This is a fascinating account of an indie label made good. Jac Holzman founded Elektra Records with a buddy in 1950 on a total investment of $600. It was originally established as a small folk label with no aspirations to be anything more. Holzman created quite a niche for himself, signing and releasing albums by Jean Ritchie, Josh White, Theodore Bikel and Bob Gibson. The limited appeal of his early roster seemed to almost cement the label’s legacy.
However, it was Holzman’s drive to find new and diverse talent that propelled the label into the major leagues in the 1960s and 1970s. His signings of The Doors, Tim Buckley, Love, Judy Collins, The Paul Butterfield Band, Phil Ochs, Bread, Queen, Carly Simon, The Stooges and The MC5 made the industry and music-buying public sit up and repeatedly take notice.
“Becoming Elektra” is Holzman’s story (until he departed in 1973). It’s also the story of the time, as the reader is given a glimpse of what was going on politically and musically. It’s also the story of the bands Holzman signed, as little anecdotes are sprinkled here and there to draw you deeper into the narrative.
Author Mick Houghton does a wonderful job of painting a detailed picture without boring the reader. He has a nice touch which engages without being overwhelming. The narrative is supported with archived photos and illustrations of various album covers during Holzman’s tenure.