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King Records Gets Reprieve From Ohio Supreme Court

The site of the former King Records now has a historic marker from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (joseph)

The Ohio Supreme Court has issued a reprieve that could save the life of an historic Cincinnati building.   The two-story red brick structure at 1540 Brewster Avenue looks decrepit today but it was there that, arguably, the first rock and roll song was recorded.  Ideastream’s Mark Urycki reports. 


You can quibble over what constitutes the very first rock song but a good case could be made for Wynonie Harris’s 1948 recording “Good Rocking Tonight."  It was recoded in cincinnati 3 full years before Ike Turner's "Rocket 88" which iften gets the "first rock song" title.  

In 2008 The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame placed a historic marker in the front of the Kings Record studio and record plant.  It reads "King Records forever changed American music." 

When word got out last year that the building owner, Dynamic Industries, wanted to tear down the structure, local music groups, including the Bootsy Collins Foundation,  got involved.   They convinced the city to designate the building an historic landmark which protected it from demolition.   Dynamic went to court claiming it amounted to an illegal taking of their property by the city.   

The Supreme Court has ruled that Dynamic cannot demand a demolition permit or money damages because “it has not exhausted its administrative remedies”  in that it has not applied for a variance so the city can make a final decision on its application for a demolition permit.  

In 1944 King Records was founded by Syd Nathan to record country music but he was soon recording The Dominoes, Joe Tex, and the recent Rock Hall of Fame inductees the 5 Royales.  King pressed the vinyl on site and was known for its integrated workforce.   At one time King was the 6th largest record company in the U.S.   James Brown recorded "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"  and "Funky Drummer" featuring Clyde Stubblefield  there.

King Records was sold several times in the early 70’s and has since disappeared but its building, for now, is still standing.