Link to Liverpool: Gary record company introduces Beatles to nation

2014-02-02T00:00:00Z 2014-02-02T00:21:05Z Link to Liverpool: Gary record company introduces Beatles to nationEloise Marie Valadez, (219) 933-3365

Gary has a place in Beatles history.

It's because of the pioneering efforts of Vivian Carter, the late Vee-Jay Records founder, that the nation was first introduced to the Fab Four.

Carter, who was a DJ at Gary radio station WWCA and also a record store owner, debuted the Beatles on her Vee-Jay Records label in 1963, a year before they hit American soil on Feb. 7, 1964. (This week the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania).

Vee-Jay Records, established by Carter and her husband, James Bracken, in Gary in the 1950s, later moved to Chicago. It was named by using the first initials of the first names of the couple.

"Vivian Carter was a trailblazer. She broke racial and gender barriers even before the Civil Rights period," said John Davies, founder and coordinator of the South Shore Wall of Legends Project.

In 2010, Carter was inducted to the Wall of Legends in Hammond, which honors individuals who are examples of creativity, courage, innovation and exploration. The Wall of Legends is housed at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.

"We celebrate the greatest of legends," Davies said, adding it was a real honor to add her to the wall. "She's an example of the courage, vision, risk-taking and spirit of innovation that you find in Northwest Indiana."

Davies said Vee-Jay Records was quite a force on the music scene, debuting before Motown and introducing the world to a multitude of  outstanding artists. The Vee-Jay roster included the likes of The Spaniels, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, The Dells, Memphis Slim, The El Dorados, Jerry Butler and others. It was the first powerhouse black record company.

Vee-Jay's first non-black act was The Four Seasons followed by The Beatles. (Because Capitol Records passed on releasing those first Beatles singles, Vee-Jay ended up debuting them). Among Beatles songs released by Vee-Jay were "Please Please Me," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," "From Me to You" and others. Vee-Jay Records folded later in 1964 because of debt, lawsuits by the Four Seasons and Capitol Records and other complications.

Carter, who was born in 1921, died in 1989.

"She was a great lady," Davies said.

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