The company first began producing phonographs in 1916, then began marketing their own line of records as an after-thought. These first Brunswick Records used the vertical cut system (like Edison Disc Records), and were not sold in large numbers. They were recorded in the US but sold only in Canada. Records under the "Brunswick" label were first produced by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. In 1920, a new line of Brunswick Records were introduced in the US and Canada that employed the lateral cut system that was then becoming the default cut for 78 disc records. In late 1924, Brunswick acquired the Vocalion (2) Records label. In the spring of 1925 Brunswick introduced its own version of electrical recording (licensed from General Electric) using photoelectric cells, which Brunswick eventually called the "Light-Ray Process" .
In April 1930, Brunswick-Balke-Collender sold Brunswick Records to Warner Bros., who then leased the entire Brunswick record operation to the American Record Corporation (ARC) in December 1931. In 1932, the UK branch of Brunswick was acquired by British Decca. In 1939, the American Record Corp. was bought by the Columbia Broadcasting System. Columbia discontinued the Brunswick label in 1940 in favor of reviving the Columbia label, which violated the Warners lease agreement, resulting in the Brunswick trademark reverting back to Warners. In 1941, Warners sold the Brunswick and Vocalion (2) labels to American Decca (which Warners had a financial interest in), along with all masters recorded prior to December 1931. Rights to recordings from late December 1931 on were retained by CBS/Columbia.
In 1943, Decca revived the Brunswick label, mostly for reissues of recordings from earlier decades. After World War II, American Decca releases were issued in the United Kingdom on the Brunswick label until 1968 when the MCA Records label was introduced in the UK. During the war (1943), British Decca sold its American branch. For a time, Brunswick was a trademark of Decca Records, Inc. By 1952, Brunswick was put under the management of Decca's Coral Records subsidiary. That same year, Brunswick resumed releasing new material, focusing on Rock and Roll.
Starting in the latter part of the 1950s and well into the 1970s, the label was recording more R&B/soul acts. Beginning with Jackie Wilson’s first hit “Reet Petite” in 1957, Brunswick introduced numerous hits to the R&B and Pop charts for nearly 20 years, by artists such as Tyrone Davis, Barbara Acklin, Young Holt Unlimited and The Chi-Lites. The label also featured releases by Gene Chandler (of “Duke Of Earl” fame), Erma Franklin (The Queen Of Soul’s sister), Little Richard, T-Bone Walker, and many more.
Between the mid 60s and the mid 70s, Brunswick Records was one of America’s leading R&B record companies. From its studio office on Michigan Avenue, Brunswick employed some of Chicago’s best writers, producers and musicians to create a large portion of what was being played on R&B radio during that period.
By the time Brunswick stopped producing new product in 1982, the company had racked up more than 150 Billboard charted singles.
The music has been reincarnated through sampling by artists such as Jay-Z, Joss Stone, Fantasia (4) and Jaheim. The 2003 smash “Crazy In Love” by Beyoncé was created by sampling the hook of the recording “Are You My Woman” by the Chi-Lites.
German Label Code: LC 0136 / LC 00136.