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Vee-Jay: Most Successful Black Owned Label Before Motown

Born on March 25th 1921 in Tunica, Mississippi, Vivian Carter was raised in Gary, Indiana before moving to Chicago in 1944, where she met her future husband, fledgling songwriter James Bracken.

With encouragement from James, Vivian began a career as a popular radio deejay, hosting shows at various radio stations in Chicago and northern Indiana while developing her talent for spotting hits.

In 1950, Carter and Bracken opened Vivian's Record Shop in Gary and in 1953 took $3000 – their entire earnings from the record store – and started Vee-Jay Record Company.

Vee-Jay's first single, “Baby It's You”, hit Number 10 on Billboard's R&B chart, but it would be the additionof record executive Edward Abner in 1954 that would turn the label into a powerhouse.

Within seven years, Vee-Jay would grow into the top selling independent label in the country, with artists spanning a wide range of genres, including Little Richard, the Staples Singers and Four Seasons.

In 1963, Vee-Jay secured distribution rights to the Beatles first single and gave the group its America debut.

At its peak, Vee-Jay grossed over $3 million annually, with an integrated staff of 22 employees, making it the most successful black-owned label before Motown.