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Atlantic Records

The soul years, 1962–1967

In late 1961 singer Solomon Burke arrived at Jerry Wexler's office unannounced. Wexler was a fan of Burke's and had long wanted to sign him so when Burke told Wexler his contract with his former label had expired Wexler replied: "You're home. I'm signing you today". The first song Wexler produced with Burke was "Just Out of Reach", which became a big hit in September 1961. The soul/country & western crossover predated Ray Charles' similar venture by more than 6 months. Burke became a consistent big seller through the mid-1960s and scored hits on Atlantic into 1968. In 1962 folk music was booming and the label came very close to signing Peter, Paul & Mary; although Wexler and Ertegun pursued them vigorously the deal fell through at the last minute and they later discovered music publisher Artie Mogull had introduced their manager Albert Grossman to Warner Bros. Records executive Herman Starr, who had made the trio an irresistible offer that gave them complete creative control over the recording and packaging of their music.

Doris Troy signed with Atlantic in early 1963 and in June scored a major hit with "Just One Look", which she co-wrote and which reached #3 on the R&B chart and #10 on the pop chart. She scored another UK hit with "What'cha Gonna Do About It" and went on to a long and a successful career as a backing vocalist on many Dusty Springfield hits and with other famous acts including Pink Floyd, George Harrison and Nick Drake. "Just One Look" has been covered by many other artists including The Hollies, whose version became a major hit in the UK and gave the group its first US chart placing in 1964.

1967–68 was a peak period for Atlantic, as the string of hits coming from the Stax roster was augmented by the tremendous crossover success of Aretha Franklin, who shot to fame virtually overnight, becoming the preeminent female soul artist of the era, and earning the title "Queen of Soul". Franklin signed with Atlantic Records in November 1966 after the expiry of her contract with Columbia Records, who had unsuccessfully tried to market her as a jazz singer. After she signed with Atlantic, a Columbia executive asked Jerry Wexler what he was going to do with Franklin, to which he replied "we're gonna put her back in church".[20] Wexler was determined to return Franklin to her gospel roots and personally took over her production at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, crucially allowing her to establish the "feel" of the songs by singing while accompanying herself on piano. Although the session was fraught with tension (mainly due to the fractious presence of Aretha's then husband and manager, Ted White), it yielded a double-sided hit which initiated a run of seven consecutive singles that made both the US pop and soul Top 10, and of which five were million-sellers; "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" (b/w "Do Right Woman") (soul #1, pop #9), "Respect" (soul and pop #1), "Baby, I Love You" (soul #1, pop #4), "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (soul #2, pop #8), "Chain of Fools" (soul #1, pop #2), "Since You've Been Gone" (1968, soul #1, pop #5) and "Think" (1968, soul #1, pop #7).

The sale of Atlantic Records activated a clause in the distribution agreement with Stax Records calling for renegotiation of the distribution deal and at this point the Stax partners discovered that the deal gave Atlantic ownership of all the Stax recordings Atlantic distributed. The new Warner owners refused to relinquish ownership of the Stax masters, so the distribution deal ended on May 1968.[64] Atlantic continues to hold the rights to Stax recordings it distributed in the 1960s.

During 1968 Atlantic established a new subsidiary label, Cotillion Records. In 1976, the label started focusing on disco and R&B. Among its acts were the post-Curtis Mayfield Impressions, Slave, Brook Benton, Jean Knight, Mass Production, Sister Sledge, The Velvet Underground, Stacy Lattisaw, Lou Donaldson, Mylon LeFevre, Stevie Woods, Johnny Gill, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Garland Green, The Dynamics, The Fabulous Counts, and The Fatback Band. Cotillion was also responsible for launching the career of Luther Vandross, who recorded for the label as part of the trio Luther. Cotillion also released the triple-albums soundtrack of the Woodstock festival film in 1970. From 1970 it also distributed Embryo Records, founded by jazz flautist Herbie Mann after his earlier Atlantic contract had expired.

In addition to establishing Cotillion, Atlantic began expanding its own roster to include rock, soul/rock, progressive rock, British bands and singer songwriters. Two female artists were personally signed by Wexler, with album releases in 1969, Dusty Springfield (Dusty in Memphis)[66] and Lotti Golden (Motor-Cycle),[67] although Golden also had a close working relationship with Ertegun, who was instrumental in her signing with the label.[68] By 1969, the Atlantic 8000 series (1968–72) consisted of R&B, rock, soul/rock and psychedelic acts.[69] Other releases that year include albums by Aretha Franklin (Soul '69), Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin), Don Covay (House of Blue Lights), Boz Scaggs (Boz Scaggs), Roberta Flack (First Take), Wilson Pickett (Hey Jude), Mott the Hoople (Mott the Hoople), and Black Pearl (Black Pearl).

Soul Towns And Places

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