One of the top record producers of the 1940s and 50s, Milt Gabler will always be associated with his Commodore label. His father owned the Commodore Music Shop which Milt (starting in 1926) helped turn into one of the top record stores in New York. At a time when reissues were unheard of, Gabler talked several labels into letting him lease items for his United Hot Clubs of America label and in 1935 these were the very first reissues. In 1938 Gabler started recording new music for his Commodore label and during the next eight years his company emphasized freewheeling small group jazz. Among the many artists recording for Commodore were Eddie Condon and his sidemen, Billie Holiday ("Strange Fruit" was made for Commodore when Columbia shied away from the controversial song), Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and the Kansas City Six, Jelly Roll Morton and most of the who's who of swing and New Orleans jazz. After 1946 the label slowed down drastically although occasional material was recorded through 1957; all of the Commodore recordings were reissued on three massive limited-edition sets (totalling 67 LPs!) by Mosaic in the late '80s. In addition to Commodore, Milt Gabler was quite active as a producer for Decca up until the late '60s, working with both jazz and pop artists including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan. He also had an impact on Rock and Roll, being responsible not only for signing Bill Haley and the Comets to Decca in 1954, but also for changing their sound from Western Swing to Rock and Roll while acting as producer. Gabler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
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