Country, Western & Gospel Music

A History And Encyclopedia Of Composers, Artists & Songs

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes



Share page  Visit Us On FB



Previous Contents Next
market for Negro records. In fact,, the companies carefully hid the fact that colored singers were being used. About this time, dealers in New York began to report a curious trend in the business. It seemed that Negro Pullman porters on trains going South invariably left New York with as many as twenty-five records under their arms. Since the records cost one dollar each, the business was big stuff and Mr. Peer went South to investigate. He found (a) that the Negroes were buying records of their own people in great quantities and (b) that the Negroes of Richmond, Virginia, invariably referred to themselves as The Race.
"We had records by all foreign groups," says Mr. Peer. "German records, Swedish records, Polish records, but we were afraid to advertise Negro records. So I listed them in the catalogue as 'race' records and they are still known as that."
About this time the vogue of Mamie Smith at Okeh was swamped by the arrival of the great Bessie Smith on Co­lumbia records. Bessie Smith had now become almost a legendary figure and her records have lately been reissued in a new form and are considered classics in blues singing by experts. Her most famous was Gold Coast Blues, which originally sold into the millions. It may be remarked that at the present day a sale of 100,000 records is held to be sensational in any field.
With Bessie Smith being so successful, Okeh was under the necessity of digging up a new sensation, and Mr. Peer took a portable recording outfit to Atlanta and began look­ing around. For some reason Atlanta is the worst town in the South for Negro talent (then and now), and Mr. Peer was soon stumped. At the suggestion of a local dealer, who guaranteed to sell enough records to cover the cost, he did a few recordings by Fiddler John Carson, a white mountain­eer who arrived for the recordings in overalls. Old John had been a ballyhoo man with a circus, had a repertory of hillbilly songs that never ended, and he could sing a bit with his fiddling. He made Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane, and The Old Hen Cackles and The Rooster's Goin' ta Crow.
"It was so bad that we didn't even put a serial number on the records, thinking that when the local dealer got his
41






E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III