Elektra Records Celebrating 60th Anniversary With All-Star Event
In 1950, a 19-year-old named Jac Holzman started a record label called Elektra in his St. John's College dorm. What began as a company specializing in folk music became one of the most legendary record labels in pop and rock music. Its impressive roster has included the Doors, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Queen, the Cure, Metallica, Tracy Chapman and 10,000 Maniacs.
This year, Elektra is celebrating its 60th anniversary with an event on Oct. 14 at New York's 92nd St. Y featuring Holzman and label alums Jackson Browne and Natalie Merchant. Interviewing them will be Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, who is also a writer and an unofficial Elektra historian.
"They made the mainstream come to them," Kaye tells Spinner, "as opposed to vice versa, and so were able to do something fairly unique in terms of what a record label. They were able to create their own identity."
In explaining the origins of the label, Kaye credits Holzman's vision, which was not to find the big pop stars at the time like Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney, but to record inexpensively. "He found a niche and he followed it," Kaye says. "His idea then as now was that if you make it available and don't charge a lot for it, people will find you."
Elektra's stable of major folk talent included Judy Collins, Tim Buckley and Phil Ochs. "And as folk music grew," Kaye says, "that's really key to Elektra's thing. They were able to follow its development