More than 70 years ago, John Dolphin, a music promoter earning a living as a used-car salesman back in Detroit moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of producing music. Dolphin was quick to establish himself by opening the first 24-hour record store in the South Central Los Angeles back 1948. Also known as, Lovin’ John, he had become one of the most successful black businessmen of the 40’s and into 50’s in Los Angeles…  

Before there was  Barry Gordy and Motown Records, John Dolphin created his own record label, “Recorded in Hollywood”. It was associated with his groundbreaking record shop in South Central, L.A.. Inside the store they would have remote radio shows broadcasting  the latest tunes from the R&B charts. Jazz musician, Charles Mingus and a young Sam Cooke could reach the entire city regardless of race!

Back then they would not allow a black owned and  operated  businesses in Hollywood, so he opened his shop just south of downtown  L.A. and called it “Dolphin’s of Hollywood”. He literally brought the pastiche of Hollywood into the black community. Dolphin had popular white DJ’s spinning records all night long at the storefront window. He bought airtime on local radio station KRKD, which mostly catered to white listeners. They played Dolphin-produced records and songs by others. And the crossover appeal of the shows helped break songs nationally. Kids of all colors could hang out in that parking lot, hear the radio station from their cars and go into the store, make a purchase or two, go back outside and hang out and get high. So, there was a scene that developed, and it was just music fans. It was young kids  that came from all over. The Chicanos from East L.A. Blacks from Watts and white yougins’ from Beverly Hills..  Recording megastars like Sam Cooke, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and even the “King of Rock n’ Roll”, Elvis Presley would appear for autograph parties…

But the store’s popularity became too much for local authorities.. They were worried about white girls dancing with black boys, so they would make arrests from time to time and send the white kids home to their moms and dads. Facing constant harassment from LAPD who’s chief, William Parker was a noted bigot and the mixing of races. Dolphin organized a protest aimed at the LAPD’s harassment of Black businesses. The police would occasionally shut down the shop. Even Dolphin was incarcerated by the L.A.P.D. Eventually  he prevailed by leading a march in protest of the police blockading his business in 1954. His influence grew, and Dolphin’s of Hollywood became a local chain of record stores and a destination for wide-eyed singers searching to be discovered. That influence became his undoing, when a misguided singer, Percy Ivy, shot and killed Dolphin in 1958. The two had recorded music together but the songs were never released. And after a disagreement over money and ownership of the recordings, Ivy came armed to Dolphin’s office in Hollywood, where his once-shunned business had eventually expanded. He was fatally shot in the chest and died at his desk.