Jules Bihari, Bihari Brothers

Julius Jeramiah Bihari, b. September 9, 1913 in Pottstown, PA, d. November 17, 1984 in Los Angeles, CA.

Jules Bihari was the eldest of the four Bihari Brothers, who are best known for founding Modern Records, one of the top independent blues and R&B labels of the '40s and '50s. Bihari grew up in Tulsa, OK, in a large Jewish family of Hungarian descent; he later moved to Los Angeles -- as did his brothers -- in 1942, and got a job servicing and operating jukeboxes in black neighborhoods. Bihari noticed a distinct lack of proper funding and distribution for the blues records his customers wanted to hear, but which were often difficult to locate and stock. Enlisting his brothers as partners, Bihari set up the independent Modern label in 1945; he himself served as vice president, A&R, and frequent session producer. Helped by their keen ear for talent, the Bihari Brothers soon built Modern into a blues (and, later, R&B) powerhouse; their recording stable included the likes of Hadda Brooks (their first signing), a young B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Etta James, Lightnin' Hopkins, Lowell Fulson, Ike Turner, and more. Despite bringing such a wealth of talent to the world, the Bihari story had its shady side: many label owners of their era claimed a share of songwriting royalties by giving themselves writing credit on material they had no role in shaping, and the Biharis were no different (Jules' pseudonym Jules Taub appears on a number of B.B. King tracks).

Modern spun off a number of subsidiary labels over the '50s, including the rootsier RPM, Kent, Riviera, and the budget imprint Crown, which increasingly consumed the brothers' time from about 1957 on, and unfortunately put out quite a bit of shoddy product. Modern went under in the mid-'60s, but the brothers regrouped under the Kent imprint, which survived into the '70s; during this era, Jules Bihari also started his own Big Town label, and served as executive producer on several of comedian Rudy Ray Moore's films. After Saul Bihari's death in 1975, the brothers effectively stopped recording new material; Jules Bihari passed away in 1984, and around the same time, the family's holdings were acquired by the British label Ace (they eventually became part of Virgin).

Jules Bihari Biography by Steve Huey

Bihari Brothers

Lester Louis Bihari (b. May 12, 1912 in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, d. September 9, 1983);
Julius Jeramiah Bihari (b. September 9, 1913 in Pottstown, PA, d. November 17, 1984 in Los Angeles, CA);
Saul Samuel Bihari (b. March 9, 1918 in St. Louis, MO, d. February 22, 1975);
Joseph Bihari (b. May 30, 1925 in Memphis, TN, d. November 28, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA).

As the founders of Modern Records the Bihari Brothers, Jules, Joe, Lester and Saul, formed the base of one of the most influential r&b labels in pop history. Counted among the artists who recorded for Modern are John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Hadda Brooks, Lightnin' Hopkins, Lowell Fulson, B.B. King, Etta James and Ike Turner, among others. Located in L.A.'s Watts district, the label actually grew out of brother Jules' frustration with distributors. He ran a jukebox concession in the black neighborhoods and grew increasingly frustrated by the fact that he couldn't get enough copies of hit records. So much so that, along with his other brothers, he decided to form a label. Their first release was by a young female piano player named Hadda Brooks. Soon after the enterprising brothers bought a pressing plant and had a full staff of workers wich included producer Lester Sill. The brothers also divided tasks among them equally with Saul handling manufacturing and Jules taking production chores. Throughout the years, the Bihari's consistently showed the talent and tenacity to stay ahead of the current trends, discovering, producing and releasing some of the best work of the genre. In 1975 Saul died, leaving his three bothers to continue the company. In recent years, however, Modern has mainly relied on its back catolog and "glory days" for revenue.

Bihari Brothers Biography by Steve Kurutz