Hard Rock's Tribute to King Records Cincinnati
Launched in 1943, King Records has become one of the most successful record companies in history — and it all started in Cincinnati. Now that Hard Rock has opened its doors in Queen City, it’s time we paid homage to this pioneering music label. That’s why we’ve created a memorabilia tribute to some of our favorite King Records artists.
Read on to learn more about the history of King Records in Cincinnati, discover our exhibit, and see how our awesome new mural came to life over the last few months.
King Records: Cincinnati’s Original Record Company
King Records was built by Cincinnati businessman Syd Nathan. During the Depression, Nathan launched Syd’s Record Shop on West Fifth Street. After closing his first record store and living briefly in Florida, Nathan returned to Cincinnati, where he started Syd’s Record Shop on Central Avenue. There he became familiar with popular country recording artists like Merle Travis and Louis M. “Grandpa” Jones.
In 1943, Nathan decided to start his own record label for country music. He managed to persuade Merle Travis and Grandpa Jones to record the label’s first record in Dayton, Ohio: “The Steppin’ Out Kind/You’ll Be Lonesome Too.” Since these artists were still under contract with the Cincinnati radio station WLW, they were billed as the Sheppard Brothers and King Records was born.
The company’s first records were so poorly pressed that the sound quality was terrible. Nathan started his own pressing plant to ensure a higher-quality music experience. He also created his own recording studio, album designs, and distribution network within the same facility. Unlike other independent record labels, King Records was completely self-sufficient. This decision allowed King Records to lower costs, compete with major labels, and put Cincinnati on the map. The record label went on to own several divisions, including Queen Records and Federal Records.
A Record Label for True American Music
In the 1940s, Cincinnati was a city of both rural and urban living. Country music dominated the airwaves, but there were people from all walks of life who came to Queen City to work. Nathan wanted to support the “music of the little people,” as he called it, and targeted more neglected markets. He also encouraged crossovers, with his country stars singing R&B hits and his R&B artists covering country songs.
After World War II and throughout the 1950s, King Records focused on R&B music. This move helped launch the career of a singer who would become one of the most famous King Records artists: James Brown. Brown signed on with the Federal Records division of King Records in Cincinnati in 1956 with his group The Famous Flames. Their first record sold over one million copies.
You can check out one of James Brown’s best live performances in our list of awesome YouTube concerts here!
Tributes to King Records of Cincinnati
When Nathan died in 1968, King Records was acquired by Starday Records, which rebranded as Starday and King Records. Collectables Records now reissues the King Records discography.
Nathan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and his headquarters at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati still stands. While former King Records artists like James Brown and Bootsy Collins are trying to get this building recognized as a historic landmark, there have already been tributes to King Records in Cincinnati. The Cincy Blues Fest played a successful concert of Kings Record discography, and now Hard Rock Cincinnati is excited to recognize this pioneering label.
Our tribute includes unique images of King Records artists as well as a collection of incredible artefacts. Don’t miss Otis Williams’ suit and microphone, one of Bootsy Collins’ outfits, and one of James Brown’s suits.
See More Rockin’ Memorabilia!
In addition to our tribute to King Records artists, we’ve also unveiled a rockin’ new mural at our property. Led by artist Jenny Ustick, this masterpiece depicts some of our favorite local music icons, including King Records’ Bootsy Collins. Head to Valet Parking to see the mural of Tracy Chapman, Doris Day, John Legend, The Isley Brothers, Chrissie Hynde, and more!
Hard Rock Cincinnati is also proud to showcase a new collection of memorabilia at Hard Rock Cafe. Read about our favorite pieces in this blog post so you can find the coolest memorabilia on your next visit to our property!
More Blog Stories
Hard Rock Cincinnati Poker: Playing at Our Casino in 2021 and Beyond
8/12/2021Playing poker in Cincinnati, Ohio has never been easier! Read on to find out how you can get started.
The Newest Cincinnati Pizza Restaurant: Brick'd
8/5/2021Craving authentic pizza from an Italian restaurant in downtown Cincinnati? Look no further than Hard Rock Cincinnati’s newest pizza restaurant, Brick’d.
Hard Rock’s Tribute to King Records in Cincinnati
7/30/2021Learn about the history of King Records in Cincinnati and see our tribute to King Records artists at Hard Rock Cafe!
10 Ideas for Summer Fun in Cincinnati
7/22/2021From eating to entertainment, Queen City has it all. Whether you’re seeking adventure or a relaxing getaway, check out these things to do in the summer in Cincinnati.
Get a Sneak Peek at Our New Hard Rock Cafe Memorabilia Collection
7/15/2021Read on to learn more about the history of Hard Rock Cafe’s memorabilia collection and some of our most exciting new pieces in Cincinnati.
How to Get the Ultimate Cincinnati Reds Experience
7/8/2021Want to take your gameday experience to the next level? Read more to see our list of things to do for the ultimate Cincinnati Reds Experience!
5 Ways to Celebrate Global Beatles Day
6/22/2021We’ve compiled a list of ways you can enjoy this music holiday. We’ve even included a Beatles playlist on Spotify with all The Beatles greatest hits!
Here's Why Cincinnati Makes for the Ideal Father's Day Trip
6/15/2021Find out all Cincinnati has to offer for a fun Father’s Day trip with your dad, no matter his hobbies and interests.
Hard Rock Cafe Has Arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio
6/14/2021Read on to learn about Hard Rock Cafe’s rich history and what you can look forward to at Hard Rock Cafe Cincinnati!
Local Appreciation: The City of Cincinnati
6/3/2021From sports and culture to shopping, take a look and see why you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in downtown Cincinnati.
5 Reasons to Start Your Casino Career at Hard Rock Cincinnati
5/6/2021Here are 5 reasons why Hard Rock Cincinnati is the perfect place for your casino career.
Get Free Casino Game Training at the Table Games Academy
5/6/2021Learn more about the casino dealer academy at Hard Rock Cincinnati. You won’t want to miss the chance to attend!
5 Awesome Easter Ideas for Adults
3/30/2021Easter is just around the corner and that means it’s time for good food, close friends, and some small festivities!
Save the Planet: Why Earth Hour Is Important
3/25/2021As one of the pillars of the Hard Rock values, Hard Rock Cincinnati is committed to helping save the planet. One way we can do this is by observing Earth Hour with millions of other people around the globe.
What Should Be Your Signature Cocktail
3/11/2021Take this quiz to find your signature cocktail so you know what to order from the Hard Rock drinks menu the next time you’re at our property!
How to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day at Home
3/4/2021Our team has taken the difficulty out of finding the most fun St. Patrick’s Day activities. Plus, we’ve categorized them by age to make it even easier for you to get started.
Keep Your Body Rockin': 10 Tips to Stay Fit and Healthy in Cincinnati
2/18/2021At Hard Rock Cincinnati, The Culture Club organizes activities that help team members strive to stay healthy rather than stay in shape.
Discover the Coolest Hard Rock Memorabilia around the World
2/11/2021Hard Rock is known for many things: their rockin’ music, one-of-a-kind restaurants, trendy hotels, colorful casinos, and legendary live music performances. However, one of their most impressive claims to fame is their Hard Rock memorabilia.
Rock On at Home with These 14 YouTube Concerts
1/28/2021If you’re looking for a way to enjoy incredible musical performances, watching YouTube concerts is a fun alternative. Whatever your favorite music genre, we’ve got you covered with some of the greatest live performers of all time.
The Difference Between Hard Rock's In-Person and Free Online Casino Games
1/21/2021Hard Rock Cincinnati offers one of the hottest gaming experiences in all of Ohio. With 100,000 square feet of table games and slots, you’re sure to find an awesome experience at our property. But what can you do when you’ve got that gaming itch and you can’t visit our casino?