May 20, 1911
|Died||July 20, 2001 90) (aged|
|Family||Billy Crystal (nephew)|
|Awards||Member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame|
Milton Gabler (May 20, 1911 – July 20, 2001) was an American record producer, responsible for many innovations in the recording industry of the 20th century.
Gabler was born to a Jewish familyin Harlem, New York, the son of Susie (née Kasindorf) and Julius Gabler. His father was an Austrian Jewish immigrant (from Vienna), and his mother's family were Jewish immigrants from Russia (including Rostov). At 15, he began working in his father's business, the Commodore Radio Corporation, a radio shop located on East 42nd Street in New York City.
By the mid-1930s, Gabler renamed the business the Commodore Music Shop, and it became a focal point for jazz fans and musicians alike. In 1933 Gabler began buying up unwanted copies of recordings from the record companies and resold them, making him the first person to deal in reissues, the first to sell records by mail order, and also the first to credit all the musicians on the recordings.
Gabler started up a specialty label UHCA (United Hot Clubs of America) in about 1935 to reissue selected 78 r.p.m. sides previously released by other companies. He was able to secure many important jazz records including the 1931 Joe Venuti-Eddie Lang all star session (from ARC), Bessie Smith's final session (from OKeh), a number of Frank Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, and Miff Mole sides (also from OKeh). These reissues were from the original 78 stampers and were instrumental in spreading the concept of collecting classic performances from the past. A number of Paramount and Gennett sides were dubbed from clean copies and issued on UHCA and the sound was surprisingly good for a dubbing.
In 1937 he opened a new store on 52nd Street, and set up a series of jam sessions in a neighbouring club, Jimmy Ryan's. Some of these he began recording, setting up his own record label, Commodore Records. His role as a music producer soon superseded his other activities and he recorded many of the leading jazz artists of the day. One regular customer, Billie Holiday, found her record company, Columbia, resisting her appeals to release the song "Strange Fruit", so she offered the song to Gabler. After getting the necessary permission, he released her recording on Commodore in 1939, boosting her career and issuing what, 60 years on, Time magazine named Best Song of the Century.
The success of Commodore Records inevitably led to an offer to join a major record label. Gabler was recruited to work for Decca Records in 1941, and left his brother-in-law Jack Crystal (father of Billy Crystal) to run Commodore. Gabler was soon working with many of the biggest stars of the 1940s, producing a series of hits including Lionel Hampton’s "Flying Home", Billie Holiday’s "Lover Man" and The Andrews Sisters' "Rum and Coca-Cola", as well as being the first to bring Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald together on record.
Put in charge of Decca’s subsidiary label Coral, he expanded his musical scope, producing hits for country singer Red Foley, the left-leaning folk group The Weavers, Peggy Lee, The Ink Spots, and Sammy Davis Jr. In 1946 he produced and co-wrote Louis Jordan’s breakthrough single, "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", a foretaste of the musical revolution around the corner.
Gabler contributed a further slice of history when he signed Bill Haley and His Comets to Decca Records. He produced their initial recording session in April 1954, : "All the tricks I used with Louis Jordan, I used with Bill Haley. The only difference was the way we did the rhythm. On Jordan, we used a perfectly balanced rhythm section from the swing era ... but Bill had the heavy backbeat."much of which was spent cutting a song which the company thought the more likely hit of the two due to be recorded that day. Their efforts on "13 Women" left only ten minutes for the second song, which Gabler recorded with an unusually high sound level after the briefest of sound checks. "Rock Around The Clock" was cut in two takes and changed the face of popular music. Gabler later commented
Commodore Records was wound up in 1954. Bob Shad's Mainstream Records issued a series of albums of Commodore material in the early 1960s, keeping most of these recordings available. However, through the late 1950s and 1960s, Gabler continued to guide the direction of Decca, writing songs and producing hit singles including Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” and albums including Jesus Christ Superstar . Gabler also continued to produce all of the Comets' recordings for Decca until they left the label in 1959.
Milt Gabler also produced all studio-albums in Hamburg for Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra from 1960 to the latter's death in June 1980. He wrote many lyrics for Kaempfert songs, like "L-O-V-E", a very big hit for Nat King Cole, and "Danke Schoen".
He retired from the front line of business activity when MCA consolidated Decca with its other labels and moved the merged MCA Records to Universal City, California in 1971, but continued to produce reissues and to collect recognition from the recording industry he helped shape. He was asked to return to MCA Records in 1973 to supervise the reissue of MCA's massive back catalogue.
Gabler died July 20, 2001, aged 90, at the Jewish Home and Hospital in Manhattan. The New York Times reported that the only photo at his bedside was that of Billie Holiday.
In 1991, Gabler received the Grammy Trustees Award from The Recording Academy, for his significant contributions to the field of recording.
In 1993, Gabler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by his nephew, the comedian and actor Billy Crystal. In 2005, Crystal produced a documentary and CD release, both entitled The Milt Gabler Story, in tribute.
William Edward Crystal is an American actor, voice artist, comedian, singer, writer, producer, director, and television host. He gained prominence in the 1970s and 80s for television roles as Jodie Dallas on the ABC sitcom Soap and as a cast member and frequent host of Saturday Night Live. He then became a Hollywood film star during the late 1980s and 1990s, appearing in the critical and box office successes The Princess Bride (1987), Throw Momma from the Train (1987), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), City Slickers (1991), Mr. Saturday Night (1992) and Analyze This (1999), and providing the voice of Mike Wazowski in the Monsters, Inc. films, starting in 2001. He will reprise his role in the upcoming Disney+ series Monsters at Work (2021).
Eleanora Fagan, professionally known as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz singer with a career spanning nearly thirty years. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills.
"Rock Around the Clock" is a rock and roll song in the 12-bar blues format written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers in 1952. The best-known and most successful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1954 for American Decca. It was a number one single on both the United States and United Kingdom charts and also reentered the UK Singles Chart in the 1960s and 1970s.
Decca Records is a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934 by Lewis, along with American Decca's first president Jack Kapp and later American Decca president Milton Rackmil. In 1937, anticipating Nazi aggression leading to World War II, Lewis sold American Decca and the link between the UK and U.S. Decca labels was broken for several decades. The British label was renowned for its development of recording methods, while the American company developed the concept of cast albums in the musical genre. Both wings are now part of the Universal Music Group, which is co-owned by Vivendi, a media conglomerate headquartered in Paris, and Tencent, a Chinese tech company. The US Decca label was the foundation company that evolved into UMG.
MCA Records was an American record label owned by MCA Inc., which later gave way to the larger MCA Music Entertainment Group, which the label was part of until its dissolution in 2003. The label's country division MCA Nashville is a still an active imprint of Universal Music Group Nashville.
Brunswick Records is an American record label founded in 1916.
Coral Records was a subsidiary of Decca Records that was formed in 1949. Coral released music by the McGuire Sisters, Teresa Brewer, and Buddy Holly.
Commodore Records was an American independent record label known for producing Dixieland jazz and swing. It is also remembered for releasing Billie Holiday's hit "Strange Fruit".
Albert Edwin “Eddie” Condon was an American jazz banjoist, guitarist, and bandleader. A leading figure in Chicago jazz, he also played piano and sang.
Verve Records, also known as Verve Label Group, founded in 1956 by Norman Granz, is home to the world's largest jazz catalogue and includes recordings by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Stan Getz, Bill Evans and Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, among others. It absorbed the catalogues of Granz's earlier labels, Clef Records, founded in 1946, Norgran Records, founded in 1953, and material previously licensed to Mercury Records.
Bert Kaempfert was a German orchestra leader, multi-instrumentalist, music producer, arranger, and composer. He made easy listening and jazz-oriented records and wrote the music for a number of well-known songs, including "Strangers in the Night" and "Moon Over Naples".
"Strange Fruit" is a song recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, written by Abel Meeropol and published in 1937. It protested American racism, particularly the lynching of black Americans. Such lynchings had reached a peak in the Southern United States at the turn of the century, and the great majority of victims were black. The song's lyrics are an extended metaphor linking a tree's fruit with lynching victims. Meeropol set it to music with his wife and singer Laura Duncan and performed it as a protest song in New York City venues in the late 1930s, including Madison Square Garden.
Gordon Hill Jenkins was an American arranger, composer, and pianist who was influential in popular music in the 1940s and 1950s. Jenkins worked with The Andrews Sisters, Johnny Cash, The Weavers, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Harry Nilsson, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald.
Rock 'n Roll Stage Show is the fourth album of rock and roll music by Bill Haley and His Comets. Released by Decca Records in August 1956 it was the group's first album to include new, as opposed to previously released material. And although the album spawned several singles, it also featured several album-only tracks.
Rockin' Around the World was the sixth album of rock and roll music by Bill Haley and His Comets. Released in March 1958 on the Decca Records label, Decca 8692, the album was produced by Milt Gabler, who produced all of Haley's recordings for Decca. It was the second of three "themed" albums that Haley produced for the label. This album featured versions of well-known folk songs from around the world, rearranged in rock and roll style, including new lyrics, by Haley and his songwriting partners, Milt Gabler, Rusty Keefer, and Catherine Cafra. It is not known how much, if any, input Haley himself had into the writing process.
Bill Haley's Chicks was the eighth album of rock and roll recordings by Bill Haley & His Comets for Decca Records, Decca 8821. Released in January 1959 and produced by Milt Gabler, the album was the third "theme" album Haley recorded for Decca, following Rockin' the Oldies and Rockin' Around the World. This album is built on the theme of women's names, with each song being about a different girl. Included on the album is "Skinny Minnie", which was a major hit for the band in 1958, reaching no.22 on Billboard and no.25 on Cashbox, along with a mixture of originals and cover versions of standards and jazz songs. "Lean Jean", a song musically and thematically almost identical to "Skinny Minnie", also charted in 1958, reaching no. 52 on Cashbox. The song "B.B. Betty", co-written by Bill Haley and released as a Decca 45 single, featured a solo vocal by Haley's steel guitar player, Billy Williamson.
Birth Of The Boogie is a 1955 song composed by Bill Haley with Billy Williamson and Johnny Grande. The song was released as a Decca single by Bill Haley and His Comets.
Louis Jordan was an American popular music innovator who recorded from the 1930s until the 1970s. During the 1940s, he was the most popular recording artist of the soon-to-be-called rhythm and blues music. Jordan had eighteen No. 1 hits, which places him as the third most successful singles artist in Billboard R&B charts history. His 1946 recording of "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" is tied for first place for spending the most weeks (eighteen) at No. 1. Jordan's success was not limited to the R&B market — he also had No. 1 hits on the Billboard Pop and Country charts.
"Two Hound Dogs" is a 1955 rock and roll song composed by Bill Haley and Frank Pingatore. The song was released as a Decca single by Bill Haley and His Comets.
The Complete Commodore & Decca Masters is a 3CD box set of recordings by Billie Holiday, released by Hip-O Records in 2009, compiling all the master takes released as 78rpm singles by Commodore and Decca Records. It includes an essay by Ashley Kahn.