November 4, 2013

Blues and Rhythm Show 104 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 (1:00-2:30 pm)

This week we devote the full 90 minutes to the early years of Modern Records (Modern Music as it was originally named). We’re restricting our attention on this program to the R&B output of the label beginning in 1945 as far as the year 1952. We’ll come back with a second feature special examining the latter years of the label and including the down-home varieties of blues that appeared on the Modern and RPM labels.

Early recordings (1945-1947) on Modern Records represented a wide array of African American styles, jazz pop, blues and early R&B. There was less in the way of hard blues sounds and R&B than there would be in the years 1949-1952.

The shortage of new records during the war years was a factor influencing juke box operator Jules Bihari to think about establishing Modern Records in late 1944. The label was successful with its first recording and continued to do better than many other LA-based end-of-the-war startups and Bihari’s brothers joined him in the business. Like King Records, based in Cincinnati, Modern Records seemed to consolidate its market position after the musicians strike that curtailed recording activity for the better part of 1948.

It’s a given that record companies in this era short-changed their recording artists. Even if they paid well for the sides by the standards of the day, they either did not pay or limited the amounts of payment for composer royalties by setting up their own publishing arms and siphoning off those royalties by one means or another.

At Modern, the label added the names like Taub, Josea or Ling to the composer credits and diverted monies to the label principals for songs the Bihari brothers did not have a hand in writing. Blues and R&B artists made recordings for the relatively small amounts paid, often by the song,  for recording sessions. Additional motivation was the boost that  having records gave them for obtaining live engagements. It was mostly from their live engagements that they earned a living.

On the Show

Modern Records – Pearl Traylor – Bardu Ali & His Orchestra – Hadda Brooks  – Three Bits of Rhythm – Jimmy Witherspoon – Pee Wee Crayton – Little Willie Littlefield – Lil Greenwood – Jimmy Nelson – Holmes Brothers – and others

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.mcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until December 3rd.

Contact Us

To reach us with comments or queries, write us at sweartotellthetruth@gmail.com.

You can also follow the program at sweartotellthetruth@nosignifying on Twitter.

Next week (November 12th)

Undetermined as of today. We’ll update.

Errors and Omissions

Last week (BRS 103), we played something  by Bukka White and we mentioned that he called himself “Booker” in the song. We should have explained that Booker T. Washington White hated being referred to as Bukka. His first recordings for Victor were made as Washington White.  It was the famous Vocalion recordings that identified him as Bukka White.

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