This article needs additional citations for verification .(March 2013)
|Parent company||Sony Music Entertainment|
|Distributor(s)|| Sony Masterworks |
Legacy Recordings (reissues)
Rhythm & Blues (1953–1970)
|Country of origin||U.S.|
|Location||New York City|
|Official website|| okeh-records|
Okeh Records ( /ˌoʊˈkeɪ/ ) is an American record label founded by the Otto Heinemann Phonograph Corporation, a phonograph supplier established in 1916,  which branched out into phonograph records in 1918.  The name was spelled "OkeH" from the initials of Otto K. E. Heinemann but later changed to "OKeh". Since 1965, Okeh was a subsidiary of Epic Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music. Today, OKeh is a jazz imprint, distributed by Sony Masterworks.
Okeh was founded by Otto (Jehuda) Karl Erich Heinemann (Lüneburg, Germany, 20 December 1876 - New York, USA, 13 September 1965) a German-American manager for the U.S. branch of Odeon Records, which was owned by Carl Lindstrom. In 1916, Heinemann incorporated the Otto Heinemann Phonograph Corporation, set up a recording studio and pressing plant in New York City, and started the label in 1918. 
The first discs were vertical cut, but later the more common lateral-cut method was used.  The label's parent company was renamed the General Phonograph Corporation, and the name on its record labels was changed to OKeh. The common 10-inch discs retailed for 75 cents each, the 12-inch discs for $1.25. The company's musical director was Frederick W. Hager, who was also credited under the pseudonym Milo Rega.
Okeh issued popular songs, dance numbers, and vaudeville skits similar to other labels, but Heinemann also wanted to provide music for audiences neglected by the larger record companies.[ citation needed ] Okeh produced lines of recordings in German, Czech, Polish, Swedish, and Yiddish for immigrant communities in the United States. Some were pressed from masters leased from European labels, while others were recorded by Okeh in New York.
Okeh's early releases included music by the New Orleans Jazz Band. In 1920, Perry Bradford encouraged Fred Hager, the director of artists and repertoire (A&R), to record blues singer Mamie Smith.  The records were popular, and the label issued a series of race records directed by Clarence Williams in New York City and Richard M. Jones in Chicago. From 1921 to 1932, this series included music by Williams, Lonnie Johnson, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong. Also recording for the label were Bix Beiderbecke, Bennie Moten, Frankie Trumbauer, and Eddie Lang.  One of the more popular series was Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven, who recorded about 3 sessions per year between 1925 and 1928, which included popular hits such as "Heebie Jeebies", "Cornet Chop Suey", and "West End Blues".  After the success of these records, Armstrong's records were transferred to the popular series as well, which was marketed towards a white audience in 1928.  As part of the Carl Lindström Company, Okeh's recordings were distributed by other labels owned by Lindstrom, including Parlophone in the UK.[ citation needed ] While musicians did not receive much payment for entering the studio, they copyrighted the songs they did record with the hopes that other bands would record the piece; in turn, they would make a steady stream from royalties 
In 1926, Okeh was sold to Columbia Records.   Ownership changed to the American Record Corporation (ARC) in 1934, and the race records series from the 1920s ended. CBS bought the company in 1938. OkeH was a label for rhythm and blues during the 1950s, but jazz albums continued to be released, as in the work of Wild Bill Davis and Red Saunders. 
The OKeh Laughing Record was recorded in Germany by Beka Records in 1920, by most accounts, and then purchased from that record label by OKeh Records in the US.  It features who are likely opera singer Lucie Bernardo and Otto Rathke simply laughing for nearly three minutes while accompanied by cornetist Felix Silbers. They recorded six recordings on the same day.  It became a best-seller in the US in 1922, and is estimated to have sold around a million records.   Okeh Records soon followed with the "Second Laughing Record", "The OKeh Laughing Dance Record" and "The OKeh Crying Record". Other record labels also released similar records.  It may have influenced studios to include live audiences and laugh tracks in their shows.  It was issued in the UK as The Parlophone Laughing Record and it was featured extensively in the Walter Lantz Productions/Universal Studios 1955 cartoon short Sh-h-h-h-h-h , the last short directed by Tex Avery. 
General Phonograph Corporation used Mamie Smith's popular song "Crazy Blues" to cultivate a new market in 1920 and they could not keep the record on the shelves because of its popularity.  Portraits of Smith and lists of her records were printed in advertisements in newspapers such as the Chicago Defender , the Atlanta Independent , New York Colored News , and others popular with African-Americans (though Smith's records were part of Okeh's regular 4000 series). Okeh had further prominence in the demographic, as African-American musicians Sara Martin, Eva Taylor, Shelton Brooks, Esther Bigeou, and Handy's Orchestra recorded for the label. Okeh issued the 8000 series for race records. The success of this series led Okeh to start recording music where it was being performed, known as remote recording or location recording.  Starting in 1923, Okeh sent mobile recording equipment to tour the country and record performers not heard in New York or Chicago.  Regular trips were made once or twice a year to New Orleans, Atlanta, San Antonio, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Detroit. The Okeh studio in Atlanta also catered to what was called, "Hillbilly" (now Country) stars at that time. One of the first was "Fiddlin'" John Carson, who is believed to have made the first country music recordings there in June 1923. A double sided record with "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane" and "The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Going To Crow."
Okeh releases were infrequent after 1932, although the label continued into 1935. In 1940, after Columbia lost the rights to the Vocalion name by dropping the Brunswick label, the Okeh name was revived to replace it, and the script logo was introduced on a demonstration record announcing that event. The label was again discontinued in 1946 and revived again in 1951. 
In 1953, Okeh became an exclusive R&B label when its parent, Columbia, transferred Okeh's pop music artists to the newly formed Epic Records.  Okeh's music publishing division was renamed April Music.
In 1963, Carl Davis became Okeh's A&R manager and improved Okeh's sales for a couple of years.  Epic took over management of Okeh in 1965. Among the artists during Okeh's pop phase of the 1950s and 1960s were Johnnie Ray and Little Joe & the Thrillers.
With soul music becoming popular in the 1960s, Okeh signed Major Lance, who gave the label two big successes with "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um". Fifties rocker Larry Williams found a musical home at Okeh for a period of time in the 1960s, recording and producing funky soul with a band that included Johnny "Guitar" Watson. He was paired with Little Richard, who had been persuaded to return to secular music. Williams produced two Little Richard albums for Okeh in 1966 and 1967, which returned Little Richard to the Billboard album chart for the first time in ten years and produced the hit single "Poor Dog".  He also acted as the music director for Little Richard's live performances at the Okeh Club in Los Angeles. Bookings for Little Richard during this period skyrocketed.  Williams also recorded and released material of his own and with Watson, with some moderate chart success.
Much of the success of Okeh in the 1960s was dependent on producer Carl Davis and songwriter Curtis Mayfield.  After they left the label (due to disputes with Epic/Okeh head Len Levy), Okeh gradually slipped in sales and was quietly retired by Columbia in 1970.
In 1993, Sony Music reactivated the Okeh label (under distribution by Epic Records) as a new-age blues label. Okeh's first new signings included G. Love & Special Sauce, Keb' Mo, Popa Chubby, and Little Axe. Throughout the first year, in celebration of the relaunch, singles for G. Love, Popa Chubby and Keb' Mo were released on 10-inch vinyl. By 2000, the Okeh label was again retired, and G. Love & Special Sauce was moved to Epic. It was re-launched in 2013 as a jazz line under Sony Masterworks. 
In January 2013, Sony Music reactivated the Okeh label as Sony's primary jazz imprint under Sony Masterworks. The imprint is part of Sony Masterworks in the U.S., Sony Classical's domestic branch, focusing on both new and established artists who embody "global expressions in jazz". The new artists include David Sanborn, Bob James, Bill Frisell, Regina Carter, Somi, and Dhafer Youssef. 
Sony Music Entertainment owns the global rights to the Okeh Records catalogue through Epic Records and Sony's Legacy Recordings reissue subsidiary.  EMI's rights to the Okeh catalogue in the UK expired in 1968, and CBS Records took over distribution. 
Joseph Nathan "King" Oliver was an American jazz cornet player and bandleader. He was particularly recognized for his playing style and his pioneering use of mutes in jazz. Also a notable composer, he wrote many tunes still played today, including "Dippermouth Blues", "Sweet Like This", "Canal Street Blues", and "Doctor Jazz". He was the mentor and teacher of Louis Armstrong. His influence was such that Armstrong claimed, "if it had not been for Joe Oliver, Jazz would not be what it is today."
Clarence Williams was an American jazz pianist, composer, promoter, vocalist, theatrical producer, and publisher.
Edward "Kid" Ory was an American jazz composer, trombonist and bandleader. One of the early users of the glissando technique, he helped establish it as a central element of New Orleans jazz.
Columbia Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. It was founded on January 15, 1889, evolving from the American Graphophone Company, the successor to the Volta Graphophone Company. Columbia is the oldest surviving brand name in the recorded sound business, and the second major company to produce records. From 1961 to 1991, its recordings were released outside North America under the name CBS Records to avoid confusion with EMI's Columbia Graphophone Company. Columbia is one of Sony Music's four flagship record labels, alongside former longtime rival RCA Records, as well as Arista Records and Epic Records.
James Fletcher Hamilton Henderson was an American pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, important in the development of big band jazz and swing music. He was one of the most prolific black musical arrangers and, along with Duke Ellington, is considered one of the most influential arrangers and bandleaders in jazz history. Henderson's influence was vast. He helped bridge the gap between the Dixieland and the swing eras. He was often known as "Smack" Henderson.
Ralph Sylvester Peer was an American talent scout, recording engineer, record producer and music publisher in the 1920s and 1930s. Peer pioneered field recording of music when in June 1923 he took remote recording equipment south to Atlanta, Georgia, to record regional music outside the recording studio in such places as hotel rooms, ballrooms, or empty warehouses.
"Potato Head Blues" is a Louis Armstrong composition regarded as one of his finest recordings. It was made by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven for Okeh Records in Chicago, Illinois on May 10, 1927. It was recorded during a remarkably productive week in which Armstrong's usual Hot Five was temporarily expanded to seven players by the addition of tuba and drums. Some scholars have suggested that a key melodic figure in "Potato Head Blues" was picked up by Hoagy Carmichael for "Stardust."
The Hot Five was Louis Armstrong's first jazz recording band led under his own name.
Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven was a jazz studio group organized to make a series of recordings for Okeh Records in Chicago, Illinois, in May 1927. Some of the personnel also recorded with Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five, including Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Lil Armstrong (piano), and Johnny St. Cyr. These musicians were augmented by Dodds's brother, Baby Dodds (drums), Pete Briggs (tuba), and John Thomas. Briggs and Thomas were at the time working with Armstrong's performing group, the Sunset Stompers.
"West End Blues" is a multi-strain twelve-bar blues composition by Joe "King" Oliver. It is most commonly performed as an instrumental, although it has lyrics added by Clarence Williams.
Milton Mesirow, better known as Mezz Mezzrow, was an American jazz clarinetist and saxophonist from Chicago, Illinois. He is remembered for organizing and financing recording sessions with Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet. He recorded with Bechet as well and briefly acted as manager for Louis Armstrong. Mezzrow is equally known as a colorful character, as portrayed in his autobiography, Really the Blues, co-written with Bernard Wolfe and published in 1946.
Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson was an American blues and jazz singer, guitarist, violinist and songwriter. He was a pioneer of jazz guitar and jazz violin and is recognized as the first to play an electrically amplified violin.
"Memories of You" is a popular song about nostalgia with lyrics written by Andy Razaf and music composed by Eubie Blake and published in 1930.
Major Lance was an American R&B singer. After a number of US hits in the 1960s, including "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um", he became an iconic figure in Britain in the 1970s among followers of Northern Soul. Although he stopped making records in 1982, Major Lance continued to perform at concerts and on tours until his death in 1994. His daughter, Keisha Lance Bottoms, was the 60th mayor of Atlanta.
"If I Could Be with You " is a popular song. The music was written by James P. Johnson, the lyrics by Henry Creamer. The song was published in 1926 and first recorded by Clarence Williams' Blue Five with vocalist Eva Taylor in 1927. It was popularized by the 1930 recording by McKinney's Cotton Pickers, who used it as their theme song and by Louis Armstrong's record for Okeh Records, both of which featured in the charts of 1930. Armstrong's recording of "If I Could Be with You" is defined by his sparse vocal style and ornamental virtuosic trumpet-playing.
Perry Bradford was an American composer, songwriter, and vaudeville performer. His most notable songs included "Crazy Blues," "That Thing Called Love," and "You Can't Keep A Good Man Down." He was nicknamed "Mule" because of his stubbornness, and he is credited with finally persuading Okeh Records to work with Mamie Smith leading to her historic blues recording in 1920.
Chicago, Illinois is a major center for music in the midwestern United States where distinctive forms of blues, and house music, a genre of electronic dance music, were developed.
"Rockin' Chair is a 1929 popular song with lyrics and music composed by Hoagy Carmichael. Musically it is unconventional, as after the B section when most popular songs return to A, this song has an A-B-C-A1 structure. Carmichael recorded the song in 1929, 1930, and 1956. Mildred Bailey made it famous by using it as her theme song. Like other 1920s standards, "Rockin' Chair" relied on the stereotypes of minstrelsy, citing "Aunt Harriet" from the anti-Uncle Tom song "Aunt Harriet Becha Stowe" (1853).
"Heebie Jeebies" is a composition written by Boyd Atkins which achieved fame when it was recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1926. Armstrong also performed "Heebie Jeebies" as a number at the Vendome Theatre. The recording on Okeh Records by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five includes a famous example of scat singing by Armstrong. After the success of the recording, an accompanying dance was choreographed and advertised by Okeh.
"Dippermouth Blues" is a song first recorded by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band for Gennett Records in April 1923 and for Okeh Records in June of that same year. It is most often attributed to Joe "King" Oliver, though some have argued that Louis Armstrong was in fact the composer. This is partly because "Dippermouth", in the song's title, was a nickname of Armstrong's. Also, the phonograph recordings from 1922 gave credit to Armstrong and Oliver jointly. The song is a strong example of the influence of the blues on early jazz. There is a twelve-bar blues harmonic progression, with frequent bent notes and slides into notes.