Featuring music from the Badger State
and the surrounding area.To showcase the "lesser known music",Independent music,and bands with ties to Wisconsin.
Music from the past and recent past.
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 told me: 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 ever. 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.
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