Birthplace of Recorded Jazz15 Aug 2013, by Starr Gennett Information in
Richmond Indiana! The Birthplace of recorded Jazz!
Gennett records was founded in Richmond, Indiana by the Starr Piano Company, and released its first records in October 1917. The company took its name from its top managers: Harry, Fred and Clarence Gennett. Earlier, the company had produced recordings under the Starr Records label. The early issues were vertically cut in the gramophone record grooves, using the hill-and-dale method of a U-shaped groove and sapphire ball stylus, but they switched to the more popular lateral cut method in April 1919.
Gennett set up recording studios in New York City and later, in 1921, set up a second studio on the grounds of the piano factory in Richmond, Indiana under the supervision of Ezra C.A. Wickemeyer. The sides recorded in New York are generally of about typical audio fidelity for a minor label of the time, and some masters were leased from other New York area firms. The sides recorded in Richmond are decidedly below average in audio fidelity, and sometimes have a crude sound and show problems of inconsistent speed of the turntable while the master was being recorded, problems which the major labels had solved some 20 years earlier.
1925 Gennett 78, 5654-B, “Davenport Blues”.
Gennett is best remembered for the wealth of early jazz talent recorded on the label, including sessions by Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke, The New Orleans Rhythm Kings, “King” Joe Oliver’s band with the young Louis Armstrong, Lois Deppe’s Serenaders with the young Earl Hines, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, The Red Onion Jazz Babies,The State Street Ramblers, Zach Whyte and his Chocolate Beau Brummels, Alphonse Trent and his Orchestra and many others. Gennett also recorded early blues artists such as Thomas A. Dorsey, Sam Collins, Jaybird Coleman, and Big Boy Cleveland and early “hillbilly” or country music performers such as Vernon Dalhart, Bradley Kincaid, Ernest Stoneman, Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts, and Gene Autry. Many early religious recordings were made by Homer Rodeheaver, early shape note singers and others.
Gennett issued a few early electrically recorded masters recorded in the Autograph studios of Chicago in 1925. These recordings were exceptionally crude, and like many other Autograph issues are easily mistaken for acoustic masters by the casual listener. Gennett began serious electrical recording in March 1926, using a process licensed from General Electric. This process was found by to be unsatisfactory, for although the quality of the recordings taken by the General Electric process was quite good, there were many customer complaints about the wear characteristics of the electric process records. The composition of the Gennett biscuit (record material) was of insufficient hardness to withstand the increased wear that resulted when the new recordings with their greatly increased frequency range were played on obsolete phonographs with mica diaphragm reproducers. The company discontinued recording by this process in August 1926, and did not return to electric recording until February 1927, after signing a new agreement to license the RCA Photophone recording process. At this time the company also introduced an improved record biscuit which was adequate to the demands imposed by the electric recording process. The improved records were identified by a newly designed black label touting the “New Electrobeam” process.
From 1925 to 1934, Gennett released recordings by hundreds of “old-time music” artists, precursors to country music, including such artists as Doc Roberts and Gene Autry. By the late 1920s, Gennett was pressing records for more than 25 labels worldwide, including budget disks for Sears, Roebuck’s catalog. In 1926, Fred Gennett created Champion Records as a budget label for tunes previously released on Gennett.