|Parent company Concord Bicycle Music|
Parent organization Concord Bicycle Music
|Founder Max Weiss
Country of origin U.S.
|Distributor(s) Concord Records
(in the U.S.)
Universal Music Group|
Location San Francisco, California
Artists Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Doug Clifford, Stu Cook
Albums Revival, Cosmo's Factory, Bayou Country, Willy and the Poor Boys, Pendulum
Fantasy Records is an American record company and label founded by brothers Max and Sol Weiss in 1949. The early years of the company were dedicated to issuing recordings by jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, who was also one of its investors, but the label is known more for its recordings of comedian Lenny Bruce and the rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival.
In 1949, Jack Sheedy, the owner of a San Francisco-based record label called Coronet, was talked into making the first recording of an octet and a trio featuring Dave Brubeck (This Coronet Records should not be confused with either the Australian Coronet Records or the Coronet Records of the late 1950s that was based in New York City). Sheedy's Coronet Records had recorded area Dixieland bands. But he was unable to pay his bills, and in 1949 he turned his masters over to a pressing company, the Circle Record Company, which was owned by Max and Sol Weiss. The Weiss brothers changed the name of their business to Fantasy Records and met an increasing demand for Brubeck's music by recording and issuing new records. Soon the company was shipping 40,000 to 50,000 copies of Brubeck records per quarter.
When Brubeck signed with Fantasy, he thought he had 50 percent interest in the company. He worked as an unofficial artists and repertoire (A&R) assistant, encouraging the Weiss brothers to sign jazz performers such as Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and Red Norvo. When he discovered that all he owned was 50 percent in his own recordings, he signed to Columbia Records.
In 1955, Saul Zaentz joined the company. Jazz musician Charles Mingus gave Debut Records to Zaentz as a wedding gift; at the time, Zaentz was marrying Mingus's ex-wife, Celia, who had helped found Debut with Mingus and musician Max Roach. Zaentz became president in 1967. He and a group of investors bought Fantasy from the Weiss brothers. He then acquired Prestige Records (1971), Riverside (1972), and Milestone (1973).
Ralph Kaffel, who was vice president of Fantasy since 1971, became president in 1973. He continued the policy of acquisitions: Stax Records (1977), Good Time Jazz (1984), Contemporary (1984), Pablo (1986), Specialty (1991), Kicking Mule (1995), and Takoma (1995).
Fantasy's first subsidiary was Galaxy Records in 1951. Years later, it started the short-lived subsidiary, Scorpio, that tried to capitalize on the British Invasion. Still later, it had a subsidiary named Reality Records which concentrated on hip hop and released the first two albums by Doug E. Fresh.
The House That Creedence Built
Saul Zaentz's acquisitions had been funded in part by the success of the rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival, a group that he had managed. Creedence had been signed to Fantasy Records in 1964 as the Blue Velvets, but the label renamed it the Golliwogs so it would fit in with the bands of the British Invasion. After a series of failed releases under that name on the Fantasy and Scorpio labels, the group changed its name to Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1968, it released its first hit record, a cover version of the song "Susie Q".
In 1971 Fantasy built its headquarters at the corner of Tenth and Parker in Berkeley, California. The building was nicknamed "The House That Creedence Built".
In 2004, Fantasy was sold to a consortium led by American television writer, producer, and activist Norman Lear and merged with Concord Records to create Concord Music Group. Although some operations are still located in Berkeley, the label is now headquartered at the Concord location in Beverly Hills, California.
Shortly after Fantasy was purchased by Concord, John Fogerty, the lead singer and songwriter of Creedence Clearwater Revival, re-signed with the label after leaving it in the mid-1970s after a falling out with Zaentz, who died in 2014.