Mercury Records

Mercury Records
Mercury records logo.png
Parent companyUniversal Music Group
Founded1945; 74 years ago (1945)
  • Irving Green
  • Berle Adams
  • Arthur Talmadge
  • Ray Greenberg

Mercury Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group. In the US, it operates through Island Records; in the UK, it is distributed by Virgin EMI Records.

Since the separation of Island Records, Motown, Mercury Records, and Def Jam Recordings combining the Island Def Jam Music Group, Mercury Records has been placed under Island Records, although its back catalogue is still owned by The Island Def Jam Music Group.


Mercury Record Corporation was formed in Chicago in 1945 by Irving Green, Berle Adams, Ray Greenberg [2] and Arthur Talmadge.[3] They were a major force in jazz and blues, classical music, rock and roll, and country music recordings. Early in the label's history, Mercury opened two pressing plants, one in Chicago and the other in St. Louis, Missouri.[4] With the use of automatic presses and providing 24-hour turnaround, they went into direct competition with major recording labels such as Columbia, Decca, Capitol and RCA Victor.

By hiring two promoters, Tiny Hill and Jimmy Hilliard, they penetrated the pop market with names such as Frankie Laine, Vic Damone, Tony Fontane and Patti Page.

Rather than rely on radio airplay, Mercury initially relied on jukeboxes to promote their music.[5]

In 1946, Mercury hired Eddie Gaedel, an American with dwarfism, most notable for participating in a Major League Baseball game, to portray the "Mercury Man", complete with a winged hat similar to its logo, to promote Mercury recordings.[6][7] Some early Mercury recordings featured a caricature of him as its logo.[8][9]

In 1947, Jack Rael, a musician and publicist/manager, persuaded Mercury to let Patti Page (whom he managed) record a song that had been planned to be done by Vic Damone, "Confess". The budget was too small for them to hire a second singer to provide the "answer" parts to Page, so at Rael's suggestion she did both voices. Though "overdubbing" had been used occasionally on 78rpm discs in the 1930s, for Enrico Caruso and Elisabeth Schumann recordings among others, this became the first documented example of "overdubbing" using tape, and Patti Page, along with rival Capitol Records artists Les Paul & Mary Ford, became one of the artists best known for the use of this technique.[citation needed]

The company released an enormous number of recordings under the Mercury label as well as its subsidiaries (Blue Rock Records, Cumberland Records, EmArcy Records, Fontana Records, Limelight Records, Philips Records, Smash Records and Wing Records). In addition, they leased and purchased material by independent labels and redistributed them.

Under their own label, Mercury released a variety of recording styles from classical music to psychedelic rock. However, its subsidiaries focused on their own specialized categories of music.[10]

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