Of all the independent record labels to start up at the end of World War II, Art Rupe's Hollywood-based Specialty Records has one of the most glorious histories. The label's biggest star, Little Richard, is synonymous with the roots of rock 'n' roll. Other icons of the era who began their careers on Specialty are Sam Cooke, Lloyd Price, and a pre-Neville Brothers Art Neville. Soul-era stars who got their starts as gospel artists on Specialty include Lou Rawls (with the Chosen Gospel Singers) and Johnnie Taylor, who replaced Sam Cooke in the Soul Stirrers.
In the 1940s, Rupe recorded acts which bridged the gap between swing and rock 'n' roll, beginning with his jump blues practitioners, Roy Milton, Joe Liggins, and Joe's brother Jimmy Liggins. By midcentury, Specialty was churning out hit after hit by these, as well as boogie-woogie stylist Camille Howard and that master lyricist of the blues, Percy Mayfield. As teenagers discovered rhythm and blues in the early Fifties, Specialty was right there with Marvin & Johnny, Jesse Belvin, and Lloyd Price, whose Lawdy Miss Clawdy was the top R&B record of 1952 and one of the first to cross over to white record buyers.
This 5-CD boxed set contains 130 tracks - all of Specialty's hits, as well as important songs and artists, in order of release. The booklet contains previously unpublished photos, rare posters and other promotional items, full session information, and extensive notes by Specialty Records historian and box producer Billy Vera.
Rolling Stone - 6/30/94, p.77
"...Specialty Records was one of the cornerstones of the rock & roll era..."
Label-owner Art Rupe was a savvy businessman who knew the black jukebox industry and what made it tick when he started his Specialty label in the late-'40s. This sumptuous five-disc box set contains a bevy of highlights from this seminal R&B/rock & roll label. Over the years, Rupe recorded a little bit of everything; early big band jump (the Liggins brothers), down-home blues and zydeco (Guitar Slim, Frankie Lee Sims, Clifton Chenier), gospel (early Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers), and doo wop (the Pentagons, Jesse Belvin). But with the discovery of the label's biggest star, Little Richard, in 1955, here is where the real story of rock & roll begins. A box set that no lover of the real thing can be without.~ Cub Koda