Monday, June 23, 2008

Answer to the question about Solomon Poss

I just heard a Joan Baez live version of "Silver Dagger," which reminded me that I received an answer to my question about Solomon Poss, famous for a mention on the Vanguard/Sugar Hill promotional CD "Solomon Poss Presents Vanguard Records vs. Sugar Hill Records."

Because both [DELETED BY REQUEST] and I are MySpace members, I chose to contact him through MySpace. I didn't ask for permission to directly quote from his reply, so I won't, but basically he told me the following:

  • Vanguard Records was started by Seymour and Maynard Solomon.

  • Sugar Hill Records was started by Barry Poss.
Now you know.

Here's an excerpt from Seymour Solomon's 2002 obituary:

The hallmark of Vanguard was to take chances. It did so from its earliest days by breaking with the music industry's blacklist of performers who had been singled out during the McCarthy era. The Solomons signed up the Weavers and Paul Robeson, who had been widely shunned.

Vanguard also became the home of blues and jazz legends like Mississippi John Hurt, Big Mama Thornton, Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite. Beginning in 1959 Vanguard recorded the Newport Folk Festival and later the Newport Jazz Festival. Beginning in the 1960's, Vanguard recorded Peter Schickele, who introduced the works of his fictional P.D.Q. Bach.

I should have recognized Vanguard from my PDQ Bach CD, but I didn't. Shame on me. Now I understand how (non-Professor) Peter Schickele hooked up with Joan Baez in the first place.

For Barry Poss, let's go to the Sugar Hill website:

In the late sixties, Barry Poss came to the United States from Canada with a fellowship and a student visa to obtain a doctorate’s degree of sociology from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Coming within one chapter of completing his dissertation, Poss answered a classified ad for a graphic artist placed by a small Virginia-based record label, County Records. Though Poss didn’t know anything about graphic design, he applied for the job anyway, admitting his lack of experience in design but professing his love for the music. County hired him, and Poss gave up teaching to follow his main passion, music, at a record label he admired. Within the first few years Poss was immersed in the record business, learning everything from reissuing old 78s to producing traditional musicians to selling records at retail stores.

Three years later, in 1978, Barry Poss launched Sugar Hill Records (named after a song Poss heard in Western North Carolina). Poss wanted a strong label identity with a “signature sound,” that stood for great artists and quality production, similar to what Sam Phillips had done with Sun Records. While traveling around rural areas in the South with his banjo, engrossing himself in traditional music, Poss became intrigued by the music of the children and grandchildren of the mountain musicians he visited. Those younger generations of musicians were a combination of the old and the new—influenced as much by old-time and bluegrass music as they were rock, country and other newer forms of music. This interesting combination of, and tension between, roots and contemporary music gave further impetus for Poss to start Sugar Hill Records. Ricky Skaggs was the perfect personification of this tension and became the first artist Poss targeted to help launch the new record label.

One more thing about [DELETED BY REQUEST]. I didn't explicitly discuss his current personal project, The Music's Over. On a particular date (say, June 22), he will discuss a musical figure who happened to die on that date - say, Pere Ubu guitarist Peter Laughner or Judy Garland. Recommended.


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