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The QRS company began in 1900 as a manufacturer of piano rolls and were one of the leading makers throughout the 20th Century. The initials stand for "Quality & Real Service".
The earliest known QRS record not only drew from Emerson Records and were 9" records. A few years later, the label drew from the Gennett catalog and even used the Gennett catalog number and label color-scheme. One of these rare and short lived QRS records is identical to Gennett 5271.
Black label record series
They established their third QRS label in 1928 which was run by Art Satherley who had been an executive at Paramount Records. Their studio was located in Long Island City, New York using the New York Gennett recording studio (who pressed their records), Clarence Williams was involved with them as Musical Director during this period. There was a 7000 series for jazz and blues, as well as a 9000 series for country and rural folk. Among the artists who recorded for QRS were Ed Bell, Clarence Williams, Katherine Henderson, Clifford Gibson, South Street Ramblers, Earl Hines, James "Stump" Johnson, Sara Martin, Anna Bell and Edith North Johnson, as well as the preacher Missionary Josephine Miles.
The audio quality of the 1928 QRS records is average for independent record labels of the period. As they were produced at Gennett's New York studio and were pressed by Gennett, they were identical in quality to 1928 Gennett records. There were no QRS records of this series produced after about April, 1929.
Red label (Cova) record series
In early 1930, a new QRS series was started (by the Cova Record Company), which lasted a short time into (possibly) 1931. Carl Fenton was apparently involved with this series. Where the 1928 QRS records were jazz, blues and gospel, this fouth series was commercial pop bands, all performing standard stock versions featuring little, if any, solo work.
The audio quality for this short-lived second series was average for the period, and the pressing quality was well below the quality of the 1928 series. This second series was probably created to compete with the new crop of cheap, short-lived labels (Crown and Hit of the Week). Collectors have speculated about where did Cova get the recording equipment for this red label series, as most have no lead-out grooves (which became the standard for all labels after about 1926 so when playing the record on a period phonograph the auto-stop mechanism would be tripped). Visually, these red label QRS records resemble a 1925 or 1926 record produced by Plaza (Banner, Regal, etc.).
Is it not known where either of these separate QRS series were sold, but judging by their short existence, one might assume that they were possibly intended as a store-specific type record label or possibily only available in certain regions. This has never been substantiated. The 1930 red label series is scarcer.
The QRS company continues as a manufacturer of piano rolls and music software to this day.
- The American Record Label Book by Brian Rust (Arlington House Publishers), 1978
- American Record Labels and Companies - An Encyclopedia (1891-1943) by Allan Sutton & Kurt Nauck (Mainspring Press), 2000
- "QRS Records". Rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved 2014-09-14.