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Warner Bros. Records opened for business on March 19, 1958, above the film studio’s machine shop at 3701 Warner Blvd. in Burbank. Prompting the labels creation was when Warner Bros. Pictures contract actor Tab Hunter scored a #1 hit in 1957 with “Young Love” for Dot Records. To Warners’ chagrin, reporters were primarily asking about the hit record, instead of Hunter’s latest Warner movie. The company quickly signed Hunter to the newly formed record division, and while his subsequent recordings for the label failed to duplicate the success he had had with Dot, the fledgling Warner Bros. Records thrived.

In 1960, the company signed the Everly Brothers (who were previously on Cadence Records) with the first ever million dollar contract in history. The same year they also released two albums by Bob Newhart, which both won Grammy Awards, including the Album of the Year. In 1963, Warner Bros. Records purchased Frank Sinatra’s label, Reprise Records—the acquisition proved very lucrative, as Reprise remains in the WBR fold to this day, and has become its strongest imprint.

In 1964, the label negotiated with Vogue Records for the right to distribute Petula Clark’s recordings in the US, beginning with “Downtown.” Eight years later, in 1972, Dionne Warwick was brought to the label after leaving Scepter Records in a deal that was the biggest contract at the time for a female artist. Warwick’s five years at Warners would greatly pale in comparison to her tenure at Scepter, both personally and professionally.

In 1967, Warner Bros. (including WBR) was sold for $85 million to Seven Arts Productions and renamed Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. Two years later, the company was sold to Kinney National Company—later renamed Warner Communications. In the late 1970s, Warner Communications established WEA; the pooling together of Warner Bros. Records, Elektra, and Atlantic, to form a larger umbrella for its music entities to operate under. In 1990, Warner Communication merged with Time Inc. to form Time Warner. Later in the decade, WEA became Warner Music Group. In 2000, Time Warner merged with AOL creating AOL Time Warner. Finally, in 2003, a group of private investors led by Edgar Bronfman, Jr. bought the Warner Music Group from Time Warner. Today Warner Bros. Records remains one of Warner Music Group’s most dominate labels.

Labels that operate through Warner Bros. include American Recordings, Lumberjack Mordam Distribution, Maverick Records, Reprise Records, Sire Records, F-111 Records, WB Jazz, Warner Bros. Records Nashville, Word Records, RuffNation Records, and Heiress Records. Former sub-labels include Cold Chillin’, Paisley Park, Extasy International, Geffen, Giant, Tommy Boy (which operated primarily through independent distribution), and Slash. Independently owned Teleprompt Records is the only sub-label to have an exclusive distribution agreement with Warner Bros. but still operate as a separate entity.

Edited by Bekki on 24 Apr 2011, 08:22

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