive Hal Neely
October 9, 1968
Hal Neely merges King Records with Nashville-based Starday Records
October 1968
Linn Broadcasting buys Starday – King, which becomes a division of the corporation. Neely becomes a Vice President at Linn
November 20, 1969
James Brown records “Funky Drummer” at the Cincinnati studios. Later it becomes one of the most sampled drum tracks in hip hop
March 1970
The Pacesetters, a Cincinnati band featuring teenager Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish, are hired as James Brown’s backup band. Renamed the JBs, they record “Sex Machine” and “Superbad” in April and May 1970
Neely, wishing to buy the company back from Linn Broadcasting, forms a new firm called Tennessee Recording and Publishing Company with Fred Bienstock, a music publisher, and songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Mid 1971
Needing funds, Neely sells James Brown’s contract and all his masters to UK record company Polydor Records. He also closes the Cincinnati location. Most of the studio equipment is moved to Starday Studio in Nashville. The record presses are sold to a Jamaican company. Almost everything else is thrown away
Building is bought by the York family, who rent out the building for several decades as a storage facility to local companies, including United Dairy Farmers
October 1973
Neely’s partnership with Bienstock, Leiber and Stoller is not working out. Ownership of the company is decided by a coin toss. Neely loses the toss and sells his share of the company
Bienstock, Leiber and Stoller sell the name King, its logo, and the master recordings to Moe Lytle of Gusto Records in Nashville. They retain the publishing rights to most King songs
March 1997
Syd Nathan is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
June 1997
James Brown visits the site of the former King Records studio. He becomes disillusioned by the state of the building
Syd Nathan is inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Honor
May 10, 2008
Bonnie Lou, Cowboy Copas; Edwyn Conley, Sydney Nathan, Philip Paul, and Otis Williams receive Keys to City of Cincinnati