The RCA Victrola 45
From RCA's 1949 Annual Report:
To the Stockholders of Radio Corporation of
Basically the rebuild includes gently restoring the wood,
bakelite or plastic cabinet, rebuilding the electric motor,
rebuilding the record changer including replacing all rubber,
idler wheel, cam and motor mounts while recalibrating all
moving parts, applying proper lubrication and most important
rebuilding the tube amplifier.
"The year 1948 was a
period of new achievements for Radio Corporation of America in
every phase of radio as a science, art and industry. Progress
in television was particularly outstanding. The enthusiasm of
the American people for this new art has justified the years of
pioneering and the investment of many millions of dollars by RCA
in its development as a service to the public".
begins a new era and the beginning of the final chapter of what
I believe was the last great American phonograph- the RCA
Victrola 45. The research and engineering activities at RCA
labs summarized in this Report include advances in AM/FM radio,
television, broadcasting and the NBC national network, telecommunications,
radar, Ultrafax, electron microscope & phonographs.
The Annual Report contains only a few comments about the
development of a completely new type of phonograph and record,
combining the finest quality of record reproduction to be
publicly announced early in January 1949. Excerpts
"The new life-long record, which is
less than seven inches in diameter is made of durable,
lightweight vinyl plastic and plays up to five minutes and
twenty seconds on each side. The record player, which operates
at 45 rpm, contains the fastest record-changing mechanism ever
designed. The excellent quality and clarity of tone of the new
reproducing system has been highly praised by outstanding
There is every indication that as a significant
achievement in the evolution of the phonograph it will
ultimately benefit the majority of consumers as well as the
entire record industry. The durable record player, together
with a substantial catalogue of records, soon will be available
to the public".
Contrary to what is often reported, RCA did not develop the
45 record format and player in response to Columbia's
introduction of the 33.3 rpm LP. In the June 1949
issue of RCA Review, the following comes from a paper
published by RCA Engineers, Carson, Burt and Reiskind.
"About 17 years ago, there began a program aimed at a
fundamental improvement in the reproduction of recorded
music. Unhampered by any previous restrictions,
attempt was made to develop an ideal method of bringing
recorded music into the home. Factors of cost and
convenience to the customer, playing time, record life,
freedom from distortion and numerous technical
considerations were established with the "ideal" being the
objective. Some nine years of research and
experimentation culminated in a new record playing means
which, after eight more years of testing and refinement,
finally emerged in a record changer and record to be
discussed in this paper". Click above
Investors in RCA stock were some of
the first to see the RCA Victor 9JY record
changer which was later called the 45J attachment. Some
highlights from the Annual Report: 1948 revenues $357 million up
from $314 million, earnings $24 million, dividends up to $10
million, RCA personnel count 41,791.
From RCA's 1950 Annual
In 1949 when RCA was celebrating its
30th Anniversary, the company reported more outstanding
progress. "Public acceptance of RCA products and services
lifted sales to the highest peak in the history of the
Corporation", attributed to Television's spectacular rise,
development of high-definition (yes HD) color TV in field test,
introduction of the RCA 45-rpm system, announcement of new 33.3
rpm LP record, and new advanced radar for national security and
safety at sea and in the air. This was the year of plant
expansion across the USA; the RCA Victor division alone employed
30,887 and more than 45% were women.
As the new 45-rpm system had been successfully launched during
the year, the company reported "it has already won public
acceptance", noting the "45" is becoming the most popular type
of record on the market. By the end of 1949 these records were
being manufactured at the rate of more than 25 million per year
while turntables capable of playing '45's were produced by RCA
at the rate of more than one million annually. It was a
surprise that sales of Victrola phonographs while excellent
competitively were lower than in 1948.
From Radio Age Magazine:
April 1949 issue of RCA's Radio Age Magazine has an
article written by JB Elliott, Vice President in charge of RCA
Victor's Consumer Products Division. The following are
some of the more interesting points: RCA expected the country's
retailers would sell between 2.5 - 3.0 million instruments
equipped to play RCA 45 rpm records so RCA ramped manufacturing
capacity in Indianapolis (the primary plant). RCA noted that at
least 29 leading manufacturers were incorporating RCA 45 rpm
technology in their instruments. Nearly 12,000 dealers placed
orders. Excerpts from JB Elliott's article follow:
system offers music free from all discernible distortion and
surface noise on a small, 6⅞", non-breakable disc that plays up
to 5 minutes and 20 seconds, equal to the playing time of the
standard 12" record. The new disc, offering a small, standard
size for all classifications of music, goes a long way toward
solving the consumers' record storage problem in the home".
Note RCA ads often showed 45 rpm records being stored on a
standard size book shelf.
has an unusual new record changer- the fastest ever developed-
which has been designed to eliminate the traditional problem of
chipping, crackling and breaking records during changer
operation. In a marked departure from most conventional systems,
the drop mechanism is housed in the player's center spindle,
which has been enlarged from the previous ¼" diameter to 1½".
"By centering the drop mechanism, RCA Victor found it possible to
eliminate the usual outside record posts, speed up the changer
cycle, simplify the changer mechanism, silence its action,
reduce the overall size of the player and eliminate many costly
and intricate moving parts.
The new 45-rpm records have been designed with a raised shoulder
between the playing area and the center rim, providing air
spaces between the playing surfaces and center rim of stacked
records. In most conventional systems, the record separating
blades are required to force their way between the stacked
records. This forcing action is often the cause of record
damage. With RCA Victor's new design, the blades move into the
air space provided by the raised shoulders of the records".
Single size discs for all classifications of music are featured,
with the various categories identified by bright shades of color
-ruby red for classical music, midnight blue for semi-classical,
jet black for popular, lemon-drop yellow for children's, green
grass for Western, sky blue for international and cerise for
blues and rhythm.
From RCA's 1951 Annual
By 1951, RCA was operating in more than 13 plants around the US
but the overall company growth rate slowed. But sales of RCA Victor
radios and phonographs were greater than in any pre-television
RCA Victor records sold better than ever spearheaded
by an expansion of new selections available on both 45 rpm and
33.3 rpm LP. As higher fidelity and truer reproduction of
music developed with this new 45 rpm format developed, there was
a rejuvenated public interest in classical music. New operatic
records were released headed by a complete performance of La
Traviata conducted by Maestro Arturo Toscanini and an
all-star recording of Carmen.
From RCA's 1952 Annual
RCA achieved an all-time record volume of sales in 1952. The
year was marked by advances in science and engineering
especially related to the development of the transistor. TV
continued to expand including new domestic and international
markets for TV transmitters and receivers.
The Annual Report
highlights accomplishments of skilled and loyal workers who
build fine products that make "RCA" the symbol of expert
workmanship and dependability.
As the Truman administration 'freeze' on new TV Station
construction had been lifted in 1952 , RCA achieved an
impressive 16% Year over Year growth in revenues and increased
the number of employees by 11%. RCA introduced the
Extended Play (EP) format this year providing up to 8 minutes on
each side of 45 rpm record.
Considering the cost constraints and available technology, after
having rebuilt many different models of RCA Victor 45
phonographs, there is no doubt these machines were
well-engineered and produced with high quality materials and
These PhonoJack 'rebuilt' phonographs will now be
reliable and dependable for another fifty years. The
rebuild procedure which brings these popular phonographs back to
life is described in more detail in the PhonoJack
RCA Victrola Collection Section.
Above is perhaps the most widely recognized logo and advertising
image in the world. It is one of the best examples of a great
American and British venture. Nipper the terrier is 100%
British made, born, lived, died and buried in London proper.
The Berliner Gramophone is 100% American made, the
painting was created by Francis Barraud also British, the final
painting was commissioned and purchased by William Barry Owen an
American living in England, Managing Director of the British
Gramophone Company. The logo was trademarked and adopted by
Emile Berliner a German-born American.
From RCA's 1955 Annual
1955 was a keynote year for RCA. The company revenues exceeded
$1 Billion placing RCA among the top twenty five largest
companies in the United States. Highlights from the Annual
Report: Sales of $1,055,266,000, net profit before tax of
$100,107,000 paid $97,998,000 in income tax, property taxes,
social security and excise taxes. Paid out $24 million in
dividends. RCA added 8000 new employees for a total of 78,500
including 8,500 overseas. David Sarnoff Chairman of the Board
observed his 50th Anniversary of service in radio
RCA Victor Records
"Three main factors were responsible for increased global demand
for RCA Victor records in 1955: Advances in new Orthophonic
High Fidelity Sound (tweeters!) a roster of the worlds finest
artists... RCA produced more recorded music in 1955 than any
previous year in its history. And the RCA Victor trademark was
more firmly established than ever as the symbol of the finest
recorded music...". Camden Records, another RCA Victor label
had sales increases of more than 50% above 1954 results. The
lower priced Camden Records were then primarily re-issues with
enhanced sound of recordings made earlier.
Marketing & Promoting Records
The best way to promote the sale of records
is to get "Airplay" whether it's on the radio or television.
In radio circles there are several hundred stations of the
thousands across the
U.S. that are important targets for record producers. In
television, it's no secret that MTV, the Video Music Channel,
Country Music TV are the types of companies that record
producers must pursue.
Looking back at marketing and promotional activities of the RCA
Victor 45 format, we should thank Dick Clark and his American Bandstand TV show
launched in 1957 which was a catalyst and perhaps the best
promotional vehicle for the major 45 rpm record labels at that time.
The Rock 'n Roll generation remembers these
amplified record players that woke up a sleepy nation during the
fifties to the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Eddie Fisher
and Frankie Lane, followed by Bill Haley and the Comets,
Elvis-The King, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin, Little
Richard, The Everly Brothers, The Platters, Frankie Avalon, Pat
Boone, Paul Anka and Ricky Nelson. Many blended the
sound of white country and black blues, but nobody did it better
than the outsider, The King, Elvis!
1959, having survived being Shaked, Rattled and Rolled while Rockin'
Around the Clock, this generation saw the rock revolution begin to
level off as growth in vinyl record sales slowed.
It seemed to get worse The day the music
died, in February '59 when Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, the
"Big Bopper" and Ritchie Valens were killed in a plane crash.
Record moguls quietly claimed Rock 'n Roll was a passing aberration
and the time had come to find a 'Middle of the Road' repertoire.
The early '60s was an unexciting time for
pop music. Teens cried on the first anniversary over having lost
Buddy Holly as his music became even more popular after his death.
They cried over Teen Angel by Mark Dinning. They bought
a relatively unexciting record written by Jiles Perry (Jape)
Richardson, "The Big Bopper", called
Running Bear sung by Johnny Preston in sufficient quantities
to make it the Number One Hit.
The Big Bopper is better remembered
for two of my favorites,
Chantilly Lace and White Lightnin. Other hits
included, I'm Sorry
by Brenda Lee, Why by Frankie Avalon, and I Want to be
Wanted by Brenda Lee.
As time passed, some fun songs emerged,
including Alley-Oop, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot
Bikini, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans and Please Mr. Custer,
I Don't Wanna Fight all of which became Number One Hits. More
fun songs followed, The Twist, Mother-in-Law, Tossin and Turnin
helped sustain the 'flattish' record sales for a few years.
Flat revenues and weaker profits forced RCA to give up on its
reliable Victor 45 Victrola featuring conservative, classic brown
bakelite cabinets in favor of a new generation of less expensive,
'cost engineered' bright plastic record changers with significantly
These one tube wonders didn't generate
enough heat/power or volume to melt or vibrate plastic, so they
didn't require the strength, durability and style of bakelite.
The photo to the right is actually a better quality 7EY2HH
Deluxe table model with two stages of amplification and with
three vacuum tubes. As these new lower cost record players
were introduced, the whole industry seemed to have turned down the volume, it got
quiet, very quiet.
But all that changed virtually over Sunday
night on February 9th, '64 when The Beatles appeared on the Ed
Sullivan Show at 8:00PM EST the official beginning of the British
Invasion. The Beatles established a welcomed beachhead in the United
States as waves of British bands came ashore. They included
The Dave Clark Five,
Gerry and the Pacemakers,
Peter and Gordon,
Petula Clark, The
The Yardbirds and
The Zombies. The British Invasion
was the driving force that pumped new life into the previously quiet
45rpm vinyl record industry.