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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Little Labels--Big Sound: Small Record Companies and The Rise of American Music » User review

Little labels played a huge role in the evolution of American popular music.

  • Nov 16, 2009
O how the landscape has changed!  Fifty years ago there were literally hundreds of independent record labels operating in cities and towns all across the USA.   Many of these companies were fly by night operations that lasted for only a short period of time.  Some managed to stick around long enough to have a hit record or two before disappearing from the scene forever.  But, a fair number of these independent labels were quite successful and would leave an indelible mark on American popular music.  This is what "Little Labels-Big Sound: Small Record Companies and The Rise of American Music" is all about.

Whether you are a fan of the blues, rock and roll, R & B, group harmony or jazz, there is little doubt that these "little labels" made a significant contribution to the development of your kind of music.  Authors Rick Kennedy and Randy McNutt have focused on 10 of these important independent labels.  It is a very readable and highly entertaining book that both record collectors and history buffs are sure to enjoy.

Hoagy Carmicheal and Louis Armstrong spent their formative years in the 1920's at Gennett Records, a small indie based in Richmond, In.  When a young and dynamic James Brown audtioned for King Records in the mid 1950's, label owner Syd Nathan remarked "Nobody wants to hear that noise."  History would indeed prove him wrong.  Most critics agree that jazz legend Charlie Parker made his finest recordings at Ross Russell's Dial records.  "Little Labels-Big Sound" tells the story of how Charlie Parker wound up at Dial.  There are also chapters devoted to seven other notable indies including Sun, Riverside, Monument and Duke-Peacock.  I enjoyed reading about them all.

These days a few major conglomerates dominate the music business. There is little for most of us to get excited about. " Little Labels-Big Sound:  Small Record Companies and The Rise of American Music" fondly recalls that time in America when small record labels flourished and creativity thrived.  It is worth remembering.      Recommended.
Little labels played a huge role in the evolution of American popular music. Little labels played a huge role in the evolution of American popular music.

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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From Publishers Weekly
Beginning with Henry Gennett, whose modest Midwestern record company, a piano dealership spinoff, helped launch the careers of jazz immortals King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, Kennedy (Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy) and McNutt (We Wanna Boogie) tell how 10 independent record labels shaped the course of American popular music. Predictably, Sam Phillipss Sun Records, perhaps the most celebrated little label in music history, merits a chapter. More interesting, though, are profiles of less familiar independents such as Don Robeys gospel-oriented Peacock Records and John Vincents pioneering rhythm-and-blues label, Ace. The authors skillfully lay out the complex racial politics of their story, showing, for example, how a shared interest in profits and fresh sounds could bring together personalities as diverse as Soul Brother Number One, James Brown, and Syd Nathan, the feisty Jewish entrepreneur whose Cincinnati-based King Records made Brown a million-seller. The book includes scores of fascinating label-artist dramas, some well known (Dial and Charlie Parker; Riverside and Thelonious Monk), others long forgotten (Peacock and white soul singer Roy Head; Sun and rockabilly visionary Billy Lee Riley). An invaluable guide to the businesspeople, musicians and hangers-on who transformed regional musical styles into a national soundtrack, this book belongs on the same shelf as Peter Guralnicks Sweet Soul Music and Alan Lomaxs The Land Where the Blues Began. B&w ...
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ISBN-10: 0253214343
ISBN-13: 978-0253214348
Author: Rick Kennedy and Randy McNutt
Genre: Music History
Date Published: March 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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