​Almanac: The 45 RPM record


Elvis Presley-autographed 45 RPM records are displayed at a Chicago auction house in this 2009 file photo. RCA Victor unveiled the new breed of phonograph record on January 10, 1949, and it became the standard for Top 40 hits and the ubiquitous jukebox.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: January 10th, 1949, 67 years ago today ... the day RCA Victor unveiled a new breed of phonograph record -- the 45.

Just seven inches across, with a one-and-a-half-inch hole in the middle, the new record played at 45 revolutions per minute, with greater fidelity and clarity than the old 78 rpm record.

"Listen, compare, and you, too, will agree that RCA Victor's 45 RPM record is the finest and best ever made," said one record company promo.

Not everyone agreed -- including the folks at arch-rival Columbia Records, which was promoting a new record of its own, which played at 33 1/3rd rpm.

Said Columbia's chairman: "We are unable to fathom the purpose of the records revolving at 45 RPM."

Though Columbia couldn't fathom it, a generation or two of American young people certainly DID.

With its small size and modest price, the 45 became THE standard for Top 40 hit songs, not to mention a mainstay for the malt shop jukebox.

From the '50s through the '60s ... from Elvis to The Beatles and beyond ... millions of American teens first played their favorite songs on a 45.

Eventually, however, technology turned against the pint-sized record. Cassette tapes, CDs, and online streaming services all eclipsed the 45 (and its 33 1/3rd big brother as well), relegating vinyl records of all types to that most dreaded of categories: music your parents -- even your grandparents -- listened to.

But old-style record lovers, take heart. There's a bit of a vinyl revival currently underway, with sales of 33 1/3 LPs up 52 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Proof positive that what goes around ... comes around!

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