Bethlehem Records was a major jazz label in the 1950's formed by Gus Wildi with an impressive roster of artists including singers Nina Simone, Carmen MacRae, Chris Conner, Mel Torme, Bob Dorough, Billy Eckstine, Audrey Morris, Helen Carr and Frances Faye to name a few; arrangers: Marty Paich, Russ Garcia, Frank Hunter; and musicians including: Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk, Charles Mingus, Frank Rosolino, Herbie Mann, Stan Levey, Art Blakey, Milt Hinton, Errol Garner, Zoot Sims, Duke Ellington, JJ Johnson and many, many others. The label distinguished itself by giving artists creative control of their projects and presented albums of rather cutting edge graphic design. Its legacy is a lengthy discography that freshly and ambitiously captured and preserved an era of truly amazing music including West Coast Cool Jazz, East Coast Bop, and Vocalists. For many of the artists, their first or greatest recorded work happened at Bethlehem. By trusting its staff and artists to make their own creative decisions, to experiment, and thus to flourish, Bethlehem actively helped create and not just document a whole and diverse era of Jazz music.
The critics generally praised Bethlehem’s early issues, the first of its kind for the east coast, as most jazz labels were on the west coast. In 1955, Bethlehem began producing 12-inch albums featuring Bobby Troup, Helen Carr, Frances Faye, Carmen McRae, and Mel Torme. By 1956, Bethlehem was considered a top jazz label. During this year, Duke Ellington, who had been signed to Capitol Records, made the switch to Bethlehem Jazz.