The former RCA Corporation introduced a snap-in plastic insert known as a spider to make 45 rpm records compatible with the smaller spindle size of a 33⅓ rpm LP record player. Commissioned by RCA president David Sarnoff and invented by Thomas Hutchison, spiders were prevalent in the 1960s and sold tens of millions per year.
It was designed as a rival to Columbia’s 33 1/3 rpm long-playing disc, introduced the previous year. The two systems directly competed with each other to replace 78 rpm records, bewildering consumers and causing a drop in record sales. By the end of 1949, all the major companies, except RCA, had committed themselves to the LP record, seemingly putting an end to the 45. Even RCA itself announced it would issue its classical library on 33 1/3 rpm discs. But RCA was not ready to admit the demise of the 45. The company spent $5 million publicizing 45 rpm as the preferred speed for popular music. The campaign worked. Buyers of non-classical records turned increasingly to the 45, so that by 1954, more than 200 million of them had been sold. And all the major companies now were producing both LP and 45 records.
The first 45 rpm disc, Texarkana Baby by country-and-western singer Eddy Arnold, was issued by RCA in the US on 31 March 1949.
It was made of green vinyl, as part of an early attempt to colour-code singles according to the genre of music they featured. Others included red for classical music and yellow for children’s songs.
But such novelty features were left behind when the advent of rock and pop turned the 45 into the music industry’s most prized product.