Capitol Records

“Capitol was Johnny.”

Margaret Whiting
Johnny Mercer stands with sheet music and a Capitol Records microphone, circa 1950s.

Johnny Mercer founded Capitol Records, the first West Coast record label in the United States, in 1942 with Buddy DeSylva and Glenn E. Wallichs. Johnny was the heart behind the label and Capitol recruited incredible talent under Johnny’s watch, including Margaret Whiting, Jo Stafford, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Kay Starr, Mel Torme, The Kingston Trio, and others.

The company was initially known as Liberty Records, but at the suggestion of Johnny’s wife, Ginger, the new label was renamed Capitol. By 1946, Capitol had sold over 42 million records and was established as one of the top record labels in the United States. Capitol Records was innovative in their marketing techniques, including incorporating Glenn Wallichs’ idea of providing free copies of records to local disc jockeys in order to get more radio plays.

First Releases

“Strip Polka” sheet music cover, 1942.

On July 1, 1942, Capitol Records released its first nine records:

  • “I Found a New Baby”/”The General Jumped at Dawn” – Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
  • “Cow-Cow Boogie” with Ella Mae Morse and Freddy Slack and His Orchestra/ “Here You Are” – Freddy Slack and His Orchestra
  • “Strip Polka”/”Air-Minded Executive” – both with vocals by Johnny Mercer
  • “Johnny Doughboy Found A Rose In Ireland”/”Phil, The Fluters Ball” – both with vocals by Dennis Day
  • “The Angels Cried” – vocal Martha Tilton and The Mellowaires/”I’ll Remember April” – vocal Martha Tilton with Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra
  • “He Wears A Pair Of Silver Wings” – vocal Connie Haines/”I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” – Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra
  • “Elk’s Parade”/”I Don’t Know Why” – Bobby Sherwood and His Orchestra
  •  “Serenade In Blue” – Martha Tilton with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra/”(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo” – The Mellowaires with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
  • “Windmill Under The Stars”/”Conchita Lopez” – Johnnie Johnston