- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Chicago Review Press (November 1, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1613740212
- ISBN-13: 978-1613740217
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music Hardcover – November 1, 2014
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“A complex, fascinating story told by Mazor, a seasoned music-business commentator, with skill, clarity and zest.” —MOJO Magazine
“Ralph Peer’s true importance in American music is rarely understood outside of the music business, but Barry Mazor’s book draws a compelling portrait of Peer as business innovator, music scout, and publishing executive, detailing his visionary pursuit of musical riches in previously unexplored rural America and Latin America—yielding a body of recorded blues, country, and pop that are the foundations of American musical culture.” —Laura Cantrell
“Ralph Peer was there first to discover and record roots music before anyone else. This remarkable man brought that legacy to the world, nurturing the early country, blues, jazz, and Latin artists. It’s all in this book. Dive in and be awed.” —Donovan
About the Author
Barry Mazor is a longtime music, media, and business journalist. He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and to the online music magazine medium/cuepoint,, and is the author of Meeting Jimmie Rodgers and Connie Smith: Just for What I Am. He is the former senior editor and columnist for No Depression magazine and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including American Songwriter, the Nashville Scene, the Village Voice, and the Washington Post. He was awarded the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism in 2008.
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One account I especially enjoyed was how he began signing BMI writers as a result of radio’s threat to not play ASCAP affiliated songs. When push came to shove and ASCAP tried to throw their weight around with radio, Peer had all the publishing for great BMI affiliated songs and expedited the change of the music landscape.
The book has many other accounts of Peer’s achievements (he’s one of the reasons that song writers get paid a royalty), as well as story after story of the many seminal artists and performers he worked with. Several of the other reviews can provide more details. The subject matter (music publishing) might not be a subject of interest for the casual reader, but for those into music you’re going to enjoy this book! Highly recommend!
(I also recommend reading John Hammond’s biography. Without Hammond and Peer we might still be singing along with Mitch Miller!)
As his story unfolds, Peer comes into focus as a creative genius in his own right, an American original whose vision and talent equals those of the artists whose careers he shaped, and a sometimes inscrutable mixture of incongruous traits and inclinations. Outwardly and socially conventional, Peer also relished long shots and high stakes, gambling—and winning—on artistic ventures and career schemes that only he would recognize as worth the risk. With an unerring ear for winners in a broad range of musical genres—blues, jazz, country, and a wide spectrum of Latin strains—and sustaining close relationships with some of his artists, Peer never necessarily appears as an outright fan of the recordings he oversaw. Did he play those records at home? It’s hard to say. What’s certain is that Peer heard something in the music that rang true enough to drive his dream of a richer, more diverse world of musical choices than anyone had previously imagined.
Mazor’s thesis about Peer’s role in shaping the course of music in America and beyond seems bold at the outset, but irrefutable by book’s closing chapters. Like Mazor’s previous book, Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, this one draws not just on painstaking research of its subject, but on the author’s decades of immersion in, and distillation of, the history of performing arts in 20th century America. The two books read like interwoven strands of an ambitious larger tapestry in the making, richly allusive to people, events and movements that Mazor brings to bear with authority, insight and great writing. In fact, the author’s voice is as singular and compelling as that of anyone writing music history and criticism today, his prose a pure pleasure coming off the page.