The Pye Company originally manufactured televisions and radios. Its main plant was situated off what used to be Haig Road, in Cambridge, and it entered the record business when it bought Nixa Records in 1953. In 1955, the company acquired Polygon Records, a label that had been established by Petula Clark's father and Alan A. Freeman to control distribution of her recordings, and merged it with Nixa Records to form Pye Nixa Records.
In 1958, Pye International Records was established. The company licensed recordings from American and other foreign labels for the UK market, including Chess, A&M, Kama Sutra, Colpix, Warner Bros., Buddah, Cameo, 20th Century, and King. It also released recordings from British artist Labi Siffre which were produced outside the company.
In 1959, Pye Nixa became Pye Records and ATV acquired 50% of the label. ATV bought the other half of the business in 1966. The company entered the budget-priced album market in 1957, reissuing older Pye material on Pye Golden Guinea Records, priced at a guinea (one pound and one shilling). This was closed in the seventies and eventually replaced by Marble Arch Records, selling at an even lower price. Pye also offered a series of "4D" quadraphonic albums, using the Sansui QS matrix system.
Another, full-price, subsidiary, Piccadilly Records, was for new pop acts, including Joe Brown & the Bruvvers, Clinton Ford, the Rockin' Berries, Sounds Orchestral, Al Saxon, the Sorrows, Jackie Trent and, later on, the Ivy League. In 1969, Pye launched a less mainstream label for folk, jazz, blues and progressive acts, Dawn Records, the most successful Dawn act being Mungo Jerry.
When the rights to the name Pye (currently owned by Philips) expired in 1980, the label changed its name to PRT, which stood for Precision Records and Tapes, via a brief flirtation with Precision. At that time, it had sub-labels such as Fanfare Records, a late 1980s and early 1990s UK-based Hi-NRG label issuing records by Sinitta; R&B Records, an 1980s disco/electro label featuring Imagination; and Splash Records, which featured Jigsaw and the Richard Hewson Orchestra/RAH Band. Postman Pat songs and music from the television series were recorded at PRT Studios. PRT's parent company ACC was purchased by the Bell Group of Australia in 1982. In 1988 the Bell Group was purchased by the Bond Corporation. However, the Bond Corporation was suffering financial problems itself and proceeded to quickly sell of most of its assets. PRT's record and cassette factory was sold to another record manufacturer, Meekland. The masters of PRT's catalogue were sold to Castle Communications. Precision Records & Tapes Ltd; formerly Pye Records Ltd; was officially liquidated in December 2013.
In July 2006, Pye Records was reactivated by Sanctuary Records as an indie and alternative label, featuring artists such as Scottish alternative rock group Idlewild. However, plans for continued usage of the Pye name were abandoned when Universal Music Group bought Sanctuary in 2007.
Pye Records was a sister company to the better known ATV Music Publishing. This company, which owned Beatles publisher Northern Songs, was bought by Michael Jackson in 1985 and later merged with Sony to form Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
Starting with the "British Invasion" of 1964, Pye placed their artists in the US mostly on labels that they distributed in the UK: the Kinks to Cameo Records and then to Reprise Records, David Bowie, the Sorrows and Petula Clark to Warner Bros. Records, Donovan to Hickory Records, the Searchers to Mercury Records, Liberty Records, and finally Kapp Records, and Status Quo to Chess Records (which issued their records on their newly created Cadet Concept Records label).
From 1969 to 1971, Pye was a co-owner with GRT (General Recorded Tape) of Janus Records, which at the outset served as the US label for such Pye acts as Jefferson, Sounds Orchestral, Pickettywitch, Mungo Jerry and Status Quo, and also re-issued the early (pre-1966) recordings of Donovan. Pye sold its share of Janus back to GRT in 1971.
In 1972, Bell Records set up a short-lived Pye label, featuring Michel Pagliaro, a Canadian artist whose first English-language album was issued on UK Pye (largely recorded in England), and Jackie McAuley, whose lone solo album was originally issued on UK Dawn.
In 1974, Pye established an American version of its record label. The label was not a success, however, and closed its US operations in 1976. The head of the US division, Marvin Schlachter, then started Prelude Records, named after one of Pye's acts of the time, Prelude; its initial LP and 45 catalogue series were carried over from the ill-fated American Pye label (with the catalogue prefix changed from PYE- to PRL-), and Prelude had a string of disco and dance music hits into the early 1980s.
Whilst Pye did not have its own operations in Canada, it arranged with Canadian record companies to issue Pye recordings on the Pye label in Canada. Before then, Quality Records issued Pye recordings on the Quality label. Their earliest Pye Canada releases such as Lonnie Donegan's "My Old Man's A Dustman" were distributed by Astral Music Sales. Around 1963, distribution shifted to Allied Record Corporation. In 1968 distribution shifted to Phonodisc.
In the 1970s there was a short period of quadraphonic records. Pye was one of the few labels who chose the Sansui QS Regular Matrix system.
(including the US labels that issued records by the artists during the time they were on Pye)Shirley Abicair
Long John Baldry (issued in US on Warner Bros.)
Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen (issued in US on Kapp)
Chris Barber's Jazzband (issued in US on Laurie)
David Bowie (1965–1966; issued in US on Warner Bros.)
The Brook Brothers (1961–1964)
Brotherhood of Man (1975–1979)
Max Bygraves made a successful series of singalong albums for Pye
Petula Clark (1957–1971: in addition to dozens of singles, her output for Pye included seventeen albums. Issued in US on Laurie and then on Warner Bros.)
Lonnie Donegan (1956–1969; issued in US on Mercury, Atlantic, then Dot)
Donovan (1965–1971; issued in US on Hickory and then Epic)
Carl Douglas (issued in the US on 20th Century Fox)
Episode Six (issued in US on Elektra for one single only)
The Flying Machine (1969; issued in US on Congress and then Janus)
Emile Ford and the Checkmates
The Foundations (issued in the US on Uni)
Brian Joseph Friel (issued in the US on ATV Records)
Davy Graham recorded his album The Guitar Player in 1963 under Pye, later reissued by Sanctuary Records in 2003 with eight bonus tracks
Benny Hill (1961–1965)
The Honeycombs (1964–1966; issued in the US on Interphon and then Warner Bros.)
The Ivy League (1965–1966; issued in the US on Cameo)
Tony Jackson and the Vibrations (1964–1966; issued in the US on Kapp, and then Red Bird)
Jimmy James & the Vagabonds
John Paul Jones released Baja/A Foggy Day In Vietnam on Pye Records in April 1964; issued in US on Parkway
The Kinks (1964–1971; issued in the US on Cameo and then Reprise)
Vera Lynn (1979–1981)
Gerald Masters (1977–1980)
Mungo Jerry (1970–1974; issued in the US on Janus and then Bell)
Olivia Newton-John (Olivia, Festival, Australia, 1972)
The Migil 5 (1964–1965)
Michel Pagliaro (Canadian singer/songwriter from Montreal, simply known as Pagliaro in the UK)
Lennie Peters (1966)
Pickettywitch (1969-1973; issued in US on Janus Records and then Bell Records
The Real Thing (1976–1979)
Joan Regan (1960–1961)
The Remo Four
Donn Reynolds (1958-1959)
The Searchers (1963–1967; issued in the US on Mercury, Liberty and then Kapp)
Sandie Shaw (1964–1972; issued in the US on Reprise)
Labi Siffre (1970–1973, Pye International)
Hurricane Smith (1976–1977)
The Sorrows (1964–1966; issued in the US on Warner Bros.)
Sounds Orchestral (issued in US on Parkway)
Status Quo (1968–1971; issued in the US on Cadet Concept and then Janus)
Frankie Vaughan (1973–1978)
Velvett Fogg (1969)
Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band (issued in the US on Kapp)
Mark Wynter (1962–1968)
The Human Instinct