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Barry Mazor: Ralph Peer And The Making Of Popular Roots Music

First biography of the record man who discovered the big stars of the 20s.

Ralph Peer (1892-1960) was an American talent scout, record producer and music publisher. He discovered and launched some of the US’ most iconic musical talents.

This included the 1920 recording of Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues — the first blues million-seller — and early recordings in New Orleans of jazz, blues and gospel. He arranged Louis Armstrong’s seminal Hot Five recordings and recorded Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues. In 1927, he discovered both The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers at an open audition.

Mazor does a solid job here, presenting Peer as an entrepreneur intent on building a publishing empire, if skimpy on Peer’s work with African American artists, focusing on the Carters and Rodgers (his superstars).

As Peer settles into Beverly Hills comfort, his life, and thus this biography, gets dull. Nevertheless, this book shines valuable light on the birth of American roots music./o:p