(Est. 1946) Art Rupe founded Juke Box Records in 1946, but changed the company's name to Specialty the following year to indicate that, unlike the major labels, his specialized in particular kinds of music - African-American blues and gospel. The Hollywood-based firm became a leader in both fields, with a roster that included R&B artists Roy Milton, Joe Liggins, Percy Mayfield, Guitar Slim, and Lloyd Price and such gospel stars as the Pilgrim Travelers, the Soul Stirrers (featuring Sam Cooke), Brother Joe May, Alex Bradford, and the Original Gospel Harmonettes. It also played a key role in the development of rock 'n' roll upon signing Little Richard in 1955. Two years later, however, Specialty lost both Richard (to religion) and Cooke (to pop music), and Rupe's interest in making new records quickly waned. He kept the label's many hits in print and compiled albums of older material until 1991, when he sold the company to Fantasy, Inc.
SPECIALTY FEATURED ARTISTS
One of the original rock & roll greats, Little Richard merged the fire of gospel with New Orleans R&B, pounding the piano and wailing with gleeful abandon. While numerous other R&B greats of the early '50s had been moving in a similar direction, none of them matched the sheer electricity of Richard's vocals.MORE
Larry Williams (1935-1980) was a popular rock & roll singer who in the 1950s had such hits as “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy,” “Bony Maroney,” “Short Fat Fannie,” “Bad Boy,” and “She Said Yeah.” Groomed as Specialty’s replacement for the recently departed Little Richard, Williams recorded a wide variety of rock ’n’ roll and ballads for Specialty during 1957-1959.MORE
Sam Cooke (1931-1964) was arguably the most influential of all soul singers. Elements of his unique style reverberate through pop, rock, soul, blues, gospel, reggae, and even bluegrass music. Shades of Cooke can be heard in the work of such singers as Johnnie Taylor, Otis Redding, Rod Stewart, and Al Green.MORE