Dinah Washington Original Recording Agreement, a one page document on Columbia Records letterhead, dated Oct. 1951, SIGNED by the great blues, jazz, pop and r&b singer in blue ink at the bottom left. Also signed by a Columbia recording executive at the bottom right. Original Document Signed, 1 onion skin page, 8" by 11", to recto only, with expected punch holes to top edge, a few tiny chips and one short closed tear to right edge, else, near fine, clean and bright. The signature is fine in blue ink, without loss, skipping or fading. This agreement, dated Oct.4 1951, marks the legal termination of a recording contract that never happened; the document states that Washington had signed with Columbia on July 21 1950, unfortunately coincident with her signing of a three year renewal of an existing contract with Mercury Records! Dinah had first signed with Mercury in 1948 after gaining recognition with Lionel Hampton's band in 1943 and then successfully launching her recording career as a blues artist in the mid-40's for the small independent labels, Apollo and Keynote. She had immediate success for her new record company with a string of hit records, starting with Baby Get Lost which topped the r&b charts in the summer of 1949. In fact, as Washington's biographer Jim Haskins says, "by the fall of 1949 she was earning top billing at the Apollo in her own right, a certified star" with earnings that exceeded $100,000 a year and by 1950 "a watershed year" had become "Mercury's best selling artist in the Negro market and not just on ghetto juke boxes but in middle-class black homes". Haskins tells us that Mercury was so intent on re-signing their rising star in 1950 that a white mink coat and a substantial cash advance were added to the contract as extra inducement. But despite her seeming success, Dinah, notoriously volatile, demanding, insecure and erratic with a hair-trigger temper, often clashed with Mercury in turbulent disputes over discrepancies in royalty payments. (In hindsight she probably had very good cause, in that nearly fifty year after her death, her heirs apparently have yet to receive any compensation for the millions of recordings Dinah sold during her career at Mercury.) Justly proud of her extraordinary versatility (her mid-50's jazz recordings with luminaries like Clifford Brown and Max Roach and her eventual cross-over success as a pop singer with hits like, What A Difference A Day Makes, are ample proof), Washington also seemed to feel underused as an artist and baulked at Mercury's insistence on presenting her as 'Queen Of The Blues', an r&b singer whose recordings were marketed solely to a black audience. All of this appears to have contributed to Dinah's conviction that her contract had been violated and thus to the impulsive 1950 signing with Columbia in a futile attempt to break free of her commitments; after much legal wrangling she was forced to terminate the contract in this agreement which would otherwise have taken affect on Jan 1 1952. Dinah returned to Mercury and would remain with them until 1961, recording more than 400 sides and continuing to sell millions of records. In 1962 she signed with the newly formed Roulette Records, but by this time her career and health were in decline, due primarily to an increasing reliance on alcohol and her cross addiction to prescription drugs, an accidental but lethal combination of which caused her death on Dec. 14 1963, at just 39 years of age.
Vintage jazz collectible with the very uncommon signature of an iconic singer who influenced an entire generation of celebrated vocalists from Esther Phillips to Nancy Wilson. J1560