SOLAR Records logo
By Brandon I. Brooks
Sentinel Entertainment Editor
Dick Griffey is the founder of the legendary S.O.L.A.R. Records which is an acronym for Sound of Los Angeles Records. Â Founded in 1977 by Griffey, SOLAR Records was a venture created from the phenomenal success of the culture shaping television program, Ã¬Soul Train.Ã® Â Griffey and Don Cornelius were business partners as Griffey had served as the talent coordinator for the nationally syndicated television dance program (Soul Train) in 1975.
SOLAR Records use to be known as Soul Train Records until Griffey officially ventured off in 1977 and gave the label a major makeover.
SOLAR Records would quickly become one of the most important disco, R&B, and dance music imprints of the late 1970s and 1980s. The label even spawned a subsidiary label, Constellation Records, which had some success spinning off its parent’s successes.
In 1975, when Soul Train Records was founded, Griffey formed a collective called Shalamar using a host of session singers to record “Uptown Festival,” which was a disco-length medley of early Motown hits. After scoring a hit with the recording, he looked to Cornelius to help him put together an actual group to maintain the impact.
In 1977, Soul Train dancers Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel and Gerald Brown (who was eventually replaced by Howard Hewett) were recruited to form the new Shalamar, which would become the fledgling label’s centerpiece. Shalamar became one of the label’s best selling and most influential acts; scoring nearly 20 hit singles and classics such as: “Right in the Socket”, “The Second Time Around”, “Make That Move”, “A Night to Remember (Get Ready Tonight)” and “This Is for the Lover in You”.
SOLAR’s signature act above all was The Whispers, whose distinct harmonies and carefully-detailed musical and vocal arrangements defined and emphasized the “SOLAR sound”. The Whispers, who began in 1964, were famous for being Soul Train/SOLAR artists, as all of their biggest hits came from the label, including “As The Beat Goes On”, “It’s A Love Thing”, “Chocolate Girl”, “Lady”, and “Rock Steady” among others.
Griffey and Cornelius remained good friends, and as a result, SOLAR maintained close ties to the Soul Train show.
Since that time, Griffey has directed SOLAR Records to both national and international prominence. Many of musicÃs tops acts have been launched under the SOLAR imprint, such as, Lakeside, Midnight Star, KLYMAXX, Carrie Lucas, The Deele, and Babyface.
Griffey has always shown a knack for finding fresh talent as he helped garner and develop songwriters/producers James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis, Reggie and Vincent Calloway, Leon Sylvers and Antonio “L.A.” Reid, and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. Sylvers was the main producer behind the trademark SOLAR sound: funky, progressive dance music infused with soul and disco.
SOLAR’s twilight years, came in 1989 when it inked a distribution deal with CBS Records, who at this time was now owned by Sony Corporation. By 1992, SOLAR recordings were handled by Sony Music’s Epic division. SOLAR closed its doors in the late 1990s. The label’s back catalog was eventually purchased by EMI, with many of its releases and compilations being re-issued through EMI’s The Right Stuff imprint.