Personalities | Ralph S. Peer | Early Years of Hillbilly | Country
Peer entered the record business at the age of 19 in his home town of Kansas City, Missouri. By 1920, he was in New York running the OKeh label, where he supervised the first vocal blues recording by a black artist – Mamie Smith – and created a ‘race series’ of exclusively African-American recordings. He matched this in 1925 with an ‘old-time’ list, following the success of his recordings of Fiddlin’ John Carson. From 1926, he worked as a talent-scout and record-producer for Victor, discovering and overseeing sessions by Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and innumerable other country, blues and jazz artists. He also published their compositions through his companies Southern Music (which in the 1930s had huge success with mainstream pop repertoire like ‘Rockin’ Chair’ and ‘Lazy River’ and South American music) and (from 1940) Peer International, which is still a significant player in the country-music publishing business.
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