1949 - 2004
Fantasy Records, along with its subsidiary Galaxy, was established in San Francisco in 1949 by Max and Sol Weiss. Their first artist was an Oakland pianist named Dave Brubeck, and when Brubeck's recordings began to sell, they went on to record Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and Cal Tjader, as well as Odetta, beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, and comic Lenny Bruce.
Saul Zaentz, who had joined Fantasy as a salesman in 1955, assembled a group of investors in 1967 and purchased the label from the Weiss brothers. They hit the jackpot the following year with Creedence Clearwater Revival, the most successful four-piece American rock 'n' roll band of all time.
The enormous success of Creedence enabled Fantasy to expand. In the early 70s, under the leadership of label president Ralph Kaffel, Fantasy purchased the catalogs of three of New York's top jazz independents: Prestige (also including its subsidiaries New Jazz, Bluesville, Folklore, Swingville, Tru-Sound, and Moodsville), Riverside (and subsidiary Jazzland), and Milestone. Fantasy also owned distribution rights to the Debut label.
In 1977, Fantasy went on to acquire the catalog of another legendary independent, the Memphis-based Stax Records (and affiliated labels Volt, Enterprise, and Gospel Truth).
Other label purchases followed: in 1984, Contemporary/Good Time Jazz; in 1987, Pablo; and in 1991, Specialty, one of the first post-war independent labels to have specialized in black popular music.
In 1995, Fantasy acquired two new labels– Takoma and Kicking Mule – that add to the company's already considerable holdings of high-quality roots-based music.
Fantasy's ambitious reissue programs have been influential industry-wide, highlighting aspects of its vast catalog from acid jazz to folk and blues to classic jazz in "twofer" CDs, boxed sets, 20-bit remastered CDs, and beginning in fall 2003, SA-CDs.
Fantasy and associated labels also maintain an active recording roster which currently includes Sonny Rollins, Eric Alexander, Jimmy Scott, Jim Snidero, Ithamara Koorax, Dave Ellis, and Jimmy McGriff, among others.
In 2004, Fantasy was sold to a consortium led by Norman Lear and merged with Concord Records to create a new company called Concord Music Group. While some operations are still located in Berkeley, the record label is now headquartered at the Concord Music Group location in Beverly Hills, California.
Shortly after Fantasy was purchased by Concord, John Fogerty, the lead singer & songwriter in Creedence Clearwater Revival, re-signed with the label after leaving it in the mid-seventies after a falling out with former owner Zaentz.