Monday, June 8, 2009
Paramount Records- The Paramount Masters- World's Rarest Blues and the music made at The Wisconsin Chair Company
Where have I been? Well, um researching. And it's time
I let you inon a secret, I'm obsessed with old blues,and
odd music, and can't getenough of it. I've had this 4 CD
set a while,but didn't listen to it. I wantedto savor it,like a
fine wine, and wait until I was done listening to garage,
punk,and other styles of music for a while. Now I'm ready
to let you all have a taste, and a brief, but unusual history
that is uniquely weird Wisconsin. This is what my research
Paramount Records started in 1927 and was owned
by The Wisconsin Chair Company. It's gets stranger.
Since chairs are made of wood, as were old phonograph
players and radios were like a piece of furniture, the
Wisconsin Chair Company got into making phonographs,
recordings,and when they found out it was profitable,
they started recorded artists right in Grafton, Wisconsin.
I don't know who made the decision or jump into making
recordings,but it's just lucky this company came along
and recorded some of the most interesting and rare records
The initial recordings were not made in Wisconsin, some
were made in Richmond, Indiana, and others made
in Chicago,until Paramount had a suitable recording
site in Grafton,Wisconsin.
Oddly, the earliest recording equipment was very
portable, and usually,many of the other labels recorded
artists almost anywhere.They'd get hotel rooms and
record, where is there the least noise, from trains,
street cars, and traffic, that's where they recorded.
So, it could have been anywhere for that matter.
So why they had the artists come to Grafton,
Wisconsin is confusing, but maybe that's where
they finally bought the recording equipment and made
history. It could be that they had an excellent
recording area set up, spent the money, and could
control the sound the best....I'm still learning about it
all myself. I do know that "they", the record labels of the
times,recorded as many songs as they could in a 1-2-3
day marathon, and then pay the artist a
flat rate, and said goodbye. It was all very makeshift.
Paramount recorded many different artists, not just
the earliest Charley Patton records.(or Charlie Patton)
The first recording was in 1925 was by Blind Lemon
Jefferson. And his records were an immediate success,
due to the fact that Paramount Records were really
the best advertisers of music,as well as really great at
distribution. They did a brisk mail order business.
They advertised in the Chicago Defender, the
nation's first black newspaper, and advertised in many
other small rural papers,where people, mostly African
Americans wanted to hear the blues.They targeted their
audience and knew their market, it seems.
Want to know just when Charley Patton recorded
his first record? Paramount arranged Charley to record
on June 14th, 1929 at Gennett Records' Richmond Indiana
Studios, and he recorded a total of 14 tracks that day.
The tracks he recorded that day were his best known:
Pony Blues,Pea Vine Blues, Tom Rushen Blues,and
Banty Rooster Blues among others. The records that
launched every blues performer known to man.
All were pressed into 78's and sold well. And because
of his success, he was asked to record again, but this
time in Grafton, Wisconsin, later in the year about
November-early December 1929. This is 80 years
ago, almost to the day and I wish I was there!
Meanwhile there's a New York Recording Laboratory
involved,and I don't know where they fit in, I know they
eventually maintained an office in Flatbush, Brooklyn,
New York, and that they might have been supervising
the recordings. They were created in 1917, and they
figure in somewhere, and in what my rough research tells
me, that The New York Recording Laboratories were a
subsidiary business and they made records
for various genres, and labels including Paramount.
It's high time I bought the book by Alex van der Tuuk
entitled: Paramount's Ride And Fall, A History of The
Wisconsin Chair Company and it's Recording Activities.
I'm sure that will repair my retarded research.
(hey there's 15-20 websites that have to do with
Paramount Records,and I don't know who's right or wrong)
But I'm here to expose the music. That's my job, and at least
give you a small background story to tease you about the
music,so to speak.
If you like the blues, this set of 4 CD's will really get you a
quick education of some of the earliest examples of the
Paramount Records Story. If you don't like the blues, you
will at least find these recordings strange, and haunting.
And maybe you'll delve deeper. And if you're a history buff,
you might want to listen to these recordings while reading
the fabulous book by Robert Palmer entitled Deep Blues.
Which gives you a back round on life in the
Southern Delta region, and how the blues came about.
Hands down, this is thee best book on the blues,man.
This is the best recorded I've heard of these 78's that
I can find, and hope someday people who collect these
recordings could help by making them available to more
people, so we can hear them as they were released.
John Teftteller, please donate your fabulous old records to
some museums and people who could make sure that this music is
part of our American heritage, and make sure that they make it
available to us for all to hear!
I think this is important to mention, since he's got all of the early Charley
Patton records on his website. You might want to have a look and drool.
Meanwhile, I'm still searching for more 78's in re-pressings on CD or album
but I think these 4 CD's will at least give you a great start of this music from
Paramount Records and Wisconsin. Links are in the comments section
with complete artwork,scans,etc. There's more complete information
about each recording in the booklet scans.