Lew Chudd

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b. USA, d. 15 June 1998, Los Angeles, California, USA. Chudd was a US radio producer during the 30s, creating the Let’s Dance show which featured Benny Goodman and Xavier Cugat. He later became the…
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b. USA, d. 15 June 1998, Los Angeles, California, USA. Chudd was a US radio producer during the 30s, creating the Let’s Dance show which featured Benny Goodman and Xavier Cugat. He later became the head of the Los Angeles bureau of the NBC network. During the early 40s Chudd worked for the Office of War Information and set up Crown Records to record jazz. After selling Crown, he founded Imperial Records in 1946 to cater for the growing black and Hispanic populations of southern California. Chudd maintained a roster of Mexican artists such as Los Madrugadores and Herman Padilla until 1953. In the R&B field, Imperial initially recorded west coast jump blues by artists including Charlie Davis, King Porter and Poison Gardner. However, after meeting New Orleans band leader Dave Bartholomew in Houston in 1949, Chudd moved into the newer R&B style. He came to New Orleans in December of the same year and almost immediately he and Bartholomew discovered Fats Domino. Domino’s ‘The Fat Man’ and ‘3 x 7 = 21’ by Jewel King were the label’s first hits, in 1950.

Leaving Bartholomew to record further R&B artists, Chudd signed performers in the gospel, blues (Smokey Hogg) and country fields, although, of these, only Slim Whitman was commercially successful. Consequently, Imperial focused exclusively on R&B for the next few years. In New Orleans, Bartholomew provided hits by Chris Kenner and Roy Brown in addition to Domino, while Los Angeles band leader Ernie Freeman had a pop hit with ‘Raunchy’. By 1957, Chudd was ready to plunge into the white teenage market, signing boyish television star Ricky Nelson, who had over a dozen Top 20 hits in the following five years. Imperial also released rock material by Sandy Nelson and Frankie Ford. In 1961, Chudd purchased New Orleans label Minit Records from Joe Banashak, but two years later Imperial was itself bought out by Al Bennett’s Liberty Records / United Artists Records company, based in Los Angeles. Chudd himself retired from the music business.