From “Mecca” to Decca
The name came about when Brit Wilfred Samuel combined “Mecca” with the company trademark “Dulcephone” shortened to “Dulcet” for logo purposes – which all traces it’s roots a 1914 patented gramophone machine which was called the “Decca Dulcephone”. The original business went from the sound machines to becoming a player in the recording business as “Decca Records Ltd.”, in 1929.
A Tip of the Kapps
The U.S. Decca was also formed by Lewis in 1934 and was headed up by Jack Kapp who served as president. Kapp was born on June 15th, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. Kapp had been employed by his father during his high school years – a business which served as a distributor for Columbia Records.
Next, Kapp would go to work for Brunswick Records becoming a talent scout for their “race” records operation. He brought much talent to the label including Jelly Roll Morton and Pinetop Smith as well as white vaudevillian Al Jolson. His connection to Decca came about when he arranged to sell the British Brunswick holdings to English Decca. That would lead to Kapp becoming the president of the U.S. Decca Records company.
After Kapp passed away in 1949 at a young 47 years-of-age, brother David Kapp would establish Kapp Records in 1954 based out of New York City. David had been involved briefly in the operations of, first, Brunswick and then along side his brother Jack at Decca.
The two Decca’s went their separate ways in the late 1930’s precipitated by the atmosphere anticipated by the approaching war. The two labels functioned independently for a long time into the 1980’s.
Could Have Been Fabulous
Selected LP discography focusing on the Pop/Rock releases for the most part and a few others I found interesting. A defunct Brunswick Records was acquired by Decca and that label was given new life in the United States. In 1947 Decca U.S. released a song which would enrich it’s coffers as well as establish it as the most successful song of all time – Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”.
Decca – back in the U.K., blew the opportunity of a lifetime when they turned down a chance to sign the Beatles to a contract referring the foursome as a passe “guitar group” probably referring to England’s leading group “The Shadows”. That bad decision did lead to a better one – when Decca U.K. signed The Rolling Stones.
Back in the United States, Kapp would turn his attention to recording country artists in the early 1930’s landing The Sons of the Pioneers, Stuart Hamblen and then in short order, Jimmy Wakely and even Roy Rogers by decade’s end.
Other affiliated labels beyond Brunswick in the U.S. included Coral early on and later Deram, the Moody Blues’ Threshold Records and Geffen – headed up by record industry David Geffen who had first founded Asylum Records in the early 1970’s.
In a bit of irony, Kapp’s Decca would be distinguished as becoming the first U.S. record company to release Beatles’ songs in this country. The story is more than well documented but in a nutshell, the Beatles – on a recommendation – came to the attention of German band leader and producer Bert Kaempfert. This led to a visit to watch the Beatles perform in Hamburg resulting in a recording session which resulted in eight tracks involving the Beatles exclusively on two and six accompanying German artist Tony Sheridan.
Decca in the U.S. gained rights to two of the tracks via a competition with several other U.S. labels – not a heated competition you see, since no one in late 1961 was knocking down the door to gain access to the four lads from Liverpool. And so, Decca cut acetates/test pressings of two tracks, “My Bonnie” and “The Saints” in March of 1962. Both were pressed on promo labels for introductory purposes and made their way onto a Decca commercial release – Decca catalog number 31382.
They went nowhere in the U.S. and it would not be until early February of 1963 before another U.S. Beatles recording would be released (“Please Please Me” b/w “Ask Me Why” on Vee Jay Cat No 498 – very rare!) – The two Decca tracks would migrate into the hands of MGM who picked up rights to four of the Beatles Hamburg recordings – and who would first release both “My Bonnie” and “The Saints” in January of 1964 – “My Bonnie” would ride the wave of Beatles hysteria and reach number 26 on the Billboard Charts in February of that year becoming the sixth Beatles single to chart.
But we digress from the Decca tale. The company worked it’s way through many business ventures and exchanges, dealings and so on recording 100’s of artists from all genres releasing tons of recordings.
The Discographies included here focus primarily on the pop and rock oriented artists, one of whom was Rick Nelson who came over from his original label, Imperial, in 1963. Their most popular young act was no doubt Brenda Lee who enjoyed a great ride with Decca. She placed 17 long plays on the Billboard Hot 200 Charts and 55 singles on the Hot 100 Charts which included 16 two sided hits. (Brenda charted 35 times on the Country Charts all the way up to 1998 on Decca and MCA primarily.