From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
S.O.L.A.R. Records (acronym for Sounds of Los Angeles Records) was an American record label founded in 1977 by Dick Griffey, a few years after having created the "Soul Train Records" label with Soul Train television show host and creator Don Cornelius. After the success of a few singles on the Soul Train imprint, Griffey and Cornelius decided (amicably) to shut it down as Cornelius wanted to focus his energies on the television show, which was a monster hit and required his full attention to keep it so.
Legalities taken care of, Soul Train Records folded and Griffey reorganized the company to found the SOLAR label in late 1977, which quickly became one of the most important disco, R&B, and dance music imprints of the late 1970s and 1980s. It even spawned a subsidiary label, Constellation Records, which had some success spinning off its parent’s successes.
Griffey and Cornelius remained good friends, and as a result, SOLAR maintained close ties to the Soul Train show. In 1975, Griffey formed Shalamar—using a host of session singers to record "Uptown Festival," which was a disco-length medley of early Motown hits. After scoring a hit with the recording, he looked to Cornelius to help him put together an actual group to maintain the impact. In 1977, Soul Train dancers Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel and Gerald Brown (who was eventually replaced by Howard Hewett) were recruited to form the new Shalamar, which would become the fledgling label's centerpiece. Shalamar were, in fact, the label's best selling and most influential act; scoring nearly 20 hit singles and classics such as: "Right in the Socket", "There It Is", "Second Time Around", "Make That Move", "A Night to Remember" and "Dead Giveaway".
The SOLAR success story was by no means confined to one act, several other artists enjoyed success, including: Dynasty, Klymaxx, the Whispers, Lakeside, Midnight Star, Calloway, Carrie Lucas, Collage and the Deele, which introduced singer/songwriter/producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and future music executive Antonio "L.A." Reid. Griffey had always believed in giving new talents the opportunity to create and develop their craft, and he was the first to recognize songwriters/producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Reggie and Vincent Calloway, and Leon F. Sylvers III. The “SOLAR sound” was a collective effort, with artists working on each other's sessions and artists encouraged to be creative. Sylvers was the producer behind the trademark SOLAR sound: funky, progressive dance music infused with soul and disco.
The mid-late 1980s saw the label's fortunes decline. Contributing to this were A&R problems with Shalamar, primarily maintaining the group's identity while members Hewett and Watley had departed and were having successful solo careers on other labels (MCA for Watley and Elektra for Hewett), plus the shifting musical directions of R&B, dance and popular music in general in the late '80s and early 1990s.
Initially SOLAR was distributed through RCA Records, then it entered into a long running relationship with Elektra Records and later Capitol Records throughout the 1980s. During its twilight years, its recordings were being distributed by Epic Records, a CBS label.
SOLAR closed its doors in the late 1990s. The label's back catalog were eventually purchased by EMI, with many of its releases and compilations being re-issued through EMI's The Right Stuff imprint.