Archival collection Milt Gabler Papers

Collection Number:
Bulk, 1938-1969; Inclusive, 1928-2006, undated
7.59 Linear feet (5 records cartons, 2 oversize boxes) 

[Identification of item], Milt Gabler Papers, Library and Archives, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Owner of Commodore Music Shop (New York), A&R executive for Decca Records, and founder of Commodore Records. Artist cards, memos, label copy, notes, lyrics, royalty statements, correspondence, and personnel information from Gabler's Decca days; correspondence from the Commodore Music Shop; and Gabler's personal handwritten lyrics and music, awards, clippings, interview transcripts, and promotional materials, as well as jazz and early rock and roll-related periodicals, newspapers, programs, and sheet music.
Finding Aid Permalink:
Scope and Contents note

The Milt Gabler Papers span the years 1928 to 2006, with the bulk of the material dating between 1938 and 1969. The collection’s primary focus is Gabler’s career as founder of Commodore Records and as an artists and repertoire (A & R) executive for Decca Records. The collection includes material related to the Commodore Music Shop and Gabler’s Commodore Records years; artist files for those under contract with Decca Records and including photocopies of artists' cards, package information memoranda, label copy, handwritten notes, lyrics, lists of recordings, royalty statements, correspondence, and record personnel sheets; lyrics and sheet music composed by Gabler, much of which is handwritten; and correspondence between the Commodore Music Shop and its customers, which illustrates the enthusiasm with which records released on the Commodore label were received by the public. Additionally, the collection includes some of Gabler’s personal files, including awards, clippings, interview and radio transcripts, and some promotional material, as well as printed and audiovisual material. The printed materials relate to jazz and early rock and roll and include periodicals, newspapers, programs, and sheet music. Audiovisual materials in the collection include 1/4-inch audiotapes. Viewed as a whole, the Milt Gabler Papers document Gabler’s influence on the popularity of swing-era jazz and early rock and roll, as well as his success as a record store owner, record producer, and songwriter.

Biographical Note
Gabler’s father opens the Commodore Radio Corporation (later Commodore Music Shop)in New York.
Gabler moves the Commodore Music Shop to 52nd Street.
Founds Commodore Records label.
Records Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” for Commodore.
Begins hosting weekly jam sessions at Jimmy Ryan’s on 52nd Street.
Goes to work for Decca Records as an A&R man at the invitation of Decca co-founder Jack Kapp.
Signs Bill Haley and the Comets to Decca.
Commodore Music Shop closes.
Retires from Decca.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2001 July 20
Dies at age 90.

As owner of the Commodore Music Shop on New York’s 52nd Street, Milt Gabler was an important influence in the swing-era jazz scene. In 1938 he founded Commodore Records, which recorded such artists as Louis Armstrong, Eddie Condon, Louis Jordan, and Jelly Roll Morton. When Columbia Records refused to produce Billie Holiday’s controversial “Strange Fruit,” Gabler invited Holiday to record the song for Commodore, giving Commodore its first commercial success. Gabler joined Decca Records in 1941, becoming one of the most influential artists and repertoire (A & R) executives of the early rock and roll era. He is credited with convincing Bill Haley and His Comets to add a heavier backbeat to “Rock Around the Clock,” thus ushering in a completely new style of popular music. Over the course of a career spanning more than five decades, Gabler produced over 40 recordings that sold more than a million copies each.


Milt Gabler, interview by Oral History Research Office, Columbia University, 1959, transcript, Milt Gabler Collection, Library and Archives, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

"Milt Gabler Biography." Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Accessed June 18, 2010.

Scott Yanow. "Milt Gabler." All Music Guide. Accessed June 18, 2010.

Custodial History note

The Milt Gabler Papers were received by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. as a gift from Lee Gabler on February 10, 2005. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. transferred the collection to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. on March 31, 2011.

Separated Materials note

Some print and audiovisual materials have been transferred to the library collection. Please search for the “Milt Gabler Papers" in the library catalog for a list of donated titles. If you are unable to find what you are looking for, consult the Library and Archives staff to ensure these materials are available.

Processing Information note

Processed by Christine Borne, Project Archivist. Completed on June 1, 2010. Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS and local processing manual.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research. Patrons must sign the Acknowledgment of Legal Responsibility and Privacy Rights statement on the Researcher Registration form before using this collection. Some of the audiovisual materials in the collection are on defunct media formats and, therefore, are RESTRICTED. Consult the Library and Archives staff in advance of your visit to ensure access to these materials is available.

Conditions Governing Use note

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. owns right, title, and interest in the works of authorship embodied in the materials in this collection. The transfer of Donor's literary and other property rights does not include works of other individuals and organizations contained in the gift. For more information, please consult the staff of the Library and Archives.