Early Integrated Recordings: The Wiseman Sextet with Homer Rodeheaver

Evangelist Homer Rodeheaver was hardly a champion of civil rights; among other things, the infamous “K-” Klan matrix series originated in his studio, although it quickly migrated to Gennett. But in the early 1920s he recorded a remarkable series of gospel performances by the Wiseman Sextet, stepping in to sing the lead on some sides.

Discographies generally list these as 1923 New York recordings, which is not the case. The matrix numbers belong to a series used by Rodeheaver’s first studio, in Winona Lake, Indiana, beginning in 1921. In 1923 Rodheaver and the Wiseman Sextet made additional recordings at Gennett’s studio in Richmond, Indiana (one of which was coupled with “Walk in Jerusalem”). But these show standard Gennett matrix numbers, and the physical and sonic characteristics are quite different from the Winona Lake records.

UPDATE: Several viewers have asked whether these are New York Gennett masters, based on the numbers. They’re not. The Gennett masters using these numbers are 1919 pop songs by the usual studio freelancers. (The pressings, however, were made by Gennett.)

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WISEMAN SEXTET with HOMER RODEHEAVER: You Better Run

Winona Lake, Indiana: c. 1921–1922
Rainbow 1084  (mx. 6044)

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WISEMAN SEXTET: On Calvary

Winona Lake, Indiana: c. 1921–1922
Rainbow 1084 (mx. 6058)

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WISEMAN SEXTET with HOMER RODEHEAVER: Walk In Jerusalem Just Like John

Winona Lake, Indiana: c. 1921–1922
Rainbow 1092 (mx. 6069)

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Rodeheaver’s studio in Winona Lake (shown below, occupied by members of the Smith-Spring-Holmes Orchestra) imparted some reverberation that can be faintly heard in the recordings made there, unlike the “dead” quality that is characteristic of recordings made in Gennett’s studios or Rodeheaver’s better-known Chicago studio.

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