Beautiful engraved RARE specimen certificate from the Decca Records Inc
. This historic document was printed by Hamilton Bank Note Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of an allegorical man and woman next to the company logo. This item has the printed signatures of the Company's President, Milton R. Rackmil and Secretary.
In 1934, Mr. Rackmil and two partners founded Decca in New York. In 1952. Decca was the controlling stockholder of Universal Pictures, and Decca president Milton R. Rackmil became president of Universal.
The name "Decca" dates back to a portable gramophone called the "Decca Dulcephone" patented in 1914 by musical instrument makers Barnett Samuel and Sons. That company was eventually renamed The Decca Gramophone Co. Ltd. and then sold to former stockbroker Edward Lewis in 1929. Within years Decca Records Ltd. was the second largest record label in the world, calling itself "The Supreme Record Company". The name "Decca" was coined by Wilfred S. Samuel by merging the word "Mecca" with the initial D of their logo "Dulcet" or their trademark "Dulcephone."
US Decca label from 1934 featuring the band of trumpet star Henry Busse.For a list of artists using the Decca records label see List of Artists under the Decca Records label.
Decca bought out the bankrupt UK branch of Brunswick Records in 1932, which added such stars as Bing Crosby and Al Jolson to its roster. Decca also bought out the Melotone and Edison Bell record companies. By 1939, Decca was the only record company in UK aside from EMI.
In 1934, a US branch of Decca was launched, which quickly became a major player in the depressed American record market thanks to its roster of popular artists, particularly Bing Crosby, and the shrewd management of former US Brunswick General Manager Jack Kapp. The following year, the pressing and Canadian distribution of US Decca records was licensed to Compo Company Ltd. in Lachine, Quebec, a breakaway and rival of Berliner Gram-o-phone Co. of Montreal, Quebec. (Compo was acquired by Decca in 1951 although its Compo and Apex labels continued in production for the next two decades.)
Artists signed to Decca in the 1930s and 1940s included Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, the Andrews Sisters, Whoopee John Wilfahrt, Ted Lewis, Judy Garland, The Mills Brothers, Billy Cotton, Guy Lombardo, Chick Webb, Bob Crosby, Jimmy Dorsey, Connee Boswell and Jack Hylton.
In 1942, Decca released the first recording of "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby. He recorded another version of the song in 1947 for Decca, which became the best-selling single ever at that time (and remained so until 1997).
In 1943, Decca ushered in the age of the original cast album in the United States, when they released an album set of nearly all the songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, performed by the same cast who appeared in the show on Broadway, and using the show's orchestra, conductor, chorus, and musical and vocal arrangements. The enormous success of this album was followed by original cast recordings of Carousel and Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, both featuring members of the original casts of the shows and utilizing those shows' vocal and choral arrangements. Unfortunately, because of the limitations of recordings at that time, none of these scores were recorded totally complete, and the first Broadway cast albums, because of the time limitations on 78 RPM records, were even shorter than cast albums made after LPs were introduced. But, by using this method of recording Broadway musicals, Decca made history, and influenced the recording of show music in the United States down to this day (original cast albums had been a fixture in England for years, but had never been tried in the U.S.). Columbia Records began issuing original cast albums in 1946 with their album of the 1946 revival of Show Boat with that revival's cast, and RCA Victor followed in 1947 with their original cast album of Brigadoon. By the 1950s, many recording companies that made Broadway show albums was recording them with their original casts.
In 1954, American Decca released "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets. Produced by Milt Gabler, the recording was initially only moderately successful, but when it was used as the theme song for the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle, it became the first international rock and roll hit, and the first such recording to go to No. 1 on the American musical charts. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it went on to sell 25 million copies, returning to the US and UK charts several times between 1955 and 1974.
From the late 1940s on, the US arm of Decca had a sizable roster of Country artists, including Kitty Wells, Johnny Wright, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, The Wilburn Brothers - Teddy & Doyle, Bobbejaan Schoepen, and Red Foley. In the late 1950s, Patsy Cline was signed to the US Decca label from 4 Star Records. As part of a leasing deal, Patsy’s contract was owned by 4 Star; though she recorded for Decca as part of this deal, she recorded an album but saw little money. In 1960, she signed with Decca outright and released two more albums and numerous singles while she was alive and several more albums and singles produced after her untimely death in a 1963 plane crash. The Wilburn Brothers - Teddy & Doyle were ultimately signed to a lifetime contract with Decca. Doyle Wilburn of the Wilburn Brothers obtained a recording contract for Loretta Lynn who signed to Decca in the early 1960s and remained with the label for the next several decades. Owen Bradley was the A&R man for all of these artists. Decca was also the first record label for which Gary Glitter recorded, under the name Paul Raven.
The American RCA label severed its longtime affiliation with EMI's His Master's Voice (HMV) label in 1957, which allowed British Decca to market and distribute Elvis Presley's recordings in the UK on the RCA and RCA Victor labels
British Decca had several missed opportunities. In 1960, they refused to release "Tell Laura I Love Her" by Ray Peterson and even destroyed thousands of copies of the single. A cover version by Ricky Valance was released by EMI on the Columbia label, and it went to #1 on the British charts for three weeks. In 1962, British Decca executive Dick Rowe turned down a chance to record The Beatles in favour of local beat combo Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. Dick Rowe, head of the pop division, said of the Beatles, “We don’t like their sound, and ‘guitar music’ is on the way out” (see The Decca audition). In retrospect this was a historic mistake. Later refusals of note include The Yardbirds and Manfred Mann. However they earlier accepted another Merseyside singer, Billy Fury.
Ironically, the turning down of The Beatles led indirectly to the signing of one of Decca's biggest 1960s artists, The Rolling Stones. Dick Rowe was judging a talent contest with George Harrison, and Harrison mentioned to him that he should take a look at The Stones, whom he had just seen live for the first time a couple of weeks before. Rowe saw the Stones, and quickly signed them to a contract.
British Decca lost a key source for American records when Atlantic Records switched British distribution to Polydor Records in 1966 in order for Atlantic to gain access to British recording artists which they didn't have under Decca distribution.
The 1970s were disastrous for Decca. The Rolling Stones left the label in 1970, and other artists followed. Decca's deals with numerous other record labels began to fall apart; RCA, for instance, abandoned Decca to set up its own UK office in 1971. The Moody Blues were the only international rock act that remained on the label. Although Decca had set up the first of the British "progressive" labels, Deram Records, in 1966, by the time the punk era set in 1977, Decca had become known primarily as a classical label which had only sporadic pop success with such acts as John Miles, novelty creation Father Abraham and the Smurfs, and productions by longtime Decca associate Jonathan King. Decca sadly became a label of last resort, dependent on re-release of its back catalogue. Contemporary signings such as the pre-stardom Adam Ant and Slaughter & The Dogs were firmly second division and second rate when compared to likes of PolyGram, CBS, EMI, and newcomer Virgin's rosters of hitmakers.
In classical music, Decca had a long way to go from its modest beginnings to catching up with the established HMV and Columbia labels (later merged as EMI). Decca’s emergence as a major classical label may be attributed to three concurrent events: the emphasis on technical innovation (first the development of the FFRR technique, then the early use of stereophonic recording), the introduction of the long-playing record, and the recruitment of John Culshaw to Decca’s London office.
FFRR (full frequency range recording) was a spin-off of Decca’s development during the Second World War of a high fidelity hydrophone capable of detecting and cataloging individual German submarines by each one's signature engine noise, and enabled a greatly enhanced frequency range (high and low notes) to be captured on recordings. Critics regularly commented on the startling realism of the new Decca recordings. The dynamic range of FFRR was 80-15000 Hz, with a signal-to-noise ratio of 60dB.
The Decca recording engineers Arthur Haddy and Kenneth Wilkinson developed in 1954 the famous Decca tree, a stereo main microphone recording system for big orchestras. Decca started recording in stereo in May 1955, the first European record company to do so (RCA had turned to stereo in 1954). With most competitors not using stereo until 1957, the new technique was a distinctive feature of Decca's. Even after stereo became standard and into the 1970s, Decca boasted a special, spectacular sound quality.
Starting in the late 1970s, Decca developed their own digital audio recorders used in-house for recording, mixing, editing, and mastering albums. Each recorder consisted of a modified IVC model 826P open-reel 1-inch VTR, connected to a custom "codec" unit with time code capability (using a proprietary time code developed by Decca), as well as outboard DAC and ADC units connected to the codec unit. The codec recorded audio to tape in 16 bits (although later versions of the system used 20 bits). With the exception of the IVC VTRs (which were modified to Decca's specifications by IVC's UK division in Reading), all the electronics for these systems were developed and manufactured in-house by Decca (and contractors to them). These digital systems were used for mastering most of Decca's classical music releases to both LP and CD, and were used well into the late 1990s.
The Long-Playing record was launched in the USA by Columbia Records (not connected with the British company of the same name at the time). It enabled recordings to play for up to half an hour without a break, compared with the three minutes playing time of the existing records. The new records were made of vinyl (the old discs were made of shellac), which enabled the FFRR recordings to be transferred to disc very realistically. In the UK Decca took up the LP promptly and enthusiastically, giving the company an enormous advantage over EMI, which for some years tried to stick exclusively to the old format, thereby forfeiting competitive advantage to Decca, both artistically and financally.
Decca Special Products developed a number of ground-breaking products for the audio marketplace. These included:
The Decca Ribbon Tweeter
A series of Decca London phonograph cartridges
The Decca International tone arm
The Decca Record Brush
The Decca phono cartridges were a unique design, with fixed magnets and coils. The stylus shaft was composed of the diamond tip, a short piece of soft iron, and an L-shaped cantilever made of non-magnetic steel. Since the iron was placed very close to the tip (within 1 mm), the motions of the tip could be tracked very accurately. Decca engineers called this "positive scanning". Vertical and lateral compliance was controlled by the shape and thickness of the cantilever. Decca cartidges had a reputation for being very musical; however early versions required more tracking force than competitive designs - making record wear a concern.
The Decca International tone arms were fluid-damped unipivot designs. They were designed to complement the Decca phono cartridges.
Decca Special Products was spun off, and is now known as London Decca.
John Culshaw, who joined Decca in 1946 in a junior post, rapidly became a senior producer of classical recordings. He revolutionised recording – of opera, in particular. Hitherto, the practice had been to put microphones in front of the performers and simply record what they performed. Culshaw was determined to make recordings that would be ‘a theatre of the mind’, making the listener’s experience at home not second best to being in the opera house, but a wholly different experience. To that end he got the singers to move about in the studio as they would onstage, used discreet sound effects and different acoustics, and recorded in long continuous takes. His skill, coupled with the incomparable Decca engineering, took Decca into the first flight of recording companies. His pioneering recording (begun in 1958) of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by Georg Solti was a huge artistic and commercial success (to the chagrin of other companies). In the wake of Decca’s lead, artists such as Herbert von Karajan, Joan Sutherland and later Luciano Pavarotti were keen to join the company’s roster.
In the 1970s, after Culshaw had left the company, the classical division began to lose its way, rather as the popular music side of the company did at the same time. By the start of the present century, Decca was making comparatively few major classical recordings, and its roster of stars was much diminished, with Cecilia Bartoli being perhaps the best-known. Its back catalogue, however, remains one of the glories of classical music. The Solti Ring was voted best recording of all time by readers of the influential magazine The Gramophone.
PolyGram acquired the remains of Decca UK within days of Sir Edward Lewis's death in January 1980.
This was similar to the first MCA Records logo introduced in the United Kingdom in 1968.The American branch of Decca functioned separately for many years as it was sold off during World War II; it bought Universal Pictures in 1952, and eventually merged with MCA in 1962, becoming a subsidiary company under MCA. Because MCA held the rights to the name Decca in the US and Canada, British Decca sold its records in the United States and Canada under the label London Records. In Britain, London Records became a mighty catch-all licensing label for foreign recordings from the nascent post-WW II American independent and semi-major labels such as Cadence, ABC-Paramount, Atlantic, Imperial and Liberty. Conversely, British Decca retained a non-reciprocal right to license and issue American Decca recordings in the UK on their Brunswick Records (US Decca recordings) and Coral Records (US Brunswick and Coral recordings)labels; this arrangement continued through 1968 when a UK branch of MCA was established utilizing the MCA Records imprint, with distribution fluctuating between British Decca and other English companies over time.
The Decca name was dropped by MCA in America in 1973 in favor of the MCA Records label. The first-run American Decca label went out with a big bang with its final release, "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray in 1973 (label #33057), reaching #5 on the Billboard chart and receiving gold record status. The Decca label is currently in use by Universal Music Group worldwide; this is possible because Universal Studios (which officially dropped the MCA name after the Seagram buyout in 1997) acquired PolyGram, British Decca's parent company in 1998, thus consolidating Decca trademark ownership.
Today, Decca is a leading label for both classical music and Broadway scores; its most recent hit was Wicked (2003), which reached #140 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. It is also the parent label of Point Music, a progressive music label. Ironically, the American Decca classical music catalogue is managed by co-owned Deutsche Grammophon. They include the recordings of guitarist Andres Segovia. Before Deutsche Grammophon founded its own American branch in 1969, it had a distribution deal with American Decca.
History from Wikipedia and OldCompanyResearch.com.
Specimen Certificates are actual certificates that have never been issued. They were usually kept by the printers in their permanent archives as their only example of a particular certificate. Sometimes you will see a hand stamp on the certificate that says "Do not remove from file".
Specimens were also used to show prospective clients different types of certificate designs that were available. Specimen certificates are usually much scarcer than issued certificates. In fact, many times they are the only way to get a certificate for a particular company because the issued certificates were redeemed and destroyed. In a few instances, Specimen certificates we made for a company but were never used because a different design was chosen by the company.
These certificates are normally stamped "Specimen" or they have small holes spelling the word specimen. Most of the time they don't have a serial number, or they have a serial number of 00000. This is an exciting sector of the hobby that grown in popularity over the past several years.