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Commodore Records was an American independent record label known for producing Dixieland jazz and swing. It is also remembered for releasing Billie Holiday's hit "Strange Fruit".

Commodore Records
Commodore Records label
Commodore Records label for
Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" (1939)
Founded1938 (1938)
FounderMilt Gabler
Defunct1954 (1954)
Country of originU.S.
LocationNew York City



Milt Gabler, Herbie Hill, Lou Blum and Jack Crystal at the Commodore Music Shop, New York City (1947)

Commodore Records was founded in the spring of 1938 by Harlem-born Milt Gabler, who in 1926 had founded the Commodore Music Shop in Manhattan at 136 East 42nd Street (diagonally across the street from the Commodore Hotel), and from 1938–41 with a branch at 46 West 52nd Street,[1] an address commemorated in Chu Berry's song "Forty-six, West Fifty-two".

The bulk of Commodore's issues were Dixieland (Eddie Condon, Wild Bill Davison) and swing (Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines).[2] Commodore's biggest hit was "Strange Fruit" (backed with "Fine and Mellow") by Billie Holiday, which reached No. 16 on the charts on July 22, 1939.[3] The label was most active from 1939 to 1946 when it recorded many of the biggest names in jazz.[4]

Commodore was one of the first labels to list the full personnel of bands on the label.

As with his United Hot Clubs of America (UHCA) label, Gabler arranged for recording and pressing to be done by the American Record Corporation (ARC), then Reeves Transcription Services and Decca Records. Both Commodore and UHCA used various matrix number series depending on the location of the session's recording.

After World War II, Gabler worked for Decca. His Commodore label was later used by Decca[citation needed] for reissuing jazz recordings. In the early 1960s, a series of Commodore albums was compiled by Gabler and released on Mainstream Records.

In the late 1980s Mosaic Records issued Commodore's complete recordings on three box sets (LP).[4]

On the Sept. 7, 2016 episode of comedian Marc Maron's WTF? podcast, comedian and actor Billy Crystal gave numerous details and anecdotes about the founding of the record label and music store (founded by his maternal grandfather and uncle Milt Gabler and later involving Crystal's father, Jack).[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Clayton, Peter; Gammond, Peter (1989). The Guinness Jazz Companion (2nd ed.). Enfield: Guinness Publishing. p. 65.
  2. ^ "Commodore Numerical Listings". The Online Discographical Project. June 3, 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  3. ^ Doyle, Jack (March 7, 2011). ""Strange Fruit" 1939". Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Yanow, Scott (1998). "Labels". In Erlewine, Michael; Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Yanow, Scott (eds.). All Music Guide to Jazz (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books. p. 1334. ISBN 0-87930-530-4.

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