For people of a certain age, seven-inch 45 rpm vinyl records are what music was, and is, all about. They just can’t think of Elvis without picturing that signature yellow Sun record label, or The Beatles without recalling the label on all those Capitol 45s, with their trademark orange-and-yellow swirl.

Also known as singles because each side had a playing time of less than five minutes, 45s were first marketed in the United States by RCA in 1949. The format made its way to the U.K. in 1950. The hole in the center of a 45 was larger than the one for a 78 or LP, which allowed them to be stacked on spindles and dropped, one at a time, for continuous play. Immediately embraced by consumers, 45s were a big hit with jukebox manufacturers and operators, too, who liked the way the space-saving 45s allowed them to quadruple (compared to 78s) the number of songs they could offer customers.

Early adopters of the 45 included Fats Domino, whose 1949 single, “Fat Man,” is one of the most collectible 45s by any artist. Ray Charles released “I Got a Woman,” the Drifters cut “Save the Last Dance For Me,” and James Brown rocked the house with “Please, Please, Please.”

Of course, some of the most prized 45s around are those Elvis Sun singles. The first was "That’s All Right," which was recorded live in the studio in 1954. The single’s B-side was a Bill Monroe bluegrass tune from the 1940s called "Blue Moon of Kentucky." Two more Sun singles followed that year, with another pair in 1955, for a total of five Elvis Sun singles containing 10 songs.

Other 1950s acts to score big with 45s include Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”), Bill Haley (“Ten Little Indians”), Little Richard (“Long Tall Sally”), and Carl Perkins (he recorded his tune “Blue Suede Shoes” a year before The King laid down his version for Sun).

On the other side of the Atlantic, the first U.K. Beatles single was "Love Me Do," which was released in 1962 by Parlophone, whose red label was augmented by blue, yellow, purple, and red horizontal stripes on the 45’s sleeve. Other collectible U.K. Beatles singles are the title tracks from the films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!”

In the United States, before Capitol Records signed the band in 1964, Vee-Jay Records released several Beatles 45s. One famous Vee-Jay typo was on the 1963 single of "Please Plea...

Late-1960s album-oriented-rock artists are generally not known for their 45s, but The Doors were a notable exception. In particular, its hit song “Light My Fire” got lots of airplay, thanks in no small part to the hot-selling, and shortened, single.

Northern Soul 45s are also in high demand. Those are the discs that were spun from the late-1960s though the 1970s by DJs at northern England dance clubs such as The Twisted Wheel and Wigan Casino. Gloria Jones, Jackie Wilson, and the Imperials were all popular artists associated with that scene. Finally, later in the 1970s, disco, dominated the charts. Disco fever, as it was called, owed a huge debt to 45s by the Bee-Gees (“Stayin’ Alive”), Gloria Gayner (“I Will Survive”), and the Village People (“YMCA”), to name but a few.

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Recent News: 45 Records

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Modest Mouse Announces Strangers To Ourselves, First New Album In Eight ...
KpopStarz, December 19th

The song will be available for purchase tomorrow, Tuesday, December 16," the note that accompanied the 45 rpm single said. "'Lampshades on Fire' is the first single from our new album Strangers to Ourselves, which will be released on Tuesday, March 3, ...Read more

'Jingle Bell Rocks' documentary uncovers Christmas musical oddities
Chicago Tribune, December 18th

(The opening credits, by the way, are especially witty, depicting a series of spinning 45-rpm records.) "There are 32 songs in the film, and you'd think, some of them are so obscure, they must be owned by some tiny label, and they're not going to...Read more

A mouthful of soap and no supper
Courier-Gazette & Camden Herald, December 18th

It was a bold purchase, increasing our collection of Christmas records by 33 percent, and our collection of Christmas albums by 100 percent. (One of our two other Christmas records was a 45 rpm featuring the Korean Orphan Boys Choir singing “Angels...Read more

Jack White's top-selling 'Lazaretto' unique in every way
San Francisco Examiner, December 18th

On Side B, the label trick is done again, but the music can be heard only at 45 rpm. Combined with the record's 33 rpm playing speed, "Lazaretto" uses three different speeds. On top of that, a hologram is next to the label. An angel dances as the music...Read more

'Twas the Night Before Christmas … 1978
Radio World, December 17th

Next to him were the shoeboxes with the “singles,” the 45 rpm records. One box had the top 10 or so, the other had the rest of the top 40. In front or him was the “clock,” a hand drawn illustration which told him which category of songs to play during...Read more

Premiere: Jack White band singer-fiddler Lillie Mae Rische's 'Nobody's'
Los Angeles Times, December 17th

Eyes," with members of the group who backed her: steel guitarist Carl Broemel from My Morning Jacket, bassists Jack Lawrence and Dominic Davis and drummer Whip Triplet. It's part of the "Blue Series" of vintage-style 45 rpm releases from Third Man...Read more

Rockford Rocked Interviews: A chat with Rockford native Larry Merryman of ...
The Rock River Times, December 16th

It was an old MGM Records 45 rpm called Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley. How's that for different musical taste? RRI: What was the music scene like here in Rockford in the '60s? LM: When I started playing in a band back in the '60s, the Rockford...Read more

Naperville record store revives vinyl vibe
Chicago Tribune, December 14th

The shop also carries some new albums, 45-rpm disks, CDs, DVDs, t-shirts and drawers of MAD magazines.. Sicker waxed nostalgic as he cued up Jefferson Airplane's 'Surrealistic Pillow' album on a vintage one-speaker record player. "I remember going to ...Read more