Graduate Records is mainly known for signing the Birmingham group UB40, who have become the most successful reggae band in the world.
David Virr started Graduate Records in 1969 as a record shop in Dudley which grew, at one time, to a chain of six shops around the Midlands.
In 1979 after listening to John Peel’s radio show, David decided to start his own independent label. The first few singles only scraped into the indie chart but then, UB40 were signed & in January 1980 released their first single- ‘Food for Thought’ which reached No 4 in the main chart & went gold in the UK.
Graduate Records was the first independent label to have such a big hit without a major record company being involved…
Two further UB40 singles were released in the same year & both were top ten hits. UB40’s first album ‘Signing Off’ was released on Graduate Records in August 1980 & went platinum, remaining in the UK charts for over a year & scoring a big hit worldwide. ‘Signing Off’ has since been re-issued on CD by Virgin Records. Some of the tracks Graduate Records was involved with were included on ‘ The Best of UB40 Vol 1’ & also on ‘The very Best of UB40’ on Virgin Records.
Graduate also worked with other successful artists such as The Maisonettes who had a big hit in 1983 with ‘Heartache Avenue’ on our Ready, Steady, Go! label which was a top ten hit & went silver in the UK as well as being a big hit right across Europe.
Graduate were also very fortunate to have worked with Clifford T. Ward for several years until he passed away in 2001. His 1995 album ‘Julia & Other Stories’, first released on Graduate Records is now re-issued on Cherry Red Records who have also released the albums- ‘The Anthology’ in 2002, ‘Both of Us’, ‘ Bittersweet’, ‘ Hidden Treasures’ & ‘This was our love’ in Nov. 2003.
In 2003, The Fight, a young punk group from Dudley recorded a cover of a song by The Circles called ‘(I’m running around in) Circles’ for their mini-album ‘Home is where the Hate is’. This was out in the USA & released worldwide on the Fat Wreck Chords label.
David Virr also acted as a Music Advisor to record companies & artists, including Pete Best, the original drummer in The Beatles.
Rap collective Roll Deep adapted our track ‘Heartache Avenue’ into a rap version re-named ‘The Avenue’ & released by Relentless Records, The single did very well getting to No 11 in the charts. It also featured on their hit album ‘In at the Deep End’.