2017 ARSC Award for “Race Records and the American Recording Industry”

Now back in stock

We’re pleased to report that Race Records and the American Recording Industry 1919-1945 had been awarded the Association for Recorded Sound Collections‘ 2017 Certificate of Merit in Recorded Blues, Gospel, Soul, or R&B Research.

Due to unexpectedly high demand, we’ve run out of copies several times recently but now have a fresh supply in stock and ready for immediate delivery. The book is available exclusively from Mainspring Press.

.

CHARM: Another Outstanding Online Discographical Project

Not as widely known as the Discography of American Historical Recordings (although it certainly deserves to be), the UK-based CHARM website offers another outstanding online discography — in this case, of historical classical and operatic recordings. Hosted by the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, CHARM is partnership of Royal Holloway, University of London (host institution) with King’s College, London, and the University of Sheffield.

CHARM is the perfect complement to DAHR, offering hard-to-find data on foreign as well as domestic recordings, primarily from the 1920s onward. The database includes much of The Gramophone Company’s 78-rpm output (from original file data compiled by the late Alan Kelly), as well 78s and some LP series from numerous other US, UK, and European companies, including Columbia and Decca, from data supplied by Michael Gray. *

The CHARM site includes a very flexible search engine, and results can be downloaded as comma-delimited text (.csv) or Microsoft Excel files. Here’s a small part of the results from our search on Cesare Formichi’s Columbia recordings:
.

.

In addition, almost 5000 streaming sound files are available via the Find Sound Files facility. Sound files are transferred from 78-rpm discs held by the King’s Sound Archive at King’s College London.

Like DAHR and the affiliated National Juke Box site from the Library of Congress, CHARM is an entirely free service, with no registration or log-in required.

________

* Dr. Alan Kelly compiled the monumental His Master’s Voice Discography for Greenwood Press during its glory days in the 1990s; when new owners pulled the plug, he completed the project on his own, self-publishing the entire run on a set of inexpensive CDs. In 2007 he was honored with the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael Gray — besides being one helluva nice guy — has had a distinguished career that includes a long run as director of the Voice of America’s Research Library and Digital Audio Archive projects. He served as series editor for Greenwood Press discographies, has written numerous books and articles, and is the recipient of ARSC’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Now In Stock: “Race Records and the American Recording Industry, 1919–1945: An Illustrated History”

IN STOCK — ORDER DIRECTLY FROM MAINSPRING PRESS

MSP_race-records_cover

RACE RECORDS AND THE AMERICAN RECORDING INDUSTRY, 1919–1945: An Illustrated History
By Allan Sutton

388 Pages / 208 Illustrations
6″ x 9″ Quality Paperback

$39 US (Free Shipping)
$59 All Foreign (w/ Insured Airmail)

_______________________________________

MSP-race-records_contents

 

From the Preface:

Race Records and the American Recording Industry is the story of those remarkable companies and individuals who gambled on a new and often unpredictable market in the face of racial prejudice and entrenched business practices, and in doing so made the American recording industry more inclusive, and far more interesting, than it once had been.

This work takes a broad view of what were once termed “race records” — recordings intended primarily for the African-American market, which often were segregated in specially numbered series and not listed in the record companies’ main catalogs. Many modern writers associate race records solely with blues and gospel, the equivalent of assuming that rural whites bought only records of mountaineer tunes, or that Italian immigrants bought only opera. While blues and gospel made up a large portion of race-record offerings, they were only part of a broad spectrum that also included religious material of all sorts, jazz and dance music, mainstream pop, comedy and novelty selections, concert and classical material, and even the occasional country-music offering, all of which are explored in this work

Because the music itself has been amply covered elsewhere, this work instead focuses on the making, marketing, and distribution of race records prior to the late 1940s, exploring the ways in which those activities affected, and were affected by, conditions within the nation and within the recording industry as a whole. That is why (to respond in advance to inevitable criticism by Robert Johnson’s legions of fans) an entire chapter is devoted to Mamie Smith, whereas Johnson is covered in several pages. Were this a musical rather than a business and social history, the ratio, of course, would be reversed.

But Mamie Smith’s early records, whatever their musical shortcomings, had a profound impact on the recording industry, revealing a huge untapped market, opening the way for many other black artists to make records, and encouraging aspiring black entrepreneurs to get involved with record production, which until then had been completely controlled by whites. On the other hand, although Robert Johnson is now revered by mass-media rock stars and the pop-culture establishment (as much for the hoary legends surrounding him as for his music), in the 1930s he was just another talented but obscure local artist whose records went largely unnoticed outside of his home region, and who had no significant impact on the recording industry or American musical culture at the time his records were issued. Johnson receives as much coverage as he does mainly  because his story provides an excellent example of how the record companies handled, or mishandled, their race artists.

The book also debunks many common myths and misconceptions that stubbornly refuse to die, having been perpetuated for decades by writers who are content to parrot anecdotal material from questionable secondary sources. Some long-standing discographical errors have been corrected as well, based upon examination of primary-source materials that have been missed by earlier researchers…

.

The Playlist • Memphis Minnie, with Kansas Joe and Bumble Bee Slim (1929–1936)

MSP_mccoys-voc-1576

 

LIZZIE DOUGLAS & JOE McCOY (as Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie): Goin’ Back to Texas

New York: June 18, 1929
Columbia 14455-D (mx. W 148709 – 2)

.

LIZZIE DOUGLAS & JOE McCOY (as Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie): She Wouldn’t Give Me None

Memphis: February 20, 1930
Vocalion 1576 (mx. MEM 732 – )

.

LIZZIE DOUGLAS (as Memphis Minnie, with uncredited pianist):
Dirty Mother for You

Chicago: January 10, 1935
Mx. C 9641 – A
From a c. 1960 blank-label vinyl pressing from the original stamper. This recording was issued commercially in 1935 on Decca 7048.

.

AMOS EASTON & LIZZIE DOUGLAS (as Bumble Bee Slim & Memphis Minnie, with uncredited others): New Orleans Stop Time

Chicago: February 6, 1936
Vocalion 03197 (mx. C 1227 – 2)