Gennett Records was a prominent record company based in Richmond, Indiana in the early 1920s. They are known for producing early recordings of numerous well known artists.
The company was founded in 1917 by the Starr Piano Company. A park in Richmond contains the remains of the Starr Piano factory, as well as a walk of fame.
The walk of fame highlights the artists and their history at Gennett. Each marker is a three dimensional, cast bronze and colored mosaic tile emblem in the form of a 78 record. A few are shown here including:
Hoagy Carmichael – An Indiana native Hoagy began his jazz career at Indiana University. While his early recordings were with Gennett, he only recorded with them a couple of years.
Hoagy had a long career and wrote such classics as Georgia on My Mind and Skylark. Hoagy remains a legend in jazz to this day, almost 40 years since his death.
Duke Ellington – While he had a few early recordings with Gennett, Duke had a long career in jazz.
Jelly Roll Morton – Another early jazz musician, he is most noted for a collection of recordings later that reside in the Smithsonian as the definitive example of jazz.
Charley Patton – As a Delta Country Blues performer Charley wrote and recorded numerous classics. Known as a classic guitar player, Charley is sometimes known as the Founder of the Delta Blues.
Fats Waller – With a style all his own, Fats could bridge the gap between white and black artists, jazz and blues. In addition he was known as quite the character.
Gene Autry – Gennett Records gave Gene Autry his start. From there it was on to superstardom as a country musician and actor/entertainer.
Artie Shaw – Known as one of the greatest clarinetists of all time, as well as a bandleader. His early recordings with Gennett were lost as the masters were inexplicably destroyed.
Big Bill Broonzy – One of the original bluesmen. His style lead to Chicago blues. If you listen to Eric Clapton, you are listening to Big Bill Broonzy, as Eric idolized his style.
Blind Lemon Johnson – Before Robert Johnson, before Big Bill Broonzy there was Blind Lemon Johnson.In 1929 he hired a Ford car with a chauffeur and came to Richmond, recording 12 country blues songs. Sadly later that night back in Chicago it is believed he became disoriented and lost. When he was found the next morning he had frozen to death on a Chicago sidewalk.
He continues to influence many, the bands Blind Melon and Jefferson Airplane are named in his honor.
And finally – Sachmo – Louis Armstrong – One of the earliest recordings in Richmond were from Louis. He is likely the most important jazz musician of all time.
There are more honored on the walk – make your way to Richmond for a music history lesson someday.
The park is well worth the visit.