paramount_volume2_Third Man Records

At the root and heart of so much great American music were the blues and jazz players that came out of the Mississippi Delta a century ago.

A young American rocker – Jack White, of White Stripes fame – has now stepped in to rescue a priceless blues archive from obscurity.

White’s record company has not only led a nostalgic and profitable return to making and buying vinyl LPs by new artists, it has also assembled and remastered hundreds of old recordings and collected and restored historical artwork from Paramount Records, a powerhouse in black music that closed its doors in 1932.

Oddly, Paramount, which recorded new talent such as Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, was started by the white-owned Wisconsin Chair Company. The furniture maker sold wooden cabinets for phonographs and wanted to start a music label to help propel record sales. Their biggest selling recordings were “race records” that showcased unknown black musicians.

How did a Wisconsin chair company, producing records on the cheap and run by men with little knowledge of their audience or the music business, build one of the greatest musical rosters ever assembled under one roof? They hired Mayo Williams, an African-American Brown University graduate, to scour the South looking for talent.

Over the last three years, White’s team at Third Man Records has archived 1,800 recordings that represented 175 artists, and produced two stunning box sets to document the label’s ascent.

Paramount record Label blues 326pxThe Rise & Fall of Paramount, Volume One (1917-27) chronicles Paramount’s improbable rise from also-ran to jazz-blues juggernaut, launching the recording careers of giants like Armstrong, Morton, Ethel Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, and Fats Waller. It includes six vinyl LPs, 800 digital tracks (on a USB drive shaped like a Victrola arm), and two books documenting it all with a discography and illustrated advertisements from the era.

The just released “Volume Two” (1928-32) also includes six vinyl records, an 800-song USB drive, and two beautiful books. Vol. One comes in a hand carved oak cabinet and Vol. Two is sold in a polished aluminum and stainless steel suitcase. Both sets are available on for $400 each.

(WATCH the video below or READ the story from CBS Sunday Morning *NOTE auto-playing video)

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