When 45 RPM record players & 7″ vinyl singles debuted, it was a big deal

45 RPM record players

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People were used to big records — but then the music industry wanted everyone to adopt a new format and a new size. They had good timing, and produced this new product just ahead of the birth of rock & roll! 

Find out some interesting history of vinyl records here, as presented by RCA records in the late 1940s after they debuted their 45-RPM record players and 7″ singles — the kind that were popular at homes and in jukeboxes

Touting their new invention, RCA confidently wrote, “45s are for all music. 33-1/3s [standard modern LP records] are for the less-than-10% of music that may be preferred on long-play records.”

While 45 RPM singles were huge, over time, long-play records with more than two tracks became the standard for music lovers. (PS: See how people fixed the too-big hole in the middle for larger record players.)

Vintage 1950s Decca 45-RPM singles from 1959

Vinyl record history & facts about 45 RPM record players (from 1949)

It’s time someone cleared up the confusion in the record business — laying all the facts on the table. Why are there now three different record speeds being sold? And where do we go from here?

A message to everyone in any way connected with the record business, from the President of the Radio Corporation of America . . . the world’s original disc-record makers, and the only company making both records and phonographs

Fact 1: Fifty years ago, the Victor Talking Machine Company experimented with the first disc records. They used spring-driven motors which just happened to have a speed of 78 revolutions per minute.

So it will be seen that the original 78-rpm speed was the result of circumstance, not research. The perfecting of the disc-type record was the big sensation then. Nobody questioned whether 78 revolutions per minute was the best speed It was simply accepted as the international standard speed.

Fact 2: Victor was the first to put the world’s great artists and great music on records. For many years, Victor was the only company doing this. Today it is still true that far more big names record for RCA Victor than for anyone else.

RCA Victor’s catalog is the most extensive in the world. RCA Victor intends to utilize their full resources to maintain this leadership.

Fact 3: RCA Victor was the first to make long-playing records. Our long-playing experiments began in 1916. In 1931, RCA Victor put “33-1/3” long-playing records on the market.

They were “shellac” records — today’s high-tone-quality Vinylite was not then available. We discontinued them because we were not satisfied that they answered the demand for a better record.

ALSO SEE: How Bill Haley & His Comets rocked around the clock when rock ‘n’ roll was brand new

The stars who make the hits are on RCA Victor 45RPM! (1949)

Fact 4: Before World War II, RCA Victor developed microgroove records. This idea makes possible both “45s” and long-play records.

Why, then, did we hot use the micro-groove idea to make long-play records? Because we believed that the microgroove, with new materials and a new kind of record-player, should be the basis for an entirely new system of recorded music superior to any other system

Fact 5:  RCA Victor engineers proved, by careful testing, that 45 rpm was the most efficient speed for microgroove records playing up to 5 minutes. We microgroove on a 5-minute record because it would handle over 90% of the musical selections people buy.

We wanted non-breakable records, small enough to store easily. We wanted a foolproof, low-cost record changer. We wanted records and changer de-signed together, to work together. The “45” system was the answer.

Fact 6: Toscanini, Koussevitzky, Rubinstein, Heifetz, Horowitz, and many other great music authorities listened to “45” and pronounced it the finest of all recorded music.

Fact 7: RCA Victor’s “45’s” give far better reproduction than any “78s”…we have met no person competent to judge who disagrees! Fact 8 RCA Victor’s “45” system was developed 10 years ago. The war delayed its introduction.

1950 Victrola 45 records
It’s all play and no work – The Victrola 45 attachment – the modern way to play records

Fact 9: More than 90%-of all selections bought can be recorded completely on single record. Therefore, they should be recorded on single, separate records — so that people can make up their own programs, and not have it done for them. “45” gives this freedom.

Fact 10: Less than 10% of the music America buys is long enough to warrant long-play recordings. (And note that, when such music is recorded on “78” or “45,” the “breaks” occur where the composer himself intended a pause.)

Fact 11: “45s” and “33-1/3s” complement each other. “45’s” are for all music. “33-1/3s” are for the less-than-10% of music that may be preferred on long-play records.

Fact 12: Music lovers who now own “33 1/3” turntables have asked RCA Victor to make long-play records . . . drawing on our catalog of great artists and great music. So we will soon produce improved long-playing records. RCA Victor will not release any “33-1/3” records that are not up to our high standard of fidelity, clarity, and freedom from distortion and from surface noise.

In brief… As the leader in the field of recording, we believe it is RCA Victor’s responsibility to make better products for everyone’s greater satisfaction. That is why we introduced the RCA Victor “45” system. “45” is clearly a great advance in recorded music. Eventually, it will almost completely replace the 50-year-old 78-rpm system. That is inevitable.

ALSO SEE: V is for Victrola record players: The history of the famous gramophones that entertained millions

America has accepted “45” with high enthusiasm — proving far better than words the superiority of “45” over the old system. RCA Victor’s plants, and the plants of competitors, are taxed to capacity producing “45’s.” Already 10 other record companies are making or have announced they will make “45’s” early in 1950.

RCA Victor will continue to make 78-rpm records as long as there is a reasonable demand for them. But as sales of “45’s” grow, the sales of 78-rpm records are bound to decline until they are replaced almost entirely by “45’s.” Selections on RCA Victor “33-1/3” records will ALL be on “45’s,” too, for those who don’t want to buy a long-playing attachment.

Our plants are working around the clock to fill orders for “45’s.” Because of this, releases of RCA Victor “33-1/3” long-playing records will be slower than we or you would like. Be assured we are doing our utmost to bring you long-playing records by as many RCA Victor world-famous artists as possible, as quickly as possible.

1950 Facts about 45 records - Music industry

ALSO SEE: Music lovers: Remember 45-rpm single inserts? See a bunch of those old little record spindle adapters

It’s sweeping the country!

“Finest tone-quality I’ve ever heard,” says Tony Martin. Sounds better – plays easier – costs less.

1950 RCA Victor 45

Sales & marketing 45RPM singles in 1949

Fixtures, displays & training films

Launching RCA Victor 45 RPM records in 1949 (2)


Launching RCA Victor 45 RPM records in 1949 (3)

MORE: How to choose a turntable: Old-school tips for the best record players

The RCA Victor “45”

…is the world’s fastest… the world’s finest automatic changer

Plays through your radio!

Look at these features:

  • Plays the amazing distortion-free 45 rpm records.
  • Plays up to 10 records at one touch of a button — up to 50 minutes of music!
  • Easier loading! No posts or clamps to adjust.
  • No storage problems — all records are convenient 7-inch size! (Can play as long as ordinary 12-inch!)
  • Non-breakable records! Wear up to 10 times longer
  • Virtually no surface noise


This is the new, wonderful 45 rpm changer unit that lets you enjoy distortion-free music. It’s yours for the unbelievably low price of only $12.95. Easily attached to your present set — and you can enjoy recorded music with the true-to-life perfection that is making music history! It’s the world’s new standard of recorded music. Hurry in for your changer now!

Artists love it!
Vaughn Monroe says: “The new RCA Victor 45 rpm records have superb tone quality… are the easiest in the world to play.”

Owners love it!
People who already own the 45 rpm system accord it the “highest praise! “Perfect tone … amazingly REAL-sounding … to simple to operate”… phrases like these abound letters that pour onto RCA Victor. One you hear it, you know 45 rpm is the system YOU want — now and in the future.

You’ll love it!
Your “45” changer opens to you a wealth of listening pleasure! “The world’s greatest artists…” and the stars who make the hits…” are on low-cost RCA Victor 45 rpm records. More than 1000 titles already! More are coming out every day. Pops — classics — albums — everything! Ask for your copy of the complete RCA Victor 45 rpm catalog!

Sheboygan Press September 26, 1949

ALSO SEE: Getting real with vintage reel-to-reel tape recorders

Amazing new RCA Victor 45 only $12.95

Billings Gazette September 20, 1949

See and hear this completely automatic record changer today!

Perry Como says… “The amazingly lifelike reproducing medium of the new RCA Victor 45 rpm phonograph record and changer is wonderfully distortion-free… and so easy and natural it is difficult to believe you are not hearing an actual performance.”

Launching RCA Victor 45 RPM records in 1949 (4)

HOW THINGS CHANGE: Vintage ’80s home stereo systems, personal stereos, TV sets and more

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