I have a long-time interest in folk and rock music and when I started buying LPs in the mid 1960s I realised that I usually liked what I found on the Elektra label. During my time as a music presenter on BBC Radio, I played Elektra stuff a lot and eventually produced a (somewhat perfunctory as I now find) history of the label which Elektra in the UK even pressed up onto a couple of hundred LPs. In making this programme I made contact with the label's founder, Jac Holzman, and a few years ago he asked me to research a discography for his book 'Follow the Music'. The discography on this web site grew out of that.
A second answer to the question is that the label follows the tastes and interests of the founder, as all the legendary labels do, at least at the beginning. I happen to think that Jac Holzman has good taste.
What does this discography cover?
This web site covers albums and EPs from Elektra US and UK, issued while Jac Holzman was running the label, which is basically 1950 to mid-1973. I am also including information on Bounty albums issued in the UK, Crestview, Dandelion, Countryside and Checkmate albums, but not Nonesuch. The singles issued in this period are a bit too much to tackle from over here in the UK and I am sure someone will produce a listing of those eventually. I do not cover tapes issues other than early variations, especially mono albums were issued but there were stereo tapes available. In the 1950s and much of the 1960s, some albums were released on reel-to-reel tape in mono and/or stereo. Such tapes were usually half-track mono and quarter-track stereo and ran at 7.5 ips or 3.75 ips. In the later part of this period the company issued vinyl LPs and singles with some releases also made on cassettes and/or 8-track cartridges. For a very brief period in the early 1970s some discs were issued in Quadraphonic format and these are in scope for this discography.
Was there only one Elektra?
As far as I know ... and with this specific spelling ... yes. Jac Holzman founded the label in 1950 and at that time the company was called the Elektra-Stratford Record Corporation. The label was always called Elektra. I know of two record labels called Electra, with the mythologically correct C instead of the K, and both of them issued 78s. One was Argentinean and is famous for tango discs. Some of these discs were recorded acoustically which would make them 1920s-1930s. They occasionally turn up on eBay. I have also seen one 78 from Los Angeles on an Electra label but as the label doesn't seem to feature a catalogue number (I've only seen a photo) it may be a private pressing. Suffice to say, if it ain't spelled with a K it ain't in scope for this database.
Does Elektra still exist?
Yes, Elektra emerged in 2009 after a couple of years in limbo and is now revitalised.
How are the listings arranged
I list the main sequences by number, following the EKL/EKS numbering system even if the discs were not originally issued in that sequence (particularly early stereo discs). The additional numbers used for early stereo discs are mentioned in the notes. Other Elektra albums follow on after the main sequences. The other labels are similarly numerical.
What the best way to find out the history of the label?
The original LPs are deleted/out-of-print/whatever so you'd have to look in the usual second-hand record stores and web sites. Some, such as the first Doors album, have been repressed as a niche interest in vinyl has developed. CD versions of much of this music is now available: some from Elektra themselves but also from Rhino, Collectors Choice and others. Of course, some is also available on streaming services as well, but this will always tend to be the more popular.
Which albums were issued with booklets?
Most of the discs before the 300 numbering came originally with booklets. Unfortunately later pressings of these discs usually did not, even if the sleeve still said 'Descriptive notes enclosed' or something similar. So you can't always assume that the booklet is missing ... it may not have been there in the first place. The early copies of 'What's Shakin' (EKS 74002/EKL 4002) also had a leaflet inside and releases in the 1970s often came with a booklet of lyrics as well. I try to say which discs have booklets but this isn't definitive.
Are you sure that disc was released in mono/stereo/whatever?
From the time of (about) 'Waiting for the Sun' Elektra ceased to issue LPs in both mono and stereo. However, for a while mono versions of these albums were produced elsewhere, such as the UK. It is much more difficult to say definitively that something exists than that it doesn't, but occasionally I may say a mono version exists and omit to say that it wasn't released in the USA. Your input would always be welcome on this. 'Waiting for the Sun' was issued in mono in limited quantities for AM radio stations in the US so American mono copies are very rare. They were widely available in the UK but these versions are easily identified.
Do you illustrate or describe sleeve and label variations?
I show alternative sleeve images in some cases and I describe variations if I know about them. During the 'life' of an album ... which could be several decades ... the way the label name and logo were shown on the cover changed a lot. The earliest were a script representation of the word 'Elektra', which then gave way to a drawing of a guitar player, to a stylised E and finally to the iconic butterfly holding an E. There is a gallery of disc labels.
There were several subtle variations of the guitar player logo since the albums were broken down into 'series'. In the typical American practice of the time, stereo and mono covers were usually made by pasting an oversized paper cover illustration onto the front of a card sleeve. This was folded over the top, bottom and spine of the cover and a square rear cover was then pasted down on the back. The front could be pasted in slightly different positions to reveal mono or stereo numbering. This meant that in one configuration 'Panoramic Stereo' showed at the top and the mono numbers at the bottom were out of sight and in the other configuration the mono number was visible at the bottom but the stereo banner was tucked away behind the rear cover panel. Sometimes a stereo sticker was used on an otherwise mono cover. Occasionally in the mid-50s the stereo rear cover was different and specifically mentioned stereo, but usually the rear was the same for both types.
What is a matrix number?
When a vinyl disc was made, the first stage (after recording the music of course) was to cut a master disc, usually on an oversized disc made of aluminium coated in acetate or lacquer. A heated stylus (sometimes cooled by helium gas blown across it) would literally cut the groove of the disc into the lacquer and this master would be coated, electroplated (usually more than once) and finally stamped in a steam-heated press to produce the vinyl disc. In order to identify the acetate disc used to make a particular disc the cutting engineer would inscribe or stamp a reference number into the surface of the cut disc, between the end of the music and the space for the label. This is where the run-out-groove or scroll would be and is sometimes called the dead wax. Often this so-called Matrix Number would just be the disc catalogue number with A or B or 1 or 2 after it to show which side. Sometimes obliterated matrix numbers on discs can show changed release schedules.
Some companies (such as EMI on discs such as the 1960s Beatles albums) decoupled matrix numbers from catalogue numbers although there would almost always be a listing of the matrix number on the disc label. Even in these cases the matrix for the 'A' side would usually be lower than that for the 'B' side. In this way you can often identify discs where the A and B sides have been 'flipped'. Other information would sometimes be added to denote the pressing plant (many Elektra discs have this since individual LPs were pressed in more than one plant across the US) or give a sequence number to the cut or stamper. In the 1970s it became the fashion for disc cutting engineers to 'sign' their matrixes. (An example being George Peckham with his Porky's Prime Cut.) Sometimes cryptic remarks would be inscribed, and on one notorious occasion an Elvis Costello album had a message in the run-out asking people to phone the record company press officer and claim a prize! (But I digress.)
Elektra albums usually had a matrix number consisting of the catalogue number and the side, but the 10-inch discs had JH numbers. I will list matrix numbers where they are not just basically the catalogue number and side. Some US LPs also included a date on either the label or with the matrix number or both.
Tell me a bit about Quad
In the late 1970s various attempts were made to produce LPs carrying four channels of sound (quadraphonic) instead of the more usual two (stereophonic). In Elektra's case Jac Holzman (by then the techno-guru for the whole Warner group) opted for the CD-4 discrete Quad system developed by RCA. The other systems at the time were SQ (developed and championed by CBS), SQ, UHJ and Matrix-H (which wasn't used on many discs). The CD-4 system was analogue despite the CD in its name and worked in a similar way to FM radio in that front-to-back difference information was encoded on an ultrasonic subcarrier on the disc. CD-4 gave much more separation between the four channels than the other systems but was a touch more fragile in that the subcarrier information was easily damaged. All the discs played in stereo when played on stereo equipment. Interesting though it was, quad did not produce as realistic a surround-sound field as more recent techniques.
What's Jac Holzman doing now?
He is still consulting for Warner Music Group and, at time of writing, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the label.
What are the Lawless, LOC and BBCGLI mentioned in the text?
Lawless is a book called 'Folksingers and folksongs in America; a handbook of biography, bibliography, and discography', by Ray McKinley Lawless published in New York by Duell, Sloan and Pearce  and Greenwood Publishing Group [reprinted 1981 and still available] and a good place to look to put Elektra's folk era into context. LOC is the Library of Congress index and BBCGLI is the BBC Gramophone Library Index. Other sources, besides the discs themselves, are published catalogues like Schwann, Elektra and Kinney retail catalogues of the period and the Warner Special Products catalogue which lists recordings available for licensing ... including many Elektra discs from EKL 102 ('Josh at Midnight') onwards. Billboard magazine, the 'bible' of the US music business, is also a good source and a searchable digitisation of it is available through Google books.
What about copyright?
I have an agreement with Elektra Records (which has devolved to WMG) which allows me to reproduce the sleeve images, labels and logos. The information in the discography itself is covered by what is known as the 'Database Right'. Taking a copy for your own private use is OK but you must not reproduce commercially or republish any part of the listing in any way without my permission: and that includes adding the information to your own discography. To save you asking, I think it is highly unlikely that I'll include any music here.