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Art Rupe & Specialty Records

PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:43 am
by Charlie
Yet another discovery by Alan Balfour from his files, that I had entirely forgotten ever writing. It was written for an Advertising Supplement to the UK weekly music trade paper, Music Week, celebrating Sonet Records, the Swedish label whose UK office was run by an enterprising man called Rod Buckle. My main interest in the operation was based on it being the outlet for Specialty Records, whose founder Art Rupe was an interview subject for an article I once wrote for Record Mirror. This piece was written some years later, but draws from that interview.


The Specialty Story
Charlie Gillett, rock journalist, radio presenter, and Oval label boss, takes a loving look at the Specialty Label. Distributed throughout Europe by Sonet.

ART RUPE, who founded Specialty Records in Los Angeles in 1946, could make a strong claim to be included in a list of the ten most important and influential popular music producers of all time. (Along with who else? Later, have patience). But Art himself would never make such a claim, or even support it. It might seem hard to imagine now, but back in '46 there were few occupations lower on the social scale than making pop records, especially the kind that Art was involved with—race records.

Art went West from Pittsburgh to Hollywood to study at UCLA in the hope of breaking into the movie industry; figuring that one branch of show biz might lead to another, he joined a local indie called Atlas in '44; shocked by the company's ineptitude (Nat 'King' Cole, Charles Brown, and Frankie Laine all recorded for the label and then went onto huge success with other companies), Art left after three months and went into partnership with Eli Oberstein (father of CBS-UK's Maurice) in a company called Juke Box Records. The name of the company craftily flattered a new and booming medium for music, but Art figured he could do better on his own, and he launched Specialty Records. This time the label name subtly hinted at a 'special' market — black dance and mood music, played by boogie and blues combos.

Through the forties, Specialty grew into one of the leading companies in what became known as the 'rhythm and blues' market, led by the popular bandleader Roy Milton and His Solid Senders. There were a lot of very popular medium-sized bands around at the time, but apart from Decca (who did well with Louis Jordan and others), the major labels mostly ignored them. Disclaiming any great ingenuity or creative wit, Art Rupe admits to having been unusually systematic, compared to some of the other indie label owners of the day. Encouraging his band-leaders to write or find their own material, Rupe made a point of rehearsing and routining the bands so that no time was wasted in the studio; he saw his role as producer to document the sound and effect that the bands achieved in their live performance. How easy that seems, but how hard it is…Art did it, and Roy Milton's "R. M. Bluesâ€

Re: Art Rupe & Specialty Records

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:13 am
by john poole

Re: Art Rupe & Specialty Records

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:37 am
by john poole
Born Arthur Goldberg on 5th September, 1917 in Greensburg, Pennsylvania; later known as Arthur ("Art") N. Rupe - he is 100 today, and I guess now the only survivor from the great independent record company owners of the 1950s

'Voo-It! Voo-It!' by "The Blues Woman" (aka Marion Abernathy) with the Buddy Banks Sextet - the first hit on Juke Box Records (#4 r&b in 1946) Art Rupe's label prior to Specialty

Art Rupe heard interviewed by Joe Adams (later to become Ray Charles' manager) on the Los Angeles radio station KOWL in October, 1949 - ... ast-daily/

Joe Adams, another survivor - 93 last April ... world.html