Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Bell Records

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Arthur Shimkin


New York City



Country of origin

Date founded

Parent company
Columbia Pictures Industries

David Cassidy, Bay City Rollers, Gary Glitter, The 5th Dimension, Barry Manilow

The Partridge Family Al, Rollin', Love's Lines - Angles a, Tie A Yellow Ribbon, Portrait

Aina kaulana by bill aliloa lincoln hawaiian music on bell records label c 1946 1950

Bell Records was an American record label founded in 1952 in New York City by Arthur Shimkin, the owner of the children's record label Golden Records, and initially a unit of Pocket Books, after the rights to the name were acquired from Benny Bell who used the Bell name to issue risque novelty records. A British branch was also active in the 1960s and 1970s. Bell Records was reorganized in November 1974, which was the birth of Arista Records.


Bay city rollers summerlove sensation 45 rpm bell records usa release


At its inception in 1952, Bell specialized in budget generic pop music, with the slogan "music for the millions". Originally sold on seven-inch 78rpm and 45rpm records for 39 cents (US), this style of music went out of fashion as rock and roll became more prevalent. Sound-alike cover versions of hit records were also issued on 78rpm as well as 45rpm disks priced at 49 cents.

One of these records was by "Tom & Jerry" who would later become known using their real surnames, Simon & Garfunkel.

Instead of being pressed into vinyl like a normal 7-inch disc, these records were injection molded using polystyrene, which either had glued-on labels or the label information was printed directly on the polystyrene, rendering many copies almost unreadable years later. Most (but not all) Bell and associated label 45rpm records were similarly injection-molded all the way into the 1970s.

As Al Massler, the head of record manufacturer Bestway Products, had become head of Bell Records in 1959, Mala Records was then formed as a Bell subsidiary label, specializing in rock and roll along with rhythm and blues.


In 1960, Amy Records was formed as another subsidiary label, focusing on what became known as northern soul and/or blue-eyed soul acts. The following year, Larry Uttal folded his Madison Records label into Bell after purchasing the label, along with its Amy and Mala subsidiary labels. Concentrating his efforts on the Amy and Mala labels, Uttal rendered the Bell parent label dormant until 1964, when the label was revived, featuring a logo utilizing a stylized "BELL" word mark shaped like a bell.

In 1966, the Bell label was expanded internationally and the company decided to issue all their albums, even for Amy and Mala acts, on the Bell label, and went on to issue several hit singles, including: "Little Girl" by Syndicate of Sound (#5 CB/#8 BB), "I'm Your Puppet" by James and Bobby Purify in 1966, "The Letter" by the Box Tops (the single on Mala, the album on Bell) in 1967, "Angel of the Morning" by Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts in 1968, and "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" by Crazy Elephant in 1969.

In March 1969, Columbia Pictures Industries (CPI) purchased Bell for $3.5 million (mainly in CPI stock), retaining Larry Uttal as label president. Later that year, the Mala, Amy, and Bell labels were merged into a single unit, keeping the Bell moniker. By mid-1971, the assets of the Columbia Pictures owned, but RCA Records distributed, Colgems Records were integrated into the label. Uttal was instrumental in signing many soon-to-be-famous acts such as the Partridge Family, David Cassidy, Ricky Segall, the 5th Dimension and Tony Orlando & Dawn, as well as adopting a new "thick-stripe" logo.


By 1970, the Bell label was more successful with pop music singles, and less successful with more lucrative pop LPs. After a year of declining revenues, Uttal resigned from Bell at the end May 1974 to begin his own label, Private Stock, financed and distributed by EMI. Uttal was replaced a week later by Clive Davis who was hired as a record and music consultant by Columbia Pictures and later became temporary president of Bell. Davis's real goal was to reorganize and revitalize Columbia Pictures's music division. With a $10 million investment by CPI, and a reorganization of the various Columbia Pictures legacy labels (Colpix, Colgems, and Bell), Davis introduced Columbia Pictures's new record division, Arista, in November 1974 with Davis himself owning 20% of the new venture.

Bell had its final #1 hit in January 1975 with Barry Manilow's "Mandy" (Bell 45,613), followed shortly by the label's final hit, as well as its final single, "Look in My Eyes Pretty Woman" by Tony Orlando and Dawn (Bell 45,620—US #11) after which the more successful Bell albums were reissued on Arista. The very last releases utilizing the Bell imprint have the designation "Bell Records, Distributed by Arista Records, 1776 Broadway, New York, New York 10019" around the rim of the label.

Bell Records UK

The British branch was established in 1967. Previous British releases of Bell recordings were issued on EMI's Stateside Records. Bell/Amy/Mala's association with EMI dates back to 1964. Bell Records in London was headed by Dick Leahy and distributed by EMI. (In other countries, apart from the United States, Polydor handled distribution which later picked up British distribution.) Artists signed to them included the Bay City Rollers, Gary Glitter, Showaddywaddy, the Glitter Band, and American acts Reparata and the Delrons and the Partridge Family with David Cassidy. Other artists on the label included Barry Blue, Barry Manilow, Terry Jacks, Hello, The Piglets, the Pearls and Harley Quinne, the Drifters and the UK releases of the Box Tops.

Bell UK initially kept its identity when the American label was reorganized into Arista in 1974, but a year later, although releases continued on the UK Bell label until 1976, the UK label adopted the Arista name in 1975. Showaddywaddy released the last Bell single, "Under the Moon of Love", which reached No.1 in December 1976 before Arista UK briefly revived the label in 1981. The Bell logo has made occasional appearances on the jackets and labels of Arista UK releases.

Current ownership

The former catalog of Bell Records and its related labels is now owned by Sony Music Entertainment (now a sister company of Columbia Pictures) and managed by Legacy Recordings.

Reissue labels

Bell also had three oldies reissue labels in its history:

  • Flashback Records: Started in 1964 and continued after the Bell/Arista transformation
  • Sphere Sound Records (1965–1970): Released reissue singles as well as albums with previously issued and unreleased tracks
  • Bell Gold Records (1972): Short-lived label consisting of hits from artists the 5th Dimension and Al Wilson, both of whom were on Soul City which was sold to Bell
  • Bell Records artists (1960s)

    The following artists have had at least one recording released on the Bell Records label or one of its subsidiaries.

    (In alphabetical order)


    Bell Records Wikipedia

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