Gennett Record Co.
Richmond, Indiana: 1916 to Early 1930s

Purple Line

GEN: Gennett Record Company of Richmond, Indiana was founded in 1919, as a subsidiary of the Starr Piano Co., and went on to become one of the earliest labels to release many important early masterpieces from a multitude of artists, many of whom today are literally Jazz Legends. Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Don Murray, Tommy Dorsey, etc., etc. The list of personalities to cut wax in their Richmond, Indiana and later New York City studios is like a "Whos Who" of early Jazz pioneers.

And this record label was the first to cross the color line on records, with the first commercially released recordings of a white jazz band with a black featured soloist: Jelly Roll Morton's Piano work with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, ("Sobbin' Blues," recorded in Richmond 7/17/23). Morton went on to record a total of five tunes with N.O.R.K. which were released by this progressive company. It was known amongst early mid-western jazzers as a recording company that wasn't afraid to release inovative new "hot" tunes, while many of the larger labels such as Victor were more interested in their perception of what "mainstream" America wanted musically on records.

The label displayed here is one of those recordings, recorded by the famous Wolverine Orchestra, the first band cornet great Bix Beiderbecke ever recorded with. "Copenhagen," was written primarily by early jazz band leader Charlie Davis, inspired by one of his musician's brand of chewing tobacco. Legend has it that the Wolverines attened one of Davis' performances, heard the tune, and went en mass after the show to talk with the band. In the course of this, Davis gave permission for Wolverines to record this cut.

It was recorded in Richmond during the Wolverine's second Gennett session, on 5/6/24. Personell besides Beiderbecke included Al Gande, Trombone, Jimmy Hartwell, clarinet & alto sax, George Johnson, tenor sax, Dick Voynow, piano, Bob Gillette, banjo, Min Leibrook, tuba, and Vic Moore,* Drums.

Incidently, the band's name comes from Jelly Roll Morton's tune "Wolverine Blues," the band's theme song, and one that they never recorded, although Morton, (GNT-5289/11546B - 7/18/23) and N.O.R.K.., (GNT- 5102/11357B - 3/13/23) did on seperate occasions.

Also of interest, is the Starr/Gennett story - called The Birthplace of Recorded Jazz hosted by the Wayne County, Indiana "WayNet" Community Internet Network Association. In addition to basic history, you'll find a computer enhanced picture of the Gennett logo, links to some new local murals featuring some of the jazz greats that recorded in Richmond, and links to other sites of interest.

Recommended Reading: Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy - Gennett Studios and the Birth of Recorded Jazz by Rick Kennedy. Published in 1994 by Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-33136-6

* Burton's other "claim to fame" came when he was busted for smoking a joint between sets at a gig with Louis Armstrong in L.A. in 1931.

Purple Line

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