MCA, Inc. (or Music Corporation of America) was an American corporation in the music and television businesses. MCA published music, booked acts, ran a record company, and distributed television productions and home videos.
MCA was founded as Music Corporation of America a music booking agency based in Chicago, Illinois in 1924 by Jules Stein and William R. Goodheart, Jr. MCA helped pioneer modern practices of touring bands and name acts. Prominent early MCA booked artists included King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton for Clubs and Speak Easies which run by legendary notorious Chicago Gangster Mobsters like Al Capone and others.
Lew Wasserman joined MCA in 1936 at the age of 22 and rose through the ranks to MCA for more than four decades, with Sonny Werblin as his right-hand man. Wasserman helped create MCA's radio show 'Kay Kyser and His Kollege of Musical Knowledge', which debuted on NBC Radio that same year. Followed that success, Dr. Stein installed Wasserman to New York City in 1937 but Wasserman convinced him that Hollywood is ripe for the company's growth.
MCA's headquarters moved from Chicago to Beverly Hills, California in 1939, creating a movie division and began to acquiring talent agencies and actors such as James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis and Ronald Reagan, which Wasserman became close with, and would help shaped Reagan's political career over several decades by helping him winning the President of the Screen Actors Guild (or S.A.G.), The Governor of California in 1969 and finally, as U.S. President in 1980. By the end the 1930s, MCA would become the largest talent agency in the world with over clients of over 700 movie stars, 300 Broadway actors and producers.
MCA's aggressive acquisition of talent to its client base would give the company's nickname the Hollywood industry would feared. The Octopus
In 1948, Jules Stein retired as MCA's Chairman while Lew Wasserman moved up as President. That year, the two gentlemen decided to get into a new medium that is taking shape and will changed the entertainment industry forever: Television. But first, MCA needed to get a waiver from a rule made by S.A.G. that prohibited Talent Agencies like MCA from getting into TV or movie production. Thanks to newly-elected S.A.G. President Ronald Reagan, MCA was granted a waiver to start producing TV shows.
The company formed MCA Television Limited (Syndication) and in 1950 re-formed Revue Productions, (once produced live events durning World War II) as a television production company. By 1956, Revue became the top supplier of television for all broadcast networks, spanning three decades of great TV shows such as Armour Theater, General Electric Theater, Leave It To Beaver, Wagon Train and many others. Prior to parent company MCA's 1958 accqusition of Universal Studios lot, many Revue's show were filmed at the old Republic Pictures' Studios in nearby Studio City Califorina.
In 1958, MCA bought the 423-acre Universal Studios lot from Universal Pictures for $11 million and renamed it Revue Studios. As part of the deal, MCA leased the studios back to Universal for $2 million a year, plus unlimited access to MCA's clients such as Stewart, Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Alfred Hitchcock to make films for Universal.
Also Dr. Stein (Who was the sole owner of MCA at the time) decided to give 51% of ownership to his employees including a 20% stake to Wasserman. The company went public on the NYSE and was incorporated as MCA Inc. on November 10, 1958. (http://new.umusic.com/history.aspx ).
In 1962, MCA entered a merger of equals with New York based American Decca Records, with MCA as the surviving company. Decca's ownership included Coral Records and Brunswick Records, and a 89% controlling stake in Universal Pictures. MCA would assumed full ownership of Universal upon the completion of the merger.
In order to acquire Universal, Wasserman was forced to dissolve MCA's talent agency in 1962 - which represented most of the industry's biggest names - by Robert F. Kennedy's Department of Justice, as it violated anti-trust laws. In 1966, MCA formed Uni Records in Hollywood, California and in 1967, MCA bought New York based Kapp Records. That same year MCA also acquired guitar maker Danelectro.
In 1968, the MCA Records label was established outside North America to issue releases by MCA's labels. Decca, Kapp and Uni were merged into MCA Records at Universal City, California in 1971; the three labels maintained their identities for a short time but were soon retired in favor of the MCA label. The first MCA Records release in the US was former Uni artist Elton John's Crocodile Rock in 1972. In 1973, the final Decca pop label release was issued.
In 1973, Stein stepped down from the company he founded and Wasserman takes over as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer while Sidney Sheinberg was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer of MCA. Other executives within MCA were Lawrence R. Barnett, and Ned Tanen, head of Universal Pictures. Tanen was behind Universal hits such as Animal House, John Hughes's Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
MCA issued soundtrack albums for most films released by Universal Pictures.
In 1975, the company entered the book publishing business with the acquisition of G. P. Putnam's Sons. In 1979 it acquired ABC Records along with its subsidiaries Paramount Records, Impulse Records, and Dot Records. ABC had acquired the Paramount and Dot labels when they purchased Gulf+Western's record labels, thus MCA now controlled the following material once owned by Paramount Pictures: the music released by Paramount's record labels, and the pre-1950 films by Paramount as well.
Other executives within MCA were Presidents, Sidney Sheinberg and Lawrence R. Barnett, and Ned Tanen, head of Universal Pictures. Tanen was behind Universal hits such as Animal House, John Hughes's Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
The Chess Records catalog was acquired from the remnants of Sugarhill in 1985. Motown Records was bought in 1988 (and sold to PolyGram in 1993). GRP Records and Geffen Records were acquired in 1990. In the same year, MCA was purchased by the Matsushita group.
MCA also acquired other assets outside of the music industry. It became a shareholder in USA Network in 1981, eventually owning 50% of the network (the other half was owned by Paramount). It also bought a TV station in New York City, WWOR-TV (renamed from WOR-TV), in 1987, from RKO General, which was in the midst of a licensing scandal. It was forced to sell the station in 1991 by the Federal Communications Commission after Matsushita's takeover of MCA because foreign companies could not own over 25% of a US TV station.
In 1997, Seagram Company Ltd. acquired 80% of MCA and the following year the new owners dropped the MCA name; the company became Universal Studios, Inc. and its music division, MCA Music Entertainment Group, was renamed Universal Music Group. MCA Records continued to live on as a label within the Universal Music Group. The following year, G. P. Putnam's Sons was sold to the Penguin Group.
In 1999 Seagram acquired PolyGram from Philips and merged it with its music holdings. When Seagram's drinks business was bought by France-based Pernod Ricard, its media holdings (including Universal) were sold to Vivendi which became Vivendi Universal.
In the spring of 2003, MCA Records was absorbed by Geffen Records. Its country music label, MCA Nashville Records is still in operation. MCA's classical music catalogue is managed by Deutsche Grammophon.
MCA's non-music assets at the time of the company's renaming, including Universal Studios and the 50% interest in USA Networks, are now owned by NBC Universal (now full owner of USA), which is 80% owned by General Electric, and 20% owned by Vivendi.