The Beatles’ John Lennon was shot and killed today (December 8, 1980) in New York, by Mark David Chapman.
The group’s first records were released on Vee Jay, one of the first “big” black owned label before Motown’s unprecedented success.
The label was founded by Vivian Carter (Vee) and her husband James Bracken (Jay) in 1952, in Gary, Indiana.
After a move to Chicago, the label hit big by signing acts like The Impressions, The Staple Singers, Gene Chandler, The Spaniels and The Four Seasons, among others.
“Trans-Global (an EMI affiliate), a company over there had a #1 record and they asked us if we wanted it, and of course we wanted it,” Vee Jay’s A&R/producer Calvin Carter told Goldmine. “It was ‘I Remember You,’ by Frank Ifield. We took the record, and as a throw in, they had a group and asked us if we would take them, too. The group turned out to be The Beatles, and we got a five-year contract on the Beatles as a pickup on the Frank Ifield contract.”
“Please Please Me” / “Ask Me Why” was the first Beatles single Vee Jay released in the United States.
The group’s name is misspelled on early runs as “The Beattles.”
In 1963, Vee Jay was in turmoil as a record label, and it’s distributor, EMI, wanted The Beatles back for obvious reasons.
The Beatles’ sudden success resulted in lawsuits to get the group off of Vee Jay and back to Capitol, which released The Beatles’ subsequent releases.
Vee Jay filed for bankruptcy in 1966.