Label Profile: President Records

The history of President Records, one of the first independent labels in the UK, is inextricably linked to that of music publisher Edward Kassner. Born in Austria to Jewish parents in 1920, Edward dreamed of becoming a composer but his orchestral aspirations were cut short when Hitler annexed Austria.


“He was tipped off by his friends that they were rounding up Jewish boys,” says David Kassner, Edward’s eldest son and now MD of President. “He fled through Belgium and got caught trying to cross the border at Aachen twice. On the third occasion a German soldier caught him but let him go saying that he hadn’t signed up to shoot young boys.”

His parents both died in Auschwitz. Edward made it to England but was interned before being shipped to Australia alongside his fellow European refugees. Later allowed to return to the UK, he joined the British Army, serving in France and Germany as an interpreter.

In 1944,Edward married Eileen, and together they founded The Edward Kassner Music Company Ltd. Two years later the company had its first hit with “How Lucky You Are” by Vera Lynn.

In the post-war period the big money was in printing and selling sheet music. Edward continued to acquire a host of copyrights and catalogues before buying a song that would change the face of popular music forever. The track was “Rock Around The Clock”.

“My first memory is of dancing to Bill Haley’s version in our living room,” David says. “I told my mum that I would like to be a music man like my dad.”

Edward moved his young family to New York in the mid-Fifties. The burgeoning independent scene in the Big Apple led Edward and a group of his contemporaries to form a label – President Records Inc – in 1955. By 1961, however, Edward and his partners amalgamated their musical interests into a public corporation and the US President label was swept up, with Edward becoming the majority shareholder.

With the heyday of sheet music fading fast, one of the biggest problems facing a music publisher was how to get your song heard. Edward realised that the big money lay in creating your own label. You could publish the song, record it, release it – and get a bigger chunk of the profits. So, he launched Seville Records in the US, and had a hit in 1962 with “Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)” performed by Ernie Maresca. He followed the success with “Bobby’s Girl” by Marcie Blane. However, Seville failed to build on this early success.

The assassination of JFK in 1963 provided Edward with the inspiration to relaunch President, partly in tribute to Kennedy. But the music business was changing as the spotlight shifted to Britain. And the UK office struck gold in 1964 when a little- known British band called The Kinks signed a management and publishing deal. Ray Davies and co had a succession of hits, starting with “You Really Got Me” in 1964.

With all eyes on the rise of the Sixties Brit bands, Edward decided to launch President in the UK in 1966. He owned the publishing rights to “See You In September” which had reached Number 3 in the US for The Happenings. Edward got the East London group The Symbols to cover the track for the label.

In 1968, President bagged their first Number 1 with “Baby Come Back” by The Equals, featuring a teenage Eddy Grant on lead vocals.

Moving into the Seventies, Edward scored one of his biggest UK successes with George McRae’s 1974 Number 1 hit “Rock Your Baby”. In the same year, the label hit big again with another US act, when KC And The Sunshine Band’s UK debut “Queen of Clubs” reached Number 7.

“In 1974, we had about 5 per cent of the singles market in the UK, which was about the same as a major such as MCA,”David explains. “But we only had two main artists and our expansion into distribution and other areas meant the company became quite stretched.

“We needed to get back to our core business, so we spent a few years working on reissues and the publishing side.”

In the late Seventies, David met US songwriter/producer Tommy Boyce, the man behind many of The Monkees’ hits. Boyce had moved to the UK and was looking to start a label. President decided to come on board and signed up ex-Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman in 1984.

His first album on the subsidiary label TBG/President, Silent Nights, had reasonable sales but wasn’t a hit. Boyce returned to the States, but the Kassners stuck to their plan. Wakeman’s next album, Live at Hammersmith in 1985, performed better and helped balance the books.

Today, President continues to release reissues and compilations from their back catalogue. Modern jazz singer Carolyn Leonhart has just released an album of Robert Allen covers. And one current band neatly ties up the publishing and recording divisions of the business.

“We had a call saying that Coca- Cola wanted to use ‘You Really Got Me’. I asked them whether they meant The Kinks’ or Van Halen’s version,” David says. “But they said, ‘No, the Robots In Disguise version’.” Kassner recalls the band contacting them earlier about changing the lyrics from “girl” to “boy”. “We heard them, liked them and offered to sign them to the label.”

The band agreed, and are fast gaining critical plaudits.

Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home