RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2014
Central to One-derful! is the Leaner family. By 1962 when brothers George and Ernie Leaner started One-derful! Records, they were revered figures on Chicago's Record Row and beyond. They distributed material from labels like Motown and Stax and One-derful! attracted top talent. It wasn't uncommon for a WVON DJ to help One-derful! sign their newest discovery, or for their singers, musicians, songwriters, or producers to have Chess or Motown on their resumes. Nearly 20 years prior, George and Ernie started work at their sister's Groove Record Shop. Before long, George was an assistant to legendary blues producer Lester Melrose, and later the brothers helped run Parkway Records – recording historic 78s featuring Little Walter and Muddy Waters. They did all of this before launching United Record Distributors in 1950 – regarded as the nation's first black owned record distributor. In addition, their uncle Al Benson was the most influential Radio DJ on Chicago's South Side. His on-air support and occasional partnerships with the Chess brothers proved crucial to their early success. He also helped many DJs get their start, including Vivian Carter who later formed Vee-Jay Records. In fact, United Record Distributors hosted her wedding. The Leaner name also turns up in connection with many of the greats in blues and soul: George Leaner produced an early release for Berry Gordy's Tamla label, and in the 1970s Ernie Leaner and Stax's Al Bell partnered to form Ernie's Onestop and a chain of Record World stores. The Leaner family were among the most important black businessmen of music's golden era, yet much of their history has only been superficially documented until now.