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The Malaco Story 

 

For 50+ years as an independent record label, Malaco Records defines southern rhythm & blues, soul, and gospel music.  "The Last Soul Company" started in the late 1960s with college students Tommy Couch and Wolf Stephenson booking bands for fraternity dances at the University of Mississippi. In 1967 the company opened their Jackson, MS based recording studio in a building that remains their home. Experimenting with local songwriters and artists, the company began producing master recordings and licensing the recordings with established labels for national distribution. Between 1968 and 1970, Capitol Records released six singles, as well as a Grammy-nominated album by legendary bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell. Distribution deals for other artists were concluded with ABC, Mercury, and Bang.

In 1970, producer-arranger Wardell Quezergue who made his mark with New Orleans stalwarts Fats Domino, Professor Longhair and others, supplied Malaco with artists in return for studio time and session musicians. He brought five artists to Jackson in a borrowed school bus for a marathon session that yielded two mega-hits -- Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" and King Floyd's "Groove Me", which sold over two million copies on the way to #1 on the R&B charts and #2 pop.

In 1975, Malaco released "Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore which 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. Then in 1979, Anita Ward’s disco smash “Ring My Bell” reached #1 on the Pop and R&B charts selling 10 million copies worldwide.  Freedom’s "Get Up and Dance" hit the New York club scene in 1979, and starting with Grandmaster Flash became one of the most sampled records of all-time.

ZZ Hill’s blues classic “Down Home Blues” was released in 1982. The LP stayed on the Billboard rhythm & blues charts for a phenomenal 93 weeks in 1982-83 while selling half a million copies -- an unprecedented mark for a blues album. Its success proved that there was still a substantial audience for the blues, and its production style set a standard for much of the music that followed. This achievement along with those of artists Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Little Milton, Bobby "Blue" Bland and others further established Malaco as the center of old-time blues, soul and southern R&B.  Many Malaco hits, including “Down Home Blues,” “The Blues is Alright,” “Someone Else is Steppin’ In,” “Members Only,” and “Last Two Dollars” have become staples in the repertoires of blues bands across the country.  

In the mid-1970s, Malaco started building its gospel catalog with the purchase of the gospel division of Savoy Records. This acquisition brought a vast catalog of classic recordings dating back decades, including albums by Shirley Caesar, Rev. James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, The Caravans, Inez Andrews, The Georgia Mass Choir and The Florida Mass Choir,  establishing Malaco as the preeminent black gospel company in North America. The Jackson Southernaires were Malaco's first major gospel group which led to signing many other top gospel groups in the country, including the  Soul Stirrers, the Williams Brothers, the Sensational Nightingales, the Truthettes, the Angelic Gospel Singers,  the Mississippi Mass Choir and others.

In 1985, Malaco purchased the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, label and publishing company. The studio and its fabled rhythm section “The Swampers” are credited with gold records by the Staple Singers, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart and Wilson Pickett to name a few. The publishing company contained hits like "Old Time Rock and Roll" and "Torn Between Two Lovers."

The company continued its steady, prudent expansion, with the recent purchases of the music assets of the Memphis-based distributor Select-O-Hits, and Bold Lad Music.

With such a great music catalog, Malaco has secured many sync uses, including “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward in a national Walmart commercial, a Google Pixel commercial featuring 2 Chainz with “So Good To Be Alive” by The Truthettes, “Believe” by Gemstones in a trailer for the Sony film Exposure and two songs in the new Tyler Perry film A Madea Family Funeral (in addition to songs licensed in 4 of the previous Madea films).

Some recent examples of sample uses of Malaco songs include “Higher” by DJ Khaled (featuring John Legend and Nipsey Hussle), which includes the sample “Oh Give Thanks” by Myrna Summers and “Topanga” by Trippie Redd using “It Ain’t Over” by Maurette Brown Clark. We also have songs included in “Bickenhead” by Cardi B, which samples “Bitches Reply” by DJ Jimi,  and “Come Back Baby” by Pusha T, using “The Truth Shall Make You Free” by King Hannibal.

In addition to the Malaco label, the company also owns Savoy Gospel Records, Atlanta International Records, Apollo Records, Muscle Shoals Sound Records and several other smaller labels. Today Malaco is the largest gospel music company in the world, encompassing thousands of recordings and compositions.

Malaco Records, considered one of America’s foremost labels in the fields of southern soul, blues, and gospel, was founded at their current location  in 1967 and is on The Mississippi Blues Trail. The Blues Trail markers tell stories through words and images of bluesmen and women and how the places where they lived and the times in which they existed–and continue to exist–influenced their music. The Blues marker sites run the gamut from city streets to cotton fields, train depots to cemeteries, and clubs to churches. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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