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

Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

By Barry Mazor


320 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: PDF, Mobipocket, EPUB, Trade Paper

Trade Paper, $17.99 (US $17.99) (CA $23.99)

ISBN 9781613736531

Rights: US & CA

Chicago Review Press (Sep 2016)


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This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the adventurous—even revolutionary—A&R man and music publisher who changed the breadth and flavor of popular music in the United States and around the world. It is the story of the life and 50-year career of the man who was crucial in discovering star musicians and establishing the genres of blues, jazz, country, gospel, and Latin music. It tracks Peer’s role in such groundbreaking episodes as recording 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 music.


“Mr. Mazor discusses the evolution of American music and intricacies of music publishing with equal authority. He likewise brings impressive clarity and cohesion to considering the big-picture nexus of culture, commerce and evolving technology in which Peer’s saga unfolds. He tells this complex, intertwined story with ample substance for serious scholars while also making his book welcoming and accessible for neophytes.” —The Wall Street Journal

"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 

“Musicians know who Ralph Peer was, and now his life and contributions to our nation’s music are made available to all of us in Barry Mazor’s wonderful and absorbing biography.  Mazor [...] has given us a beautifully written portrait of an utterly fascinating man. One is continually astonished at how a shipping clerk from Independence, Mo., at various junctions in his life, made decisions that transformed American music by bringing new artists and forms of music — from country, blues and bluegrass to early rock ’n’ roll — to millions of citizens who had not yet encountered them.” —New York Times

“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

“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

“Mazor’s book rolls along at a swift and radio-friendly tempo, supplying invaluable detail on Peer’s achievements and the vision that drove them.” —Paste magazine

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 online music magazine medium/cuepoint, 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 Nashville, Tennessee.