Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller. These are just some of the musicians who recorded at a small Richmond, Indiana-based record company called Gennett Records in the early days of recorded blues and jazz, and will shortly be featured on the PBS television series History Detectives.
In later years, many of the musicians who began their career at Gennett would achieve lasting worldwide fame. In October 1917, Gennett released its first records on the new label, and by 1921 it had two recording studios, one of which was on the grounds of the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Ind. This was at a time in history where the musical genres of jazz and blues were still regarded as wild dance hall music that was inappropriate for cultivated audiences. As a result, smaller labels like Gennett often recorded young, emerging artists that would later find mainstream success, but whose early work at independent labels was often ignored.
Today, music historians hail the early work of iconic jazz and blues musicians, some of whom got their start at Gennett. In addition to the previously mentioned musicians, Gennett was among the first record labels to record the work of Hoagy Carmichael, Thomas A. Dorsey (known as the “Father of Black Gospel Music”), Gene Autry and Bix Beiderbecke, all of whom represented a wide spectrum of tastes and genres; hot jazz, blues, gospel, early country music, and Americana roots music.
This music continues to inspire the music of the 21st century, and the pioneering musicians who fronted these musical movements are beloved the world over. The history of Gennett records is also the history of American music.
On July 14, the Syracuse Public Library is proud to welcome Bob Jacobsen, president of the Starr-Gennett Foundation, a non-profit Richmond-based organization dedicated to preserving the history of Gennett Records and its parent organization, Starr Piano Company. Jacobson will be giving a rare and special presentation on the history of Gennett records and the musicians whose careers it helped launch.
The episode of History Detectives featuring Gennett Records will be aired this summer and can be found on PBS. This is a free program open to all ages. Come for this special opportunity at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 14, in the lower level of the library.
Hoosiers in Hollywood
Join film historian and USA Today’s Associate Media Editor Wes Gehring for a journey through the cinematic history of Indiana at the Syracuse Public Library. Drawing on research gathered for his 30-plus books on film history, Gehring explains the importance of many Indiana performers such as Red Skelton, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne, Robert Wise, and many others.
Gehring is a Ball State University telecommunications professor with a deep interest and love for film history, and especially Indiana film history. Explore the Hoosier state through its roots in early Hollywood all the way up to today’s blockbusters. Film clips compliment this free presentation, which takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 28, in the lower level of the library. Everyone is welcome.
Trip to the Air Zoo
Teens 12 years old and older can sign up to go to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Mich., on July 18 The Air Zoo is an aviation museum with loads of neat planes of all types and all time periods. The library will provide a bus and qualified participants of the young adult summer reading program will receive free admission, however, everyone over the age of 12 is welcome to come (teens need to have a guardian accompany them). The cost is $15 and sign-up is at the adult circulation desk.
Children’s Tea Parties
Children’s Tea Parties are held at 2 p.m. every Thursday. Please call the children’s department to reserve your spot.
At 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, kids can enjoy the antics of clowns at the library.