The Right On Queen City Sound - Cincinnati Articles
The Right On Queen City Sound
Did you know Cincinnati was home to one of the most influential record labels? Or that The Twist (Later made famous by Chubby Checker) was first recorded here? Some of James Brown's most significant recordings were also recorded at the King Studios!
This legendary hotbed of funk and country music was located at 1540 Brewster Avenue, just north of downtown, in a former ice storage building. Owner Syd Nathan started King Records to fill the country music niche that was currently being ignored by the larger record labels of the time, in 1943. Soon after, King Records began recording and releasing R&B songs from many black artists, also being ignored by the major labels.
King was essentially a one stop shop for making records. An artist could record the song, make the masters, press the records and even ship them out all in the same day. The records could also be pressed in small numbers which is why there are so many of them that are extreme rarities.
The roster at King included some of the most influential artists of all time. While there are way too many to list we'll give you a few highlights. The roster of Country artists who recorded for King included Reno & Smiley, David Allen Coe, Wayne Cochran, Minnie Pearl, Ralph Willis and the Stanley Brothers.
Blues artists included Freddie King, Blind Blake, Earl Hooker and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. King also dabbled in jazz with recordings by Earl Bostic and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, but the music that really put King over the top was their R&B. Little Willie John, Roy Brown, Joe Tex and Hank Ballard & the Midnighters were all very popular, but it was James Brown who consistently topped the charts and kept things moving at King. James Brown spent a significant amount of time in the Cincinnati area while recording for King.
In 2008, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum placed a historical marker at the King Records site. The building is still standing as is the Manse Hotel building nearby, which is where many famous black entertainers stayed while it was in operation, including James Brown and the roster of King recording artists.
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Will Friedwald also writes about music and popular culture for the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, The Observer, and is a renown American author.