Recollections of Hollywood: The Capitol Records Building

In 1949, 19 year old Joyce Van Schaack had a job at the original Capitol Records on Sunset and Vine. Capitol Records was founded by three individuals, Glenn Wallichs, owner of Wallichs Music City, who handled the executive side of the business, songwriter Johnny Mercer, who handled the artistic portion of the business and songwriter, film producer and record executive George “Buddy” DeSylva who bought a third of the business with a check for $10,000.00. They first set up shop at the Chateau Marmont Hotel on Sunset Blvd. Joyce Van Schaack worked in Artists and Repertoire or the A & R division, responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters which included such talent as Johnny Mercer, Margaret Whiting, Gordon MacRae and so many others. Joyce would soon marry Jim Van Schaack, the digital artist whose Recollections of Hollywood drawings, including the Capitol Records Building, would one day hang in the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Jim Van Schaack would also work for Wilton Beckett one day and would help design office interiors in the new Capitol Records Building that would be built in the mid 1950’s.

Recollections of Hollywood: Capitol Records by Jim Van Schaack
Recollections of Hollywood: The Capitol Records Building

The new Capitol Records Building was built one block north of the famous corner of Hollywood and Vine. The landmark building was designed by Jim Van Schaack’s friend, Louis Naidorf of Welton Becket Associates, the architectural firm that also designed the Music Center, Cinerama Dome, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and the department store that now houses the Petersen Automotive Museum. The 13-story tower completed in April 1956 resembles a tall stack of 45 RPM records, however Welton Beckett claims he just wanted to build a structure that economized space. The Capitol Records Building was the world’s first circular office building ever completed as of April 1956.

Public Tour Of Capital Records in Hollywood, California

Capitol Studios

The Capitol Records Building houses Capitol Studios, where Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Nat “King” Cole, Sir Paul McCartney, and many, many other music legends recorded some of the most treasured music in history. Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color was the first album recorded at Capitol Studios. The studios were built to minimize noise and vibration and legendary guitarist and recording innovator Les Paul designed the 8 echo chambers that are a major feature of the Capitol Studios. These subterranean concrete bunkers are located 30 feet underground. The echo chambers can provide reverb that lasts up to five seconds.

Listen to the the Beach Boys classic, Good Vibrations and you will hear the famous reverb effect.

The Red Light

To go along with the idea of the Capitol Records Building resembling a stack of records, the 90-foot rooftop spire has been said to be designed to resemble the needle on a phonograph. It is topped by a red light that continuously blinks the word “Hollywood” in Morse code. The light was first turned on in 1956 when the building opened. It was Leila Morse, the granddaughter of Samuel Morse, who threw the switch. In June 1992, the message was changed to “Capitol 50” in honor of the label’s 50th anniversary. A year later, the light returned to blinking the original “Hollywood.”

The Beatles – Hollywood Walk of Fame

The world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame is filled with celebrity stars embedded in the sidewalk on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The Beatles were honored with a star on December 25, 1998, and their star is located at the gateway of Hollywood and La Brea. The Beatles have also been honored with individual stars, and those stars are located just outside the Capitol Records BuildingJohn Lennon was awarded a posthumous star on Sep. 30, 1988. Lennon’s star is often the site of tributes and candlelight vigils on his birthday (October 9) and the anniversary of his death (December 8). George Harrison was posthumously honored with a star on April 14, 2009. Ringo Starr received his star on Feb. 10, 2010, the 50th anniversary of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sir Paul McCartney was the final Beatle to receive his star, which was unveiled in front of the Capitol Records Building on Feb. 9, 2012.

The Beatles Hollywood star on the Walk of Fame

“Hollywood Jazz: 1945-1972”

Hollywood Jazz: 1945-1972 is the new mural created by artist Richard Wyatt Jr.

Hollywood Jazz: 1945-1972 is a mural created by artist Richard Wyatt Jr. It is located on the south wall of the Capitol Records Building. The mural depicts legendary jazz musicians, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, Tito Puente, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Shelly Manne, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Etched on the murals stone background are the names of dozens of other jazz legends, including John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, and Charles Mingus. The mural was originally commissioned by the Los Angeles Jazz Society and was unveiled in October 1990. However, the mural became so seriously deteriorated that Capitol Records had to fund the restoration of the mural. The 15-month restoration began in November 2011 with Richard Wyatt Jr., the original artist doing the work. This mural was re-created from photos and fired onto 2,288 hand-glazed ceramic tiles to ensure it will be around for many years to come.

Close up of the original mural on the Capitol Records Building by digital artist Jim Van Schaack.

Christmas Tree

Angelenos know the holiday season has arrived when the Christmas tree atop the Capitol Records building is switched on. The tree has been a familiar holiday sight since 1958. According to Los Angeles Magazine, the tree was the first of its kind, designed by Ollsen Lighting and featuring 4,373 bulbs (at 25 watts each). Capitol Records has recently invited the families of legends such as Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole to do the honors and flip the switch to turn on the tree.

Source: Discover Los Angeles

The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography And Videography: The Early History Of Capitol Records