Prior to the rise of the recording industry in America, the cost of phonographs prevented most African Americans from listening to recorded music. At the turn of the 20th century, the cost of listening to music dropped and most Americans were able to buy records. The main purpose of the records was to stimulate the sale of phonographs, which were most often sold in furniture stores. The shops that white and black people went to were different due to segregation and the music available to whites and blacks varied. Vocalion (pronounced "vo-CAL-yun") was founded in 1916 by a piano and phonograph company. The name comes from one of the divisions – “Vocalion Organ Company”. The label shows vertically engraved discs, first single-sided, then double-sided. The beginning of the 20s was the time of the so-called "racing – race records"*, that is, recordings of African American music for African Americans. During the 1920s, the Vocalion record label debuted in a series of "1000" races recorded by black musicians.
Since 1924, Vocalion had become the black music division of Brunswick, releasing records that were fully consistent with the theme and manner of performance. The demand across the country was huge. Brunswick and Vocalion as its core business made a breakthrough. They released records that were in high demand among black Americans, thus preserving for us the great jazz of various directions of the 1920s.
In April 1930, Warner Bros bought Brunswick, placing all Vocalion production under license from the American Recording Corporation (ARC). Vocalion became the flagship label for 35-cent records.
In 1936-1937, Vocalion recordings grew significantly in popularity. They made rare recordings of black musicians, masters of jazz and blues, available to all that were interested (as part of its out-of-town blues, gospel, and jazz bands recording campaign. Vocalion became the go-to record label for smaller blues, swing, and country bands). At the same time, the company began to release recordings of the famous orchestras (Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington).
By early 1939, the entire ARC was bought by CBS, and Vocalion became a subsidiary of Columbia Records. The popular brand name was not used since 1940. The Vocalion name was revived by the American company Decca as a trademark for the re-release of back catalogs of American artists.
In 1997, the Vocalion record label appeared on a series of CDs released by Michael Dutton in the UK. This brand is now used for to restore and preserve recordings made between the 1920s and 1970s.
*Race records, sound recordings of the early 20th century that were made exclusively by and for African Americans. The term was used especially from the 1920s to the 1940s to indicate the audience for whom the recordings were intended.