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.

UPDATE • The Gennett K- Matrix Series: Canaries and the Ku Klux Klan

Many thanks to T. Malcolm Rockwell, who saw our original K- matrix post and filled in some interesting details for us, including the catalog numbers (which often are the same as the matrix numbers). Malcolm and Charlie Dahan head the Gennett Project, which is undertaking the monumental task of compiling a complete Starr Piano Company discography, and have kindly granted permission to add this data to our initial list.

So, we now know that the K- matrix series started not with Gennett, but with evangelist Homer Rodeheaver’s Chicago studio, which explains the  absence of the earliest numbers from the Gennett ledgers. Why a Klan series included a canary record and those apparently non-Klan sides made by or for Gennett family members remains a mystery.

There were numerous other Gennett Klan recordings — some of them made just days apart from Gennett sessions by legendary black jazz artists — using masters that were numbered in Gennett’s standard series. We’ll leave those details for the eagerly awaited Gennett Discography!

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NOTE: Mxs. K-1, K-3, and K-4 were recorded on unknown dates for the International Music Company (Buffalo, New York) by the Rodeheaver Recording Laboratories (Chicago). The remaining recordings were made in Gennett’s studio in Richmond, Indiana, on the dates shown.
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K-1                
ARTIST UNKNOWN: Casey Jones
Special K-1

K-2
UNTRACED

K-3                
ARTIST UNKNOWN: The Stuttering Klansman
Special K-3 (side A)

K-4?              
ARTIST UNKNOWN: The Klansman and the Rain
Special K-3 (side B)

K-5  (2/11/1924)
W. R. RHINEHEART: The Klansman’s Friend
100% K-5

K-6  (2/11/1924)
RHINEHEART BROTHERS: We Belong to the Ku Klux Klan
100% K-6

K-7   (2/15/1924)
WILLIAM H. BEAR: Bird Imitating Machine
Unknown issue, if any

K-8  (2/16/1924)
NO ARTIST LISTED: Genuine Roller Canary Song Record
Unknown issue, if any

K-9  (4/7/1924, remade 4/11/1924)
ROY COLLINS: Asleep in the Deep
Unissued

K-10 (4/7/1924)
HILLMAN BARNARD: Heaven Hold All for Me
Unissued

K-11  (4/8/1924)
VAUGHAN QUARTET (pno: T. SHAW): Wake Up America and Kluck, Kluck, Kluck
100% K-11; Vaughan 825

K-12  (4/12/1924)
W. B. SEALE: Old Folks at Home
Unissued

K-13  (4/12/1924)
T. SHAW: Untitled test for Vaughan [presumably a piano solo]
Unissued

K-14  (4/14/1924)
VAUGHAN QUARTET: Sittin’ in a Corner
Vaughan 1025

K-15  (4/19/1924)
TEST [no details in ledger]
Unissued

K-16  – K-19: No listings in the Gennett files

K-20  (5/17/1924)
FRED GENNETT, JR.: Ain’t Goin’ to Work No More
Unknown issue, if any

K-21  (5/28/1924)
QUARTET: The Gathering Klan
Note: Same title recorded by the “100% Americans” on Gennett mx. 11946.

K-22  (5/28/1924)
QUARTET: Daddy Swiped Our Last Clean Sheet and Joined the Ku Klux Klan
Note: Same title recorded by the “100% Americans” on Gennett mx. 11947.

K-23  (6/2/1924)
MR. MARTIN (for CLARENCE GENNETT): A Talk (Scotch Stories)
Unknown issue, if any

K-24  (6/9/1924)
ELOISE GENNETT: Piano solo [untitled test]
Unissued

K-25  (6/11/1924)
MR. EMSLEY: The Ninety and Nine
Unissued

K-26  (7/2/1924)

IMPERIAL QUINTETTE OF LANSING, MICHIGAN: By the Light of the Firey Cross
Imperial Quintette K-26

K-27  (7/2/1924)

IMPERIAL QUINTETTE OF LANSING, MICHIGAN: The Firey Cross in the Vale
Imperial Quintette K-27

K-28  (7/28/24)
[? – date present, but no listing]

K-29  (8/2/1924)
W. R. RHINEHEART: Klucker and the Rain
100% K-29 (B)

K-30  (8/2/1924)
W. R. RHINEHEART: Long Klucker
100% K-30 (A)

Gennett’s K- Matrix Series: Canaries and the Ku Klux Klan

This posting has been updated — see January 16, 2012.