Vinyl LP turns 75: Revolutionized how music was recorded, packaged, listened to

An old style turntable, close-up of a needle.(Getty Images/EnolaBrain)
For many, a 12-inch platter of vinyl, spinning 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, exemplifies how they first listened to music.

But long before rock and roll, soul, and other popular music styles were recorded on “albums,” the first vinyl LP — short for long-playing — record was released, 75 years ago Wednesday.

On June 21, 1948, Columbia Records released the first long-playing microgroove record, capable of holding 23 minutes of music per side. Columbia’s president Edward Wallerstein announced the new technology at a news conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

first LP library of congress
Label paperwork of the first LP. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

According to label paperwork in the Library of Congress, the first vinyl disc featured the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York, later known as the New York Philharmonic, under the baton of Bruno Walter, performing Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E minor,” with Nathan Milstein as the soloist.

The vinyl LP was an attempt to improve upon the limitations of 78 rpm discs, which measured 10 inches, and were made of a more brittle shellac.

Peter Goldmark, an engineer at CBS Laboratories, holds the patent in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the Long-Playing (LP) Record.

Goldmark didn’t apply for a patent until 1956 — eight years after developing the microgroove, and changing the disc material — which were used in Columbia’s first LP.

According to the Library of Congress: “The introduction of the long-playing disc changed the way record labels, musicians, and consumers packaged, created, and listened to music. When Columbia first began manufacturing LPs, the term ‘album’ referred literally to a collection of discs contained together in a group of bound sleeves.”

Beyond allowing listeners to hear an entire symphonic work without having to turn over a record, the vinyl LP became a new unit of consumption.

“Bands and musicians began to conceive and record full LPs rather than singles, and the music on these new albums was often unified around a common theme, musical concept, or narrative —enter the ‘concept album,’” according to the Library of Congress.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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