Stacks of Wax: The Complete Story of the Record Labels of Cincinnati, Ohio
James D. Bottoms, 2020
When considering the tapestry of popular-music history that has emerged in the last 40 or so years - a chronicle that shows no signs of abating - there have been critical and enthusiastic studies of not just performers, or the cities in which they arose in any number, but also of the recorded legacy of such cities, i.e. its record labels. Cincinnati, for all its decades of accomplishment in the recorded-music arena, has been heretofore perhaps underserved. Apart from real-time newspaper articles of the 1940s-'70s, a number of fine books have appeared, each of which provides a further tantalizing look at the vast offerings of the Queen City and the Ohio River Valley. This book is the complete document of the subject at hand, and is intended as a bedrock upon which to construct a (hopefully ongoing) library of Cincinnati's record companies, a library that encompasses the aforementioned volumes as well as encourages new efforts from fresh pens. The subject, owing to the stunning breadth and depth of the city's industry and drive, is probably inexhaustible. The book - its targeted collectors and enthusiasts aside - also seeks to advance understanding two specific communities who were substantial parts of the cultural, political and musical milieu of Cincinnati (and indeed, great swaths of the Midwest): African-Americans and Appalachians. The contributions and excitement consistently delivered by these populations greatly enriched the styles and ever-shifting forms of American popular music, especially in the fecund Postwar era, and here the book intends to shed some new light on their conditions, treatment and influence both then and now. Finally, the book is a fond meditation upon a city with strengths and flaws, successes and failures, all of which can be found writ small in the record business of the 20th century. In our accelerating, fraying culture, the analog world of this story is not a lesser place - far from it. That world was one of grit, risk and often-sweet rewards. As it recedes ever further into the past, hopefully the story of its many and varied musical lights will remain engaging and inspiring.
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