Birth of the 45 R.P.M. Record

This was posted in the newsgroup by Norm Katuna

From Tue Mar 31 07:16:49 1998

Here is my annual repost of my long article on the issuance of the first 45s. Today, March 31, is the anniversary of RCA's introduction of the 45 to the world.

This is the first of two articles that I have written on what I have seen as the beginning of the 45 as we know it.

There are some contradictions as to when 45s actually started. I have an advertisement from RCA that I copied out of the April 2, 1949 Billboard magazine. It explains a lot of things about the "New" system. I also have a follow up ad from a May 14, 1949 Billboard that gives some new releases.

I also have a few actual (not copies) issues of the RCA DISTRIBUTOR'S RECORD BULLETIN, that gives the RCA distributors all the information on upcoming events and releases. There is a lot of great information about the "New" 45s. These ads should enlighten a lot of people, and rid a lot of misconceptions about the start of the 45.

In the early 70s I lived behind the 9000 Sunset bldg. This is where the main offices of Billboard magazine were located. Every morning I would go there before work and copy down record reviews from the actual bound magazines. I also decided to go through some of the back issues in the late 40s to see if I could find the beginnings of the 45. I was actually researching this that long ago. They let me copy anything that I wanted to from the magazines. I guess they liked me. Other people would come in and they would have to look at the back issues on micro-fiche. They weren't allowed to look at the actual bound volumes. I didn't complain about being the only non-employee being allowed to do look at the actual issues.

Here is the Apr. 2 1949 Advertisement in Billboard. This was the week, or pretty darn close to it, for the initial release of the 45. Actually March 31, 1949 was the kick-off day.

Congratulations to our associates, the RCA Victor Dealers everywhere, whose confidence in RCA Victor has made possible this 50-year marketing achievement. To them must go much of the praise for these two newest and finest examples of research and engineering -- the best automatic changer ever built -- the finest record ever made. For, without the assurance of it's dealer's confidence, no company could undertake any major improvement in home entertainment.

Without the confidence of its dealers in 1923, RCA Victor, founder of the phonograph and record business, could never have started radio down its billion-dollar road. Countless other improvements could never have reached the market if it were not for the great confidence RCA Victor dealers have in RCA Victor products. Include Television! Here is a 50-million dollar RCA investment which is today establishing itself as another billion-dollar business for dealers across the country.

And, what inspires this great dealer confidence? Many things...too many to enumerate here. But, proof that it is worth having, lies in the fact that today the RCA Victor dealer franchise is the most profitable in the entire industry. With the continued confidence of dealers and with the unique foresight of RCA Victor management, and RCA Victor franchise will remain the most profitable in the entire industry.

The new RCA Victor system of recorded music is a shining example of management's foresight. With continued dealer confidence the ultimate profit is inevitable. Work started on the new system in 1939. RCA Victor engineers were granted complete freedom of action...freedom from even the major inhibitions, such as non-standardization of record sizes, and speed of turntables. Engineers had but a goal... to produce the finest changer and record ever conceived.  The customers' dollars will prove that these engineers reached their goal. The new RCA Victor record and changer constitute the sensible, modern, inexpensive way to enjoy recorded music. The product is ready... the public is ready. A demonstration, more than ever before, means a "close." Its advantages will eventually make it the only way to play music in the home.

Meanwhile, RCA Victor will continue to provide its dealers with 78 rpm records and record playing equipment. This period is not one of revolution but one of transition. There will be plenty of time for all dealers to adjust their inventories in making way for this new, improved, more profitable product.  To welcome change is to show a keen awareness of the principal factor lying behind all of our country's industrial progress. That factor is the constant striving of the American public to own something finer. In this light, the new RCA Victor system of recorded music will flourish. To RCA Victor's dealers, whose confidence makes such progress possible, will again go a rich reward of bigger profits through continued high turnover.

Next from the same article is information about the new player, and the new records, including colors and type of music--one thing. nothing in this initial 4 page ad, says anything about the new record speed (45rpm) I really thought that strange.

"Read the new RCA-Victor player story in 30 seconds"

Trigger-action speed! Can play more than 50 minutes of music without the need of attention. And it's just the music the listener wants when he wants it. It can play up to ten records with speedy, silent, hardly noticeable changes. 

The changer unit occupies less than half the space of other types. This opens entirely new avenues to smarter console cabinet greater economies and greater values. The lightweight, compact table phonograph model can easily be carried from room to room.

The new RCA Victor player exerts a stylus pressure of only 5 grams. There's a new "Silent Sapphire" Pickup. No needle changing. Records sound better--last longer. Two vital customer "wants."

Changer mechanism is within the large spindle. No posts or clamps to adjust. Fewer moving parts--it's trouble-free. The new RCA Victor changer is the surest, easiest operating changer ever designed.

1. World's fastest changer.
2. Easiest, surest operating changer ever...and it costs less
3. Automatic...load the spindle--press a button once and that's all.
4. Can play more than 50 minutes without need of attention.


Theoretically, every record can have a "Quality Zone"...a portion of the record in which no distortion occurs. Music recorded beyond this zone is distorted. New RCA Victor records are the first to be recorded entirely in the "Quality Zone"--and they play as long as ordinary 12-inch records.

Made of non-breakable vinyl plastic with a special "Shoulder Construction," the new record lasts up to 10 times longer...cuts inventory losses due to damage in handling and storing. The surface-saving shoulder keeps playing surfaces from rubbing one another...Prevents damage to record grooves.

More than 150 single records or 18 symphonies fit in one foot of bookshelf space. No storage problems for your customers. You can display a wider, more complete selection without sacrifice of space.

From the record press to the customer's purse, the 7-inch record costs less...opens a bigger collectors! And those who own ordinary records now find that it takes less money to buy more pleasure. The new 7-inch record ensures you greater profit through faster turnover.

Sparkling identifying colors!--Record classification is simplified because a different color is used on the entire record... not just on the label to denote each classification. This helps you to determine the type of record at a mere glance.

note: to anyone that doesn't know this--they are talking about colored wax records.



Popular Classical...(Midnight blue)


Country and Western...(Green)

Blues and Rhythm...(Cerise)---(Notice--they do not call them orange)

International...(Sky blue)

Most of the first releases on 45 were reissues of earlier 78s *******************************************************************************

Here is a follow up ad on May 14, 1949

And every one is released on 78 rpm too!

Effective right now, practically all new RCA Victor releases announced in Billboard are on both 45 rpm and 78 rpm records! And that's going to be true of RCA Victor releases from now on! The 45 rpm system is going places fast!

RETAILERS: Tell your customers all about it--regular new releases of 45 rpm records give you a great talking point, to push sales of the RCA Victor 45 rpm system!

DISK JOCKEYS: Your station will be hearing about RCA Victor's special 45 rpm offer...a way to easier programming, better reproduction!

(Both 78 rpm and 45 rpm. Numbers marked * are 45 rpm)

Portrait of Jennie Freddy Martin
If You could care 20-3439 (47-2906*)

I'm not too sure of my l'amour Ray Mckinley
I wanna be loved 20-3436 (47-2904*)

I had my heart set on you Spade Cooley
Don't take my word, take my 20-3437 (47-2905*)

Pop specialty
Bar room polka Merrie Musette Orchestra
The miller's daughter 20-3440 (48-0045*)

They didn't believe it was true Charlie Monroe
Rosa Lee McFall 21-0054 (48-0046*)

Dear John Jim Boyd
One heart, one love, one life 21-0055 (48-0047*)

Bring another half a pint Sonny Boy Williamson
Little girl 22-0021 (50-0005*)

Dealers! Are you ringing up those extra profits with RCA Victor's new
Multi-play Needle? Counter displays, Co-op Mats, and national
advertising add up to easy sales.

(Best sellers that no dealer can afford to be without)

20-3347=47-2892* Forever and a day Perry Como
20-3411=47-2902* Riders in the sky Vaughn Monroe
20-3381=47-2889* "A" you're adorable Perry Como
20-3321=47-2901* Careless hands Sammy Kaye
21-0002=48-0042* Don't rob another man's castle Eddy Arnold
20-2806=48-0001* Bouquet of roses Eddy Arnold
11-8851=49-0176* Claire de lune Jose Iturbi

*now available on 45 rpm

From Tue Mar 31 07:19:31 1998
The first one was information from Billboard ads. This time all of

I would like to mention that in the March 21, 1949 issue of the "Bulletin" "All" record listings are with the 20 and 21 prefix. These were 78 issue prefixes. Also, nowhere in the "Bulletin" is there "Any" mention of 45s, past or future. The back page shows some of the prior three issues releases, and they all have 20, 21 and 22
prefixes---all 78s. So to save any arguing. There were no 45 rpm record issues from RCA as of this issue. Also, in the March 28, 1949 "BULLETIN", even though it is in part a special issue dealing with the upcoming (that week) unveiling and beginning of the 45, none of the new issues for that week were on 45 either. They all had the 20, 21 and 22---78 prefixes. So as of this date, no 45s had ever been commercially issued.


There is an inset showing a newspaper ad for March 31. It says: "TODAYS THE DAY--Now you can see it! Now you can hear it!"
So unless a catastrophe happened and things had to change, which I doubt, March 31, 1949 was the official release of the new RCA Victor 45 rpm system. Players and records.
The March 28 Headline

Tremendous Kickoff for the New seven-inch record and foolproof player. Ads run in Life, Time, Statevepost, Colliers', Look, Listen, Extension.

On the air, in the biggest journals and newspapers, store windows and mail, RCA Victor on March 31 will embark on a campaign to acquaint Americans with the miracle of its "45" record and player---all of which should be a shot in the arm to the entire industry. The happy event will have the all-new, inexpensive
system---improved, for the first time in 50 years, not only in appearance but basic design---unveiled in shops. Ads will appear: Saturday Evening Post, Life, Time, Collier's, Look, Listen, Extension, American Record Guide, Rev. of Recorded Music, Armed Forces, Kirkeby Hotel, RCA Victor Record Review (combined
circulation, 17,313,921) and regularly in big newspapers. (Dates to dealers before kickoff.) Enthusiasm for the 45 will be kept high on RCA Victor airings:
"Music America Loves Best," "Music You Want, " and TV's "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" show. DJ's will put on contests...publicity staffs work overtime. A whiz-bang teaser window, counter demonstrator, revolving merchandiser, all chart, streamers, hangers, brochure, full-line folder, stuffer Q. & A. book, catalog sheets, clerk badges are among other launching items.  THE NEW RECORD 76 ALBUMS, 104 SINGLES READY FOR 45 UNVEILING. The new 45 system is going out with a repertoire that includes everything from a bebop bash to a minuet---76 albums and 104 singles---all vital merchandise, best-by-test stuff. RCA Victor spent much time in carefully selecting the items to be included in its initial offering of 45 rpm recordings, and the results represent the choicest selections from the world's greatest catalog. By categories there are: 30 albums and 65 singles in Red Seal; 25 albums and 11 singles in Pops; 3 albums and 12 singles in Western; 5
singles in International; 15 albums and 1 single in Children's; 5 singles in Race. On April the 15th, RCA Victor will put its twelve current tops in pops out on the new disc. The following month will see the entire pop release made available for the first time on both 45 and 78. This practice will continue regularly thereafter so that consumers of both recording types may be served. In fact the Red Seal release for the month of June (out in May) will also be available on both speed discs.

Albums are mentioned in the above. They were not talking "LP" type albums. These were the gatefold sets of 45s and 78s that RCA put out. RCA called them "Albums"

In addition to extraordinary lightness, ease of handling, pleasant appearance, moderate price, the most distinct attraction held out by "45" is its phenomenally increased fidelity---due to perfect coordination between record and player and "quality zone" recording. But with 18,000,000 "78" turntables in use most business will be 78 for quite a spell. Meanwhile, the record fan and the man who wants the best will carry 45 home. Replacements will be 45. Heifetz remarked: "It's the most faithful reproduction of music on records I've heard so far!" and Eddy Arnold: "Uncanny fidelity." In '38, RCA Victor engineers told management, "the only sure way to develop a trouble-free changer is to develop an entirely new system for the automatic playing of recorded music. The instrument and record must be joined in one perfectly blended systems." The engineers carried the day. The new changer, simplicity itself, has the large center spindle, dropping discs almost noiselessly in 1 1/3 seconds. Fewer parts mean less servicing. The nonbreakable vinyl record is extremely practical because it is only 7 inches across, weighs 1.1 ozs., lasts longer, and is appealing in 7 colors (colored wax): all-red (Red Seal); black (pops); green (country); yellow (children's); cerise (blues and rhythm); midnight blue (pop classic): sky blue (international). Prices are: pops---65 cents; Red Seal---95 cents minus taxes. (Toscanini for under a buck.)

The new system is extremely practical for the dealer and has been evolved for color-coding (especially of singles), more store space, elimination of breakage, and mail-order business. Also, with the 45 disc but 1/10th the weight of the 12" shellac, thing will cost less to pack, ship and deliver. One hundred 12" shellacs weigh 75 lbs, same number of 45's 7 lbs. 45 RPM ENSURES PERFECT MUSICAL REPRODUCTION Ten years' research by a corps of engineers resulted in the marvel
of ingenuity and efficiency which is "45" (this was the name for the singles player). The thing has these outstanding characteristics--compact player 6 3/4" high, 9 1/4" wide, 7 1/4" deep, attachable to radio, with 1 1/2", plastic-capped center spindle, housing noiseless, trigger-quick changing mechanism, upon which up to ten 7" discs can be placed to give some 50 minutes of undistorted music at 45 revolutions per minute. The record plays 5.3 minutes without any falling off of recording perfection as the needle winds in for the reason that the grooves do not extend beyond the "quality zone," 100% distortion-free recording area. Tone arm, with sapphire permanent point, exerts but 5 grams pressure on the transparent, nonbreakable vinyl disc. Volume has no effect upon fidelity of reproduction. Disc has a "collar" raised above the recording surface to protect the grooves from scratching..

Because for most folks furnishing a room today is like fitting together the parts of a jigsaw puzzle, the "45" album comes as a blessing to householders and apartment dwellers. From time immemorial the unwieldy, five-pound 78 album has been a stowage problem even in the mansion. Now artful, 7 3/8", cellophane-covered, box-type album, weighing only 6 1/2 ounces, packed with hinged lid to keep dust off records, lends itself with unostentatious charm to telescoping operations within the modern room. In an 8-foot bookshelf 144 of them can be stacked away, or 1200 records--more discs than most people will want in a lifetime. Startlingly attractive single record comes in a cellophane envelope, permitting visibility of entire record.  MAY ISSUE OF "REVIEW" DISCUSSES 45 RPM IN DETAIL
PROMOTES NEW SYSTEM IN SUBLTLE MANNER THROUGH VARIOUS ANGLES  AND APPROACHES. In RCA Victor's campaign to saturate all levels of consciousness with the striking improvements of its record and player, the company's new Record Review has been playing an imaginative and highly
descriptive role. "The new record is like a magic ear," according to one piece. "When the music starts playing in the studio, and the new record starts listening, the magic gets to work. Every tone given out, every shade of tone, is caught and held. Whether it is a vocal solo with piano accompaniment or an operatic chorus with full orchestra, this record hears all--without the slightest distortion. Whether it's the whisper of a violin in a Brahms lullaby, or all-out brass in a hot swing
number, the record hears it, gets it down on wax--only now it's vinylite--and gives it to you." And so they go--article after article with various personages of the
entertainment world, etc., expressing their own thoughts and impressions gained from actual demonstrations, of the sensationally new 45 system of recorded music reproduction.

I have one more from Nov. 14, 1949
This one shows almost all releases (except for International) being released on both 45 and 78.

Sell "45"
The school set loves 'em, now that you can get those Bluebird hits on "45." and--from coast to coast-- teenagers are lining up for bargain player attachments. The whole thing's on key with their allowances--neat little records they can slip in their pockets, with a first-class band playing their favorite hit--for 49 cents Times are like the 30's, the early 40's again, when the youngsters made up the big biz in the pop market. They go for Flanagan, they go for the lowest priced at the new speed, they go for the little disc that fits on the shelf beside their paper-backed novels, is unbreakable, and has quality of tone that can't be matched. Sell 'em, sell 'em "45"

I don't have anything concrete to show this except for the following article, but I guess RCA was having a problem getting the 45 to go over. The next two little blurbs came from the same Nov. 14 Bulletin.


"The '45' system is destined to lead the phonograph field, both in players and in records. I vigorously declare that '45' is here to stay...and let there be no doubt about it!"
Frank M. Folsom, President
Radio Corporation of America

October 24, 1949
..."The aristocrats: The report that RCA-Victor will abandon its 45 rpm system is pure bunk. Frank M. Folsom, president of RCA, reports that the 45, introduced last April, increased sales 260 percent within the past 90 days. They can't keep up with the public demand. The source for the inaccuracy will now drop dead."

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