Black & White Records

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1947 Jack McVea phonograph record produced by the Black And White label
Black & White Records
Founded1943 (1943)
FounderLes Schreiber
Defunct1949 (1949)
GenreJazz, blues
Country of originU.S.
LocationNew York City

Black & White Records was an American record company and label founded by Les Schreiber in 1943. It specialized in jazz and blues. When the label was sold to Paul and Lillian Reiner, it moved from New York City to Los Angeles. The catalog included music by Art Hodes, Cliff Jackson, Lil Armstrong, Barney Bigard, Wilbert Baranco, Erroll Garner, Jack McVea, and Willie "The Lion" Smith.[1]

Ralph Bass was the recording director. The name was chosen to indicate that black and white musicians were signed to the label.[1][2][3][4][5]

Early days[edit]

Black & White Records was founded in 1943 by Les Schreiber (1901–1965),[a] and was located at 2117 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. The company initially issued recordings by Art Hodes and Cliff Jackson.

In 1945, Paul Reiner (6 December 1905, Hungary–1 February 1982, Los Angeles) and his wife, Lillian (née Drosd; 28 April 1908, Massachusetts–4 September 1982, Los Angeles),[6] purchased the company, moved it to Los Angeles, and hired Ralph Bass to be recording director. Soon after that, Schreiber worked for Swan Records but left Swan around October 1946.[i] Paul Reiner was president, his wife was vice president, Samuel Madiman was treasurer, and Larry Newton was sales manager.

Bass oversaw two of the most important records in the early evolution of rock and roll: "Stormy Monday" by T-Bone Walker (1946) and a rare crossover hit, "Open the Door, Richard" by Jack McVea (1947). In 1948, Bass left Black & White to start Bop Records.[7]

Sales and agreements[edit]

Comet Records, owned by Les Schreiber, was sold to Black & White Records not long after their third recording session (with Red Norvo and Charlie Parker).

On August 11, 1947, B&W Records and Jewel Records (not to be confused with Je–Wel) entered a distribution agreement that gave B&W an option to acquire Jewel. Reiner retained his post as president of B&W while Ben Pollack, Jewel's president, entered as general manager of B&W's West Coast operations, overseeing the A&R department. Reiner moved his headquarters east and centered his operations on Chicago to strengthen the label's Midwestern distribution. The catalogues of B&W and Jewel were merged as a result of the deal. Pollack brought 10 unreleased masters and Martha Davis and Marion Morgan. Pollack also had a contract with Boyd Raeburn stipulating that the orchestra could record for a major label, but Jewel held an exclusive on all independent releases. The deal also increased the number of race records, i.e. records made by blacks that were marketed to blacks.[ii]

The first recording of "Open the Door, Richard" by Jack McVea was recorded on this label. Lena Horne recorded for this label in 1946 and 1947. Although they were novices in the business and were not specializing in rhythm and blues (R&B), they made a significant contribution, largely through the efforts of Bass, who recorded Roosevelt Sykes and T-Bone Walker.[8]

In March 1949, Newton left B&W as sales manager to become general manager of Peak Records. Moses Asch replaced him as sales manager at B&W.[iii] Around that same time in 1949, Newton, while operating Derby, started Central Records with Lee Magid, and Treat Records in New York City; worked with Impulse! Records, became president of ABC-Paramount Records in 1965, and ran Crossover Records (founded in 1973 by Ray Charles).


On October 8, 1949, after shutting down B&W Records, Paul Reiner offered several hundred masters for sale, some released, some not. He appointed Al Katz (Katzenberger) to negotiate sales on his behalf. The sale was offered in units, ordered by artists. Katz gave first right of refusal to the artists.[iv]

Reiner had sold the masters from sessions by Art Tatum, Cyril Nathaniel Haynes, and Red Norvo/Charlie Parker to Ross Russell, the owner of Dial Records. The deal was closed via telephone on June 21, 1949.[9]

Capitol Records bought the Black & White masters of T-Bone Walker in 1949 and gave the titles new matrix numbers. Capitol then issued 16 tracks on 8 individual 78rpm shellac disks (10 previously unreleased masters and 6 reissued masters) in 1949 through 1950. Capitol also put out a 10" LP onsisting of 8 of these 16 tracks in 1953, titled T-Bone Walker: Classics in Jazz (Capitol H-370).

Black & White was one of the first companies to issue 12-inch 78 rpm discs in unbreakable material.[10]

Cover version controversy[edit]

In 1948, Supreme Records recorded in Los Angeles and released "A Little Bird Told Me," written by Harvey Oliver Brooks (1899–1968), sung by Paula Watson (1927–2003), who is African American, accompanied by guitarist Mitchell "Tiny" Webb, and others. Her version spent 14 weeks on Billboard's R&B charts in 1948 and 1949, reaching number 2 on the R&B charts and number 6 on the pop charts.[11] In 1948, Decca released a cover version, sung by Evelyn Knight (1917–2007), who was white. Knight copied Watson's singing[citation needed] to the degree that it fooled musical experts brought into court as witnesses. Knight was accompanied by a band that included Walter Page on bass, the Stardusters (vocal group), and Johnny Parker (vocal and hand-clapping). Supreme claimed that Decca had stolen aspects of its original recording, including its arrangement, texture, and vocal style.[citation needed] Race was not an issue in the case, but the case served as an example of white performers covering the work of black artists in the 1950s.[citation needed]

The court ruled in favor of the defense, upholding a ruling that musical arrangements are not copyrightable property – individual interpretations or arrangements of a given style could not be protested under the law.[12] This case opened the door for cover versions. In the 1950 ruling Supreme Records, Incorporated, a small label owned by Al Patrick (Albert T. Patrick; 1910–1973), who was African American,[13] lost the case in United States District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division, against Decca Records, Inc., a large record label.

Black & White Record Distributors, Inc. had been one of the two original plaintiffs but withdrew on a motion by the defendant, leaving Supreme as the sole plaintiff.[14][15] Black & White participated in the case because it had been the manufacturer and distributor of Supreme's line.

Separately from the "Little Bird" case, Supreme had sued Black & White, contending that B&W had no right to turn over its line to two Canadian firms, Monogram and Dominion, who had been pressing and distributing in Canada. On April 2, 1949, Supreme & B&W settled their dispute out of court.[v]

Supreme was soon out of business, and by December 1949, Paula Watson was working for Decca.[16]

Black & White Records had a publishing subsidiary, Paul Reiner Publishing Company.[vi]


  • Ralph Bass (1911–1997), producer
  • Bruce Altman, formerly of American Recording Artists (A.R.A.) Records
  • John Blackburn
  • Mack (aka Mac or Max) Green (né Mordecai Green; 1901–1979), manager (replaced John Blackburn, February 1949)[vi]

Artist roster[edit]

Hip Chicks (all female band)

... plus special guest:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Les Schriber's full name was Lester Wilmot Wilbert Schriber, Sr.
  2. ^ Born Eugene Charles Schroeder, 5 Feb 1915 Madison, Wisconsin; died 16 Feb 1975 Madison, Wisconsin


  • "Open the Door, Richard" (lyrics)
  • "Open the Door, Richard" (notes to Jack McVea arrangement)
  • "The Black and White Label," by Bert Whyatt (né Bertram James Whyatt; 1920–2013), The Discophile (Harlow, Essex), No. 7, August 1949, pg. 10; OCLC 3820794, 6310010, 13089046, OCLC 220980740
    Note: Discophile was absorbed January 1959 by Matrix (OCLC 47931553), a jazz record research newsletter that ran until 1975
  • "Small Label Gems of the Forties" (liner notes), by Dieter Salemann, Vol. 2, Solid Sender, Germany SOL513 (1980)

Inline citations

  1. ^ a b Rye, Howard (2002). Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, vol. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 225. ISBN 1561592846.
  2. ^ "Black & White Records Numerical Listings," Online Discographical Project, research by Peter A. Grendysa (Caledonia, Wisconsin; born 1964), edited by Tyrone L. Settlemier (born 1970), Albany, Oregon (updated thru 9 February 2014), Steven Abrams (publisher & managing editor) (retrieved June 7, 2016)
  3. ^ "The Black & White Label," by Peter A. Grendysa, Blues & Rhythm; ISSN 1360-8657
        No. 130, January 1998, pps. 4–8
  4. ^ "Black & White Updates," Peter A. Grendysa, Richard Johnson, Guido von Rijn, Ray Astbury, Bob McGrath, Blues & Rhythm; ISSN 1360-8657
        No. 132, September 1998, pg. 15
        No. 133, October 1998, pg. 9
  5. ^ American Big Bands, by William Franklin Lee III, PhD (1929–2011), Hal Leonard Corporation (2005), pg. 307; OCLC 62090862; ISBN 978-0-634-08054-8
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of the Blues (article is in Vol. 1 of 2), Edward M. Komara (born 1966) (ed.), Routledge (2006), pg. 84; OCLC 60590117; ISBN 978-0-415-92699-7
  7. ^ Knocking on Heaven's Door: Rock Obituaries, by Nick Talevski, Omnibus Press (2006), pg. 22; OCLC 64555765, 475289448; ISBN 978-1-84609-091-2
  8. ^ Honkers and Shouters, by Arnold Shaw, Macmillan (1978), pps. 226–228; OCLC 3516614; ISBN 0-02-061740-2
  9. ^ The Dial Recordings of Charlie Parker: A Discography, by Edward M. Komara (born 1966), Greenwood Press (1998), pg. 62; OCLC 528877878; ISBN 0-313-29168-3
  10. ^ "Black & White," by Howard Rye, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (article is in Vol. 1 of 3; 2nd ed.), Barry Dean Kernfeld, PhD (ed.), Grove (2002); OCLC 48420867; ISBN 9781561592845
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel C. (born 1939) (1973). Top Pop Singles 1940–1955. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. pp. 47 (Watson), 31 (Knight), 10 (Barker), 47 (Wayne). Retrieved May 18, 2021 – via Internet Archive. LCCN 89-656133, OCLC 65989072 (all editions).
  12. ^ Dusty, Queen of the Postmods, by Annie Janeiro Randall, PdD, Oxford University Press (2009) OCLC 308582637; ISBN 978-0-19-971630-2
  13. ^ I Don't Sound Like Nobody: Remaking Music in 1950s America, by Albin J. Zak III, University of Michigan Press (2010), pg. 143; OCLC 770500176; ISBN 978-0-472-11637-9
  14. ^ Supreme Records & Black & White Record Distributors vs. Decca Records (1950) Archived 2012-07-07 at
  15. ^ "Paula Watson: 1948–1953" (review), by Arwulf Arwulf (né Theodore Grenier; born 1957), AllMusic (Rovi Corporation)
  16. ^ Rod Cless Quartet
    Black & White Records
    Recorded September 1, 1944, New York City
    Sterling Bose (trumpet); Rod Cless (clarinet); James P. Johnson (piano); Pops Foster (bass)
    BW 29 A
    Side A – BW 33
    "Froggy Moore"
    Jelly Roll Morton (w&m)
    Benjamin Franklin Spikes (w&m)
    John Spikes (w&m)
    OCLC 29865177
    (audio on YouTube)
  17. ^ Rod Cless Quartet
    Black & White Records
    Recorded September 1, 1944, New York City
    BW 29 B
    Side B – BW 36
    "Have You Ever Felt That Way?"
    Agnes Castleton (w&m)
    Spencer Walter Williams (w&m)
    (Castleton was married to Williams)
    OCLC 658434095
    (audio on YouTube)

Citations from Billboard magazine

External links[edit]