The Bihari Brothers — Jules, Saul, Joseph and Lester, sons of Hungarian Jewish immigrants — launched Modern Records, a pioneering R & B label, in Los Angeles on this date in 1945.
Among their most successful artists (spread across numerous record labels) were B.B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Etta James, Elmore James, Trini Lopez, Vic Damone, the Dave Clark Five, and numerous others. The Biharis also ripped off royalties from their stars, however, by falsely claiming coauthorship of songs; the name “Jules Taub” (Taub was their mother’s maiden name) appears on many of B.B. King’s early hits. The Biharis’ companies were also known for cheap record packaging and for flooding the market with knock-offs of the musical fads of the day. Notwithstanding their shoddy and shady business practices, the four brothers flooded America with groundbreaking music before falling into bankruptcy in the 1960s.
“We used to bring them in, give them a bottle of booze and say, ‘Sing me a song about your girl.’ . . . We’d give them a subject and off they’d go. When it came time to quit, we’d give them a wave that they had ten seconds to finish.” —Saul Bihari.