INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS PRODUCING CORPORATION. Popularly known simply as International Artists (but not to be confused with the New York-based classical music concern formally named International Artists Records), this Houston-based recording company and studio ownership corporation was active from 1965 through 1970, producing material by some of the most significant late-1960s Texas rock groups and other musicians. The label’s discography comprises twelve albums and approximately thirty-nine singles featuring twenty-five different headlining performers, most prominently including the full catalogue of material (four albums and seven singles) issued by the seminal psychedelic rock band, the 13th Floor Elevators, as well as a national hit by the progressive rock ensemble known as Bubble Puppy.
The first owner of the corporation was technically the recording engineer and producer Fred Carroll, who in 1965 had conceived the International Artists trademark for an independent project but quickly sold it (for $35) to the partnership of businessmen who would carry the name forward. That group originally included two attorneys, Bill Dillard (the corporate president) and Noble Ginther, Jr., as well as music publisher Ken Skinner and a former small record label owner named Lester Martin. After gaining a limited measure of commercial success with a 1966 single by the 13th Floor Elevators, the company added Lelan Rogers to its ranks to guide its national promotion efforts and studio production. It later also hired Ray Rush to produce and manage artists and repertoire. By 1968 Skinner and Martin had departed, and Dillard and Ginther brought in as an investor the president of Data Industries Corporation, J. L. Patterson, a man who would later be convicted on multiple fraud charges involving that company. Patterson’s involvement with International Artists included his role in transacting the corporation’s 1968 purchase of the Gold Star Studios facility, as well as its merger with Data Industries and its subsequent purchase of a Nashville record-pressing plant in 1969.
The recordings produced by International Artists represent a diverse selection of Texas musicians performing a variety of late-1960s youth-oriented subgenres of popular music. Its sole 1965 release featured the surf-pop of the Coastliners, followed in early 1966 by singles from the country crooner Tom Harvey, the R&B-influenced Johnny Williams, the pop-rocker Frankie Lee, and the folk-pop singer Kathy Clarke. None of those early records gained much attention, but International Artists single number 107, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by the Austin-based 13th Floor Elevators, was a minor hit in the fall of 1966. Thereafter, while the label continued to offer material reflecting various popular styles—including country, pop-rock, soul, blues, and miscellaneous novelty tunes—it focused more on the garage-punk or expressionistic style of experimental rock represented by the 13th Floor Elevators. Some of the somewhat similarly-defined groups who recorded for International Artists include the Golden Dawn, Lost and Found, Endle St. Cloud (aka Endle), Red Crayola (aka Red Krayola), the Rubayyat, Thursday’s Children, and Bubble Puppy—the last of which hit the Billboard charts in 1969 with its Gold Record Award-winning single “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass.” The psychedelic rock phenomenon dominated the company’s production of LP albums, accounting for ten of its twelve releases; however, the other two albums—one in 1968 by the iconic Lightnin’ Hopkins and the other in 1969 by guitarist and singer Dave Allen—remain important documents of Houston blues.
International Artists produced its final recordings in 1970 before filing for bankruptcy in April 1971. The former Gold Star Studios property, which it had renamed as International Artists Studios, was left in a state of dormancy until being purchased in 1971 by Huey P. Meaux and later reopened as SugarHill Recording Studios. The International Artists label name was later reactivated by Lelan Rogers, who had bought the rights to reissue its catalogue, culminating in the 1980 release of a retrospective double-album compilation of tracks by various artists under the title Epitaph for a Legend. Since then, many International Artists albums or single tracks have been reissued on CD, most notably in a 2008 three-disc set called Never Ever Land on the Charly imprint based in the United Kingdom.