S&T historian’s new book chronicles record producers who created American roots music

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A new book released today (May 15, 2018), A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record, provides the first full-length account of the men and women who shaped the creation of what is now known as American roots music.
The book also shows how they established the job of today’s record producers often known as “A&R” men— employees of the artists-and-repertoire division at a record label who scout for talent and material, and oversee the artistic development of recording artists.
Book cover image of “A&R Pioneers”
Co-authored by Dr. Patrick Huber, professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and Dr. Brian Ward, professor of American Studies at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, the book represents nearly six years of research and writing. It is jointly published by Vanderbilt University Press and the Country Music Foundation Press.
“Until A&R Pioneers, no one had tackled a collective biography of the more than 100 individuals — mainly men — who worked behind the scenes to discover artists, supervise and produce their recordings, and, in the process, often exploit these artists,” says Huber. “During the 1920s and ’30s, A&R representatives defined and shaped the new genres of commercially recorded ‘race’ and ‘hillbilly’ music.  In effect, they not only helped construct the canon of American roots music, but they also established the basic practices of the modern sound-recording industry.”
The American roots music covered in A&R Pioneers includes blues, country, gospel, “hot” jazz, and foreign-language vernacular music, such as Cajun and Mexican songs. The book discusses artists such as Bessie Smith, Bob Wills, the Carter Family, Louis Armstrong, Lydia Mendoza, Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers, among others. It also includes the talent scouting and studio collaborations of record producers Ralph Peer, Art Satherley, Frank Walker and John Hammond, as well as those of their lesser-known colleagues such as …

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