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Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

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This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the adventurous—even revolutionary—A&R man and music publisher who saw the universal power locked in regional roots music and tapped it, changing the breadth and flavor of popular music around the world. It is the story of the life and fifty-year career, from the age of cylinder recordings to the stereo era, of the man who pioneer This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the adventurous—even revolutionary—A&R man and music publisher who saw the universal power locked in regional roots music and tapped it, changing the breadth and flavor of popular music around the world. It is the story of the life and fifty-year career, from the age of cylinder recordings to the stereo era, of the man who pioneered the recording, marketing, and publishing of blues, jazz, country, gospel, and Latin music. The book tracks Peer’s role in such breakthrough events as the recording of Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” (the record that sparked the blues craze), the first country recording sessions with Fiddlin’ John Carson, his discovery of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family at the famed Bristol sessions, the popularizing of Latin American music during World War II, and the postwar transformation of music on the airwaves that set the stage for the dominance of R&B, country, and rock ’n’ roll. But this is also the story of a man from humble midwestern beginnings who went on to build the world’s largest independent music publishing firm, fostering the global reach of music that had previously been specialized, localized, and marginalized. Ralph Peer redefined the ways promising songs and performers were identified, encouraged, and promoted, rethought how far regional music might travel, and changed our very notions of what pop music can be.


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This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the adventurous—even revolutionary—A&R man and music publisher who saw the universal power locked in regional roots music and tapped it, changing the breadth and flavor of popular music around the world. It is the story of the life and fifty-year career, from the age of cylinder recordings to the stereo era, of the man who pioneer This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the adventurous—even revolutionary—A&R man and music publisher who saw the universal power locked in regional roots music and tapped it, changing the breadth and flavor of popular music around the world. It is the story of the life and fifty-year career, from the age of cylinder recordings to the stereo era, of the man who pioneered the recording, marketing, and publishing of blues, jazz, country, gospel, and Latin music. The book tracks Peer’s role in such breakthrough events as the recording of Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” (the record that sparked the blues craze), the first country recording sessions with Fiddlin’ John Carson, his discovery of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family at the famed Bristol sessions, the popularizing of Latin American music during World War II, and the postwar transformation of music on the airwaves that set the stage for the dominance of R&B, country, and rock ’n’ roll. But this is also the story of a man from humble midwestern beginnings who went on to build the world’s largest independent music publishing firm, fostering the global reach of music that had previously been specialized, localized, and marginalized. Ralph Peer redefined the ways promising songs and performers were identified, encouraged, and promoted, rethought how far regional music might travel, and changed our very notions of what pop music can be.

30 review for Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    RA

    Arguably one of the most impactful people involved in 20th Century music. Responsible for bringing blues, country and Latin music to other parts of the world. Personally responsible for recording Mamie Smith, James P. Johnson, Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Louis Armstrong & Lil Hardin, Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family, and more. One of the first to actually give royalties to performers, since keeping them satisfied would keep them personally involved in the business. Had a hand in promoting BMI, as a Arguably one of the most impactful people involved in 20th Century music. Responsible for bringing blues, country and Latin music to other parts of the world. Personally responsible for recording Mamie Smith, James P. Johnson, Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Louis Armstrong & Lil Hardin, Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family, and more. One of the first to actually give royalties to performers, since keeping them satisfied would keep them personally involved in the business. Had a hand in promoting BMI, as a place for blues, hillbilly/country, and Latin music. Became a major force in the collection, importation, and promulgation of Camellias worldwide. This is an important book for those interested in the history of the American music business, since it discusses changes in mechanical, performance, and songwriting royalties; the distribution of music, as related to the growth of motion pictures; and the impact of American music.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    A bit dry, with lots of names and titles, but interesting. Essential for anyone who has an interest in the early recording industry and popular music. While Peer is probably best known for his connection to the Bristol Sessions with the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, he was also a pioneer in recording African American musicians and Latin American music.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Oliver

    He was recording musicians and making money from them before Allen Lomax. This is good if you like music and the Americans who made it. A businessman who pursued back country artists and gave them a public platform.

  4. 4 out of 5

    bfred

    Solid, informative biography of Ralph Peer, the legendary music publisher/A&R responsible for bridging the gap between "roots" music and the pop music industry. He identified and recorded key songwriters in country, folk, R&B, jazz, and Latin music, and found creative ways to market their songs to a mass audience, at a time when these genres were considered insignificant niche products with no hope of wider appeal. Given that the story of 20th Century pop music is defined by the influence of onc Solid, informative biography of Ralph Peer, the legendary music publisher/A&R responsible for bridging the gap between "roots" music and the pop music industry. He identified and recorded key songwriters in country, folk, R&B, jazz, and Latin music, and found creative ways to market their songs to a mass audience, at a time when these genres were considered insignificant niche products with no hope of wider appeal. Given that the story of 20th Century pop music is defined by the influence of once-humble "roots" music, it's hard to overstate the importance of Peer's history. Mr. Mazor approaches this story with the measured goal of separating the man from the myths, but Peer still comes off as remarkable—particularly admirable are his honest publishing practices, a rarity for the era in which he operated. Peer died in 1960, before he could truly see the global impact of the rock n' roll genre his prescience helped produce, and this book leaves his posthumous impact largely unsaid. The book could have benefited from more emphasis on connecting these kind of dots and expounding on Peer's influence, rather than cataloguing Peer's recording sessions and business moves (not to mention his activities in the camellia flower enthusiast community), but overall, I would recommend this book for any music fan interested in the history and evolution of modern pop music.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    What a joy to read a history of the popular music industry that notices connections and similarities which few had seen before, which digs into details both personal and world-influencing, which makes me understand a little more about the ways that commercial music has given us so much brilliance over the years, and which points out again and again that many of the issues we face today have had parallels in the past. I'm not sure there is anybody else who would have had the vision to understand What a joy to read a history of the popular music industry that notices connections and similarities which few had seen before, which digs into details both personal and world-influencing, which makes me understand a little more about the ways that commercial music has given us so much brilliance over the years, and which points out again and again that many of the issues we face today have had parallels in the past. I'm not sure there is anybody else who would have had the vision to understand Peer was enormously influential in jazz, blues, gospel, country, Latin, and pop music during his life time, nor the doggedness to go so thoroughly into areas not necessarily the first things one thinks of when thinking of this subject. (Unless, in joke to those who have read it, you only bought the book because you love camellias.) I'm telling you, this is an essential addition to any knowledge you may already have of 20th Century popular and/or Roots music of any kind.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    A really excellent book on one of the music industry's least known figures. Peer had an amazing impact on both American and World music from 1920 until his death in 1960. Peer helped bring African American blues, Latin American sounds and Hillbilly (now known as country) music into mass consciousness. He was also responsible for bringing Mamie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family,"Fats" Waller, Carmen Miranda and Buddy Holly into American homes through records, and music publishing. Unlike o A really excellent book on one of the music industry's least known figures. Peer had an amazing impact on both American and World music from 1920 until his death in 1960. Peer helped bring African American blues, Latin American sounds and Hillbilly (now known as country) music into mass consciousness. He was also responsible for bringing Mamie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family,"Fats" Waller, Carmen Miranda and Buddy Holly into American homes through records, and music publishing. Unlike others in his business during that timer period, Peer was also one of the first to see that any artist he worked with received their royalties for music that they wrote. Barry Mazor's book is an excellent and informative read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ted Lehmann

    A wonderful biography exploring the life, times, and genius of famed music publisher and former A&R man for early roots musicians whose innovations are still impacting music publishing and the growth of popular musical genres more than fifty years after his death. Full review coming within the week.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    A great story but I wish there had been more than the two pages about the Serious Music Department and Wladimir Lakond and his successors (Ronald Freed, Corbett Evans, and Todd Vunderink). There is no separate entry yet for 'Roots Music' or 'Popular Roots Music' in Grove Online. A great story but I wish there had been more than the two pages about the Serious Music Department and Wladimir Lakond and his successors (Ronald Freed, Corbett Evans, and Todd Vunderink). There is no separate entry yet for 'Roots Music' or 'Popular Roots Music' in Grove Online.

  9. 4 out of 5

    A W

    This book needed an editor. The writing is cumbersome and meandering, wandering off on tangents and making much of nothing and de-emphasizing what's important. Such a shame, because Peer is nearly without equal in the enormous influence he had in shaping 20th century American music. This book needed an editor. The writing is cumbersome and meandering, wandering off on tangents and making much of nothing and de-emphasizing what's important. Such a shame, because Peer is nearly without equal in the enormous influence he had in shaping 20th century American music.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Martin Bihl

    for my review, please visit: https://the-agency-review.com/ralph-p... for my review, please visit: https://the-agency-review.com/ralph-p...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Fantastic! Essential reading for anyone interested in the music business. I wish I had read it 20 years ago!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Doug

  13. 5 out of 5

    Salt344

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amy Beth

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gary

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bill Reed

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve Haruch

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ron Bergquist

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robert Belew

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Brimer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sam Ingham

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura Gayle

  27. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Claro

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ssduke

  30. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Huff

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