Curtom Records was co-founded by Curtis Mayfield and Eddie Thomas, the manager of The Impressions, in March 1968. The company’s name was taken from the first three (or four) letters of the founders’ first names. The name was also used for the music publishing company they established in 1960, when Mayfield started composing songs for Jerry Butler while he was signed to Vee-Jay Records. They signed a distribution deal with the legendary Buddah label, a major independent record company based in New York City, once the home of the famous Gladys Knight & the Pips.
This helped Curtom Records to become a major force in the R&B and Soul music sector by 1972, both in Chicago and across America. Because of the creative success of Mayfield, the organisation was able to acquire the legendary RCA recording studios, retaining the services of the brilliant sound engineer Roger Anfinsen who was responsible for many hit records recorded at the studio for over a decade, running from the 1960s to the late 1970s.
Curtom Records benefited greatly from the skills of Anfinsen as an engineer, until it closed down its operation in the late 1970s. The company was the only black-owned label in America to have a succession of gold-certified soundtracks according to the RIAA.
The Impressions were the first act to be signed to the label. They produced the label’s first R&B and Soul Billboard number one with the single “Choice of Color”, which was at the top from August 2nd to August 9th 1969. The composition was produced by Mayfield and co-arranged by Johnny Pate and Donny Hathaway. The first top-five single that was released by the company was actually “Fool for You”. It was a beautiful Soul ballad with a dynamic drum roll like a marching band. The single peaked at number three on the Billboard R&B and Soul Singles chart listing.
Curtis Mayfield (born June 3rd 1942, died December 26th 1999) was an African-American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter and record producer. He is best known for his musical compositions addressing issues relating to the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s, with The Impressions as the main creative outlet.
Curtis Mayfield is synonymous with the Chicago sound because he was the main architect of this dynamic and influential style. Mayfield composed over 38 Hot 100 hits from 1961 to 1975 on Billboard Pop listings and is highly-regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music. He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums. He is famous for composing dynamic soundtracks for the blaxploitation film movement during the 1970s. His musical creations are considered to be the main pioneering musical art form of politically conscious African-American culture during that period.
Photo: Curtis Mayfield 1972