Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy

Book Review
by Randy McNutt

 Highly Recommended

Rick Kennedy's updated book on Gennett Records is perfect for exploring Richmond, Indiana's historic music sites. The city has done a lot to make the sites accessible, and this book completes the process by showing readers where to find them and explaining their significance.

Track One

Jellyroll, Bix, and Hoagy: Gennett Records and the
Rise of America's Musical Grassroots
by Rick Kennedy

Published by Indiana University Press, 2013

276 pages with photos; trade paperback; $25

Revised and expanded, with a foreword by Ted Gioia

Track Two

If you enjoy old-time music, recording history, indie labels, and Gennett Records in particular, then this book is for you. It is terrific--as good as the best indie label books ever written. Yes, it originally was published in the late 1990s, when it focused heavily on jazz. But author Rick Kennedy, a fan of the label for years, realized the need for an expanded and revised version that would give proper credit to Gennett's experimentation in the old-time music field, including hillbilly. Kennedy came through for us. In addition, he included more information about some of the pioneer A&R men and recording engineers who worked at Gennett, including Ezra Wickemeyer, the man who captured the sounds at Gennett's studio. This book is a delight to read. Kennedy's love for the music and the history come through on every page, and so does his attention to detail. He spent years looking up Gennett family members and company employees, and interviewing them for the book. Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy is like a new book to me. I have the first one but I couldn't do without the second version. It even has a new cover.
Track Three

Rick Kennedy is a noted Gennett historian who has devoted decades to studying the seminal label. He has written about it for magazines such as Traces, the Indiana Historical Society's magazine, and 78 RPM, one of the better historical recording publications. He told me he wanted to do the revision so that readers could take the book to Richmond and look up the street addresses--to stand where the Gennett employees stood. I love this idea. It allows us to feel that we share the same space in time with history. He told me that he has expanded the fascinating part of the book about the Ku Klux Klan's use of Gennett's studio and record pressing plant, and "I confirm that studio engineer Ezra Wickemeyer was a KKK member as well. Also the new edition includes detailed correspondence from the Gennett staffers with Fiddlin' Doc Roberts. The exchanges are pretty funny, and [they] tell you quite a bit about the early days of country recording, the use of pseudonyms, and how remote the world was for these artists. James Roberts has his first soft drink on his trip to Richmond. I hope you enjoy the improvements to the book. . ." 

Track Four

Rating: 5 out of 5

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