DAHR to Include Gennett Records

Gennett Records FactoryThe next American record company to be added to DAHR will be Gennett Records of Richmond, Indiana. Researchers and discographers Malcolm Rockwell and Charlie Dahan have spent the better part of a decade meticulously compiling data on the recordings made by one of America’s most important interwar record companies. Owned by the Starr Piano Company, Gennett recorded more than 16,000 masters between 1915 and the late 1930s, one of the most creative periods in American recording history. Full descriptions of these masters will be incorporated into DAHR beginning in early 2022. 

Gennett has long fascinated collectors and scholars. The label and studios recorded some of the most important jazz, country, and blues artists of the 1920s and 1930s, including King Oliver, Gene Autry, Louis Armstrong, Big Bill Broonzy, Jelly Roll Morton, Doc Roberts, Hoagy Carmichael, Ernest Stoneman, Lonnie Johnson, and others. While it owned a studio in New York City and made some recordings on location, with its primary studio in Richmond, Gennett was one of the few companies to have a recording facility outside of New York. Therefore, it was able to draw on a more regional pool of talent, capturing the music of many artists then unknown outside the South and Midwest. Gennett also recorded and manufactured records for scores of client labels and pressed discs for department stores and dime stores, getting their unique content into the hands of a different consumer class than that targeted by the East Coast labels. Gennett also had a robust personal recording and pressing division. Recordings made during the depths of the Great Depression often sold in tiny numbers, and many Gennett recordings are scarcely documented, let alone reissued and studied. The Depression ultimately doomed Starr Piano and Gennett Records.

Adding Gennett to DAHR will allow scholars and collectors to access the same detailed information that DAHR provides, compiled from primary source material by Rockwell and Dahan, including the Gennett recording ledgers and royalty statements held at Rutgers University Institute for Jazz Studies (IJS), and recording cards at IJS and the Indiana Historical Society, among others. DAHR will include information—including personnel, recording dates and locations, takes, and issues—on the many small labels Gennett pressed as well as on Gennett-owned labels.

Image credit: 1928 Gennett trade catalog, courtesy Charlie Dahan.