Our Story

As a child in Stuttgart, Germany, Martin Haerle fell in love with the bluegrass and country music he heard on American Armed Forces Radio. Infatuated with the high-lonesome sound, Haerle set off for America in search of his musical heroes and to get into the country music business. Starting in the mailroom of Starday Records in Nashville, he ascended the company ladder to become Vice President of the legendary country label in its early-1960s heyday.In 1975, Martin Haerle founded CMH Records in Los Angeles with renowned guitarist Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith. They set about signing the greatest names in bluegrass and established a roster unparalleled in the field. Lester Flatt, The Osborne Brothers, Jim & Jesse, Mac Wiseman, Carl Story, Don Reno, The Bluegrass Cardinals, The Stonemans, Josh Graves, Eddie Adcock, and many others recorded some of their finest work for CMH during the 1970s and 1980s. CMH was home to Country Music Hall-of-Famers Merle Travis and Grandpa Jones, honky-tonkers Carl & Pearl Butler, guitar giant Joe Maphis, and fiddle masters Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher, and Benny Martin.

Martin Haerle unexpectedly passed away in 1990. His youngest son David left his job as a talent agent to head the label. A child of rock ‘n’ roll, David combined his musical passions with the label’s bluegrass roots, and the Pickin’ On Series was born. Featuring bluegrass tributes to artists like Metallica, Green Day, and Modest Mouse, the Pickin’ On series has proved to be enduringly popular. CMH continued to record new and familiar voices, with releases showcasing the legendary talents of artists such as Wanda Jackson, Raul Malo, and David Lee Roth.

As CMH expanded its musical reach, new labels were formed to house its diverse offerings. In 1999, Vitamin Records began with a string quartet album series that would evolve into the Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ), a top-selling collective of classical musicians creating cutting-edge string renditions of modern and classic rock songs. VSQ’s virtuoso takes on artists such as Muse, Coldplay, and Adele have helped them amass a large fanbase, sell millions of recordings, and garner numerous placements and appearances on hit TV shows.

In 2006, the award-winning Rockabye Baby series was launched, featuring lullaby renditions of rock, pop, and hip-hop favorites. The series has been seen in the pages of The New York Times, People, and Entertainment Weekly, on episodes of Ellen and The Talk as well as numerous music publications such as Spin, NME, Rolling Stone and Billboard, Rockabye Baby makes rock music baby-friendly and kids music adult-friendly.

Along the way, CMH imprints became a home for many other unique stylings: from the progressive heavy metal of Dwell and the rap and punk of Crosscheck and OCD to Hushabye Baby’s lullaby renditions of country favorites. The Secret Life of Records has made indie rock waves with releases from Violent Femmes, members of Black Flag, and more.

There are many more exciting and innovative labels to be found in the CMH catalog. Check in often to see what we’ll come up with next!

Early Years

CMH Story

Pickin' On Era

Lisa Roth David Haerle