Solomon Linda - a $16 million recording.
Ok so his record 'only' sold 100,000 copies in 30's and 40's South Africa (it did keep selling) but for these Zulu singers it was stardom on a huge scale. It was a passport to dances and parties and who knows what else for years. Of course there were no royalties, because things weren't done that way in the record industry then. (Now?) It got about though. Because their recording of Mbube was heard by Pete Seeger who was enthralled by the sound and rewrote it as Wimoweh. Then it became "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" for The Tokens in 1961 - coincidentally the year that Solomon died smiling but penniless in Africa. Apparently he heard their version before he left.
It's amazing what the publishing industry did about the royalties. All $16 million of them. Read the whole sorry saga at 3rd Ear then get yourself over to Keep the Coffee Comin and get in the queue to hear it. I played it almost 40 times tonight reading the history. Thanks for posting it Kat. And thanks to Rob Andrews who told me the story in the first place.
(I'm surprised there were 100,000 gramaphones in black South Africa during the war years, but I guess a lot of those records just plum wore out.)