Rock n’Roll history this weekend. Art Rupe was the owner of one of the first and one of the legendary early labels of the Rock n’ Roll era, Specialty Records.
Specialty started off in 1945, dedicated to Rhythm & Blues and Jump Blues, primarily aimed at the Urban, or Race market. With artists such as Roy Milton and His Solid Senders, Joe Liggins and His Honeydrippers, Jimmy Liggins, Camille Howard, Specialty became one of the most popular and successful of the early blues labels dealing primarily with acts from the West Coast.
The Original offices for Specialty were on Venice Boulevard – and from there, Art Rupe launched the career of Roy Milton with his first major hit, RM Blues, quickly followed by Big Fat Mama and a string of others.
Rupe is interviewed by future Ray Charles Manager Joe Adams, and they play a number of Specialty’s early hits. This was a few years before Rock came into being, and so Specialty concentrated not only on the Jump Blues market, but also Gospel, which sported a collection of some of the most successful and popular Gospel vocal groups from the late 1940s on. It was from one of these groups (The Soul Stirrers) that the career of Sam Cooke was launched.
You get a sense this was the ground floor, the jumping off place in the evolution of Rock. How some of these names may not sound familiar except to those who are Rock n’ Roll history enthusiasts, but who were leading lights at ground zero. Remember, this interview is from 1949 and Rock wouldn’t be introduced to mainstream audiences until the mid 1950s – but listening to some of the early hits from Specialty, you hear where things got started.
KOWL-AM was a station located in Santa Monica during the 1940s, at 1580 on the dial.
Art Rupe was one of the key figures in the early evolution of Jump Blues – Specialty Records was one of the most important labels from the period. Here is a rare interview with Art Rupe, conducted by Joe Adams from October 4, 1949. History in the making.
Historic side note: At the end of this recording, the last 10 or so minutes, is another interview featuring the cast of the touring company of Finian’s Rainbow, opening at The Philharmonic Auditorium in downtown L.A. – featured in the cast during this five minute snippet is Joe Yule, the famous vaudeville actor and father of Mickey Rooney. More history.