Otis (b. 1898, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 1968) and Leon (b. 1902, Covington, Louisiana, USA, d. 1982). Formed their Exclusive Records in Los Angeles, California, in 1942. Otis generally worked outside the music business before the 30s, whereas Leon had studied music and piano at night school and formed his own orchestra, the Southern Syncopators, in the mid-20s. The brothers’ greatest successes came in the 30s when, as songwriters, they composed ASCAP standards such as ‘When It’s Sleepy Time Down South’ (1931) and ‘When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano’ (1939), the royalties from which helped to fund their new venture in 1942. They continued to pen big sellers such as ‘Gloria’, ‘Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat’ and ‘I Left My Sugar in Salt Lake City’. Exclusive had early successes with ex-Duke Ellington band balladeers Ivie Anderson and Herb Jeffries, but hit its stride in 1945 with the inauguration of the 200 R&B series, resulting in some of the earliest R&B hits by Joe Liggins (‘The Honeydripper’), Ivory Joe Hunter (‘Blues At Sunrise’), and Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (‘Sunny Road’, ‘Merry Christmas Baby’, ‘Soothe Me’). Otis formed a companion label, Excelsior, in 1944 which issued records by Nat ‘King’ Cole, Johnny Otis, and Big Joe Turner, but by 1949 both Excelsior and Exclusive were in difficulties and the masters were sold to fund new projects - the short-lived Excellent and Selective labels. In 1953, Leon returned to incorporate his new label, Class, which had big hits in the rock ‘n’ roll era by Oscar McLollie, Richard Berry and Bobby Day - Leon penned the classic ‘Rockin’ Robin’ - and lasted until 1962.
Share this page