By the early 1930s, the Gennett Records division of the Starr Piano Company was barely clinging to life. In the late 1920s Gennett had stayed afloat in part by pressing records for Sears and recording on commission for Paramount, Q-R-S, and other labels. By 1930 those deals were no more. At the end of that year the Gennett label was discontinued, leaving Starr with just the cheap Champion and Superior lines.
Sales of those labels dropped disastrously as the Depression deepened. The extent of the damage is clear in the early 1930s royalty statement sheets, many of which have survived.
Luke Decker provides as good an example as any. Lonesome Luke & his Farm Boys recorded four titles at the Richmond Indiana studio on February 12, 1931. All were issued concurrently on Champion and Superior (the latter under the pseudonym of “Tommy Gordon & his Corn Huskers”).
The royalty sheets tell a sad tale. For the twelve-month period ending September 1932, these record sold a total of 668 copies, and Decker earned a total royalty of $2.26. Amazingly, that was far better than many of the 1930s Champions and Superiors; sales of some of the last Champion issues never broke out of the two-digit range.
$0.30 royalty was earned for “Wild Hog in the Woods,” surely one of the greatest recordings from the era of the classic string bands.
Lonesome Luke and His Farm Boys play “Wild Hog in the Woods”: