The Paramount Masters
Paramount Records didn't know it at the time, but they created one of the most valuable catalogs of early American blues and jazz music ever assembled. Formed by a furniture company called the Wisconsin Chair Company in the mid-teens to facilitate sales for their new phonograph cabinets, Paramount Records (along with its subsidiary labels Broadway, Famous, and Puritan) sent a young man named Art Satherley on the road in the South to explore and exploit the growing "race records" market beginning in 1917. Over the next 15 years, Satherley and the other Paramount Records' representatives recorded well over 100 sides featuring blues and jazz artists as well-known as Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Meade Lux Lewis, and an otherwise unknown as Side Wheel Sally Duffie, whose "Bunker Hill Blues" is a piano blues showcase for a high-register, vibrato-heavy vocal of uncertain pitch which sounds almost like a 1920s equivalent to Björk. These 100 sides are presented in chronological order, with as much information is as known about each recording. Sound quality varies widely, and of course is at times atrocious, but the historical import and entertainment value for students of early jazz and blues is immense.