King Records, located in Evanston, put CIncinnati on the American music map in the 1960s, launching the careers of such greats as James Brown.
CINCINNATI - Cincinnati's King Records, located in Evanston, gave America the 1960s hit "The Twist" and launched the career of James Brown.
Syd Nathan opened his company targeting the “hillbilly market.” However, King Records was known for providing all services needed for recording and that brought in both country and R&B artists.
Become a WCPO Insider to learn more about Nathan, his King Records and the Cincinnati sound that's part of rock 'n' roll history.
CINCINNATI - The Tri-State is home to many fascinating facts, offbeat oddities, and "I did not know that," moments. With that in mind, WCPO asks "Who Knew?"
Before Nashville, before Detroit, there was Cincinnati and the Cincinnati sound. Many famous performers had their start here, and even some of the most popular songs, like 1960s hit "The Twist," were created right here in Evanston at neighborhood recording studio, King Records.
How did King Records begin?
Syd Nathan, who was a businessman, tried his hand at a few professions including a wholesale radio shop and photofinishing business. After these ventures didn't work out, he returned to Cincinnati and opened a record company. Though his company targeted the “hillbilly market,” King Records was known for providing all services needed for recording. Producing, engineering, mastering, processing the album cover, pressing the record and distributing the new sound could all be done under the King label.
What inspired "The Twist?"
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters recorded the first version in 1959 on King Records. The "Twist" was first listed as the B-side of the 45 rpm record. A year later Chubby Checker recorded a version of it which sounds almost the same. That record shot to the No. 1 spot on all the carts.
What other popular artists / songs were recorded in Cincinnati?
The song "Fever," known as a hit by Peggy Lee, was originally recorded in Cincinnati by Little Willie John. The hit “Sixteen Tons” was recorded by Merle Travis and topped the charts with a later version by Tennessee Ernie Ford. And of course, there was James Brown whose career was launched under a Syd Nathan label.
King Records stopped producing records a long time ago. What is the current state of this landmark?
The original recording studio located at 1540 Brewster Ave. It’s noted with historical maker. Its contents have been gutted and it has been used as a warehouse. The building is at risk of being lost. Xavier University envisions creating a museum for King Recording Studio in the Evanston neighborhood.