Warner Brothers Records
The great Warner Brothers film company made its first sortie into the music industry in 1930 when it bought Brunswick Records and two leading publishers for $28 million. The enterprise was a failure, the companies were sold, and Warners went back to making money out of movies. After 28 years, the time was right, and Warner Brothers Record Company was formed and headed by ex-Capitol Records executive, Jim Conklin. Early artists were film-related—popular film score composer Henry Mancini and matinee idols such as Tab Hunter. The label's first chart hit was "Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb" by Edd Byrnes, star of the "77 Sunset Strip" television series. In 1960, Warners signed the Everly Brothers to a 10-year contract. The label's first release, "Cathy's Clown," became the duo's biggest success. Comedian Bob Newhart also gave Warners a major hit album. Noticing a growing folk trend they signed Peter, Paul And Mary, who sold well in the '60s.
During 1963-65 Warners bought Reprise Records from Frank Sinatra, and two small West Coast labels, Valiant and Autumn, adding more bankable items to the roster. Among them were Harpers Bizarre whose singer/drummer Ted Templeman went on to produce hit albums for the Doobie Brothers and Van Halen. Warners also licensed Petula Clark and Reprise snagged the Kinks from the UK Pye label. In 1966 Warner Brothers signed an up-and-coming group from San Francisco, the Grateful Dead. The following year the company was bought by Seven Arts, which soon after bought Atlantic Records. In its turn, Seven Arts was purchased in 1969 by the Kinney Corporation, originally a car parks and funeral home firm. With the addition of the Elektra label, Kinney set up its WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic) record division, changing its own corporate name to Warner Communications. WEA is now the largest record company in the USA and the third biggest (behind EMI and CBS/Sony) worldwide. The UK subsidiary paid for itself by signing Fleetwood Mac. In recent years Warners acquired the huge UK music publishers Chappell, which they purchased from the legendary Freddy Bienstock, and profitable links were formed with Sire and Prince's Paisley Park, although both affiliations ended in the mid-'90s. Warner has maintained one of the best back catalogues currently available, as well as a strong contemporary roster.