Elektra Records is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group, founded in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt. It played an important role in the development of contemporary folk music and rock music between the 1950s and 1970s. In 2004, it was consolidated into WMG's Atlantic Records Group. After five years of dormancy, the label was revived as an imprint of Atlantic in 2009. As of 2016 the label is run by Gregg Nadel.
Elektra was formed in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt in Holzman's St. John's College dorm room. Each invested $300. The usual spelling of the Greek mythological Pleiad Electra was changed. Holzman famously explained, "I gave her the ‘K’ that I lacked". He found the 'C' in the original name "too soft" but liked the "solid bite" of the letter 'K', citing its use in the Kodak name.
The first Elektra LP, New Songs (EKLP 1 released March 1951), was a collection of Lieder and similar art songs, which sold few copies. During the Fifties and early Sixties, the label concentrated on folk music recordings, releasing a number of best-selling albums by Theodore Bikel, Ed McCurdy, Oscar Brand, Judy Collins, and protest singers such as Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton. Holzman also recorded Josh White, who was without a record deal as a result of McCarthyite blacklisting.
In 1964, Elektra launched Nonesuch Records. This classical budget label was the best-selling budget classical label of the era. Other labels followed suit by starting their own budget series, but Nonesuch remained the most popular and Jac Holzman states in his book that profits from the budget classical label made it possible for Elektra to experiment with their pop releases by the mid-sixties.
In 1965, Elektra began a short-lived joint venture with Survey Music called Bounty Records which was Elektra's first foray into pop music. The most notable signing for Bounty was the Paul Butterfield Band who was moved over to Elektra when Bounty folded.
Elektra's entrance into pop gained the label considerable prestige on the music scene by being one of the first labels to sign up leading acts from the new wave of American psychedelic rock of 1966–1967. The label's most important signings were the Chicago-based Paul Butterfield Blues Band (with Mike Bloomfield), the Los Angeles bands Love and The Doors, and the Detroit bands The Stooges and MC5. Included in Elektra's LA signings were Tim Buckley and Bread. In 1968, the label also signed pioneering rock guitar soloist Lonnie Mack to a three-album deal.
Also in 1967, Elektra launched its influential Nonesuch Explorer Series, one of the first collections of what is now referred to as world music. Excerpts from several Nonesuch Explorer recordings were later included on the two Voyager Golden Discs which were sent into deep space in 1977 aboard the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes. Associated Artists