Third Man co-releasing massive Paramount Records box set; Jack White talking about it at NYPL this month (tickets on sale)
Paramount Records was founded on a modest proposition: produce records as cheaply as possible, recording whatever talent was available. Over its lifetime, the label would become a “race records” powerhouse, its sound and fortunes directly linked to the Great Migration.
By the time Paramount ceased operations in 1932, it had compiled a dizzying array of performers still unrivaled to this day, spanning early jazz titans (Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller), blues masters (Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James), American divas (Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters), gospel (Norfolk Jubilee Quartette), vaudeville (Papa Charlie Jackson), and the indefinable “other” (Geeshie Wiley, Elvie Thomas). Paramount would also directly influence the style of Robert Crumb and countless other 20th century artists and illustrators, through a series of hand-drawn ads promoting its releases in the pages of the Chicago Defender.
The sounds of legendary label Paramount (which grew out of a furniture company) are being archived in The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932, a two volume set being co-released by Jack White’s Third Man Records and John Fahey’s Revenant Records. Volume 1, which is out now, is a whopper of a package, containing:
800 newly-remastered digital tracks, representing 172 artists
* 200+ fully-restored original 1920s ads and images
* 6x 180g vinyl LPs pressed on burled chestnut colored vinyl w/ hand-engraved, blind-embossed gold-leaf labels, housed in a laser-etched white birch LP folio
* 250 page deluxe large-format clothbound hardcover art book
* 360 page encyclopedia-style softcover field guide containing artist portraits and full Paramount discography
* Handcrafted quarter-sawn oak cabinet with lush sage velvet upholstery and custom-forged metal hardware
* First-of-its-kind music and image player app, allowing user mgmt of all tracks and ads, housed on custom-designed USB drive
Jack White will be in NYC to talk about Paramount and the new box set for an event at New York Public Library 5th Ave’s Salomon Room on November 19. The program will feature a discussion with White, Revenant’s Dean Blackwood, and Princeton professor and author Daphne A. Brooks, and close examinations of recordings from Paramount’s catalogue by acclaimed music journalist Greil Marcus and author Scott Blackwood. Tickets go on sale today (11/4) at noon, and all attendees will get a free 78 RPM record specially pressed for the event and be entered into a raffle for the box set.
Video “unboxing” below…
The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volume 1