The Popular Race Record

The legendary Paramount Records (no relation to the famous film studio) began business as an offshoot of, of all things, a chair manufacturer. The label operated at a loss until it began to tap into the burgeoning African-American market for popular music, launching its series of “race” records in the early 1920’s with recordings of some of the biggest black stars of the era including Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Though the sound quality of these cheaply produced records is notoriously poor the Paramount catalogue forms an indispensable archive of early blues and jazz and is currently the subject of a comprehensive re-release project by the late John Fahey’s Revenant Records. Dangerous Minds has the story.


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