Headquarters: Memphis, TN

Founded: mid 1950s

Founded by: Ray Harris, Bill Cantrell, Quinton Claunch


Genre(s): Rockabilly, Soul, Memphis Soul


Key ReleasesEdit


[Hi Records]] was never what you would call a particularly stable record company. Like any true independent label, Hi Records went through a series of extreme ups and downs in its 20-year lifespan, thanks to fickle markets and a young crooner from Arkansas. The label was born thanks to a $3.50 investment by a flopping rockabilly artist by the name of Ray Harris. The resulting single, a home-recorded rockabilly tune by Carl McVoy, sold so well that in 1957 they were forced to lease it to Sun Records and the money came pouring in. By 1959, Hi Records and Hi Studio were established in an abandoned cinema in the heart of Memphis, TN, and were particularly known for their gritty blues-based instrumentals care of Bill Black’s Combo and saxophonist Ace Cannon. The British Invasion would take over the market in the early 60s, and the first wave of popularity for Hi was over. Throughout the next decade, the label was transformed by the signing of trumpeter and arranger Willie Mitchell whose productions became sound of Hi Records, very much paralleling what Booker T. and the MG’s did for neighboring Stax Records. The next spike in popularity came in the early 70s after Mitchell signed a promising crooner named Al Green. So much investment was made in Green that there was a large turnover in management due to differing predictions and Mitchell became vice president. Green’s unparalleled falsetto and Mitchell’s deceptively minimal and drum-centered arrangements proved to be a hit combination, and Hi became a Memphis soul powerhouse beside Stax and Goldwax.. The label never again came close to matching the popularity of Green, though they did enjoy solid releases from Ann Peebles, Otis Clay and Syl Johnson. In the late 70s, after Green left for the ministry, Hi was sold to Cream Records in Los Angeles, but all further plans were smothered by the infection of disco.

Further ReadingEdit

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