Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music
Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

By Barry Mazor

BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY

320 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, PDF, Mobipocket, EPUB

Cloth, $28.95 (US $28.95) (CA $34.95)

ISBN 9781613740217

Rights: US & CA

Chicago Review Press (Nov 2014)

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Overview

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.

Reviews

"This is an overwhelming book about an overwhelming character in the music field, a true visionary, who realized the potential power of common music long before anyone else - and who transformed the lives of many of those artists whom he recorded. We owe Barry Mazor a debt of gratitude for telling Peer's incredible life story, his monumental accomplishments, putting them all in one place, and bringing them to the light." —Bob Dylan

"The world has been waiting for this! Ralph Peer is surely the most fascinating character in American vernacular music business history, and I personally thank him, since I otherwise would have been sacking groceries in El Segundo, or parking cars in Pacoima all these years. Mazor does a spectacular job weaving together the threads of Peer's discoveries in blues, jazz, country, and Latin. You will be amazed! I can't recommend this book strongly enough." —Ry Cooder

"The musical road that runs through the work of Ralph Peer is a cultural highway that many genres ride on today. His story of pioneering the hustle of sound and style is a blueprint right to this digital age, as this book shows. It's a wonderful read." —Chuck D, Public Enemy

"Ralph Peer's true importance in American music is rarely understood outside of the music business, but Barry Mazor's book draws a compelling portrait of Peer as business innovator, music scout, and publishing executive, detailing his visionary pursuit of musical riches in previously unexplored rural America and Latin America—yielding a body of recorded blues, country, and pop that are the foundations of American musical culture." —Laura Cantrell

"Ralph Peer was there first to discover and record roots music before anyone else. This remarkable man brought that legacy to the world, nurturing the early country, blues, jazz, and Latin artists. It's all in this book. Dive in and be awed." —Donovan

"Peer finally receives his due in this excellent biography." —Booklist

Author Biography

Barry Mazor is a longtime music, media, and business journalist. He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and to the roots music blog Engine 145, and is the author of Connie Smith: Just for What I Am and Meeting Jimmie Rodgers. He is the former senior editor and columnist for No Depression magazine and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including American Songwriter, the Nashville Scene, the Village Voice, and the Washington Post. He was awarded the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism in 2008. He lives in <u1:place u2:st="on"><u1:City u2:st="on">Nashville</u1:City>, <u1:State u2:st="on">Tennessee</u1:State></u1:place>.