Malaco Records - Company History - Beginnings

Beginnings

Malaco ( /ˈmæləkoʊ/) Records was founded in 1962 by Tommy Couch, Mitchell Malouf, and Wolf Stephenson, initially as a booking agency. In 1967, the company opened a recording studio in a building that remains the home of Malaco. Experimenting with local songwriters and artists, the company began producing master recordings. Malaco needed to license their early recordings with established labels for national distribution. Between 1968 and 1970, Capitol Records released six singles and a Grammy-nominated album by legendary bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell. Revenue from record releases was minimal, however, and Malaco survived doing jingles, booking bands, promoting concerts, and renting the studio for custom projects.

In May 1970, a bespectacled producer-arranger changed the struggling company's fortune. Wardell Quezergue made his mark with New Orleans stalwarts Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, among others. Quezergue offered to supply Malaco with artists in return for studio time and session musicians. With very little money left, Malaco knew this might be their last shot at making something happen. Quezergue brought five artists to Jackson in a borrowed school bus for a marathon session that yielded two mega-hits - King Floyd's "Groove Me" and Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff." But the tracks met rejection when submitted to Stax and Atlantic Records for distribution. Frustrated, Malaco released the King Floyd tracks on its own Chimneyville label. When "Groove Me" started a wildfire of radio play and sales, Atlantic picked the record up for distribution after all, giving Malaco a label deal for future Chimneyville product. "Groove Me" entered the national charts in October, going to #1 R&B and #6 pop. In 1971, Chimneyville scored again with King Floyd's "Baby Let Me Kiss You" (#5 R&B and #29 Pop). Meanwhile, Stax decided to take a chance on "Mr. Big Stuff", selling over two million copies on the way to #1 on the R&B charts and #2 pop.

Malaco's studio and session musicians were now in demand. Atlantic sent the Pointer Sisters among others for the Malaco touch; Stax sent Rufus Thomas and others. And, in January 1973, Paul Simon recorded material for his There Goes Rhymin' Simon album. Later that year, Malaco released its first gospel record, "Gospel Train" by the Golden Nuggets. Also in 1973, King Floyd's "Woman Don't Go Astray" made #5 R&B.

When Dorothy Moore recorded "Misty Blue" in 1973, Malaco got stacks of rejection slips trying to shop the master to other labels. Two years later, Malaco was broke and desperate for something to sell. With just enough cash to press and mail out the record, "Misty Blue" was released on the Malaco label just before Thanksgiving. Luckily, it took off the moment it hit radio turntables.

"Misty Blue" earned gold records around the world, peaking at #2 R&B and #3 pop in the USA, and #5 in England. This was followed by thirteen chart records and five Grammy nominations for Moore by 1980.

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