Vanguard Records  

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Vanguard Records is a record label set up in 1950 by brothers Maynard and Seymour Solomon in New York. It started as a classical label, but is perhaps best known for its catalogue of recordings by a number of pivotal folk and blues artists from the 1960s; the Bach Guild was a subsidiary label.


In 1953, under the direction of John Hammond, the company began the 'Jazz Showcase' series that concentrated on the mainstream jazz idiom, producing about two dozen recordings before it was wound down about 1958. Recordings made at the Spirituals to Swing concerts in 1938 and 1939 were finally released by Vanguard in 1959. The company only intermittently pursued recording Jazz and Blues thereafter.

Vanguard diversified in the mid-1950s by challenging the blacklist and signing blacklisted performers Paul Robeson and The Weavers. The company continued to issue folk music with newly-signed artists Joan Baez, Hedy West, The Rooftop Singers, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Country Joe and the Fish, Ian and Sylvia, and Mimi and Richard Fariña.

In the summer of 1965 Maynard Solomon hired Samuel Charters to edit the tapes of the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Following that project, the company sent Charters to Chicago to capture the broad range of blues musicians there. Those sessions resulted in the classic 1966 three album series titled Chicago/The Blues/Today!, which introduced a new generation to the blues. The albums included sets by Junior Wells with Buddy Guy, Muddy Water's bandmates Otis Spann and James Cotton, Otis Rush, Homesick James, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, and Charlie Musselwhite.

Vanguard released a number of important classical recordings, both domestically-produced and imported. Many of the latter came from the United Kingdom's Pye Records label, featuring performances by the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. The recordings were so exceptional in their stereo sound and overall quality that many classical radio stations programmed them. Vanguard even released some quadraphonic classical recordings in the early 1970s, including a performance of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony with the American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. The label also released many performances by the Utah Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maurice Abravanel, as well as the earlier P.D.Q. Bach recordings, from 1965 to 1983. Vanguard was the first American label to release the complete 1944 high fidelity recordings of composer Richard Strauss conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in most of his tone poems; the recordings were made on the Magnetophon tape recording equipment in the Vienna Opera House.

In the early 1970s Indian classical musician and sarod virtouso Vasant Rai was signed by Vanguard for whom he recorded five hit albums. At around the same time, Vanguard released albums by Michigan-based rock groups such as Dick Wagner and The Frost and was inspired by an off the wall novelty hit they released, "Shaving Cream" by Benny Bell, to release albums of humorous music inspired by Dr. Demento. Tom Paxton recorded two albums, New Songs from the Briarpatch and Heroes, on Vanguard Records near the end of the 1970s. Their other act at this time was Players Association, a largely recording studio based outfit.

The label stayed dormant for most of the mid- to late-seventies, re-emerged briefly with some disco releases in the eighties, and was finally sold to the Welk Music Group in 1985. The Welk Group sold the classical music catalog back to Seymour Solomon. Welk Music Group revitalized the label, reissuing much of its extensive folk and popular music back catalogue (a good deal of which had been out of print for several years) on CD, as well as signing a number of new artists (such as Mindy Smith), along with established musicians (such as Edwin McCain, Hootie & the Blowfish, Blues Traveler, Shawn Mullins, Chely Wright and more).

Vanguard Classics was sold after Seymour Solomon's death to Artemis Records which reactivated the company with new releases by Leon Fleisher and Gil Shaham. When Artemis folded in 2004 the Vanguard Classics catalogue was sold to Sheridan Square Entertainment which is licensing the Vanguard Classics material with no apparent plans to relaunch or reactivate the label.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Vanguard Records" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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