Blue Note Records first recording session was on 6 January 1939 with Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. Two months later and the first ever Blue Note records were ready to be released on 3 March 1939.
The initial Blue Note 78-rpm releases were different from what most other companies were dong at the time. Instead of the usual ten-inch discs, Blue Note’s founder Alfred Lion decided to allow the pianists to play for longer, pressing his first releases as twelve-inch records – normally reserved for classical artists. According to Lion, “Ten-inch records were so short. People could do maybe two or three choruses and the record was over. I always figured, my gosh, those guys need more room to stretch out.”
On BN 1 were two slow blues tunes, ‘Melancholy’ and ‘Solitude’ that were takes 11 and 12 performed by Lewis. BN2 consisted of two numbers by Ammons with a quicker tempo, ‘Boogie Woogie Stomp’ and ‘Boogie Woogie Blues’. With no real distribution in place, Lion offered these records by mail order, priced at $1.50 each, which was double the standard retail price for a ten-inch record. Lion pressed just twenty-five of each disc – hardly an ambitious release schedule. But it was the start of the most famous record label devoted to jazz.
Artist Martin Craig designed the label for Blue Note’s first 78-rpm issues. His brief was short and sweet: “Make me a nice label, something modern.” Apart from a problem with the initial print run of the labels that turned the white element of the black-and-white design a pinky-red tone??, Craig’s design was both striking and modern.