The death of John Dolphin

bko14cac26tg2cav6ys47ca8z39f3ca3raodocacctorxcaeo5eb8cab8d3z6ca8tmp1pcap5600fca1ejujncag81vaoca4pldzrcax9x8pqcanfmqfmca6e1ajccanflkwtcaxl667xcae7u2hr.jpegzva3pcasapoxvcalvi4y9ca34c7emcau5sfctcaq362a7cao0wmptcaew3qhfcadowgeqca2j2ps1casu1asfcajs91wocaxsb1adcaxr16h8ca3wy4vpca3v3iv4cavbkoifcaaafymkca5b97xg.jpegcash-single.jpegBetween about 1948 and 1958, John Dolphin owned and operated Dolphin’s of Hollywood Record Shop in South L.A., most famously near the corner of Vernon and Central Ave. From the early 1950s to his death, he also operated a variety of local labels like Recorded In Hollywood, Lucky, Money and Cash, one which he recorded a host of local r&b, blues, jazz and even western music talent.

While recording for Dolphin, who was well known for making promises of rich payouts, only to forget to pay modest session scale to studio players, Rudy Ray Moore took on assistant duties, becoming his driver and picking up records for the store in ‘58 and ’59.

According to the L.A. Times, John Dolphin, 42 of 3918 Edgehill Dr. was murdered behind the desk of his office at 1252 S. Berendo St., Hollywood, on Feb 1, 1958 by frustrated singer Percy Ivy, 26, a shipping clerk who lived at 1124 W. 45th St. Teenaged songwriter and piano player Bruce Johnston witnessed the murder at Dolphin’s office in Hollywood. With him were musicians Dave Shostac, 16, of 10304 La Grange Ave. and drummer Sandy Nelson, both of whom were waiting with Ivy outside of Dolphin’s office for the man to arrive. “Ivy said he submitted four songs to Dolphin three or four weeks ago, but failed to collect a promised payment of $250 each.” One of the songs was “You’re Going Away.”

Ivy stated he “reached for the gun,” a 32-caliber Italian automatic, “when Dolphin pulled out a switch blade knife.” Ivy fired five or six shots at a close range. “Ivy let us in,” said Johnston. “He argued with Dolphin, then pulled out a gun and shot John, who landed on a heater.

Sandy Nelson was drinking a soft drink and when he ran out of the office to get some help, it was fizzing all over the place.” Shostac was grazed in the leg by a ricocheting bullet. Nelson recalled that when he returned with the police to Dolphin’s office, Johnston was making a deal with Ivy to have some songs recorded when he got released from prison.

“John Dolphin got killed on a humbug, he had nothing coming,” said Moore. “John sent Percy Ivy to Austin McCoy to make these dubs, John paid for these dubs. He brought these dubs to John and Percy Ivy wanted the dubs back.”

Upon his release from prison, Ivy went to work for Allied Pressing. Ruth Dolphin, who had arrived in L.A. in 1946, marrying John G. Dolphin in 1948, took over ownership, though Moore became the day-to-day proprietor. “I took over in ‘59, started working for his wife, run his store until 1970.”

Dolphin’s death meant the end of Cash, so in 1959, Moore issued all of his releases on the newly created Ball label.



14 Responses to “The death of John Dolphin”

  1. Phil Kimball Says:

    I used to visit Ruth Dolphin in her late sister (Theresa’s) thrift store on 63rd and Western back in the 1990’s. Her sister, Georgia Stone had a thrift store around the corner on Gage. Georgia had loaned her wedding dress to Joanna Belvin, a close friend. Mr Stone, Georgia’s husband, managed the estate for Big Joe Turner. Ruth told me that she took her twin sons to Boley, Oklahoma after her husband was killed. They stayed with Dolphin’s older sister, Velma Ashley, who was married to a doctor. The Dolphins were a founding family of Boley, an all black township that is famous for the black rodeo. Dolphin’s father was supposedly part white. There is a vague picture of him in a book that commemorates the founding families of Boley. Ruth Dolphin had a large family of sisters. Besides Georgia, I met one from Mississippi, visiting Ruth in her shop. As always the gracious host, Ruth invited me stay and chat, as they were having a great time seeing each other.

  2. Alia Dolphin Says:

    This is astounding. I wanted some info on my grandpa, as I never net him, and there is a blog about his beginnings and ends. I am the daughter of John Dolphin’s first son, John Dolphin II, and I just wanted to see another story than the one my father told me. My name is Alia Ruth Devon Dolphin and its incredible to see the man and woman I am named after still remembered.

    • Michael Stone Says:

      Alia, you are my little cousin, do you remember me, it has been a very long time, since we have spoken. Once when you were very young your father took me and you Jonathan and Jason to Disneyland!!!!…I’m the only grandson of Georgia & Eddie Stone, son of their only daughter Andrea Stone. I was also looking up info on your grandfather and my uncle and aunt Ruth Dolphin-Wiggins…i hope that you read this!!!! I have not spoke with you since way before the death of your father, my uncle John Dolphin II. I miss you !!! LOVE YOUR BIG COUSIN, MICHAEL BENARD STONE

      • Debra Hughes Says:

        Wow I grew up with your mom! She was one of most dearest friends. I lived on Wilton Place and she your grandparents lived around the corner. She, Michelle and I would play together. I spent plenty of days in that garage. Stanley used to treat us like the KIDS we were. You mom is a couple of years older than me, and my mom and your Great Aunt Ruth had been friends long before any of us were born. My uncle lived on Edgehill Drive down the street from your Ruth and John.

        When we were kids, your Great Aunt would take Andrea to the Jackson 5 house. Who would know I would grow up and be very dear friends with the Jacksons. It’s all your mom’s fault. She gave me the phone number when I was in the 7th or 8th grade and I had HEART! I called and became good friends with Marlon by the time I was in 9th grade. My mom sold the house and we moved back to Baldwin Hills.

        I think you have a Great Aunt named (Pat??) and I can’t remember if Ossie was John or Ruth’s cousin. They lived on Vernon west of Morgan. My grandfather owned the HUGE church that used to sit on Vernon about a block east of Central. My uncle Paul worked at Dolphins with Rudy. My uncle ran the Bookie Joint on Long Beach and Vernon that you could find all the famous black celebs hanging out. My dad owned the restaurant on Central where John used to eat across from the hotel.

        Make sure to tell you mom I said hello and that I have thought about her over the years. Wow I’ve known you mom since I was 9 yrs old.

        Tell her Debra Hughes asked about her and she can find me at or

        I hope to hear from you guys!!!

        Warmest Regards,

        Miss Debra

  3. Ellinore King Says:

    Alia and Michael: I am interested in hearing about your parents and grandparents. Geneology is my hobby and I had some relatives in Boley, Oklahoma where John, Sr. grew up.

  4. leon Says:

    i was cell mates with percy ivey .sorry about john.

  5. Dolphin’s of Hollywood, the murder of John Dolphin | Vivid Bodies, Illuminated Sites Says:

    […] store in 1958 by a disgruntled song writer. There were several witnesses at the scene, including David Shostac, who has just gotten in touch with me. He was 16 at the time of the murder, so he will no doubt be a […]

  6. 2010 in review « 45 RPM Says:

    […] The death of John Dolphin August 2007 7 comments 4 […]

  7. Says:

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  8. Tyler Says:

    Reblogged this on SONIC GEOGRAPHY and commented:
    I’m currently working on a chapter about the historical geography of emotion in the evolution of the vinyl record industry. I just learned about the murder of John Dolphin in February of 1958. The man was incredibly instrumental in the integration of LA’s music scene in the 50’s, issuing such singles as “Earth Angel” by the Penguins (famously covered by Marvin Berry & the Starlighters). After some light googling, I found Steve Propes’ wordpress blog about classic doo-wop 45’s, and particularly this posting about Dolphin’s murder. The comments section, where several of Dolphin’s old friends, as well as the one-time cell mate of his murderer Percy Icy, show up, is why I had to reblog this. Enjoy! I’m going back to writing for another 70 hours.

    • rockinsteve Says:

      Thanks for your response, just one correction. Dolphin did not issue “Earth Angel,” that was by Walter “Dootsie” Williams on his Dootone label, though Dolphin’s DJ Huggy Boy was probably the first to play the record in the store window in ’54.

      Steve Propes

  9. Dan Vanlandingham Says:

    I read about this story many years ago,back in the late sixties,in some magazine,called “The Fifth Beach Boy”.I don’t remember what the name of the magazine was.I grew up on ’50s Rock and Roll and R & B.I must have been around 17 or 18 when I read it.

  10. Melinda Ratliff Says:

    My mother worked for Mr. Dolphin in his store and she said and she told me that working for Dolphin’s was an experience!!!!

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