Label Retrospective: Sinatra forms Reprise Records on this day in 1960

Friday, February 3, 2017
Label Retrospective: Sinatra forms Reprise Records on this day in 1960

57 years ago today, the man often referred to as “The Chairman of the Board” actually became a chairman of the board when he founded his own label: Reprise Records.

By 1960, Frank Sinatra had done his time working for the man – and by “the man,” of course, we mean Capitol/EMI – and had a high-enough profile that he was in a position to make a bold move with his musical career. First, he tried to buy Verve Records, but when that deal failed to come to fruition, he opted to form his own label. There were a few years at the beginning when Sinatra had to do double duty between Reprise and Capitol to fulfill his contractual obligations to his former label, but by 1962 he was free and clear to release his latest material on Reprise 100% of the time.

In the beginning, Reprise was predominantly dedicated to Sinatra’s own music, plus some swingin’ tunes from some of his friends, including Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin, as well as his daughter, Nancy. One ne of the label’s major principles carried over to WB as well: the idea that the artists would have creative freedom and, eventually, complete ownership of their work, including the publishing rights. Pretty sweet deal, no?

In 1963, Sinatra sold 2/3 of Reprise to Warner Brothers. Was it a financial decision? That seems to be the general consensus. The president of the label carried over with the new co-owners, though, and anyone who knows their music industry history knows how important Mo Ostin was to transforming Reprise from a struggling label into a force to be reckoned with.

To celebrate Reprise’s anniversary, we’ve put together a playlist featuring some of the artists who were part of the label during its earliest years. You may not know all that many of them, but they were there at the beginning, so it’s only fair that they’re part of the celebration.