Capitol Records, LLC (known legally as Capitol Records, Inc. until 2007) is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group through its Capitol Music Group imprint. It was founded as the first West Coast-based record label of note in the United States in 1942 by Johnny Mercer, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn E. Wallichs. Capitol was acquired by British music conglomerate EMI as its North American subsidiary in 1955. EMI was acquired by Universal Music Group in 2012, and was merged with the company a year later, making Capitol and the Capitol Music Group both a part of UMG. The label's circular headquarters building is a recognized landmark of Hollywood, California. Capitol is well known as the U.S. record label of the Beatles, especially during the years of Beatlemania in America from 1964 to 1967.
Capitol's roster has included Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Tina Turner, Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Bee Gees, Megadeth, The Knack, NF, Everclear, Katy Perry, Mary J. Blige, Halsey, Duran Duran, Beastie Boys, Juice Newton, The Kingston Trio, Neil Diamond, Iron Maiden, Richard Thompson, Minnie Riperton, Luscious Jackson, Linda Ronstadt, Eagles, Beck, Avenged Sevenfold, Don Henley, Yellowcard, Sam Smith, Sparklehorse, Migos, Emeli Sandé, Queen Naija, Helena Paparizou, 5 Seconds of Summer, Brian Courtney Wilson, Niall Horan, and Fletcher.
Songwriter Johnny Mercer founded Capitol Records in 1942 with financial help from songwriter and film producer Buddy DeSylva and the business acumen of Glenn Wallichs, owner of Wallichs Music City. Mercer raised the idea of starting a record company while golfing with Harold Arlen and Bobby Sherwood and with Wallichs at Wallichs's record store. On February 2, 1942, Mercer and Wallichs met DeSylva at a restaurant in Hollywood to talk about investment by Paramount Pictures.
On March 27, 1942, the three men incorporated as Liberty Records (not Capitol's future sister label Liberty Records). In May, the application was amended to change the label's name to Capitol Records.
On April 6, 1942, Mercer supervised Capitol's first recording session where Martha Tilton recorded the song "Moon Dreams". On May 5, Bobby Sherwood and his orchestra recorded two tracks in the studio. On May 21, Freddie Slack and his orchestra recorded three tracks in the studio: one with the orchestra, one with Ella Mae Morse called "Cow-Cow Boogie" and "Air-Minded Executive" supervised by Mercer. On June 4, Capitol opened its first office in a second-floor room south of Sunset Boulevard. On that same day, Wallichs presented the company's first free record to Los Angeles disc jockey Peter Potter. On June 5, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra recorded four songs at the studio. On June 12, the orchestra recorded five more songs in the studio, including "Trav'lin' Light" with Billie Holiday. On June 11, Tex Ritter recorded "(I Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle" and "Goodbye My Little Cherokee" for his first Capitol recording session, and the songs comprised Capitol's 110th produced record.
The earliest recording artists included co-owner Mercer, Johnnie Johnston, Morse, Jo Stafford, the Pied Pipers, Tex Ritter, Tilton, Paul Weston, Whiteman, and Margaret Whiting. Capitol's first gold single was Morse's "Cow Cow Boogie" in 1942.
Capitol's first album was Capitol Presents Songs by Johnny Mercer, a three disc set with recordings by Mercer, Stafford and the Pied Pipers, all with Weston's orchestra. The label's other 1940s musicians included Les Baxter, Les Brown, Jimmy Bryant, Billy Butterfield, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Dinning Sisters, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Mary Ford, Benny Goodman, Skitch Henderson, Betty Hutton, Stan Kenton, Peggy Lee, Billy May, Les Paul, Alvino Rey, Andy Russell, Smilin' Jack Smith, Kay Starr, Speedy West, and Cootie Williams. Musicians on the Capitol Americana label included Lead Belly, Cliffie Stone, Hank Thompson, Merle Travis, Wesley Tuttle, Jimmy Wakely, and Tex Williams.
Capitol was the first major west coast label to compete with major labels on the east coast such as RCA Victor, Columbia, and Decca. In addition to its Los Angeles recording studios, Capitol owned a second studio in New York City and occasionally sent mobile recording equipment to other cities. Associated Artists