Malaco Records is an independent record label based out of Jackson, Mississippi. Malaco is and has been the home of several blues and gospel acts such as Johnnie Taylor, Dorothy Moore, Little Milton, and the Mississippi Mass Choir. It has received a historic marker issued by the Mississippi Blues Commission commemorating its important place on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
In May 1970, a bespectacled producer-arranger changed the struggling company's fortune. Wardell Quezergue made his mark with New Orleans stalwarts Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, among others. Quezergue offered to supply Malaco with artists in return for studio time and session musicians. With very little money left, Malaco knew this might be their last shot at making something happen. Quezergue brought five artists to Jackson in a borrowed school bus for a marathon session that yielded two mega-hits - King Floyd's "Groove Me" and Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff." But the tracks met rejection when submitted to Stax and Atlantic Records for distribution. Frustrated, Malaco released the King Floyd tracks on its own Chimneyville label. When "Groove Me" started a wildfire of radio play and sales, Atlantic picked the record up for distribution after all, giving Malaco a label deal for future Chimneyville product. "Groove Me" entered the national charts in October, going to #1 R&B and #6 pop. In 1971, Chimneyville scored again with King Floyd's "Baby Let Me Kiss You" (#5 R&B and #29 Pop). Meanwhile, Stax decided to take a chance on "Mr. Big Stuff", selling over two million copies on the way to #1 on the R&B charts and #2 pop.
Malaco's studio and session musicians were now in demand. Atlantic sent the Pointer Sisters among others for the Malaco touch; Stax sent Rufus Thomas and others. And, in January 1973, Paul Simon recorded material for his There Goes Rhymin' Simon album. Later that year, Malaco released its first gospel record, "Gospel Train" by the Golden Nuggets. Also in 1973, King Floyd's "Woman Don't Go Astray" made #5 R&B.
When Dorothy Moore recorded "Misty Blue" in 1973, Malaco got stacks of rejection slips trying to shop the master to other labels. Two years later, Malaco was broke and desperate for something to sell. With just enough cash to press and mail out the record, "Misty Blue" was released on the Malaco label just before Thanksgiving. Luckily, it took off the moment it hit radio turntables.
"Misty Blue" earned gold records around the world, peaking at #2 R&B and #3 pop in the USA, and #5 in England. This was followed by thirteen chart records and five Grammy nominations for Moore by 1980.
By this time, Malaco had stopped trying to compete with mainstream labels. It fell back on what it did so well - down home black music. Larger labels dismissed the genre as an unprofitable relic of the past. However, Malaco could make a tidy profit selling 25,000 - 50,000 units. Starting with Z. Z. Hill, Malaco became the center of the universe for old-time blues and soul.
Since blues supposedly no longer sold, everyone was shocked when Hill's second album, Down Home Blues, sold 500,000 copies. It was the most successful blues album ever, revealing a core audience for quality blues records. It also became an anthem for R&B singers struggling against disco and the emergence of rap. Hill had become a blues superstar when he suddenly passed away in 1984. His funeral was attended by a who's who of southern blues culture. Hearing Johnnie Taylor sing at the service, Tommy Couch invited Taylor to become Malaco's new flagship artist. Blues legend Denise LaSalle charted fourteen times in the 1970s. But during the disco era, her R&B style was called blues, and big labels were no longer interested. It was a southern blues-radio staple and racked up substantial sales, but never showed up on national charts. This became the rule. Malaco's undisputed sales successes could never be measured by Billboard chart positions during the 1980s.
After 29 chart entries for other labels, blues guitarist Little Milton signed with Malaco in 1984. Little Milton's first Malaco single "The Blues is Alright" reestablished his presence as a major blues artist and solidified Malaco's reputation as the contemporary southern blues company.
In the late nineties, Malaco signed veteran Chicago soul great Tyrone Davis, whose credits included 42 R&B chart records. The company also continued its steady, prudent expansion, purchasing half of the Memphis-based distributor Select-O-Hits, and making inroads into the urban contemporary, jazz, and contemporary Christian markets.
Malaco continues to be a breeding ground for up-and-coming blues artists, such as Sir Charles Jones, Bobby Rush, and Marvin Sease.