Air Week: April 26-May 2, 2021

Atlantic Records, Pt. 13 – ATCO Records

Atlantic Records was the most influential, significant and important independent record label to come out of the late-1940s, during a time when there were many great, small indie labels being born. What gave Atlantic the advantage over Specialty, Chess, Modern, Vee-Jay, Exclusive, King, etc is the breadth of material, variety of music styles and the sheer number of hit records that led to the Rock n’ Roll explosion of the mid-1950s. Matt The Cat and the “Juke In The Back” present this behemoth series celebrating the first 10 years of Atlantic’s existence: 1947-57. This week in part thirteen, Matt The Cat focuses on Atlantic’s most successful subsidiary label, ATCO Records. When Atlantic co-founder, Herb Abramson returned from his military duty in 1955, he found a very different company that had continued to grow without him. His partner, Ahmet Ertegun suggested starting a subsidiary that would be fully managed by Abramson and so ATCO was born. ATCO originally focused more on vocal groups than its parent company had. The first national hit for the label was by The Sensations, a Philly group that featured Yvonne Mills on lead. The Royal Jokers, The Pearls, The Castelles and The Ray-O-Vacs also released singles on ATCO, but by far the biggest vocal group on the label was The Coasters. They came over in a big deal that Atlantic struck with songwriter/producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Atlantic would buy Leiber/Stoller’s Spark records and take on the two of them as staff songwriters/producers. Some of their signed artists were also included in the deal and that’s what brought Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn of the Robins over to Atlantic to form a new group called The Coasters. They scored ATCO’s first #1 record with “Searchin’.” So buckle in and prepare yourself for an in-depth look at the history of ATCO Records on this week’s “Juke In The Back.”