Archive for the ‘Ralph Peer’ Category

Scenes from a Marriage (The Peers and the Carters)

March 31, 2015

index

edited from Barry Mazor (“Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music”):

The act that represented the very image of rural domesticity for so many was being privately pulled apart by domestic tensions.  Sara Carter was tiring of A.P. Carter’s constant absence on song-hunting trips, and his remoteness and lack of involvement in everyday farm and family life when he did come home.

A.P.’s more fun-loving, naturally affectionate, and present cousin, Coy Bayes, had increasingly been attracting he attention, until the worried extended family forced Coy to leave the area entirely.  A despondent Sara absented herself from the farm and her children, moving in with relatives.

A.P. and Sara were now very much separated, as Peer would learn when he brought up getting music and family members together for recording in April 1933;  Sara was refusing to join in, preferring to avoid A.P. altogether.

Anita Peer [wife of Ralph Peer, who recorded the Carter Family for the Victor Talking Machine Company] wrote to Sara Carter,

“Of course it is really none of my business, but I just wondered if there was anything I could do to help things along.  I realize it would be distinctively awkward for both you and A.P. to work again, but on the other hand, the ‘Carter Family’  has become well known and there is the chance to make some more money, even in these days of depression.

I have been divorced once myself, as I think I told you, so I can sympathize with you perfectly…Even if you never live together again you could get together for professional purposes like the movie stars do.  Practically all of them are divorced, or should be…”

In 1936 Ralph Peer wrote to Sara Carter,

“What are your plans now as to A.P.?  He has written me that you are suing for divorce…He apparently wanted me to exert some pressure upon you, but I told him that this was a matter that people had to settle for themselves, and something in which I did not want to interfere…From a business standpoint, it is important that the Carter Family should not be too broken up.”

 

 

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Peer and Rodgers

December 12, 2014

jrcar

Thanks to Peter Feldman (http://bluegrasswest.com) for this:

The following article was written by Ralph Peer ca. 1953:

The best things in life seem to occur by pure accident. We strive to accomplish something worthwhile; success finally comes to us, but usually from an unexpected source.

In 1927, after serving as an executive of Okeh Records for a number of years, I decided to go into business for myself as a music publisher. At that time a business alliance was started with the Victor Talking Machine Company which continued for many years. The arrangement was that I would select the artists and material and supervise the hillbilly recordings for Victor. My publishing firm would own the copyrights, and thus I would be compensated by the royalties resulting from the compositions which I would select for recording purposes.

During the spring of 1928 I made a survey of various Southern cities and determined to make initial recordings for Victor in Atlanta, Savannah, Bristol, Tenn., and Memphis. A recording crew of two men was assigned to me, and I set about the business of finding talent and repertoire.

In Bristol, the problem was not easy because of the relatively small population in that area. The local broadcasting stations, music stores, record dealers, etc., helped me as much as possible, but few candidates appeared. I then appealed to the editor of a local newspaper, explaining to him the great advantages to the community of my enterprise. He thought that I had a good idea and ran a half column on his front page. This worked like dynamite, and the very next day I was deluged with long-distance calls from the surrounding mountain region. Groups of singers who had not visited Bristol during their entire lifetime arrived by bus, horse and buggy, trains, or on foot.

Jimmie Rodgers telephoned from Asheville. He said that he was a singer with a string band. He had read the newspaper article and was quite sure that his group would be satisfactory. I told him to come on a certain day, and promised a try-out.


First Meeting
When I was alone with Jimmie in our recording studio (a very old warehouse which had not been in use for many years), I was elated when I heard him perform. It seemed to me that he had his own personal and peculiar style, and I thought that his yodel alone might spell success. Very definitely he was worth a trial. We ran into a snag almost immediately because, in order to earn a living in Asheville, he was singing mostly songs originated by New York publishers—the current hits. Actually, he had only one song of his own, “Soldier’s Sweetheart,” written several years before. When I told Jimmie what I needed to put him over as a recording artist, his perennial optimism bubbled over. If I would give him a week he could have a dozen songs ready for recording. I let him record his own song, and as a coupling his unique version of “Rock All Our Babies to Sleep.” This, I thought, would be a very good coupling, as “Soldier’s Sweetheart” was a straight ballad and the other side gave him a chance to display his ability as a yodeler. In spite of the lack of original repertoire, I considered Rodgers to be one of my best bets.
(more…)

Ralph Peer (#2)

November 13, 2014

 

 

Ralph Peer in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of the Peer family archives

from http://www.pbs.org:

During a two-week period late in the summer of 1927, a little-known producer named Ralph Peer recorded 77 songs in a hat warehouse he had converted to a studio. It would turn out to be a landmark moment, known as the Bristol Sessions, that Johnny Cash would later call “the single most important event in the history of country music.”

Among the artists were the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, who recorded hits like “Single Girl, Married Girl” and “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” there. These songs launched them to stardom and their successes were only the beginning for Peer, who popularized the genres of country, blues, jazz, gospel and Latin music.

Peer had already been recording “hillbilly” songs — what is now known as country — across the Southern United States for five years before the Tennessee recordings.

A new book by music journalist Barry Mazor, “Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music,” follows the arc of both Peer’s life and the music industry.

His story begins in the era of the wind-up crank cylinder and ends in the age of color television. In that span of time, he navigated performance rights and recording contracts, emphasizing that songwriters and producers each received their share of the profits.

“I think Ralph Peer did more than anyone, any other one single person, to change the popular music we hear,” Mazor told Art Beat. “Yet people don’t necessarily know the name.”

But the names of artists he worked with are recognized as musical greats: Mamie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, Perez Prado, Buddy Holly. The list goes on.

While Mazor was working on his previous book, “Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century,” he learned about Peer’s relationship to Rodgers. Mazor was fascinated by the man who recorded and produced so much of the music he personally enjoyed listening to and writing about. (more…)