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|Genre||Jazz, swing, pop|
|Country of origin||U.S.|
The label was a morale-boosting initiative involving the production of recordings during World War II by arrangement between the U.S. government and record companies. Many popular singers, big bands, and orchestras recorded V-discs. The name referred to both the label and the discs, which were 12-inch vinyl 78s produced from October 1943 to May 1949.
The V-Disc project began in June 1941, six months before the United States' involvement in World War II, when Captain Howard Bronson was assigned to the Army's Recreation and Welfare Section as a musical advisor. Bronson suggested the troops might appreciate a series of records featuring military band music, inspirational records that could motivate soldiers and improve morale. By 1942, the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) sent 16-inch, 33-rpm vinyl transcription discs to the troops from concerts, recitals, radio broadcasts, film soundtracks, special recording sessions, and previously issued commercial records.
Under the leadership of James Caesar Petrillo, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) was involved in the 1942–44 musicians' strike in which there was a recording ban on four companies. On October 27, 1943  George Robert Vincent convinced Petrillo to allow the union's musicians to make records for the military as long as the discs were not sold and the masters were disposed of. Musicians who had contracts with different record labels were now able to record together for this nonprofit enterprise. A group consisting of Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Art Tatum recorded concerts that were released as V-Discs. Captain Vincent ran the program from the Special Services Division. Artists and repertoire responsibilities were handled by Steve Scholes and Walt Heebner, both of RCA Victor, Morty Palitz of Decca Records, and Tony Janak of Columbia Records. The program started for the Army, but soon music was provided for the Navy and Marines.
The V-Discs were a hit. Soldiers who were tired of hearing the same old records were treated to new and special releases from the top musical performers of the day. The selection included big band hits, some swing music, classical performances from symphony orchestras, jazz, and military marches. Radio networks sent airchecks and live feeds to V-Disc headquarters in New York. Movie studios sent rehearsal feeds from the latest Hollywood motion pictures to V-Disc. Musicians gathered at V-Disc recording sessions in New York City and Los Angeles. V-Discs were pressed by labels such as RCA Victor and Columbia.
Many V-Discs contained spoken-word introductions by bandleaders and musicians wishing good luck and prayers for the soldiers. Glenn Miller in December 1943, introduced a record by saying, "This is Captain Glenn Miller speaking for the Army Air Force's Training Command Orchestra and we hope that you soldiers of the Allied forces enjoy these V-Discs that we're making just for you." The Jubilee series, hosted by comedian Ernie "Bubbles" Whitman, was provided for black servicemen. The banter between Whitman and guests sometimes ventured into risque and racial humor, including the use of the slang term "ofay" to refer to whites. In addition to a window into black entertainment styles, the Jubilee series chronicled the development of swing music on the cusp of bebop. V-disc recordings provide important archives of the Billy Eckstine Orchestra and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. The "V" stands for "Victory" although Vincent said the "V" stood for "Vincent".
The V-Disc program ended in 1949. Audio masters and stampers were destroyed. Leftover V-Discs at bases and on ships were discarded. On some occasions, the FBI and the Provost Marshal's Office confiscated and destroyed V-Discs that servicemen had smuggled home. An employee at a Los Angeles record company served a prison sentence for the illegal possession of over 2500 V-Discs.
The Library of Congress has a complete set of V-Discs, and the National Archives did save some of the metal stampers.
- The Columbia Years 1943–1952: The V-Discs
- The Real Complete Columbia Years V-Discs
- V-Disc Recordings, Jo Stafford
- Sears, Richard S. V-Discs: A History and Discography. Westport, Connecticut, The Greenwood Press, 1980.
- Sears, Richard S. V-Discs: The First Supplement. Greenwood Press, 1986. ISBN 0-313-25421-4
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