Dave Kapp

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The brothers Kapp would have to arm wrestle to establish which one had the greatest impact on the American popular recording industry. Dave Kapp and Jack Kapp worked together in management, production,…
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The brothers Kapp would have to arm wrestle to establish which one had the greatest impact on the American popular recording industry. Dave Kapp and Jack Kapp worked together in management, production, and A&R at both Brunswick and Decca; following the latter's death in 1949 Dave Kapp was eventually pushed out of Decca and started his own Kapp imprint, which remained active through the late '60s. Perhaps Dave Kapp should get the nod not only for living longer than his brother but for inventing a phrase that is supposedly considered a fundamental law in the recording industry, "Kapp's Law" or "The Hit's in the Grooves."

Dave Kapp knew a lot about hits, having been involved in writing them since the '20s. He co-wrote a variety of sentimental musical sagas from this period, including the questionable "Should I Be Sorry" and the nostalgic "Home Is Where the Heart Is." Another of his creations, "One Hundred and Sixty Acres," became prime real estate in the cowboy song repertoire and has been recorded by Roy Rogers, Marty Robbins, and Riders in the Sky, among others.

The Kapp impact was much greater when it came to A&R maneuvers, however. He was integral in promoting the careers of vocal groups such as the Ink Spots and the Andrews Sisters as well as cutting-edge folk trio the Weavers. In the case of the Ink Spots, Kapp saw incredible potential in an act that many other record labels had already turned down. One of the first artists he put under his own Kapp was the easy listening maestro Roger Williams, whom he discovered playing piano in a bar.

Through 1968 he recorded country and rockabilly artists including Cal Smith for his label and became interested in the harder sounds of the British Invasion after observing the song "Wild Thing" become a huge hit for someone else -- it had been briefly available on Leader, a subsidiary of Kapp designed to keep that kind of music at arm's length. Thereafter, he allowed rock & roll to come out directly on Kapp, typical of the kind of record company executive decisions motivated only by profit.

Some of Kapp's decisions suggest that some of the money he had made wound up wadded up in his ear drums. He apparently tore up vibraphonist Red Norvo's contract after detecting atonality in a 1933 recording of Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist"; thanks to guerilla action by producer Morty Palitz the recording wasn't destroyed and wound up being released by rival John Hammond at Columbia. Other actions by Kapp have turned out to be completely forgotten -- that is, unless some wiseacre comes along to remind listeners that it was Kapp who gave singer Gogi Grant her unfortunate first name.